How to Meditate: A Beginners Guide

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Last week Zen Habits published an article of mine describing effective meditation rituals for beginners.

The article was a huge success, got thousands of comments, and I thought it would be a good idea to expand on these recommendations especially for those of you who have not tried meditation before or consider yourself a novice.

I think the article I posted on ZH was so appealing because I myself am a beginner at meditation (well, maybe an advanced beginner) and am constantly learning new ways to go deeper into my awareness.

Bottom line, meditation can do wonders for your energy levels, ability to focus, health, and overall well-being.  The practice is an integral piece to any spiritual development pursuit.  So, I bring you How To Meditate For Beginners:

Meditation Is The Art Of Focusing 100% Of Your Attention In One Area

When I made this point on Zen Habits many of the “advanced meditators” told me I was wrong, and argued that meditation is the art of focusing your mind on nothing (or everything).

BUT for beginners, the real challenge is quieting the never-ending chatterbox that is always telling you something. Buddhists call the inner voice “a crazy monkey” and for people who just starting meditation centering ALL your attention in one area is a fantastic way to create razor-sharp focus in the mind.

Whether you use your breath, a candle, or some mental image beginners must cultivate the ability to put their full attention towards one thing! Plus the ability to do this can be SO beneficial in your every day life.

Once you are able to quiet the mind and focus your attention singularly, you get to a second level of meditative experience where “nothing-ness” (or everything-ness) occurs. But the first step HAS to be: Get that chatterbox quiet!

Before You Start a Meditation Practice, Have The Following Mindset:

Meditate with purpose. You have to realize that meditation is a very ACTIVE process. The art of focusing your attention to a single point is hard work, and you have to be purposefully engaged.

Commit for the long haul. Meditation is a life-long practice, and you will benefit most by NOT examining the results of your daily practice. Just do the best you can every day, and then let it go!

Set aside specific time. You will only get to the next level in meditation by creating scheduled pockets of time to practice. For beginners, I recommend 2 daily sessions 15 minutes in length (one in the morning and one at night).

Make sure you will not be disturbed. One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is not insuring peaceful practice conditions. If you have it in the back of your mind that the phone might ring, your kids might wake, or your coffee pot might whistle than you will not be able to attain a state of deep relaxation.

OK, Here Are Some More Detailed Recommendations for Beginners:

• Perhaps the smartest thing you can do in the beginning is read a book (or two) on the practice. Preferably an instructional guide AND one that describes the benefits of deep meditative states. This will get you motivated. John Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are is terrific for beginners.

• Similarly, listening to instructional tapes and CDs during sessions can be a huge help.

Stretch first. Stretching loosens the muscles and tendons allowing you to sit (or lie) more comfortably. Additionally, stretching starts the process of “going inward” and brings added attention to the body.

Start with the breath. Breathing deep slows the heart rate, relaxes the muscles, focuses the mind and is an ideal way to begin practice.

• Meditating with eyes closed can be challenging for a beginner. Try lighting a candle and using it as your point of focus, this allows you to strengthen your attention with a visual cue and can be very powerful.

• If you choose to meditate with eyes closed, pick a point in the darkness and make that your point of focus. If you start to see “flashes” of light that is a great sign that you are in the present moment, and becoming more aware! When this happens, just try and stay right there!

Notice frustration creep up on you. This is very common for beginners as we think “hey, what am I doing here” or “why can’t I just quiet my damn mind already”. When this happens, really focus in on your breath and let the frustrated feelings go.

Generate moments of awareness during the day. Finding your breath and “being present” while not in formal practice is a wonderful way to evolve your meditation habits.

Be grateful at the end! Once your practice is through, spend 2-3 minutes feeling appreciative of the opportunity to practice and your mind’s ability to focus.

Lastly, I made this point in the ZH article but it is worth mentioning again: Notice when your interest in meditation begins to wane. Meditation is hard work, and you will inevitably come to a point where it seemingly does not fit into the picture anymore.

THIS is when you need your practice the most and I recommend you go back to the book(s) or the CD’s you listened to and become re-invigorated with meditation. Chances are that losing the ability to focus on meditation is parallel with your inability to focus in other areas of your life!

If there were one personal development activity I would encourage you to master it would be meditation. Living moment-to-moment buy cialis discount allows your life to flow like a river, and nothing can help your spiritual growth like the practice of meditation!

