If you have heard of meditation, then you have also heard of its many benefits for personal development and promoting a healthy, balanced mind. Just like physical exercise can strengthen your body, learning how to meditate can train your mind to be stronger and better prepared to deal with the challenges of every day life.
There are many different forms of meditation, both modern and traditional. in this guide we aim to give you several tips and teach you how to meditate in a simple and effective way, so that you practice that you can practice anywhere and anytime.
Once you have gained familiarity with the practice, we encourage you to try different methods to see their differences and similarities.
So let’s begin by taking a quick look at how to approach this practice.
Have no expectations
As strange as it seems, try not to have any expectations when you meditate. Don’t expect to feel calmer, to have deep insights, to clear your mind… Yes, allDon’t expect anything. Just sit in silence and accept whatever comes to you during that session.
If you have expectations, you’ll automatically create anxiety. Whenever you can’t reach whatever you thought you had to achieve, you’ll feel frustrated: if you notice your mind is agitated, if your legs hurt from sitting without moving, if your mind is not calm… the slightest problem will be a source of anxiety, frustration or disappointment. And that will only lead to agitation.
Instead, accept that our mind is not 100% in our control: some days you’ll feel calm and stable, some days you’ll be restless and agitated. Accept and practice no matter what state you’re in today. Make it a routine, like eating or brushing your teeth.
Regularity is key
If you meditate regularly, you’ll understand that this fluctuation is part of who we all are, part of our nature, and that it is alright to be like that. Accepting that you can’t always control your body and mind, and learning how to deal with that, is one of the precious things meditation can teach you.
Learning how to meditate is not only about how to calm your mind, it is also discovering how to deal with your mind when it is not calm. And that is a very, very valuable skill to learn.
As you keep practicing, you’ll get to know your mind better, you’ll learn to appreciate the calm moments and how to go through the restless ones. You’ll discover that you don’t always have to react to the thoughts and emotions that appear inside of you. Instead, you can acknowledge them, and if you wish, just let go of them. Your thoughts don’t have to control your emotions and actions.
Some days, it will be harder
Some days meditating will be easy. You’re relaxed, your mind is clear, it feels like you could sit in silence for hours without moving a muscle.
At other times, staying quiet for even a minute will feel like the hardest thing in the world. That’s ok, practice anyway. In the hardest days, when it feels like you can’t sit still, or when you are so busy that you hardly have time to breathe, meditate. Even if for just one minute.
“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes everyday – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
– Zen proverb
It is in those busy days that you should really stop and investigate your mind. Even if just for one minute.
One of the most precious things meditation can teach you is how to go through difficult moments without losing yourself. The harder it is for you to meditate, the more you will learn from it.
How to meditate – Step-by-step guide
As we mentioned before, there are several forms of meditation. We encourage you to learn about them and try different practices to see how they feel.
Here we present a simple, relatively free form of meditation which we believe can bring benefits to most people:
- Find a quiet place. You should be either alone or with other people who want to meditate, so that you don’t get disturbed.
- Sit in a stable position:
- If you are flexible enough, you can try lotus or half lotus position. Otherwise, sit with your legs crossed in front of you. You can sit on a cushion to help you keep your back straight without too much effort. Alternatively, sit on a chair with your legs in front of you, the feet flat on the ground. You should be stable, and you should be in a position which is not too hard to keep.
- If you can’t find a place to sit, stand.
- If you can’t stand lay down.
- Sit in a stable position:
- Keep your back straight
- Relax your gaze looking at a point on the floor at a distance of about a meter in front of you. We suggest you keep your eyes open so that you feel less sleepy.
- Breathe through your nose, relax your jaw, keep your tongue relaxed on the roof of your mouth
- Relax your arms and hands on your legs
- Stay silent and still for as long as you intend to meditate (see “Time of practice” below for suggestion). During the time you’re meditating, try not to move or move as little as possible. Resisting the urge to move is also part of the training for your body and mind.
- When the time is up, slowly stand up.
- Done! Repeat the next day!
Meditation is an active practice. Your mind should be calm and alert. Not agitated, not sleepy or drowsy.
Focusing on your breathing is a good strategy for staying alert without provoking too many thoughts
Try to leave your mind free.
- When thoughts appear, acknowledge them, and let them go.
- Don’t try to block the thoughts from coming. That is impossible and will only create frustration and more agitation in your mind.
- Don’t get attached to the thoughts, don’t pursue them.
- Just acknowledge them, and let them go.
That is valid also for thoughts that interfere with the practice, such as: “my nose is itching”, “my leg is getting numb”, “I can’t stand still anymore”, “I’m so sleepy”, and so on. Unless it is a real necessity, treat these thoughts the same way: acknowledge them, and let them go.
Whenever you catch yourself daydreaming, falling asleep, following a thought or emotion, just acknowledge it, let go, and return to your practice.
Don’t get angry or frustrated if some days you are more sleepy, your mind is restless, or you can’t get into the practice. Accept that all these reactions are normal, and practice as well as you can. Fighting against them will only create more turmoil inside of you. Accept you can’t control everything that happens in your mind, and do your best.
Length of practice
How long and how often you practice is a personal choice. We suggest you start with very little time, but that you do it regularly. Once you have a better feeling for how to meditate, you can adjust the time to what suits you best.
Our suggestion is:
- During the first week week, meditate for 1 minute everyday. Yes, just 1 minute. This should be easy and will start preparing your body and mind for longer times.
- In the second week, meditate for 2 minutes every day. This should still be relatively easy. More agitated persons might start having some difficulty staying still.
- On the third week, sit still for 3 minutes every day.
- On the forth week, meditate for 5 minutes every day.
If you think about it, five minutes is a very short time! It’s roughly the length of an average song. However, many people might experience difficulty staying still for that amount of time. We are all addicted to movement and to being constantly stimulated.
But don’t worry. With practice it will get better. We promise!
Taking the practice further
These four weeks should give you a taste of how to meditate.
Afterwards, you can decide how to continue. We suggest you experiment with the following possibilities:
- Stick to meditating five minutes a day for a little longer, or
- Experiment with longer sessions, but fewer times per week. Varying the time of the session will give you very different experiences (i.e: meditating 5 minutes brings you different challenges compared to meditating for 40 minutes). Try 10, 15, 20, even 40 minutes sessions to see how it feels.
- Go to a local meditation center and learn their approach on how to meditate. Although the core of the practice is essentially the same, each school will have their own particularities. Explore them!
An important tip:
To make it easier to stick to the practice, try to insert it into your routine. For example, if possible, meditate every day in the same place, at the same time. This will help your body and mind associate that particular time and place to a moment for slowing down, and that will make it easier for you to stay still.
What to expect
Each meditation session will be different. You’ll have different experiences depending on your mood, how agitated your mind is, what is going on around you, and so on. It is amazing how just sitting still, in silence, can create so many impressions.
As you continue with the practice, you’ll increase your self awareness and gain more knowledge about your mind and body. You’ll get better at calming your mind and at dealing with an agitated mind. Meditation will bring you closer to our own human nature, our limitations, and how to deal with them.
You’ll experience how thoughts and feelings come from inside ourselves without needing any stimuli from outside. Just sitting in silence, by yourself, you might experience happiness, frustration, anger, serenity, gratitude… It will be an amazing journey through the human mind, and I promise you’ll learn a lot!
Enjoy it and don’t forget to share your experiences with us!