Getting started with meditation seems to be an easy task. You just sit down close your eyes and start focusing on your breath.
Yet if it were that easy most of us would walk around with bright halos around our heads professing love for all beings.
This is clearly not the case so there must be something more to successfully starting a meditation practice. In this article, you will learn about how to successfully start your practice and the common pitfalls and bad mental habits the beginner meditators experience.
“To understand the immeasurable, the mind must be extraordinarily quiet, still.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti
How to start meditating – 6 steps
1. Thinking without knowing that you’re thinking and thinking with your eyes closed
I discovered this elegant truth when reading Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris. Most of us are constantly and wrapped in our thoughts without even realizing it.
And then when we start our meditative practice we take this unhelpful mental habit with us to the cushion.
I’ve certainly made this mistake for a long time. I was thinking I was meditating when in fact I was just thinking.
About remedy to that this exerting a bit more willpower when you first start out and consciously making yourself Focus the attention on the breath.
2. Taming your monkey mind
When you first start meditating you’ll soon realize how chaotic are your thought processes and how little control you have over them. You’ll realize but for all these years you’ve been a servant to the whims of your mind that often produces harmful thoughts and emotions.
But after a few meditation sessions, you will experience the moments of waking up from the slumber of your thoughts.
This is a moment for you to smile because now you’re on your way to achieving a more quiet and peaceful state of mind.
3. Starting a Vipassana meditation session
It was important to realize the truth about the chaos that’s going on in your mind. Now it’s time to establish a formal meditative practice.
If you want to get deeper into the subject I would highly recommend reading the Mind illuminated by Culadasa. It’s the most complete meditation guide I’ve ever read.
But for now on to the basic instructions:
Find a quiet place to sit down preferably in the early morning. A place without distractions.
You may either sit in a cross-legged position or in a chair.
How long should your meditation take?
- Set a timer on your phone for 20, 30, 45, or 60 minutes. As a beginner, you might start with shorter sessions and work from there. S.N Goenka a great meditation master from Burma whose 10-day silent Meditation Retreat I once attended recommended sitting for one hour every morning and one hour every evening for optimal results. Of course, this is ideal and you might not be able to pull it off but if you work your way up to one 45 minutes session per day you’ll still be able to make a lot of progress.
- Gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
- Make sure your spine is straight and your tongue is placed on the roof of your mouth to prevent excessive salivation.
- Ground yourself within your body. Feel the weight of it and eliminate anything that may cause you discomfort.
4. Quick mental preparation for your meditative session
Once you settle down you can go through a quick mental exercise that will prime your mind and make you focus on your goal.
First, think of why are you meditating in the first place. What is the reason behind it?
Second, think about the goal you have for this particular session. You may want to stop getting distracted all the time and focus a little bit more on your breath.
Third, scan your mind for any distractions that are likely to come up during your sitting. Maybe there’s a situation at work that’s causing you stress. Resolve to trust to let it go of it during your sitting.
Fourth, diligence. This one is especially important because during your everyday Waking Life you are constantly preoccupied with thoughts and problems. But now you enter a different Realm so you need to change your mental approach and resolve to persistently come back to your breath and not spend time on planning or worrying or fantasizing.
During my Goenka retreat, we were constantly reminded to pay attention to the breath diligently and persistently. There’s a reason why you spend so much time on the meditation cushion. It’s to clear your mind and make progress on your spiritual path and not to sing with your eyes closed.
Fifth, position. Periodically check if your position is correct. If you start slumping too much you’ll soon get drowsy. Think of a statue of the Buddha sitting tall and erect peacefully and with a hint of a mischievous smile on his face. Emulate that tranquility.
5. Cultivating mindful awareness
When you just start meditating there is a tendency to focus too hard on the sensation of the breath around your nostrils. In the beginning, it helps to maintain your focus but watch out not to become too engrossed so that you lose focus of your surroundings.
You want to take what you’ve learned during the session into real-life and into the marketplace where you have to deal with people and problems. Cultivating mindfulness is one of the best ways to transfer this quality of The Quiet Mind into real life. If you want to be more Zen-like in your thoughts and actions I highly recommend you read mindfulness in plain English which beautifully encapsulates the essence of this idea.
6. Finishing your meditation session
When’s the timer goes off and your eyes open take a closer look at the room you’re in. See it from a wider perspective without focusing on any object in particular. Just for a few moments try to look at the world as a whole without naming it.
Then you may have a moment to cultivate loving-kindness. Say things like: “may all beings be happy” and then spread these positive vibes among the people closest to you then your whole city, neighborhood, and the whole world.
You will see that with that approach your whole day is going to be more relaxed and you will respond to people in a more positive way.
How did you like this article about starting your meditative practice? Please share your thoughts and comments below.