Photo above by Concept Vessel

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68 Responses to “How to Meditate: A Beginners Guide”

  1. [...] Goldfarb presents How to Meditate: A Beginners Guide posted at We The Change, saying, “hi there– here is a terrific article for beginning [...]

  2. [...] Goldfarb presents How to Meditate: A Beginners Guide posted at We The [...]

  3. CG Walters says:

    Todd….I rather like a more informal version of meditation…let the clouds come and go…think thoughts but do not become attached.
    Each has his own way, the proper key to the lock in hand. This is just the way that works for me.
    Thanks for a nice article. Continued good meditation.
    CG

  4. Todd says:

    Thanks for the comment CG….and good points!
    Todd

  5. [...] How To Meditate For Beginners 20 Steps for Quieting The Mind [...]

  6. G.Davis says:

    The mind is like a crazy monkey! I love that line. Seriously, that’s so accurate.

  7. Todd says:

    THANKS G. It really is an accurate sentiment :)
    Todd

  8. [...] enjoy any of those experiences, but I was able to do them all at once. I fear I am actually losing the ability to focus on anything for longer than the time it takes to read a few [...]

  9. Willie says:

    Great words Todd(you know this is good stuff), this help me allot!

    I’m a newbie, and so this cleared up what I believe to be 100% of me reaching that state of relaxation that I’m really looking forward to.

    Thank you! Keep doing what you are doing!

  10. Willie says:

    Great words Todd(you know this is good stuff), this help me allot!

    I’m a newbie, and so these tips cleared up what I believe to be 100% of my confusion and preventing me to reach that state of relaxation that I’m really looking forward to.

    Thank you! Keep doing what you are doing!

  11. Todd says:

    AWESOME Willie…thank you SO much for the encouraging words…and glad I could be of service :)
    Todd

  12. Andy says:

    Todd

    Good article thanks.

    My son has adhd with mild aspergers. 11 years old and not doing well in school due to not concentrating. I’ve decided to try meditation with him. I’m trying transcendental just now as I think – if I can hear him chanting at least I know he is doing something – and not just sitting thinking how he can get up to the next level on his PSP. Do you have and experience of transcendental? I just have him repeat I am calm. I read elsewhere it was a reasonable choice as it sounds a lot like the traditional Om chant.

  13. Todd says:

    Hi Andy, YES I have heard wonderful things about TM. And teaching your child to meditate is an amazing move…I wish I did this when I was younger :)
    A great book is Jon Kabat Zinns “Wherever you go there you are”….DEF check it out!
    Todd

  14. Sally says:

    Thank you Todd, I am searching for ways to find ME and how to stay positive and happy and your articles are very helpful. Thanks

  15. [...] Stress can induce a host of physical symptoms this can be anything from constant headaches to a lowered immune system resulting in frequent colds or even sore throats, a decreased sex drive is also very common. If you think any of your physical symptoms and related to stress take some time off nap or practice meditation…. [...]

  16. David Selby says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more on the topic of meditating on nothing vrs. something. It is so much more effective for the beginner. When I started I almost quit until I stumbled across that very thing of focusing on something specific. It was extremely discouraging to attempt to achieve “nothingness” as a beginner. For me I found that I could quickly go beyond the singular object visualization and move into meditating on or visualizing a concept or even an event. I found this to be a different experience to be sure than meditating on the proverbial flower but incredibly powerful in helping me in my every day.

  17. Karthik Rajendiran says:

    Hi Todd,

    Beautiful article. I tried meditating today, and well… I got frustrated because I couldn’t focus. Your article provides some fantastic insights and recommendations that I will be trying out in today’s evening session. Thank you for that.

    But, I was wondering if you could give me some suggestions on where I could find some good instructional tapes. Once again, thank you.

  18. Lisa says:

    I found this very helpful. My Dad has always told me meditation will help me to concentrate more. But I barely knew how to meditate. So, I decided to google search instructions on it. I tried the instructions but never could tell if I was doing it right or not. I always started out by seeing darkness. Then a flash of light, which to me, I thought my eyes had suddenly opened a little and saw some light from the room. So I decided to give up. That was probably a year or two ago. Now, I searched again and this was the third one I found. It helped me very much understand that I am on the right track. I hope to learn more on meditation because it’s the only thing I find I can actually concentrate on ;)
    Thank you for making this site! It’s very helpful!! And sorry for the long post :P

  19. Todd says:

    Thanks so much Lisa, and no worries about the long comment :) I am glad the article helped…all I can tell you re: meditation is this: keep trying! It is a life long practice and journey…each experiece is unique, and learning how to embrace the moment, whatever it is, is the key!
    Good luck, and I’ll be writing more on meditation soon!
    Todd

  20. shan says:

    Im a beginniner… a pre teen at that and i think i got flashes as well as the frustration…every thing you said happened…i think

  21. Bailey says:

    I’m just starting meditiation, but this helped me a lot I felt like I had reached this trance it was the weirdest thing but amazing at the same time thanks.

