While meditation can be an easy activity for some, it can seem daunting to many especially people with preconceived notions about the practice.
To truly enjoy meditation and its many benefits, learning how to meditate properly is essential. For any beginner, meditating can appear challenging but with constant practice and implementing some helpful meditation tips, you’ll be on your way to mastering the art in no time.
What’s more, spending time to correctly learn how to meditate will bring you lasting rewards in the form of improved concentration, decreased stress, and healthier relationships. With constant practice, you’ll be able to enjoy a sense of peace and tranquility in many situations that would ordinarily have left you worried.
In this guide, we’ll walk through the fundamentals you need to start a meditation practice that will be rewarding for you in every area. And it’s alright if it seems like you’re stuck or going nowhere in your first few sessions or much later in practice. Simply relax at that point, try not to worry about it, and then keep going.
Before you meditate
Find a Quiet Location
Practicing meditation in a noisy location is counter-productive. Meditation should always be practiced in a calm and peaceful environment for maximum focus. You want to avoid distractions and external stimuli and a quiet location provides just that.
Meditation time is also an “alone time” time for you and for the duration of your session, the space should provide you with the privacy you need.
Now, if you’re meditating indoors, the available space need not be very large to serve the purpose. A closet or a corner of your room will do just fine and if you’re doing it outdoors, an outdoor bench or a lush grass in your garden will equally work.
Any of the aforementioned can work as long as it affords you the needed privacy and it’s free from external distractions (yes, expect to be distracted internally by your thoughts).
Also, besides other humans and traffic outdoors, you want to minimize as much as possible distractions from the TV, your phone, and other gadgets.
If you need to use music, get an MP3 player if possible instead of using a smartphone to minimize the distraction from other apps.
Also, only play calm, white noise or nature sounds like running water or softly chirping birds. Loud tunes just like brief ones that you would have to change frequently will break your concentration and you don’t need that distraction when you meditate.
Lastly, while you need maximum concentration to effectively meditate, you don’t need the environment to be completely silent. A dog barking some distance away or the distant traffic should not get in the way of your meditation as you practice regularly. Granted, during the first few sessions, you may be easily disturbed by the faintest sounds but as you practice regularly, you become aware of the noises without letting them dominate your thoughts.
A Meditation Cushion or Bench
Getting the right meditation cushion or bench is important for a successful meditation session. However, a bench might be your best bet if you find a meditation cushion uncomfortable.
A meditation cushion will keep you alert during your meditation but a bench can be more comfortable though you still won’t have the urge to slump like you would on a chair.
If you have a problem with your leg or cannot absorb a lot of weight you’d have applied on your legs when you use a cushion, you should consider getting a bench.
You may also consider using a chair if you have back problems and find it hard to sit erect for more than a few minutes. With a chair, you want to be careful, it is the most comfortable of all three, so, it’s easy to become too comfortable on it and lose your focus or even fall asleep.
You need to decide the duration of your session and monitor it with a timer. You can use your phone’s timer if you’re certain that your session will be distraction-free. But if you have an actual physical timer, you can use it.
There are also meditations apps designed for smartphones, and most are free.
During meditation, you want to calm your mind and shut out external distractions. These distractions can come from anything, including clothing. If you feel uncomfortable due to your clothing, concentrating can be hard.
Wear loose comfortable clothing and remove your shoes during meditation. On cold days or when you’re meditating in a cool area, wear a sweater/cardigan or simply take a blanket or shawl along.
You want to focus on your meditation, not on the cold so, do all you can to keep warm as long as it is not getting in the way of your postures or become a burden.
If you’re at work or a place you can’t change into something more comfortable or warmer, you should try at least to take off your shoes.
How to Meditate
Sit on your cushion, bench, or chair
Set your timer (a gentle alarm is recommended here). As a beginner, aim for between 5 – 10 minutes.
Make sure you’re sitting right. Check your sitting position to ensure that it is stable and in a position you can stay in for the duration of your session.
Focus on your breath. This is basically what meditation is about. Follow the sensation of your breath as it enters and goes out. Focus on the elements of every breath you take; how the air feels when you breathe in and when it exits through your nostrils. Focus on how it feels as you inflate and deflate your lungs through every breath. Focus on the feeling you get under your nose as you breathe in and out, and also on the sound you make as your breath. Focus on just about anything related to your breathing.
Do not force your breathing; let it happen naturally, your job is to observe each breath without thinking excessively about it or analyzing it.
Your mind will wander, acknowledge it and move one. Don’t spend time too much on the thoughts. Gently bring yourself back to the present.
Keep bringing your mind back. Meditation is basically about breathing so expect your mind to tell you about how boring it finds meditation. Again, acknowledge the thought and bring the focus back to your breaths. As many times as it happens, bring your attention back again. Do this until the timer sounds.
Try not to lose your concentration during out-breaths. Unlike the in-breaths that are very pronounced and easy to concentrate on, for most of us, our minds wander on the out-breaths, take note.
Concentrating can be hard for most beginners and if this is you, try counting till five and repeat again until you learn how to focus on your breath.
Keep your eyes open or close. If you discover you focus better with your eyes close, then do so. If you do better with your eyes open, keep it open. However, if you’re closing your eyes, and also tired, you may find it easy to sleep up when you should be meditating.
5 signs that you are on the right track in your meditation practice
- Ease of being
- Freedom from thought
- Increased awareness
- Freedom from time
Proper meditation requires stillness. During a session, notice how still you are and with time and regular practice, you’ll find out that you’ve become more tranquil. Consciously making the effort to let go of the mind can improve your awareness.
