You may be drawn to meditation to quell your overthinking mind, or simply to add calmness to your busy day - whatever your motivation - we have the complete beginner’s guide to help you on your journey to a more peaceful you.
Below we tackle some of the most common misconceptions surrounding meditation as well as provide some top tips to help you continue the practice effortlessly day after day.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a mindfulness practice as old as time itself. Its origins are rooted in Indian and Chinese cultures and date back to as early as 1500 BC.
Meditation has taken on many iterations since this era, but it is still centred around one core principle - maintaining a focus on the breath to help you remain aware and fully connected to the present moment.
Although meditation has held a presence in the West since the 1700’s, meditative practices have been popularised in Western culture as a way to bring more calm to our ever-expanding schedules.
Meditation can begin to help us to understand how the brain works and ultimately gain more control over our thoughts and emotions. Think of it like exercise for the mind - just as you would train various physical body parts - the brain requires the same level of support to function optimally.
Incorporating meditative practice into your daily routine, no matter how big or small will not solve your worries, but it strengthens our coping strategies and allows us to maintain greater control over our emotions. Our problems don’t disappear, but we become stronger and better able to withstand some of the common stressors of everyday life.
How Do I Meditate
With meditation, there are no hard and fast rules - but general guidelines can help you build up to a more consistent practice. It is all about recognising the techniques that resonate with you and personalising your practice accordingly.
The Beginners Process
Find a distraction-free zone (or as free as possible). Choosing a designated chair, corner or even cushion can be a great way to create an association between your practice and a meditation spot.
Most people will opt to sit with their back straight, and shoulders relaxed. Meditation can also be done in a standing or lying position.
Gently close your eyes, relax your back, and release your facial muscles.
Once you are in a comfortable position complete a quick body scan. Check in with yourself - how are your mind and body feeling. What areas of the body are tenser than others?
With your eyes gently closed- begin to bring awareness to the movement of your breath. Slow it down. Take deep, conscious breaths. Your breath is responsible for anchoring your thoughts throughout your meditation practice. Focus on one place where the breath enters or leaves the body - such as the chest, the nose, or the torso. Try to keep your attention focused here.
Meditation teacher Oliverier Ngyyen recommends silently repeating ‘in’ and ‘out’ to yourself when starting out. This helps you to really focus on the breath in and out and allows you to observe your breathing for longer periods.
When starting out try 4 seconds in 2-second hold, 4 seconds out. Repeat this breath cycle.
Notice your thoughts
Naturally, thoughts will begin to make their way into your mind throughout your practice. It is completely normal to drift from your practice at regular intervals.
It is all about learning to control your roaming mind without judgement. Aim to return to your breath every time your mind wanders. Centre your practice around self-love, non-judgement, and a willingness to start again no matter how often we become distracted.
You can even introduce a mantra for each time you wish to return to the breath, such as ‘I return to my breath with love and kindness’ or ‘My breath anchors me to the present moment’
We recommend starting out with s shorter 5–10-minute meditation and gradually building up to a longer practice. Just 12 minutes of meditation a day can change the physiology of your brain.
Meditation Styles and How to Choose the Right One for You
Mantra Meditation: This meditation style involves repeating a mantra to yourself silently or aloud for all or part of your practice. We recommend choosing a mantra that captures the motivation for your meditation journey so you will be individually connected to your practice.
Mantras we love:
‘I accept whatever this practice has in store for me, I embrace it with love and kindness’
‘I am calm and connected to my breath’ ‘
Today can be whatever I make it’
‘I embrace the present moment with all my heart’
Body Scan Meditation: This technique involves focusing on each part of your body for 10-20 breaths before moving on. This is a great technique for when we do not have access to a video or audio-guided meditation. You can begin to release tension from various parts of the body through the power of the breath. Listen to our free Body Scan Meditation here
Walking Meditation: If you are the type of person who ‘just can’t sit still’ walking meditation may be a great option when starting off. You can integrate meditation into your daily walk. Count your steps, notice how your foot hits the path, and embrace the physical sensation of walking.
