Meditation for Beginners: 6 Basic Principles for the Art of Presence
Meditation for beginners is often misunderstood as a complex and esoteric practice, thought to endow practitioners with almost superhuman mental abilities. However, while such exaggerated claims are more myth than reality, and you’re unlikely to develop telekinesis or mind-reading abilities, the truth is that meditation offers a myriad of attainable benefits.
These advantages are not exclusively for the likes of Shaolin monks; rather, meditation is a universally accessible tool that can enhance mental clarity, emotional stability, and overall well-being for anyone willing to learn and practice it.
Meditation is actually all about striving to achieve inner peace by letting go of your regrets, worries, biased opinions, and intrusive thoughts by focusing on the current moment. It sounds simple when put like this, but the reality is that meditation teaches one very important skill that’s really difficult to master – the skill of being present.
The importance of it may not be immediately obvious, but the truth is that a lot of our mental problems originate exactly due to our inability to let go of the past, the future, or of our biased opinions, and to instead stay in the here and now.
Think of all the times you’ve been angry, sad, worried, anxious, depressed, or under the influence of some other negative emotion. In most of those instances, what made you feel bad wasn’t what was happening in that specific moment, but rather your thoughts about something that has taken place in a past moment, something that may or may not take place in the future, or your opinion of a given person or situation.
Meditation, when practiced with regularity and diligence, can help you to both zoom in on the presence, while simultaneously zooming out of your narrow point of view that invariably shows you a distorted version of the real world.
Of course, everything said thus far may sound like empty words without any practical meaning and application, so let’s give some examples of how meditation can positively affect your everyday life in practice.
One of the most common issues that people have nowadays is that they are either too anxious or too irritable and easily-angered. Stress is the main culprit here and there’s only so much a person can do to distance themselves from the potential stressors in their lives. However, there’s a lot that can be done to calm down and balance your inner world, and meditation is one of those things. Whether you (or someone you know) find it difficult to hold back their anger or are prone to getting anxiety attacks, meditation is a good way to bring your inner world into order and to reestablish your control over it.
In the lines below, I’ll provide some simple tips on how one can get started with meditation, but I also recommend doing your own research in order to gain a deeper insight into the best meditation practices. Whether it would be by reading literature on meditation, or joining a program, such as an anger management class (if the main issue is related to anger), it’s always a good idea to put some work into fortifying your mind against the many external factors that can unbalance it.
To practice meditation, you don’t really need to know any advanced or complex techniques. Quite the contrary – the simpler your meditation routine, the better. The whole idea is to clear and empty your mind, which is why focusing on any overly-complicated meditation technique would defeat the entire purpose of meditation.
All you really need to do is to find a quiet place where you can be left alone for about 15 minutes and then sit down and focus on your breaths, while trying to let go of (rather than chase away) any random and potentially intrusive thoughts that will inevitably start bombarding your mind.
That said, there are a couple of best practice suggestions that are generally recommended when meditating, and the most important of them will be explained below.
If you are serious about meditating, it’s best if you make it a routine, or else you’d likely find it difficult to stay consistent with it. To do that, it’s recommended that you designate a specific time of your day when you are able to isolate yourself for anywhere between 10 minutes to half an hour, during which time you know you won’t be disturbed. Generally, meditating at the start of your day or right before you go to bed are usually the best times to do it because that’s when people are usually able to get these minutes of alone time.
Speaking of being alone, it is essential that there’s nobody around you while you are meditating. It’s difficult enough to stay focused and avoid intrusive thoughts when you are by yourself, let alone when you are among other people. Also, your environment should be as silent as possible. For example, if there’s a busy street outside your window, it’s best to close that window for the duration of your meditation session.
Contrary to what some people may think, you don’t need to be in the lotus position or in some other fancy pose. Your body must feel comfortable while meditating, so just sit down on a chair or on the ground with your legs crossed, straighten your back, and widen your shoulders so that your chest is free, and you can take deep and controlled breaths. Note that “comfortable” shouldn’t mean laying down or leaning back on a recliner. Your body’s position shouldn’t be a position in which you can fall asleep, because that is exactly how your brain will interpret it, and you’ll immediately start feeling sleepy.
It’s not recommended to meditate after you’ve just eaten. This, too, can make you sleepy which will, in turn, make the meditation session a lot less productive and effective, and a lot more difficult and frustrating.
Finally, do not forget to breathe deeply during your 10, 15, 20, or more minutes of meditation. It’s easy to forget about this while focusing on what’s going on inside your mind and while trying to chase away the intrusive thoughts, but your meditation session is one of the few instances in your day (if not the only one) when you can really focus on taking deep breaths, which is known to reduce stress, slow down the heart rate, and lower the blood pressure.