I consider that meditation is one of the most empowering of all Personal Development processes. It also increases the effectiveness of other processes and techniques.
Getting Started in a Good Place
Many people who have never meditated are often concerned about "doing it correctly." Many teachers and programs are available to teach meditation for beginners with various processes. These can be extremely valuable when your inner guidance prompts you to explore them.
I like to encourage people to experiment to find their own way. The most important thing is to start. If you wait for the "perfect" program that someone else has developed, you might delay your start or not ever get started.
For you, the starting place might be to make a commitment to yourself to meditate, or your commitment may be to meditate one time. Or perhaps you need to start by sitting quietly for a brief period of time. Or perhaps you need to start by relaxing with soothing music. Or perhaps, you'll find that the best starting place is to notice and follow the rhythm of your breath.
For many people, a direct experience is essential, such as a guided meditation, which is an ideal approach to meditation for beginners. In addition, many personal development programs offer meditation, visualization, or relaxation as an integral part of the program.
Start. Start where you are. Start someplace. After you've had a direct experience, you'll find that it's easy to enhance your experience and improve your techniques.
Recognize the Simplicity of Meditation
Meditation is very simple. Some people like to complicate it, establish strict rules, and even ridicule those who have different approaches. However, if you start with the premise that it's simple, you're less likely to be overly preoccupied with whether you're "doing it correctly." Be assured, by at least one person's standard you'll be doing it wrong and by at least one person's standard you'll be doing it right, because opinions abound, especially when it comes to meditation for beginners.
You need to find your own standard. Listen to others only to the extent that helps you to listen more fully to your own inner voice. And keep your thoughts as positive as possible as you listen to the pure wisdom of your inner voice.
Organize for Success
Find a quiet place where you're unlikely to be interrupted. Truly, you can meditate anywhere and in very noisy environments, but when you're just starting, it's helpful to select your environment so that it's conducive to relaxation and meditation. Successful strategies for meditation for beginners are slightly different from successful strategies for long-term meditators.
Outside, ideal settings are in a garden or beside a babbling brook so that you're close to nature. Inside, choose a room that's away from the comings and goings of others who might interrupt you. As much as possible, choose a setting with pleasant sounds or silence. When the surroundings are less than ideal, you can still relax or meditate, so it's important not to use inconveniences as an excuse.
Make a Transition
Meditation for beginners and also experienced practitioners is different from your other activities. As a beginner, you're unlikely to go into a meditative state just because you sit in a chair with the intention to meditate. You need to start by relaxing. And you need to practice — practice regularly.
If you've been operating in high gear and under stressful conditions, you need to move to a lower gear before beginning to touch the stillness of meditation. You can highlight your transition by closing a door, getting yourself comfortable, and using empowering meditation self-talk such as, "this is my time to take a break."
If you have a lot of thoughts swirling in your mind, you may need to have a transition technique that helps you to put those thoughts on hold. You may also find that it's helpful to give yourself permission to take a five-minute transition time specifically to think about all those thoughts. This honors that you have a lot going on in your head and that you need to have an end time to the thinking so that you can meditate, which is what you've come to your meditation spot to do.
After practicing meditation for a while, you're more likely be able to move into the meditation state more quickly. However, even long-time meditators often need a distinct transition period. As a beginner, it's especially important to give yourself permission to have this pre-meditation experience if you need it.
Relax and Breathe: Keys to Enhancing Meditation for Beginners
Relaxing is still part of the transition period, yet is closer to meditation than to a hectic pace. The relaxation technique I recommend most frequently as a appropriate meditation for beginners I call "Intentional Breathing." In other words, focus on your breath and be aware of breathing. Breathe in and notice; breathe out and notice. Keep it simple. It is simple. But do not underestimate the power of Intentional Breathing because it's simple. As you continue to give your attention to your breath, it will naturally slow down, become deeper, longer, quieter, and smoother.
Dr. Herbert Benson developed a technique called "Progressive Relaxation" which many people use to relax themselves before sleeping. The technique is to relax each part of your body, starting from the top of your head and moving downward, or starting from your feet and moving upward. This technique is most effective if you tense or contract the muscle group and then relax it.
You can use either "Intentional Breathing" or "Progressive Relaxation" as a prelude to meditation or you can use either or both as the focus of your attention for the entire meditation session. If you're particularly stressed and have never meditated before, you can benefit greatly by spending your initial meditation sessions this way.
Relax; there's no hurry. The idea is to create a long-term meditation practice which must start with a single session. These two ideas (relaxation and breathing) are perhaps the two most important practices for meditation for beginners.
Choose a Focus for Your Meditation
Think of the "focus" as a place to put your attention or a place to rest your mind. Examples of a focus are a word or mantra, a voice guiding you, gentle music, an image, a candle, a constant sound like a fan, your breath.
It's important to select a focus that holds your attention without stirring up a lot of thoughts. It's ideal if the focus has some slight movement to avoid staring or concentrating too hard. You may want to experiment with a variety of focal points over time.
Focus Your Meditation
Now that you're in a relaxed state, close your eyes. Keep your attention on the chosen focus. If your mind wanders to thoughts, be very gentle with both yourself and the thoughts. Return your attention to the focus. If the thoughts persist, you can tell the thoughts, "I'll pay attention to you in twenty minutes," or "Please wait outside the door, and I'll hear you fully when I'm finished." No struggle, no resistance, just a gentle firmness.
Here's an example, using your breath as the focus. With your eyes closed, give your attention to your breath.
As you make each breath conscious and intentional, notice that you're becoming more and more relaxed. Notice as your breaths become longer and deeper. Notice the sound of your breath. Notice that as you give your attention to the sound, it becomes quieter. If you want to add a statement, you might use "I breathe in and I breathe out" or "I breathe in and relax; I breathe out and relax."
With this example of using your breathing throughout the meditation, you can see that you're using your mind but with thoughts that are non-controversial. You're noticing your breath, not analyzing it or problem solving. Let your mind rest in your breath.
To use your breath as a focus of your meditation in this way is the perfect approach to meditation for beginners. Incidentally, many experienced meditators continue their meditation practice in this way, also.
End Your Meditation Intentionally
You may decide in advance how long you want to meditate: 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes, for example, or simply let your body and intuition tell you when you're complete with this session. Remember, you don't need to make up for all the times in the past when you haven't meditated.
When you bring your meditation to a close, it signifies that you're ready to return to other activities. This transition will be different from the earlier transition into meditation because you'll already be in a quiet and relaxed state of consciousness. The self-talk may go something like, "I want to take this peacefulness into my work," or, "Now that I'm relaxed and replenished, I can handle whatever I need to handle."
Final Thought on Meditation for Beginners: Keep it So Simple
Truly, the simplest approaches are the best in both personal development and interpersonal relationships. By all means, experiment with multiple approaches. Get complicated if that appeals. Find enhancements. Explore. Inquire. If you build your foundation on these simple techniques, you'll more easily be able to evaluate the effectiveness of other approaches as you learn about them.
I invite you to share any of your own experiences in getting started with meditation.
Copyright © 2008, 2019 Marshall House and Voice of Jeanie Marshall. All rights reserved. Jeanie Marshall is a Personal Development Consultant and Coach. This article is not available for republication without express written permission.