  22. erick says:

    i wanna try it out to see how it is..

    can something bad happen to u while u do this like collapse or anything liek that?

  23. Ashley says:

    Hoping this will work they say it’s great for depression…i really need a picker upper. Gonna try tonight! Thanks for the site with what to expect and do…thanks!

  24. Sharon says:

    Newbie…eager to try!
    Thx;God Bless

  25. Sabrina says:

    I want to try it to see if it will help me to forget my x-boyfriend.

    THANKS!!!!!

    Sabrina

  26. Lars says:

    Thank you Todd for the simple and easy to follow tips on helping me meditate.

    I’m going to college soon and my house is just totally stressful. I can never find the love or relaxation there at all. I was starting to hate myself but then I found a book called “There’s Nothing Wrong With You.” it is a truly good book that guides people away from the conditioned beliefs this cold world has taught us and the book helps you realize that the key to unconditional and unlimited love is yourself.

    I am now learning zen teachings and I need some advice on relaxing? Thank You Again.

  27. ryan says:

    There are many how to guides on meditation for beginners.

    Its always best when starting out with meditation to see it from many different angles.

    Check out this free guide on meditation.

    http://www.alternative-spiritual-healing.com/how-to-meditate-for-beginners.html

  28. pakman says:

    i wish to learn how to meditate with some ganjah

  29. komo me desago de todos mis problemas

  30. Lala says:

    Todd,

    I’m a teenager and I was thinking about trying meditation. I figured during school, It might help me focus more on tests and homework. Do you think meditation will help me?

    Lala

  31. dylan says:

    thanks man, that reilly gives me some time to relax after a stressfull day

  32. Udhai says:

    Yuo are aweseome i love meditation try going to yoututbe and search up martial arts of shaolin temple to get some meditation movements.:)

  33. Udhai says:

    !!!!!!!!!!!!READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And it is really important to concentrate when meditating the important thing about it is to just let go of your self so theres nothing pulling ou down then you will truely feel your true state, i hope i helped!! Oh, and try doing martial arts anywhere you can really helps and is an aweseome life experiance dont think that its for wasting other people coz its the exact opposite, hope you enjoy.

  34. Udhai says:

    Yo,Packman if i were you i would probabl think about meditating by yourself first before doing it with a bold guy :P no ofence bold people rock..

  35. Udhai says:

    Erik it feels like your being reborn no way near collapsing

  36. Udhai says:

    Lars,… all i have to say is your rock :P try another book called courage by Osho it will get you right back on track and if your guessing my age im 11 :)

  37. Drew says:

    Todd…good article. I tried meditation for the first time and it was difficult at first. I actually found closing my eyes easier since I wasn’t able to focus on anything external. One thing that really worked for me was feeling as though all of the stress built up in my brain was just melting and and running down my neck and out of my body. I really felt a sense of relaxation and it defintely cleared my mind.

  38. Howard says:

    Excellent…Thank you

  39. Jeffrey D. Hejny says:

    Hi I read this and I fell in love with meditation, at first when reading this I thought it would be an easy journey for me but found it quite hard. Silencing the crazy monkey in my head was the biggest challenge but I found holding my breath and breathing out for breath and taking in that breath again makes the monkey go away. Also thank you for helping me with my meditation dilemma I use a Candle or an item level with myself to focus on when at first i couldnt. I still have not seen these lights that you talked about if you could explain further to me what you mean by them I’d enjoy that very much, thank you.

    Jeffrey D. Hejny.

  40. Michaela says:

    At the very end of meditating today, I found myself singing out load without realizing it.
    I startled myself >.

  41. [...] Meditation — Mindfulness or sitting doing nothing is a great way to calm the mind and allow you to see things for what they are. [...]

  42. [...] Meditation — Mindfulness or sitting doing nothing is a great way to calm the mind and allow you to see things for what they are. [...]

