A beginner’s guide to meditation

Always fancied trying meditation but don’t know how to start? Or worry that you may not be ‘good’ at it? Here’s a simple beginner’s guide to meditation. 

There are many good reasons to meditate. Not least because meditation apparently helps you to make more intuitive decisions. It’s also said to help with creativity, focus and stress – all of which will improve your sense of wellbeing and work.

Meditation has been shown to reduce addictive behaviour and improve your relationship with yourself and others.

But if nothing else, in a busy life, when we’re running between commitments, and juggling tasks, worries and plans in our mind almost constantly, meditation gives us a much-needed pause. It’s an opportunity to rest our consciousness (and our body) and just be still.

A beginner’s guide to meditation

However, just as old habits are hard to break, new habits can be difficult to acquire. And, as much as we may know that meditation would be helpful to us, in an already packed life it can be difficult to find the time or motivation to meditate.

So how can you get started? Firstly, we recommend finding (or making) a regular slot of time you can devote to yourself. It may be waking 30 minutes earlier in the morning, setting aside a few minutes at lunch or watching less TV in the evenings.

Once you’ve decided when you’d like to meditate, all you need to do is follow this simple, eight-step guide to getting started by Rachel Dalgarno.

1) Focus on your breath

The moment you move your attention from your thoughts to your breath you have started meditating. Begin to feel your breathing by observing the sensations that arise in your nostrils, chest, diaphragm or abdomen as you inhale and exhale.

Your breathing is always available for you to use as a meditation, wherever you are and whatever you are doing. (You can also use the 7-11 breathing exercise here whenever you feel anxious or at the first signs of a panic attack.)

2) Observe sensations

As well as being aware of the feelings you experience as you breathe, begin to notice other sensations that arise. Take a little journey around your body, making sure to cover every part.

What can you feel in each area? You may feel hot or cold, tension, aches, tingling, perspiration or heaviness. The list is endless. But try not to label any sensations that you find; simply observing them is good enough.

3) Don’t expect anything to happen

Meditation is the opposite of excitement. When we are excited we are anticipating something in the future. When we meditate we are simply being in the present moment, here and now.

So don’t expect some flash of insight or transcendental moment of enlightenment. Simply be with the sensations that are arising for you now. Stop searching for anything.

4) Don’t judge the sensations

Accept every sensation that arises anywhere in your body with equanimity; no sensation is good or bad. If we judge our sensations then we will begin to crave those sensations that we label ‘good’ or generate aversion towards ‘bad’ or ‘painful’ sensations.

5) Don’t react

Allow aches and pains to be there and move your attention to observe another part of your body. You may even find that some time later that ‘unbearable’ sensation has completely disappeared.

6) Stop listening to your thoughts

People say “I can’t meditate because I can’t stop thinking”. Want to know a secret? Nobody can. Every time you notice that you have stopped meditating and are thinking again, move your attention away from thought into feeling breathing sensations in the body.

When you do, you have started meditating again. You’ll probably need to do this many times in just a few minutes.

7) Start loving yourself

As you spend more and more time observing bodily sensations, you’ll begin to notice which thoughts cause you to feel negative, unpleasant sensations in the body. Start turning angry or hurtful thoughts into loving thoughts and feel the difference these make in your body.

8) Set a timer

Once you start to see the benefits that meditating brings to your life, start making more time to do it. Set a timer (for ten minutes initially) and don’t stop your meditation until the buzzer rings.

Of course there will be times during the ten minutes when you will go off into the world of thought, but that’s okay. Every time you notice you are thinking, move your awareness away from your thoughts and back into your body.

The more you practise, the easier meditation gets

Like any new habit you adopt, meditation may not feel easy or natural in the beginning. But the more you practise meditating, the more able you will be to resist the temptation to listen to your own mind’s endless chattering. And the easier and more natural it will feel.

You can read more about Rachel (and learn more about holistic living) on her website. 

Photo by Natalia Figueredo