The beginner guide to meditation

By planetm | January 25, 2022

Holistic life coach Caroline Measures explains how meditation can be made easy to help you stay calm with this guide to meditation for a beginner

What does the word ‘meditation’ make you think of? Does it conjure up serene images of yogis sitting cross-legged on a mountain top? Or does it have you running in the other direction yelling ‘I’ve no time for this!’ or ‘I can’t do it!’?

There’s a widely held perception that meditation involves sitting still in silence as you try to quieten the mind-chatter and focus on, well, nothing. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. There are many forms of meditation and it’s a case of finding something that suits you. Once you’ve discovered what that is, you’ll have found a wonderful skill that will soothe your emotions, bring peace into your life and expand awareness of yourself and the natural world around you. Even just a few minutes a day can help to calm you down, settle the nerves and replace anxiety with deep-seated wellbeing.

Meditation provides an essential balance – the yin to the yang, the ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’. While the occasional meditation is certainly something to do whenever possible, the magic really starts to happen when you make it a regular part of your life. Your perception shifts, your focus changes, you establish a greater mind-body connection and inner changes begin to take place. Meditation is like applying a soothing balm to your emotions and the good news is that you can start to experience some of these amazing benefits in your very first session.

Are you ready to cut through the noise?

Everybody needs meditation in their lives. People who say they’re either too busy or have too many thoughts are the very people who need to get into the practice. I remember when severe anxiety meant I could hardly sit still, let alone think about meditating. But sometimes we need to make that decision to try to help ourselves with the promise of brighter days ahead.

Two of my favourite forms of meditation are guided visualisation and mindfulness. Guided visualisation is like listening to a bedtime story. The narrator paints a captivating picture with their voice, leading you through a scene like walking through a meadow, sitting by a stream or floating on a cloud. All you have to do is listen and allow your imagination to do the rest.

Mindful meditation is similar… but different! There is still a certain amount of guided content involved, but instead of creating an enchanting scene, you are instead invited to cultivate awareness of what is here right now – focusing on sounds, sensations, emotions and, believe it or not, those pesky thoughts!

By welcoming in the thoughts, you can actually reduce their impact and eventually let them go altogether. Often described as ‘falling awake’, certain aspects of mindfulness might take a bit more effort to get to grips with, but I promise you it’s doable and the benefits are so worth it. Regular practise will help to turn down the volume on the inner voice and bring a comforting sense of wellbeing. It will also enable you to pause for a second and choose how you react in certain situations, creating a buffer instead of living on a hair-trigger.

Let’s get started

What better time of year to learn how to induce calm and build an emotional buffer than in the run-up to Christmas? The festive season can be fraught with panic buying and more eating, drinking and socialising than usual, and this year some of us might be feeling the added pressure of making up for lost time after a long period of uncertainty, or simply feeling overwhelmed after reduced social contact.

Building in some mindful moments is key to maintaining an emotional balance. Research published by the University of Cambridge in 2021 confirms that “mindfulness courses can reduce anxiety, depression and stress and increase mental wellbeing.” To get started right away, you could light a candle and spend a few minutes observing the flame, studying its shape, the light and warmth it gives out. Or place your hand on your heart and breathe in ‘calm’, breathe out ‘calm’, allowing your breath to slow and lengthen as you relax. Colour in a mandala. Or make a list of 5-10 things you are grateful for and take the time to notice how good that feels in your body.

Am I doing it right?

When you’re starting out with meditation of any kind, there is no right or wrong way to do it. You can sit, stand, walk or lie down. Eyes open or closed. Lights on or off. Indoors or outside. In the car, the bedroom, the park, the toilet (yes, really!) and even in the supermarket. With a busy mind or with a sleepy mind. The main thing is to just do it! It can be as formal or informal as you like.

Some people like to set aside a particular time of day for their practise. It can be helpful to mediate first thing in the morning before your thoughts turn to the day ahead. Early morning check-ins can really set the tone for the rest of the day and make it easier for you to carry the peaceful vibes through the hours ahead.

Evening meditation is popular as it can help you to settle down for the night and even send you off to sleep (especially if you listen to my voice!). And then there’s all the time in between to fit in a few minutes of calm as well. It doesn’t need to be an elaborate set-up. That’s the beauty of meditation. You make it fit with what suits you best, even if it’s five minutes in the supermarket car park or lying in the dark at 3am when you can’t sleep. Once you know what you’re doing, it’s one of the most flexible tools to have in your self-care kit.

So we’ve covered all the basics for newcomers to meditation or for those who are looking to refresh their skills. By now, you’ll be feeling more reassured that meditation is something that you can try and succeed at. It’s super-easy, incredibly empowering and can be adapted to suit you, anywhere and anytime.

The best meditation books and apps

Books:

  • The Art of Living by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled by Ruby Wax
  • Meditations to Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
  • The Power of Awakening: Mindfulness Practices and Spiritual Tools to Transform Your Life by Wayne W Dyer
  • Opening Doors Within – 365 Daily Meditations from Findhorn by Eileen Caddy

Apps:

  • Apple Fitness +
  •  Insight Timer

Discover more

This article first appeared in issue 20 of Planet Mindful magazine. Want to live more mindfully? Check out more mindfulness techniques here.

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