14 Meditation Tips For Beginners
For the last five years, I have been fascinated with meditation. The space and insight that each practice brings helps me stay focused and grounded. It also helps me manage the stress caused by the daily demands of work. Seeing how my meditation practice has benefited me greatly, I have been thinking about introducing it to my colleagues. After attending an Uplifted Life retreat and gaining clarity on how I can be of service to others, I finally asked my boss if I could teach meditation at work.
Truth be told, I was worried about how my classes would be perceived by my boss and co-workers (would they think I’m a hippy?). To my great surprise, many of them were excited! Most of them have never meditated before and were looking forward to see what it could do for them. As a beginner in any field would do, they asked me for some tips on how to start a meditation practice. Their request has therefore lead me to write this post and share with you my 14 meditation tips for beginners.
1. Set an intention
Take a moment to decide why you want to meditate. Examples of reasons could be to manage your stress, gain a better control on your emotions to become less reactive or to know yourself better. This will set an intention for your practice and keep you on track. While you are encouraged not to strive for an outcome when you meditate (ex. expect that you will feel less stressed after each session – if your expectation isn’t met, you will be disappointed and frustrated), it is important to have an intention. It reminds you why you started in the first place and will help you maintain the practice.
2. Start with just 2 minutes a day
It’s a misconception that one must sit for an hour a day underneath a tree with the sun rising in the background in order to “properly” meditate. Just to be clear, there is no correct nor single way to practice mindfulness.
In the beginning, if you only manage to focus your attention for 2 minutes a day, then start with 2 minutes a day. When you have become accustomed to stilling your mind and bringing it back to the present moment, increase this time to 5 minutes. And then 10, 20, 30 minutes. Or maybe you’ll just want to stick with 5 minutes a day. Do what feels good to you, while at the same time challenging yourself. If it does feel good to you, chances are this chosen period is enough to keep you aligned with your meditation intention. Adjust the length of your practice as needed.
3. Anchor your attention to your breath and your body
The body doesn’t mull over the past, nor does it worry about the future. It simply exists in the present moment. This is one of the reason why mindfulness practice asks you to focus your attention on the breath and the sensations in the body. When your mind wanders off into stories about the past and the future, re-concentrating on your breath coming in and out of your body brings you back into the flow of the present moment.
4. Count your breaths
If simply paying attention to your breath is not enough to calm the chatter in your mind, try counting your breaths. I also like to count how long my inhales and exhales lasts, usually adapting my inhale to last 4 seconds, and my exhales 6 seconds.
5. Drop the idea that your mind must be blank
One of the main misconception about meditation is the notion that your mind must be blank when meditating. Empty. Nothing. Nada. So let me so say this loud and clear, mindfulness is not about eliminating all thoughts. Thoughts are not seen as a burden or a problem per say. With the right attention, thoughts will reveal a great deal about yourself and your reaction patterns.
Mindfulness will teach you to take a step back and observe your thoughts. Allowing yourself to observe your thoughts will give you the chance to recognize beneficial from harmful thought patterns. With this awareness, you can choose to respond differently to situations that normally trigger an automatic reaction in you.
Therefore, make peace with your thoughts. They will visit you during meditation. When they arise, acknowledge their presence. Then let them go.
6. When your mind has wandered, simply come back to the breath
Your mind will wander off. It is impossible to turn off your thoughts for very long. And this is normal. So instead of fighting it, and judging yourself for something that is natural (or thinking that you’re meditation “wrong”), simply acknowledge that you have wandered off and then come back to the breath. Thoughts will come into your mind, but you don’t have to hold onto them. You have the power to let thoughts go and focus on something else, namely the present moment with the help of your breath.
7. Show yourself patience and compassion
As mentioned above, you will become distracted. I invite you to accept this fact. Know that is is normal, and that it doesn’t mean you’re doing it all wrong. Mindfulness is not a competition or striving for a particular outcome (ex. blank mind for 5 minutes). As you would with a friend, be gentle on yourself and kindly tell yourself that you are learning. Acknowledge that you have become distracted. And then gently come back to your breath.
8. Don’t worry about if you’re doing it right
If you haven’t gotten the message by now, there is no right or wrong way to meditate. So instead of worrying about your performance (or even worse, stop practicing for fear of doing it wrong!), just go ahead and do it.
9. Keep on practicing
It’s called a meditation practice because you need to practice! Think of it as exercise for the brain. Each time you practice, you will find that your mind is able to come back to the present moment with less resistance. As stated above, meditation isn’t about having a blank mind. It’s about the act of bringing your mind back to the present moment. Eventually, with enough formal practice (meditating in a quiet area for a set period of time – see below), you’ll find you’ll be able to be mindful in everyday activities. You’ll also be able to catch yourself getting caught up in the past of future and bring your awareness back to the present moment.
10. Create a meditation space
Create a physical space, where you can meditate, that feel safe to you. This is a space that you be visiting daily, so make it comfortable. Your space doesn’t have to be elaborate. In my case, it’s just my yoga mat facing the window! But as soon as I sit down, I already feel the peace running through my body and a smile spread across my face. Even the simple thought of my haven is enough to calm my mind and get me excited about meditation!
11. Do it first thing in the morning
It’s easy to blow off doing something that is good for you. (Hello going to the gym and going to bed earlier?) There is an infinite number of excuses and distractions to do something else. That’s why I find that meditating as soon as I get up (and before my brain is awake enough to show resistance) allows me to stick to my meditation practice. I also prepare my sacred meditation space the night before.
12. Use guided meditations and meditation apps
Guided meditations are helpful for beginners and for the days where your mind is particularly turbulent. Following instructions helps you maintain your focus.
There are several meditation apps on the market. The two that I have tried and love are Headspace and Calm. Both have a trial version that gives you 7 to 10 free sessions and a paid version (monthly, yearly and a life-time subscription plan available). The paid version features structured courses that build on the knowledge acquired in the previous lessons. What I love about the meditation apps is that everything is set out of me and I don’t have to wonder what my next step should be.
Alternatively, there are meditation YouTube channels that offer guide sessions, such as my favourite Honest Guys.
13. Read about it
Google mindfulness or meditation books and you will get thousands of search results. Once you start a meditation practice and want to deepen your practice, I find reading books on the subject to be truly enlightening. I haven’t read that many yet, but my current favorite is Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zin.
14. Join a group
There is something special about the energy a group of meditating people creates. It’s a room full of good vibes! Search for meditation classes given at local yoga studios or at meditation centers (tip: Google “mindfulness [name of your city]” or “meditation [name of your city]”). If you’re feeling really ambitious, or just want to try something new, sign up to a meditation retreat.
That’s all for now, folks! I hope that these tips have been helpful to you. I’ll be posting more articles on mindfulness in the weeks to come, so make sure to follow Uplifted Life and my website The Soul Hugger for updates!