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How do I Meditate? A Starting Guide for Beginners

Updated: Feb 8

Meditation is supposed to be a tool to purify the mind, calm your nerves and usher you toward spiritual enlightenment. So why does it sometimes feel so complicated, confusing and frustrating? 

If the idea of meditating sounds interesting but you don't know where to start, this is for you! Often, people tell me they've tried meditating-- they've downloaded apps, studied it on YouTube or read books but nothing really sticks, so they just give up.

In case no one has told you yet, there are SO MANY ways to meditate! I am trained in 23 lineages of meditation and don't adhere exclusively to one form. The good news: there's something for everyone!

Why Do It?

Let's start with the benefits of a regular meditation practice. At this point, numerous studies support the advantages of a consistent practice:

1. Stress Reduction - Mindfulness meditation, in particular, has been associated with lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. A daily meditation practice can help you to develop better coping mechanisms for managing stress.

2. Focus and Concentration - Meditation has been linked to improvements in attention and concentration. How? Maintaining focus on the present moment can enhance cognitive abilities related to attention and concentration.

3. Enhanced Emotional Well-being - Research suggests that meditation can lead to reductions in symptoms of anxiety and depression. A regular meditation practice may also contribute to improved emotional well-being, an overall positive mood and increased emotional resilience.

4. Increased Grey Matter in the Brain - Some studies have found that meditation can lead to structural changes in the brain. Regular meditation has been associated with an increase in grey matter density in brain regions related to memory, self-awareness, and compassion. These changes may contribute to improved cognitive function and emotional regulation. 

5. Better Sleep - Meditation has been linked to improvements in sleep quality as it can help to calm the mind and reduce the impact of racing thoughts that may contribute to insomnia. Better sleep quality, in turn, can have positive effects on overall health and well-being.

Now, for the HOW...

Did you know that you can meditate seated, laying down, in stillness, in motion, with eyes open, or eyes closed, guided or silent...? Most people have never heard this before! YOU have the power to choose. Only you know how to best collect yourself. And if you don't know-- the beauty of beginning a new meditation journey is that you can experiment to find out which style is the best fit.

Some of the styles you can research include: Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Vipassana, Metta Meditation, Transcendental Meditation (TM), Mantra Meditation, Tantra, Focused Attention Meditation, Yoga Nidra for sleep -- and more!

Often people ask me, 'What's the most effective form of meditation?' My answer is always the same: The most effective is the one you will do.

I've found that I personally enjoy silent meditation in the morning-- and guided (Yoga Nidra) meditations, tailored for deep relaxation, in the evenings before sleep. 

Decades ago, I started meditating in my bedroom closet (a place where I could sit uninterrupted), in silence, with lights off. I sat for as long as I could without a timer. At the beginning of my journey, I would get up after about 8 minutes -- thinking I had been in this cave of a closet for more like 45 minutes. Over time, I began to relax into the experience. My thoughts slowed down. I enjoyed the silence. I embraced letting everyday life take a back seat in exchange for time to myself. Now, I can sit for an hour at a time-- just observing my thoughts, sensations and breath. In 2023, I completed a Vipassana course which involved 10-days of silence-- no speaking, reading, writing, or exercising. I was meditating for up to 10 hours a day!

If I can do it, anyone can!

Here are 5 Tips for how to start meditating, adapted from one of my early teachers, Marjorie Mura:

1. It's ok to have thoughts during meditation: The idea isn't to clear your mind, it's to observe your mind. What thoughts are you having? Are they repetitive? Are they negative?

2. Don't try too hard! Just let the experience be what it is. You don't have to "do" anything.

3. Let go of expectations. There's not an "aha" moment that makes every meditation spectacular. Sometimes, my meditations just suck. If you can't stop thinking about someone's actions or behaviors from the past, or your list of things to do in the future-- that's good information for you. Are your thoughts drifting backward or forward? And how can you anchor yourself in the present moment? (Spoiler alert: often, we can stay present through breathing, mantra and disciplined effort over time. What do I mean? Focus on your breath, allowing it to guide you into the present moment. As thoughts arise, acknowledge them without judgment and gently guide your attention back to your breath.)

4. Be kind to yourself. The world is hard enough on us. If you got a 10 minute meditation in, celebrate that as a win. Every little bit counts!

5. Stick with it! Aim for 5 to 20 minutes per day. Set a timer with chimes and take a pause whenever you can. Start with short sessions, gradually increasing the duration as you become more comfortable. Whether it's in the beginning, middle or end of your day-- in your home, your car or on an airplane-- it doesn't matter.

This is about your willingness to explore the depths of your consciousness. Remember, meditation is not about achieving an empty mind but cultivating a sense of mindfulness and awareness at all times. In this hectic world, meditation becomes a refuge, a sacred pause amidst the chaos. As you dive into the world of meditation, may you discover the profound joy of simply being.

If you'd like to receive guided instruction from me, for $20/ month, you can join my online community and receive unlimited on-demand meditation classes!
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