Getting started with meditation doesn’t have mean you have to make dramatic changes to your lifestyle. In fact, the point of a meditation practice is to improve your daily experience in whatever environment you find yourself in. Numerous studies have found that meditating just 15 minutes can drastically lower stress levels and improve your quality of life – something that just about everyone can commit to.
While calming your mind and dwelling in stillness may sound simple, for most beginners it is one of the most difficult experiences in the world. The mind wanders, jumps around and often brings up memories and situations we’d rather avoid. The deep peace and ecstatic sensation of a calm mind, which is the true reward of a meditation practice, is often not experienced right away.
Fortunately, there are several easy techniques that can be employed by anyone — even someone with no experience or training in meditation. They will help you focus the mind by strengthening your ability to maintain attention to the present moment — the skill needed to obtain meditation’s powerful benefits in the real world.
One of the most commonly used beginning meditation techniques is the simple act of focused breathing. Even intensive meditation training programs, like the 10-day silent retreats known as Vipassana, which are based on the teachings of the Buddha and are held all over the world
To begin, sit upright in a comfortable position you can maintain for the meditation session. Focus your attention on your breath, but do not try to control or modify your breathing. Simply observe your natural breathing as it comes into your body through your nose and then again as it goes out.
You may find your mind begins to wander almost immediately. Every time the mind moves away from the breath, gently move it back. Keep doing this gentle process, and you will greatly enhance your ability to concentrate and be more able to let go of circular and obsessive thinking.
Candlelight meditation works much like breath-focused meditation because it gives you a point to pay attention to and return to when your thoughts wander. This simple is a simple
skill that will later help you meditate without outside assistance. Essential oil infused candles, like lavender or citrus, can be used to assist in calming the mind and supporting focus.
To begin candlelight meditation, find a comfortable place to sit that allows an upright position for the duration of the session. This time, however, set up a lit candle in front of you, and turn off all other lighting sources.
Stare at the candle with both eyes open, count slowly to 10, and then close your eyes. You should still see a bright spot in your vision where the light of the candle has “burned” its way into your vision. The point will fade slowly, giving you a chance to practice without an aid
If it proves challenging, simply open your eyes to the candlelight and repeat the process again.
Walking meditation is a bit more complicated and challenging than the above two techniques since there are many more distractions and the eyes must remain open. In fact, walking meditation is often practiced by even the most advanced meditators as way, to maintain awareness in difficult circumstances.
For the beginning meditator, walking meditation should take place in nature or in a room of the house (walking in circles) where distractions are kept to a minimum. Walk with your full attention focused on the surrounding environment, letting go of thoughts as soon as you notice them and returning your attention to where you are as quickly as possible.
If you are outdoors you will soon notice this practice leads to mental clarity and a more fulfilling appreciation of the natural beauty around you. If you practice walking meditation in your home, turn off all phones or other electronic devices that may interrupt you and allow yourself to be fully present in the place that you dwell.
Your Daily Meditation Practice
Any of these three basic meditation techniques will help you touch a more peaceful place in your mind, a place that will become more and more accessible to you the more you continue and strengthen your practice. Choosing which one to integrate into your life is a matter of preference and convenience: choose the one that you think you can commit to doing on a daily basis and that is the most enjoyable to you.
If you already like hikes and nature, go with walking meditation, if you do yoga and breath-work already, try breathing meditation and if you are the kind of person that simply turns off the lights and checks out when things get stressful, try being a bit more involved and assertive by practicing candle meditation.
Remember, these meditation techniques for beginners while there are definite benefits that you will feel immediately after your practice, the real rewards of meditation come when interacting with difficult people or situations in the real world.
The practice of returning to and being present in the here will help you focus and moderate your reactions, reduce stress levels and help you live happier.