April 22, 2020

How to Meditate for Beginners

How to meditate



Have you ever considered a meditation practice? Also called practicing mindfulness, meditating is a wonderful way to manage stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, I was brought up with the idea that meditating was a little bit weird, and my family didn't really get it. But luckily, over the years times have changed, and meditation is now widely practiced by many people all over the globe.

Meditation is such a wonderful way to maintain a sense of calm and clarity in the most trying situations. How do I know? Because I've been personally meditating for years!





I first learned to meditate when I first moved to the city after college. I was in a therapy program where meditation was part of the treatment. At first, I didn't see how doing some breathing exercises every day could possibly help change anything in my life for the better. But by the end of the program, my outlook completely turned around. Not only did I feel better about my life, I had a job, a new apartment, and was making it on my own. Pretty amazing results!

I'm not saying that meditating can literally get you all the things you want in life. But I AM saying that it can change your perspective over time. And those perspectives change the way you act for the better and cause a ripple out to the world.

For instance, if you're currently going to job interviews feeling stressed, that might cause a negative impression to your interviewers... which might cost you the job. But if you go in feeling calm and collected (as a result of meditation), your chances just got way better!

What I also found out is that there are literally SO many different ways to meditate. Aside from doing meditation in therapy, I've also gone to guided meditation centers, done meditation Youtube videos, and tried mindfulness apps. All these offer another perspective and alternate techniques.

You can actively try to clear your mind, or let your thoughts and feelings flow freely. You can use chanting, visualization, or just simply silently observe yourself without judging (that's the key.) It's very personal, and everyone has a different way that works for them.

I know right now there is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty, but I also do think it's a perfect time for inward reflection and cleaning out the cobwebs of our lives. That's why I think it's a wonderful time to try it out!

You don't have to subscribe to any particular religion to meditate... you can be an athiest! It's simply something people do to clear their heads, and let in space for healing and good energy.


Below are a list of tips that have worked for me over the years:



1) Find a peaceful place


This one might seem obvious, but it could be a challenge if your living space is small, or your home is chaotic (kids, loud roommates, etc.) but no space is going to be perfect, so work with what you've got!

In my very first apartment in Brooklyn, all the windows were looking directly out at brick walls. There was one small window in the kitchen, where through a barred window and over the brick, you could see a sliver of sky. That was where I meditated every day. I eventually grew to love that piece of sky and was so grateful for it. I didn't need a grand view or even a comfy chair to feel inspired. Just my sky.

When I moved out of that apartment, I honestly missed that spot. It reminded me that you can find peace anywhere, even under not-so-great circumstances.






2) Breathe, and count


One of the first techniques I learned was to simply count up to a certain number on inhales and exhales. I usually pick the number 10. I breathe in and count to 10. Then breathe out and count to 10. Repeat, repeat, repeat. As you get more practiced, you can try breathing for longer periods of time... to 11, 12, 13... as long as it's comfortable for you.

Breathing like this has a dual effect. It has the physical effect of slowing your breath, which slows down your heart rate. And the mental effect of keeping your concentration in one place. If you have racing thoughts like I do, it helps take your mind off of them. It can actually be a relief to concentrate only on the numbers and your breath.

In my Brooklyn kitchen where I first learned to meditate, there was a ticking clock. Which I found SO maddening and distracting at first. (EVERYTHING is frustrating and distracting when you're first trying to meditate.... we'll talk about this next.) After a while, I learned to sync my breath with the ticks. And being able to count along with the clock actually ended up being a really important part of my practice.


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3) Time Yourself and Don't Stop Until the End


After you've learned to have steady breaths, give yourself a time frame. Say, 5 or 10 minutes. Then count along with your breath, undisturbed, and let no other thoughts enter your head.

This is going to be really hard. You're suddenly going to remember everything you need to put on the grocery list. That you need to check on your kids. You'll have the urge to pick up your phone to catch the latest news or social media posts. You're going to want to stop meditating and put your attention back on everything that's causing you stress in the first place.

DON'T.

It's very important that you resist the urge to break your meditation. You're creating a practice and a safe haven for your mind. Teach yourself that this is a sacred time for you.



4) Use a mantra


It's totally okay to use a simple and reassuring word or phrase while you're meditating. like "relax" or "let go." Whenever you feel worries or thoughts coming in, just gently release them, and say your mantra to yourself in your head.

Once I start my counts, I breathe in, then say my phrase to myself on the exhales.

So many of the words that come into our minds during the day are stressful ones... so choose some soothing and reassuring ones!




5) Visualization


It can help to picture yourself being somewhere safe and comforting. the beach? your childhood home? your mom's womb? It's all good, as long as it is somewhere with good associations that help you to let go of fear and harmful energy.


6) Don't give up


After the first time (or first few times), you may not feel any more inspired, happy, or lighter than usual. It might take a few tries. or, you might have an amazing first experience, but subsequent times aren't the same. You don't know how to get the initial feeling back and become disappointed.

All this is understandable, natural, and even to be expected. But the important thing is that you keep trying. Like anything, it takes practice. It might even take months, but I promise... carving a place out in your day to relax and let go of the stresses in your life will only have a positive effect on you in the long run.


Energy is such an amazing thing, and there's so much you can do with it. So many ways it can be depleted or replenished inside a person. These are replenishing exercises for your spirit.

Hope you can find some use out of them :)






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1 comment

  1. So good! I discovered I need to meditate more. I have a hard time sitting still and feel like I always have to be doing something. So good!

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