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There’s No “Right” Way to Meditate, Plus Other Tips for Beginners

If you’ve tried meditation before but you’ve felt out of place, or unsure of the process, you’re not alone. Many people who attempt to meditate on their first try commonly over-analyze and have a difficult time navigating through the natural rhythm of interrupting thoughts, distractions and expectations.

For not just years but centuries, people have found and documented scientific, real benefits from an exercise that is as basic in structure as closing your eyes and calming your mind. While Eastern societies have more traditionally welcomed meditation, it is only recently becoming a trend in recent years throughout Western culture. With the lifestyles most Western societies lead, including distractions, technology, and demands that we must meet every day, meditation can be adaptable and beneficial to our culture today, more than ever. As many people begin to embark on their own journey into meditation and incorporating it into their lives, they are seeing the benefits with patience and time. From clarity to stress relief, balance and even insomnia, many variations of meditation can help improve our every day lives. People with no prior experience and from a lot of different backgrounds have a lot to say about how it has proven to help them.

The first Rule of meditation, is there are no rules

The point of the exercise of meditation for many, is to achieve a heightened state of relaxation, peace of mind, calmness, internal answers, and/or clarity. After practicing simple exercises only a few times, you can start to develop your own method and find out what makes you comfortable depending on what your goals are. As your experience will be adapted and unique to you, it’s pivotal to not analyze, but instead observe, and keep in mind that every time you sit down and close your eyes, it will be an entirely unique experience. You will be in a different mood, have different circumstances to your day and your surroundings, as well as the possibility of different limitations to your schedule. Because of all these variances, and the way we’re all uniquely wired to interpret experiences, we will come with different approaches that are slightly different, yet lead us to similar results.

What you can expect when you try to meditate

Your mind is going to wander. You might feel silly. You are going to have unanswered questions and expectations. You might even fall asleep. The first thing for anyone to remember when trying meditation the first time, is to keep an open mind, and try to release any ideas of what to expect. Whatever style meditation you choose, you can expect an array of thoughts and distractions to challenge you, both internally and externally. As you learn to acknowledge the analytical thoughts as they inevitably occur, understand that they are part of the process, and entirely natural. If you continue your practice and give yourself more trials, you will start to see past all the normal doubts that can occur and open your mind to the greater mental health and wellness benefits possible.

Finding the time and the space

Going into meditation, you simply need to find as quiet of a space as possible. This can be very hard in households with several family members or settings with distractions. Simply finding the time to meditate is another challenge for most people. The beautiful thing about both of these challenges, is that the more you practice, you begin to learn that creating this serenity from inside of you is actually meant to be achieved anywhere. In fact, the most chaotic atmospheres can allow you to tune-in to this greater part of yourself and be adaptable to any situation. In a chaotic house, try to find a time when everyone else is sleeping or when you can let your family or roommates know that you need 10 minutes for yourself without interruptions.

If you are limited in time or a quiet space remember again that there are no rules on where you have to meditate, how long, or even whether you need to stand or sit. If needed, you can create a moment for yourself while standing in the shower, or in your parked car for a few moments during your day. Even just a couple moments of meditation can leave you feeling extremely recharged and away from your current state. Seconds can easily feel like several minutes and just a couple minutes can easily feel like a half hour. Just a few simple few moments of closing your eyes and setting an intention to tune-out can yield great results. 

Different yet common forms of meditation

Mindfulness is simply being aware of your present, immediate surroundings. You can experiment with this several ways. One way is to move through each part of your body and focus on releasing any tension or buildup in each area. You can also simply sit and focus on nothing, and as your thoughts occur, imagine them as cars going by that you are simply acknowledging and watching pass by, but disconnecting any attachment to the feelings associated with those thoughts. Mindfulness techniques often incorporate breathing repetitions as well. You can start by simply taking a deep breath and while counting to 10, then holding the breath when you reach the top of the count and slowly releasing the breath while counting to 10.

Visualization is another powerful form of meditation. Instead of imagining nothing as mindfulness often entails,  you can imagine any beautiful setting or landscape. Try to plant yourself in any setting you choose, and focus on all your senses in this visualized place- everything from noises you hear, smells in the air, textures around you like grass, rocks, or even the temperature and acknowledge how those senses feel. You can hold on to this place in your mind as long as you like, or allow yourself to drift to a new scene. In addition to imagining specific settings, you can try even more simple setting, such as visualizing yourself floating in a tub of water, focusing on how weightless your body feels and the way the water feels around you.

Transcendental meditation includes a mantra, affirmation, motivation or goal for your day that you can repeat to yourself with your eyes closed for several moments of time. It can be something as simple as repeating the words “release” to help you let go of a negative emotion, feeling, memory or thought, or “believe”, if you want reinforce faith or confidence. Many people believe in this form of meditation as an effective tool for manifesting positive outcomes in your life. 

Guided meditations are another very popular practice. A speaker will usually walk you through a session start to finish, including everything from breathing techniques to visualization or affirmation. Guided meditations can incorporate any of the other forms of meditation as well. The guide may have you focus on your breath, your body, repeat a mantra, or visualize a specific scene. There are countless virtual guided meditations you can try with others in a class setting or virtually.

While we focused on four major types of meditation here, many other types of meditation exist, from progressive muscle relaxation meditation, to body scan meditation and general affirmation meditation.

Final advice for meditation beginners

Three words – Don’t give up. Before deciding meditation is not for you, give it a few different tries, practice a few different styles, and/or trying in a new different setting. For many people who practice meditation regularly, no one experience is the same. Some days you might walk away with a better understanding of a problem, or acceptance from a problem on your mind. Other days you might simply leave feeling as though you are more well rested than when you woke up in the morning. There might also be days where you feel like you don’t see any specific result or change in feeling, but through your intentions, the slowing of your heart rate and moments you allowed your brain to rest still provided an un-seen and un-felt benefit to your health and well-being. As with Yoga, meditation is often considered a “practice” because there is not a one-direction, fast, or ‘right’ method to do it. It requires so many variables of surrender, acceptance, release, faith, and continued dedication, even for just a few moments. With cultivation of this practice over time, you can be sure to join others in creating a positive outlet that promotes clarity for your thoughts, well being, and provides a release from the stresses of any circumstance from any time or place, simply from within.

Catherine Rotman