Meditation 101: Techniques and Benefits: How to Meditate for Beginners
Most first-time meditators find it odd to be quiet, to sit with their innermost thoughts and feelings, sit back and do nothing — the very things that, oddly enough, the mind tends to resist. To a beginner, meditation might seem a bit strange at first, maybe even overwhelming, but it is okay; people have been meditating for almost 3,000 years. Many people undoubtedly experience the same reluctance, unease, or awe that early meditators often felt.
You can start meditating because you want to be less receptive, feel less stressed, or more focused. Maybe for you, meditation is part of some larger personal development plan. Perhaps you are looking to improve your relationship with the people around you. Whatever the reason, training the mind through meditation is awareness, and awareness training can radically transform your outlook on life.
Our entire existence is lived through our minds, and our outlook on life can change dramatically when we start to meditate. However, feeling inspired to start meditating is different from doing it effectively; you will only experience the benefits of meditation by creating and maintaining a regular practice.
Meditation is easy to learn and involves straightforward techniques. Before we get started, let’s look at some practical issues and answer a few common questions. In general, the simplest method to begin meditating is to focus on the breath; one of the most prevalent approaches to meditation is concentration.
Concentration meditation is all about focusing on a single point. It may involve following your breath, repeating a word or mantra or looking at a candle flame. Perhaps even hearing a repeated gong, or counting grains in a suitcase. Because the mind’s concentration is a challenge, a beginner may only meditate for a few minutes and then work up to a longer time.
In this form of meditation, you are merely redirecting your awareness of the chosen object of attention whenever you notice your mind wandering. Instead of chasing random thoughts, let them go. Through concentration meditation, you can improve your ability to concentrate.
This encourages the practitioner to observe wandering thoughts as they move through the mind. The intention is not to get involved or to judge your thoughts, but to be aware of each mental note as it appears.
Through mindful meditation, you can see how your thoughts and feelings tend to evolve in specific patterns. With practice, an internal balance of feeling and emotion develops.
In some meditation schools, students practice a combination of focus and mindfulness. Many subjects require silence, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the teacher.
Other Meditation Techniques
There are many other meditation techniques. For instance, a daily meditation custom among Buddhist monks centres directly on cultivating compassion. It involves imagining negative events and positively restructuring them, transforming them through compassion.
The Benefits of Meditation
In the 1970s, Herbert Benson, a researcher at Harvard University School of Medicine, coined the term “relaxation response” after researching people who practised transcendental meditation. In Herbert’s words, the relaxation response is “an involuntary and opposite response which causes a contraction in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.”
Since then, relaxation response studies have documented the following short-term benefits to the nervous system: low blood pressure, better blood circulation, lower heart rate, less sweating, slower respiratory rate, less anxiety, reduction in blood cortisol levels, more sense of well-being, less stress, and deeper relaxation.
Modern researchers are now examining whether consistent meditation practice produces long-term benefits and positive effects on meditators’ brains and immune functions. However, it bears repeating that the goal of meditation should not be profit: as an Eastern philosopher might say, the purpose of meditation is not objective. It’s merely to be present.
In Buddhist philosophy, meditation’s ultimate benefit is to free the mind from attachment to things it cannot control. The liberated or “enlightened” practitioner no longer unnecessarily pursues, desires, or clings to experiences but maintains a calm mind and a sense of inner peace.
How to Meditate: Easy Meditation Steps for Beginners
- Sit or lie down comfortably. You can also invest in a meditation chair or pillow.
- Close your eyes. We recommend using refreshing eye masks or restorative pillows if you are lying down.
- Do not make any effort to control your breathing; breathe naturally.
- Concentrate on the breath and the way your body moves each time you inhale and exhale. Watch your body move as you breathe. Look at the chest, shoulders, and abdomen. Just focus on the breath without controlling its speed or intensity. If your mind is wandering, focus on the breath again.
Now continue this meditation practice for two to three minutes, then experiment for more extended periods.