Your brain is bouncing from one thought to another. You’re tired of looking at challenges the same old way. You’re on edge and can’t seem to calm your anxiety or silence angry thoughts. You feel a calling to connect to the deepest parts of yourself.
Sound familiar? If so, you may have looked for solutions in pharmaceuticals, exercise, or therapy. Maybe denial, self sabotage, or negative self talk are your responses of choice. How well are those working for you? If they’re less than effective, consider this beginner’s guide to meditation.
There are plenty of solid reasons to begin a meditation practice, many of them backed by science. It’s certainly very common now to see articles and YouTube videos outlining all sorts of meditation techniques. The options, in fact, seem endless and confusing. What’s right for you?
Since I would consider myself to be a beginner when it comes to meditating, I turned to one of the experts in my life for help with this post: my Dad. He’s been meditating for years (since long before it was considered “cool”!) and has contributed a ton to the information below. Thanks, Dad!
Together, we’ve created the accompanying illustration to help you figure it out. Follow the decision pathway to discover your ticket to bliss-ville.
Step #1: Ask yourself what you hope to get out of meditation.
Do you see meditation as a therapeutic tool or a focusing technique? Or do you want to do inner exploration as part of a spiritual practice? Some forms of meditation are particularly good for incorporating into your workday or commute. And that’s handy when you need on-the-spot relief from anxiety or to quiet competing voices in your head. Other techniques are better suited to regular practice and larger time commitment that are essential for spiritual breakthroughs.
Step #2A: If you’re looking for clarity and inner peace, decide whether you’d like to keep it ultra-simple, get active, or opt for a tech solution.
If you want an easy meditation technique that you can practice in all sorts of situations, a breathing meditation is particularly good to gain clarity and improve focus. To calm nerves and reduce anxiety, try mindfulness meditation.
Technology tools are good options for beginning meditators. Apps such as Headspace, Insight Timer (my fave!), Calm, or Stop, Breathe and Think can make it seem like you have a personal meditation teacher right on your mobile device. Wearables can help you kick it up a notch. Muse is wearable headband that detects electrical activity in your brain. Thync attaches to your forehead and delivers neurostimulation pulses to modify your mental state.
Step #2B: If you’re looking for spiritual growth, decide whether you’d prefer to build on the familiar or try something new.
If you’re comfortable in the Christian, Islam, or Judaism traditions, you can find time-tested meditation techniques that will help you unlock profound insights. The Christian rosary, Islamic Muraqaba, and Jewish Shema, among other techniques, have been used for centuries by mystics and are accessible to wannabe mystics of today.
Meditation, of course, has been an essential aspect of Eastern traditions such as Buddhism and Taoism. It should be no surprise, then, that you would have many options to choose from, depending on what sense you’d like to use: mantra (Transcendental Meditation); visualization (chakra, metta, gazing); breathing (Zen, qigong, vipassana); or sound (Nada yoga, chanting).
How to Set Yourself Up for Success
Whatever technique you choose, commit to following through for at least one month. Don’t fuss about the details of where or how to sit or following instructions to the letter; you will adapt as times goes on.
To increase the chance that it becomes a habit, meditate at the same time and place each day, if possible (first thing in the morning is a great option for many people).
And of you can find a meditation buddy with whom you can check in regularly, all the better.
Finally, don’t worry that you may be doing it wrong. Even if meditation isn’t always easy, it can be a joyful exercise that can bring you closer to clarity, peace, and self-knowledge.
Have you tried meditating before? What techniques have you found most effective? Leave us a comment below and let us know.