Updated: Mar 2, 2020
I want to meditate but where do I start?
That is probably a question you have been asking yourself when you've never meditated before and you want to start a meditation practice.
You might wonder which guided meditations are good to listen to. You might find it hard to stick to meditating if you've done it a few time and feel no benefits. You might not know how to sit properly. You might be so busy in your head that you feel it's not working for you. Recognise this?
I'm here to tell you that everything I just mentioned is very normal! Nearly every person who meditates has these questions and I'm here to answer them for you, so you can enjoy an effortless meditation practice everyday.
What is meditation?
So what is meditation exactly? Meditation itself is not just one practice with one definition, it are different practices with different outcomes. Thinking of meditation, my interpretation can be quite different than what somebody else may think of it. That is because there are multiple goals that people can pursue with meditation. People can meditate about a certain concept in the world, which is usually a philosophical concept, for example: ‘What is the meaning of life’? You meditate on this question and it might clear things up for you. People can use meditation as a way of connecting to a spiritual source or another ethereal being. This is more of a spiritual practice. People can also use meditation as a technique to teach themselves how to focus their minds on thinking less. The goal then is to sit in stillness. You teach yourself to calm your mind and to not fall in to a spiral of negative thinking, which calms you down and creates a more relaxing vibe. This last concept is what I am going to explain to you.
A good resume of what meditation is could be: Via meditation you raise your consciousness and you are aware of everything around you without judgement.
Meditation as a technique:
When you teach yourself how to meditate, you can use it as a tool in your toolbox to reduce stress. Other ways of reducing stress might be listening to music, dancing or going for a walk. But sometimes you want to calm your mind. You just want to think nothing and relax a bit. Meditation is really good for that!
So, what do you do when you meditate?
When you meditate you sit still. When you sit still you try to just be and observe your thoughts, feelings and emotions. You basically train your state of just being. When we do this we can teach our body and mind to synchronize. Meditation is a muscle that you can train, just like when you exercise and get better every time you do it. You have to practice to make it grow and eventually it can give you a lot of peace. If a thought comes by you observe the thought and then let it pass. You observe the feeling the thought gives you. This way you can quiet the mind and reduce stress and many other feelings that we redeem ‘bad’. That is why I would advise you to take the action, teach yourself how to meditate, even if it’s only for 5 minutes every 3 days. Create that space for yourself and you will notice the difference.
How to meditate
There are many forms of meditation, but let's focus on a passive form. It's best if you sit down or lay down. We often see pictures of people sitting on a meditation cushion but you don't have to buy one when you're first starting out. You can sit on a different cushion, on a chair or on the floor. When you're sitting on a chair, make sure your feet are touching the ground. You can also lay down, but when you do lay down make sure you don't fall asleep. It's not bad when you fall a sleep but it's not the goal of meditation. The goal is to sit in stillness. You can close your eyes or focus your eyes on a fixed point on in front of you, your choice.
To be guided or not to be guided?
Meditation can be hard in the beginning, that is why I recommend you learn to meditate with a guided meditation. There are plenty of guided meditations on YouTube so you could find a serie of meditations or just one that really suits you. In these video's, professionals will teach you to how to meditate and they guide you step by step in what to do. After you've learned how to meditate you can, if you like, meditate by yourself. I like to use music when I meditate. It helps me sink in to the calm state a lot easier than when I don't use music. I use the app 'Relax Meditation'. With this app I can mix my own music and other sounds, which I really like as my mood each day is different and I want to listen to different music everyday. What I also love about this app is that you can set a timer to stop meditating. This is not a loud timer, but the timer makes sure that the music slowly fades away! This is a much more peaceful way to end your meditation than with an alarm clock that blurts in your ear. You can of course also choose to meditate in silence. You go and sit and just sit in the quiet. This can be very peaceful too and it's actually the original form of meditation. This, I have to say, I've found very challenging.
Focus on your breath
Your breath is one of the most stable things you have. It's a built in tool, so use it! You always have it and you can use it to focus your mind on. To get into a meditative state you can focus on your breath and count down from 5 to 1. Breathe in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1... Breathe out 5, 4, 3, 2, 1... And repeat. Why count down? Because when you count up it is easier to get distracted and you forget which number you ended up on.
Taking a deep breath is also very good for releasing stress and toxins. Just take a deep breath... Feel how it relaxes you? It is my go to tool for when I'm feeling tense. I just take a second and focus on my body and ask myself questions: How do I feel? Where am I tense in my body? This gives you the possibility to reset yourself to feel better.
How often should I meditate?
You probably know my answer to this: I recommend you to meditate everyday. That way you can grow the meditation muscle rapidly and you will benefit the most from it. But in the beginning that can feel overwhelming and it might be difficult to commit to a daily practice. That is why you should feel what is best for you. Maybe every 2 days works, or every 3 days. As long as you do it!
How long should I meditate?
The opinions kind of differ on this subject, but I would advise a minimum of 10 minutes a day. If you feel like you have more space to meditate then you can meditate for longer! The longer the better. That can be hard though! I haven't mastered that yet either...
My thoughts are racing and I don't feel like I'm benefitting from meditation... I feel like quitting. What should I do?
We are humans which means that we are thinking beings. We think, it's what we do, so don't feel bad that you can't stop your thoughts. That's actually really normal! The first step is to accept that you think and that your thoughts race. It's what your mind has been doing all it's life, so to suddenly stop your mind thinking is not natural. Step two is to not judge the thoughts that come into your mind. You can't stop them, so why judge them? Then figure out where those thoughts come from. Are you thinking about the future or the past? You can't change the past or the future, so there is no reason why you should dwell on it if you can't change it. Let it go! Try to release yourself of the torture that you are putting upon yourself. Lastly, every time you notice that you are ending up in a thought spiral, acknowledge it without judging it and start over again.
Remember: everything you give attention will grow, so if you constantly focus on how annoying it is to be in a spiral you will actually end up in it again. Try to focus on the meditation, your breath or the music. It will benefit you, believe me! Eventually it will work for you, so just push through the uncomfortable moments and sit in that feeling.
I can't set myself to do it everyday, is that bad?
No, of course not! Don't judge yourself. It's hard to stick to something sometimes. Try to do it for 21 days in a row and really commit to that, it might be easier to stick to it after that. If it won't stick, try to discover why it won't stick. Is it the length of the meditation that doesn't motivate you? What is bothering you that won't motivate you? Try to create a positive ritual for yourself which will excite you to start meditating again. Light a candle, put on some incense, turn on your diffuser, pull a card from your beautiful oracle deck and grab some of your favourite crystals to really set the mood. Indulge yourself!
The most important part of meditation is that you make yourself feel comfortable and that you create a ritual for yourself that feels amazing. That is how you stick to your meditation practice, how it will feel like something that's effortless and how you can make the most of it! What have you been inspired by? Let me know in the comments!