Learn Meditation Basics: A Guide for Beginners
“I can’t meditate-I just can’t ever seem to clear my head!”
When I tell people how much I love to meditate, I am often met with this response. Does this resonate with you?
The benefits of meditation are endless, and humankind are only beginning to grasp the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of it. Some of the top benefits of meditation include reduced stress/anxiety, improved emotional health, enhancing self awareness, improved attention span, and more.
I started practicing meditation years ago, and it is an essential element to my physical, mental, and spiritual health. I practice meditation every day, multiple times per day. Sometimes this means lighting up some sage, bringing out my crystals and setting up in my meditation corner for a guided meditation. Sometimes this means attending a meditation class at my favorite studio, Soul Tribes Yoga + Meditation. And sometimes, it means some breath work while driving or sitting at my desk at work (yes, you can incorporate meditation into almost anything you do-but more on that later!)
Anyways, before I actually made meditation a part of my life, I found it very daunting until I realized how dang simple it is.
Meditation is, quite simply, bringing your attention to the present moment. It's finding awareness, finding stillness, and finding peace.
There’s no such thing as “clearing” your head- if your brain is not active, that means you’re dead!
Example: I just returned from a vacation to Maui. I love the beach and I love the Hawaiian Islands! While sitting on the beach, I found my mind drifting to all the things I forgot to do at home, or my never ending to-do list. When that happens, I get a feeling of stress and anxiety and suddenly feel helpless, and that spirals into a million other thoughts/emotions. Each time I felt my mind drifting to something on the mainland, I gently brought it back to the sound of the ocean, the feeling of the wind blowing my hair, the smell of the salty air, and the sun warming my skin.
That, my friends, is meditation. I guess you could say that life is one big meditation.
So where to begin? Here’s my top tips for a newbie looking to incorporate meditation into their life:
Different types of meditation There are dozens of forms of meditation out there. There is no right or wrong way to meditate, but I do think it's important to find a method that fits your lifestyle and your needs. I'd recommend trying one of these (or a combination of them) for at least 15 minutes per day, however even if you only have 5 minutes, that's a great place to start.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but here's a few of my favorite ways to meditate:
Breath work- I simply sit still for 15-30 minutes and do a breathing activity. One of my favorites is box breathing: inhale for a count of 5, hold for a count of 5, exhale for a count of 5, hold empty for a count of 5. Repeat.
Mantras/affirmations- this is one of my favorites. This involves focusing on an affirmation, an intention and/or a mantra. I write out my affirmations on the new moon and repeat them over and over (out loud or in my head- doesn't matter). Here's my go-to affirmations:"I am brilliant. I am beautiful. I am capable of doing anything I put my mind to. Everything is working in my favor. I am so grateful because I already have everything I could ever want".
Moving meditation- you may think of yoga when you hear this, but a moving meditation involves moving your body while focusing on your senses, your breath, or even just observing your thoughts as they pass. A walk through nature, a slow yoga flow, or another form of gentle movement along with breath is a great way to meditate (especially for those of us who struggle sitting still- this is a great place to start!)
Guided meditations/ visualizations- I love having someone guide me through a meditation. I take classes regularly at Soul Tribes Yoga + Meditation (located in Spring Branch)- they are 30 minutes long and all of the instructors are incredible! I also enjoy the occasional guided visualization exercise- this is helpful when I'm having anxiety about my future. There's tons of free guided visualizations on Youtube to help you envision your ideal life- here's my favorite one.
Keep in mind, there's so many other ways to meditate- these are just my favorites that I've tailored for myself!
Some other helpful tips...
Give yourself a break.
Seriously! There is no such thing as the “perfect” meditation. Someone may tell you that it has to be a certain length or in a certain place or blah blah blah. I disagree. Wherever and however you meditate is perfect, and whether your mind never wanders, or it wanders 1000 times, you just gently bring yourself back to your meditation. Let go of perfectionism and expectations around how it should be, and just do it. It might feel weird or uncomfortable, but stick with it, and give yourself a little compassion and grace.
Create a sacred space.
This might contradict what I wrote above, but stick with me. You can meditate anytime or anywhere. It does, however, help if you create a sacred space just for your meditation. Our minds and bodies subconsciously associate places with the activities that happen there and the resulting emotions that come from what happens there. If you are trying to meditate in your office but you also do a lot of stressful work there, your brain might associate that place with stressful work, and it will be more challenging to find stillness. Create a cozy space that brings you a sense of calm and ease. Here's a picture of my meditation corner- over the last couple of years, I've added cozy pillows, crystals, sage, a notebook for intention setting and other things that bring me joy and spark inspiration. Your sacred space should evoke a feeling of love + light. It doesn't have to be fancy- just make it yours!
Make it a habit.
Just like anything in life, making meditation a part of your routine will set you up for success. It can take about 2 months to form or break a habit, so I recommend committing to a daily meditation for a minimum of 60 days. Set your alarm for 15 minutes earlier, and allow yourself a 10-15 minute meditation each morning. Find a quiet conference room at your office and do a 15 minute breathing exercise during your lunch break. Set aside 10 minutes before bed to do a guided visualization. The possibilities are endless. You just have to put in the work, make time for it and stay committed.
Take a class.
If you struggle to stay committed/hold yourself accountable to things like this, it might be in your best interest to join a studio that offers meditation classes. Not only will you learn the basics and lay the groundwork for your spiritual life, but you're more likely to actually complete the meditation if you have someone guiding you through it in person. Even if you are super disciplined and make time to meditate at home every day, there is power in community. Having a tribe of like-minded people around you on a similar journey will help you stay motivated and give you a safe space to express yourself. If you live in Houston, I highly recommend checking out Soul Tribes Yoga+ Meditation- my favorite class is the Crystal Sound Bath class.
Want to learn more and deepen your meditation practice? Here’s some great resources:
Becoming Supernatural by Dr. Joe Dispenza
Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Daily Breath- Deepak Chopra
Affirmation Addict- Payal Aggarwal
This blog is centered around community- if you have any other resources to share, please comment below and let my readers know.
Meditation is a practice, not a quest for perfection. With consistent mindfulness meditation, you can develop the awareness to catch your mind drifting and the tools to gently bring yourself back to the present moment without judgment. As Vanna Bonta reminds us, "There is only now. And look! How rich we are in it." Through meditation and mindfulness, we can tap into this richness and experience the benefits of a clear and focused mind. Namaste!