  43. [...] Meditation — Mindfulness or sitting doing nothing is a great way to calm the mind and allow you to see things for what they are. [...]

  44. [...] Meditation — Mindfulness or sitting doing nothing is a great way to calm the mind and allow you to see things for what they are. [...]

  45. [...] Meditation — Mindfulness or sitting doing nothing is a great way to calm the mind and allow you to see things for what they are. [...]

  46. benjamin says:

    thx ill try and to this.

  47. [...] started reading about meditating but I only meditated 1 day…yeah I [...]

  48. andrew says:

    thank you that helped me so much. i appreciate you for explaining

  49. aly says:

    im a young teenager i i have learned that meditation helped me focus more in school and i got in a fight with my friend and went in my room and meditated and the next day its was like nothing had ever happend thank u so much.

  50. Simeion Blakely says:

    hello I recently for about a month have been having a strong tingle
    type sentation between my eyes. i then learned about the third eye before this i didn’t know anything about this. it seem to be getting stronger and i really don’t know what happening tp me. i’ve tried to meditate, pray, and i still dont know whats going on. CAN YOU HELP ME?

  51. Simeion Blakely says:

    hello I recently for about a month have been having a strong tingle
    type sentation between my eyes. i then learned about the third eye before this i didn’t know anything about this. it seems to be getting stronger and happens sometimes all day long it seems even now and i really don’t know what happening to me. i’ve tried to meditate, pray, and i still dont know whats going on. CAN YOU HELP ME?

  52. Anna says:

    Hi Simeion, every thing is fine.

    Your chakra aka energy centres are opening up. This happens when we become more in tune with ourselves – usually through meditation – your self-awareness increases. I have found the more I meditated, the greater (internal and external) body awareness etc I have. Have you noticed an increase in your ability to visualise and you go deeper into a relaxed state? I give guided meditation classes including spiritual meditation and from my experience, similar things happen to my clients. I have found that over a period of time, some have this tingling as well; thier independant visual experiences increases where they are able to meet with their unconscious self / higher self or guides etc and receive guidance.

    hope this helps,
    Anna

  53. Simeion Blakely says:

    Thanks Anna.. I need to know how to meditate properly can you explain or lead me in the right direction?

  54. Simeion Blakely says:

    One more question.. since i havent really been a meditator before this point what do think sparked this to start happening so suddenly?

  55. kinley says:

    i have heard and have also seen that meditation can work wonders. so i have decided to start meditating. do we require enough spiritual knowledgpossible to meditate or is meditation possible for all those interested. can you please help?

  56. chase says:

    first time meditation at age 16 i am looking to build concentration as well as a higher aprectiation for what i am and whats around me. :)

  57. carlbrut says:

    hey, going to try meditating for the first time tonight and this guide was a great find for me. thanks.

  58. Meditation is not some-thing you do…it is the experience of Being that which you are! – Terry Swejkoski

  59. Alyssa says:

    I Am Going To Try My First Secession Of Meditation Right Now! I Have Always Been Interested In This Subject! Thank You For The Advice :)

    • ho lai says:

      I Am Going To Try My First Secession Of Meditation Right Now! I Have Always Been Interested In This Subject! Thank You For The Advice – It won’t do you any good. Meditation is just a watse of time. Just go on living your lives and face it and try to make some false idea to escape it.

  60. Brad Hoffman says:

    Meditation is hard work? Huh? Who is this guy?
    Meditiaton is not hard work. This site is a sham.

  61. A great article is this!

  62. very useful information , meditation today is an amazing way to get into the top of psychological pleasure and comfort that raise of course the anxiety,stress …
    as well as it regulates the natural rate of emotions to be in its normal case .

    thank you .

    Michael
    learn how to meditate for beginners all in one package FREE !

  63. [...] Goldfarb presents How to Meditate: A Beginners Guide posted at We The [...]

  64. Kip says:

    Loved this, quick to the point and will get me refocused.
    I think meditation and streching go hand and hand for
    a great balance of mental and physical being. “balance”
    Kip

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  66. Courtney says:

    I have scoffed at the candle idea before and I was also shocked to see that you recommended focusing on 1 thing. Either way, the ways I used to try never seemed to work quite right for me… I will try these ways now!

  67. Charlie says:

    I realize this is an old article but I was going thru some of the Zen Habits archives when, quite frankly, I think Leo was a much more useful writer. I really liked your guest post as well as the further explanations here. Thank you for writing this.

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