Meditation is a practice known to reduce stress, enhance inner peace, and help with better sleep (among other great benefits). We spend so much time with our thoughts that it becomes easy to forget, “You are not your thoughts, you are the person listening to them,” 1. Mediation is one way we can help bring ourselves out of our head and back into the experience of our full being. But meditating for the first time can feel overwhelming or even discouraging when it can be so difficult to switch our minds off.
If you think about meditation less like a level of spirituality that must be attained and more like a mindfulness exercise that can help you in your daily life, or like a skill that takes consistent practice, it becomes easier to get started and keep practicing. So don’t expect yourself to find an hour straight of deep inner peace the first time you sit down and close your eyes.
The easiest way to begin meditating is by finding something for your mind to do. Here are 5 easy, accessible ways to give it a try:
1. My favorite way is to meditate while listening to guided meditations. YouTube has a plethora to choose from. You can find options that are specific to your needs:
4 Minute at Work Guided Meditation
Before Sleep Guided Meditation and Chakra Alignment
Sympathetic Breathing: A Meditation
There is nothing wrong or “less spiritual” about beginning a meditation practice with guided meditations. It can be a great tool to break any anxiety about sitting still, combat fears about “not doing it right”, and get yourself in the habit of sitting down to meditate every day.
2. Another easy way to start meditating is to meditate to music. Again, YouTube has great channels offering music for meditation. I recommend choosing a track that is listed specifically for meditating. You might want to listen to part of it before beginning to make sure you like it. Along with music, listening to chants is also a great way to “hypnotize” your mind into quieting down. Check out NuMeditation Music for a variety of meditation tracks.
3. I once received a candle at the end of a meditation class as a gift to get started meditating at home. The teacher recommended staring at the flame in a dimly lit room to give the mind something to do.
4. Michael Singer, author of the Untethered Soul, wrote about his first experiences of attempting meditation in his memoir The Surrender Experiment. Every time his thoughts wandered, he would make the sound “mu” in his mind with each exhale. His goal was to quiet the inner chatter, but he did it by actually giving the chatter something to say.
5. Besides listening to chants, or mantras, repeating them yourself is another way to begin meditation. Mantras are believed to have psychological and spiritual powers. They are in Sanskrit, which is debatably the oldest language in the world. Chanting a mantra can be done without any prior practice. Simply do a quick Google search online and find the one that sounds right for you, and be sure to practice the correct Sanskrit pronunciation before sitting down to meditate and chant.
These are all options that veer from the popular image of meditating in a quiet, noiseless environment in a serene, unmoving state. However, there is no one-way to meditate.
If you are ready to get started, find a quiet space where you feel safe. Feeling safe is an important part to sitting still with your eyes closed in a vulnerable physical state.
Final tip for mediation is to give yourself permission to have thoughts. You will have them, so when you do, let them go, paying no attention, and redirect your focus to the breath, the flame, the chant, the music--whatever it is. Start small, ten minutes a day, and go up from there however you feel comfortable. Honor yourself in your process, and also expand it by attending meditation classes to meditate with others. It will take a while before you become an “expert”, but that’s okay. That’s not even the point of meditation. Finding a new way to love yourself is one of the beautiful things mediation brings and no one needs to be an expert to experience that.
1. I Need Your Love, Is That True? by Byron Katie