I am by no means a zen-master. The first time I seriously picked up meditating I felt frustrated and silly. Why couldn’t I pull this off? Why wasn’t I able to quiet my mind, grab that bit of mental peace and be done with it? In fact I sometimes still have trouble getting the right mindset for a nice meditation session. But over the last couple of months, I definitely learned a couple of things I wish someone would have told me sooner. I’ll give you a couple of meditation tips for beginners which will help you on your way!
Just cut yourself some slack
When you start meditating for the first time, you look forward to reaping the benefits. You want to be peaceful, have a quiet mind, develop yourself, be zen. One thing I learned is that the harder you try to silence your mind, the more thoughts will pop into your head. Compare it to going to bed early, knowing you have an important day tomorrow, and desperately wanting to sleep. When has that ever worked out for you?
So be gentle, and don’t judge yourself. Really, there is no wrong way to meditate! Cut yourself some slack and realize that practice makes perfect. Things will simply get easier over time!
Don’t feel obliged to get bendy
The biggest cliché of meditation is that you have to sit in the lotus position to do it right. In truth, a chair which seats you upright works just as well, especially for beginners. There’s nothing worse than trying to keep your calm while your joints start aching from sitting in uncomfortable positions on the floor, simply because you think that’s how it’s supposed to go.
As for hand positions: I personally like folding my hands in my lap and touching the tips of my thumbs together. This makes me feel grounded, and helps me to breathe through my belly.
Focus on your breathing
I found that the easiest way to stay in the moment is by focusing on your breathing. Become aware of the air flowing in and out of your lungs – which isn’t only repetitive, but oddly soothing as well. You can even repeat a little mantra as you’re doing it. For example, you can silently repeat “Breathe in the positive,” while breathing in, and “Breathe out the negative” while breathing out. Naturally you can change these lines up however you want.
You are allowed to keep your eyes open
I was reading a book at the time (one of my guilty pleasure books, I might add) where a yoga instructor told her pupil that it was OK for her to keep her eyes open during some post-exercise meditation*. It got me thinking, as the concept sure sounded appealing.
After some Googling, I found out that a lot of people agree that meditating with your eyes closed isn’t necessarily the way to go. If you feel your thoughts start drifting, or even feel that you might fall asleep during your session, just open your eyes. You can stare into the distance, or at a spot in front of you on the floor.
* Curious? You can check out said book here.
Stay cool, start small
When I started the Happiness Advantage Challenge I excitedly wrote down I’d start meditating 15 minutes a day. The result: I soon felt frustrated and I thought I wasn’t succeeding, simply because I couldn’t bring myself to sit still and quiet my mind for so long. One of the simplest and straight-forward tips I learned is to start small. Just start out for 2 minutes. Slowly increase your effort to 5, and then 10.
As I mentioned, I’m still a complete novice at meditation. But for now, I feel that 10 to 15 minutes provide me the right amount of time to benefit from meditation, and keep it pleasant.
Consider guided meditation
Do you feel all of this is maybe too big a step to take? You can always consider doing a guided meditation. There are several excellent apps which provide a soothing voice which tells you to relax your body, breathe, and let go of your thoughts. Currently my favorites are Simply Being and Relax & Rest by Meditation Oasis.
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What trouble did you ran into when you first started meditating? Or would you like to give it a try? I’m curious about your thoughts!