How to Meditate
When we meditate, we inject far-reaching and long-lasting benefits into our lives: We lower our stress levels, we get to know our pain, we connect better, we improve our focus, and we’re kinder to ourselves. Let us walk you through the basics in our new mindful guide on how to meditate.
This is a guidebook to the many different styles of meditation, the various benefits of each practice, plus free guided audio practices that help you learn how to meditate.
How do you learn to meditate? In mindfulness meditation, we’re learning how to pay attention to the breath as it goes in and out, and notice when the mind wanders from this task. This practice of returning to the breath builds the muscles of attention and mindfulness.
When we pay attention to our breath, we are learning how to return to, and remain in, the present moment—to anchor ourselves in the here and now on purpose, without judgement.
A Basic Meditation for Beginners
The first thing to clarify: What we’re doing here is aiming for mindfulness, not some process that magically wipes your mind clear of the countless and endless thoughts that erupt and ping constantly in our brains. We’re just practicing bringing our attention to our breath, and then back to the breath when we notice our attention has wandered.
Get comfortable and prepare to sit still for a few minutes. After you stop reading this, you’re going to simply focus on your own natural inhaling and exhaling of breath.
Focus on your breath. Where do you feel your breath most? In your belly? In your nose? Try to keep your attention on your inhale and exhale.
Follow your breath for two minutes. Take a deep inhale, expanding your belly, and then exhale slowly, elongating the out-breath as your belly contracts.
Welcome back. What happened? How long was it before your mind wandered away from your breath? Did you notice how busy your mind was even without consciously directing it to think about anything in particular? Did you notice yourself getting caught up in thoughts before you came back to reading this? We often have little narratives running in our minds that we didn’t choose to put there, like: “Why DOES my boss want to meet with me tomorrow?” “I should have gone to the gym yesterday.” “I’ve got to pay some bills” or (the classic) “I don’t have time to sit still, I’ve got stuff to do.”
Meditation means awareness. Whatever you do with awareness, it is a form of meditation. ‘Watching your breath’ or ‘Listening to the Birds’ is meditation. As long as these activities are free from any other distraction to the mind, it is effective meditation. It also means a cessation of the thought process, a state of consciousness, when the mind is free of ‘scattered thoughts’ and intrusive patterns.
This Meditation course, takes the student on a journey through both Eastern and Western ‘meditation techniques’; from ‘Chakra Balancing’ to ‘Walking the Labyrinth’. No previous qualifications are required, as this course covers the appropriate basics for those studying this subject for the first time.
Learn to Meditate in 6 Easy Steps
You’ve heard that meditation can benefit your health and well being, so you want to give it a try. But you’re not sure where to begin. Follow these six simple steps to begin one type of meditation technique called mantra meditation.
You’ve heard that meditation and mindfulness can benefit your health and well being, so you’ve decided to give it a try. But you’re not sure where to begin … how do you “quiet the mind?”
The key to learning how to meditate and developing a successful meditation practice is finding the right fit for you. In order to figure out what form of meditation works best for you, you’ll have to put a few types of meditation to the test and try several tools so you can choose the practice that feels the most comfortable. As a quick introduction to meditation, follow these six simple steps to begin one type of meditation technique called mantra meditation.
Mantra Meditation Technique
1. Choose your mantra. A mantra is a word or phrase that you silently repeat to yourself during meditation. The purpose of the mantra is to give you something to put your attention on other than your thoughts. You may use any phrase you like. Some people like to use words like “Peace” or “Love”. You may wish to use the So Hum mantra. This is a commonly used Sanskrit mantra, which literally translates to “I am.” It is often referred to as the mantra of manifestation. I like using the So Hum mantra because it is not in my native English language and does not trigger any additional thoughts.
2. Find a comfortable place to sit. It’s best to find a quiet location where you won’t be disturbed. There is no need to sit cross-legged on the floor unless that is comfortable for you. You can sit on a chair or sofa or on the floor with your back against a wall. You may support yourself with cushions, pillows, or blankets. The goal is to sit as upright as possible while still remaining comfortable. We all have different anatomies and you want your meditation experience to be enjoyable, so make your comfort a priority. Lying on your back is usually not recommended because most people fall asleep in this position, but you can try it if sitting is uncomfortable for you. The most important rule is that meditation can be practiced anywhere, as long as you’re comfortable.
3. Gently close your eyes and begin by taking some deep breaths. Try taking a few “cleansing breaths” by inhaling slowly through your nose and then exhaling out your mouth. After a few cleansing breaths, continue breathing at a normal relaxed pace through your nose with your lips gently closed.
4. Begin repeating your mantra silently to yourself without moving your tongue or lips. The repetition of your mantra is soft, gentle, and relaxed. There is no need to force it. The mantra does not need to correlate with the breath, though some people prefer to do so. For example, if using So Hum as your mantra, you could silently repeat So on your inhalation and Hum on your exhalation. If you choose to correlate your mantra with your breath, do not become overly fixated on this. As your meditation continues, allow the breath to fall away into its own rhythm. The repetition of your mantra should be almost effortless. Sometimes it is helpful to imagine that rather than repeating the mantra to yourself, you are actually listening to it being whispered in your ear.
5. Do not try and stop your thoughts or empty your mind. As you continue with this meditative process, you will inevitably find that you drift away from the mantra. It is human nature and normal for the mind to wander. Do not try and stop your thoughts or “empty your mind.” Whenever you become aware that your attention has drifted away from your mantra to thoughts or any other distractions while meditating, simply return to silently repeating the mantra.
6. Stop repeating the mantra. After approximately 20 to 30 minutes, you may stop repeating your mantra and continue sitting with your eyes closed. Be sure to spend a few minutes relaxing with your eyes closed before resuming activity. You may use a timer with a very gentle, low-volume sound. Many people use their cell phones as meditation timers. You can download a meditation timer app on your smart phone or choose a soothing sound on your phone’s built-in timer. Be sure to turn the volume down very low as you don’t want to be startled out of your meditation.
If you find that 20 to 30 minutes is too long for you, start with whatever amount of time you can, and slowly build your way to 20 to 30 minutes. Even a few minutes of daily meditation is beneficial.
The benefits of meditation are greatest when practiced daily. Ideally, meditation can be done first thing in the morning upon rising and then again at the end of the day, preferably prior to dinner. I like to start my day feeling centered and balanced after my morning meditation. And I often think of my evening meditation as a “release valve,” allowing any stress or tension from my day to simply drift away.
Learn the core elements of meditation through one of our meditation retreats guided by Deepak Chopra and other world-renowned teachers. Find a meditation retreat to guide you on your journey today.