Guided Meditation: Any meditation technique can be done with the help of a guide or teacher. As a beginner, this is a great way to maintain focus and withstand distraction. You can rely on the guide's voice and the movement of the breath to ground you further into the ritual. The guide leads you through the practice by providing a breakdown of techniques and offering small reminders when the brain begins to wander. Eventually, you will become comfortable enough to meditate without the help of a guide. Check out our resource filled with free guided meditations or alternatively sign-up to our podcast to receive new guided meditations as they drop.
Benefits of Meditation - Why Meditate?
Neuroscience tells us that the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for regulating emotion, physically changes with repeated meditation practice. We are better able to manage stress and stabilise our emotions. As the amygdala shrinks with repeated practice - the prefrontal cortex, responsible for controlling cognitive functions such as attention, impulse control, memory, and creativity expands.
Meditation literally changes the brain.
The Subconscious Mind
Becoming aware of our thoughts even for a period of 5-10 minutes can help us to become more aware of our thoughts and in turn, change the ones that no longer serve us. Most of our thinking comes directly from the subconscious mind and therefore to effect change we must do so by consciously rewiring our subconscious minds.
We may not enjoy spending time with our own thoughts – this is likely due to the digging up of unpleasant memories, anxious thoughts about the future, or negative self-talk.
Meditation is a way to overhaul the way we perceive and speak to ourselves. It can turn our own company from intolerable to a welcome reprieve from the stresses of everyday life. We begin to get a grasp on our thoughts allowing for increased emotional stability.
Meditation is a to spend more time in the present moment and help relinquish the limiting beliefs and habits that curb our potential.
Win the Day with Meditation
Meditation is a great way to set yourself up for the day and become clear on your intentions before springing out of bed in the morning. This often leaves us feeling frazzled and overwhelmed. Taking 10 minutes to focus our minds can offer clarity and calmness for the rest of the day. It’s a weapon of stress destruction - and the more we call on it, the stronger we become.
We Become the Observer
Meditation allows us to practice detachment. Meditation is all about observing your thoughts when they arise - and coming back to the breath. When we begin to recognise our thoughts as separate from ourselves - it externalises their power and puts us back in control. We see the thought for what they are, simply thoughts, and not the collective truth. This is particularly useful if you often find yourself spiralling into negative thinking patterns or harmful self-talk tendencies. Becoming mindful of our thoughts allows us to ask one very important question - ‘is this the truth or is it just a thought?’
Beginners' Top Meditation Tips
- Downloading an app, joining a group, or starting your meditation journey with a close friend can help you remain accountable. You don’t have to invest huge money into starting a meditation journey, but a class or programme can help if you find yourself too often falling out of the habit. A programme often lasts long enough for you to feel the true benefits of meditation, and this is a huge motivator. Meditation is a habit-forming ritual.
- If you are following a guided meditation from your phone, laptop or iPad be sure to place it on do not disturb mode
- The best time to meditate is first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, if this is not possible for you leave at least one hour between your last meal and your practice.
- If you feel you are consistently losing momentum - try to come back to your motivation for starting a meditation journey. Coming back to this core purpose regularly can help along the way.
- Uplevel your meditation experience with essential oils, eye pillows, blankets, journals and chakra oils. View our organic Australian made products over at Botanical Trader where we have plenty of tools to help deepen your meditation experience.
THE HEART OF THE MATTER
It is no wonder meditation has embedded itself into the mainstream - it offers life-changing benefits in stress management, pain, sleep, anxiety and much more. It is far from a quick fix, but the more we do, the easier it becomes. It is a way to connect with our intuition and surrender to the present moment.
You may think you don’t have the time to incorporate a meditation practice into your daily routine, but the truth is mediation informs all other areas of your life - bringing calmness and clarity to everything you do.
We’ve all heard the saying ‘starting is the hardest part’ - but meditation is a technique centred on starting again and again despite distraction. Meditation reminds us there is always a chance to start again.