How to Meditate: Simple Meditation for Beginners
by Alexander Quiros, PhD, MBA
By now, you’ve no doubt heard about all the benefits that come from Mindfulness Meditation. If not, let’s begin by learning what it is. Here are some simple instructions:
Sit or lie comfortably. (You may even want to invest in a meditation chair or cushion)
Close your eyes.
Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation.
That’s it! “Really?” you may ask. Yes, really. While it looks simple, it’s hard for the modern mind to just focus on one thing for a long time. That’s what mindfulness meditation is primarily about- developing concentration, focused attention, and awareness. While in the beginning stages of learning how to meditate, you focus more on the mechanics than anything else (e.g. am I breathing right, am I doing it right, what am I supposed to think about, boy this position is uncomfortable, etc.), the act of just focusing on your breath starts you on a path that leads to reduced stress, increased happiness, and many physical benefits (e.g. reduced chances of heart failure and Alzheimer’s/dementia). Once you’ve established even a small practice of meditation, you will start to notice things that have been happening to you all along. This increased self-awareness is at the heart of mindfulness.
But beginning meditators face a few challenges. One, the lack of an established routine. Humans are creatures of habit, so establishing a regular meditation practice takes effort. Think back to a time when you successfully changed a habit and to a time when you unsuccessfully changed a habit. Learn from those experiences to help you set this new habit. Things that help include putting it in your schedule, doing it just as you wake up or right before going to bed, and/or constantly reminding yourself of why you want to meditate. Two, boredom. In our modern society where we feel compelled to fill every minute with FaceBook, TV, or Netflix (and maybe even all three at the same time), boredom is seen as an evil to be avoided. However, in meditation, boredom is an obstacle to be overcome. Recognize that at the core of boredom is a desire to deny life’s painful moments and seek out happy distractions. The best cure is to just meditate. Sit with your boredom. Watch it. See how it won’t kill you or do you harm. And remind yourself that the reason you are meditating is to be happier. From that perspective, boredom is like that friend that’s always getting you in trouble or jealously keeping you from what makes you happy and healthy. And three, doubt, primarily self-doubt, is another major obstacle. You’re trying something new and you’ve probably had very limited experience with meditation. This is where finding a meditation group or teacher who you feel comfortable with is important. It’s not easy to find, given that there is no Meditation Google, but Googling meditation groups is a good start (or ask your Executive-Life Coach). You may be surprised at what you find. Plus, identifying a teacher will be helpful since the deeper you delve into meditation, the more you will learn about yourself, your mind, and your heart. It’s an exciting and, on occasion, scary adventure that is easier when you have the support of a meditation group, therapist, or meditation teacher. I’m so excited that you’ve read this far. It means that you are genuinely interested in bettering yourself and that you’re willing to put in some effort to do that. I want to leave you with one more thing.
A musician asked a wise man, “How do you know if you’re practicing the right amount?” The wise man responded, “What happens if you tighten the strings of a guitar too much?” “The guitar sounds shrill and it sounds horrible,” said the musician. Then the wise man asked, “What if the strings are too loose?” The musician declared, “Well, the guitar won’t make any sounds at all. The strings will just flop around.” The wise man smiled and said, “You’re practicing the right amount when you are making the most beautiful sound possible. When the strings of your guitar are tuned just right. Not so ‘high strung’ that you risk breaking the strings, but not so loose that you can’t make a joyful sound.”
As you start your practice, don’t try so hard that you give up, but don’t be so lax that you don’t gain any benefits. The most important element to this is that you do it consistently. Don’t skip a day. If the only thing you can do on a weekly basis is take three deep mindful breaths every day and sit down to meditate once a week (or every day right before bed), then that’s a great start.