With time and regular practice, the heightened tranquility will evolve into an internal posture of confidence and resolution. Don’t force or rush this process, stay relaxed, and concentrate.
Ease of Being
Profound ease is a major part of any meditation practice. When you learn to relax, you free yourself from stress, think more clearly and your body is allowed to enter into its natural state.
During your meditation session, you are either concentrating on your breath, a mantra, your body or allowing yourself bask in the field of awareness. Whichever you choose, you should pay attention to the quality of your awareness; is it constricted and pressured? You should aim for an awareness that is spacious, easy, and alert.
Freedom from Thought
Freedom from thoughts during meditation does not mean having no thoughts at all, it is about being in a place internally where we aren’t reacting to any thoughts at all – bad or good ones. It is about acknowledging these thoughts and letting them go and it is a crucial part of meditating the right way.
One way to tell that you are on the right track in your practice is when the presence of thoughts doesn’t move you. You’re free from them whether they come in streams or trickle in.
With deep meditation comes heightened awareness. You become more sensitive to environmental stimuli like sounds and smells. And as this happens, the boundaries between you and everything else will start to crumble.
Many long-time meditators become more aware of distant sounds such as bird calls, car honks, and the sound of children playing. Unlike before, these sounds will begin to resonate inside of your and expand your awareness more.
So, if you begin to experience intense awareness, the kind of awareness that is both profoundly awake and deeply at ease, it is most likely an indicator that you’re on the right track on your meditation.
Freedom from Time
This is another solid indicator that you’re meditating properly. You start forgetting about time as you practice, you can meditate for long and it feels like 5 minutes. But this can only happen when you consciously decide let go of time and the urge to know how much is left.
As a beginner don’t expect this to happen overnight. With practice, it will happen and you’ll finally be “free from time”.
FAQs about Meditation
Some of the following questions will pop up at some point during your practice as a beginner meditator. We hope you find some of the answers to them helpful.
Can I scratch an itch during meditation?
Yes, you can
What if I’m just someone who cannot meditate?
Don’t worry; we’ve all been there. Wandering minds have had us reconsider our decision to meditate. When this happens, acknowledge the thought, and then go back to meditating.
Do this as many times as you are distracted. There are no limits at all. You’re not competing with anyone, accept that these thoughts will come and gently escort your attention back to your practice.
Should I leave my eyes open or closed?
Any is fine if it works for you. There are no rules on this, try both and see which works best for you. If you keep your eyes open, ensure that it is not too wide with a soft slightly downward gaze; you don’t need to focus on anything in particular. If closed, don’t tighten your eyelids, just gently close it.
What is the best time to meditate?
You’ll decide after you consider these factors before you pick a specific meditation time; partner, children, pets, and work. Try experimenting, but don’t wait for when it is most convenient or you’ll end up postponing the practice continuously.
Group or alone? Which is better?
Both are great. While the support you enjoy from meditating with others can go a long way in encouraging you to meditate regularly, practicing on your own helps you build discipline.
As a Christian, can I meditate?
Yes, you can. Many Christians have been able to successfully incorporate meditation into their spiritual practice. You can even include a small prayer or faith-based phrase into your meditation.
What is the duration of a meditation session for a beginner?
5 or 10-minute sessions are perfect if you’re just starting out. You can move on to longer sessions form there.
Can meditation help with anxiety?
Yes, meditation has been proven to help with symptoms of anxiety. However, depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may need to combine the practice with other approaches such as meditation or psychotherapy recommended by a professional.
Hopefully, this guide helps you finally begin your meditation practice if you’ve been putting it off. If you only recently started considering meditation, the results are imme\asurable and always worth the effort, begin ASAP!
Questions, thoughts? Share in the comments. We’ll be glad to read them.
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Tips To Focus Better During Meditation
With any beginner meditation practice, it can be discouraging to be unable go a long time without losing focus. Well, here’s some news: even long-term meditators find it hard to go on a lengthy meditation session without losing focus. And many also know and accept that meditation requires a lifetime of practice.
Even then, you have to keep in mind that meditation isn’t really about achieving and maintaining an unwavering focus but mostly about knowing when you lose focus and being mindful enough to bring yourself back to the present. And the best part is being able to do this as many times as needed until you can maintain focus for as long as it is possible for you.
In this article on focusing better during meditation, I’ll discuss some tips you can apply to improve your meditation focus and practice. Used regularly, these meditation focus tips will help you make the most of your sessions. You can also check this article on how to meditate if you’re starting or could use a few beginner meditation tips
Tips For Concentrating Better During Meditation
Begin With Shorter Sessions
When starting a meditation practice, it can be easy to want to set a long time for your meditation sessions. However, it is best not to, as prolonged meditation at the beginning could be demotivating, especially when you are unable to maintain your focus for a long time. Start with five minutes. Then, work your way up as you improve at the practice. With time, it becomes easier to achieve and maintain your focus for longer.
One of the most effective ways to maintain focus and concentrate better during meditation is through practicing it in a quiet place. Set up a calm and relaxing space devoted to the practice. Also, ensure that the area is as free as possible of distractions, strong smell, or human or pet traffic while at it.
Pick The Most Suitable Time
What time are you best able to practice meditation without distractions? Consider this when starting a meditation practice to help you make the best use of your sessions.
For some meditators, nightly meditation before sleep offers the most benefit; for others, mornings, right after they wake, is excellent. Whichever you decide on, make sure it is one that affords you ample time to refocus or calm your mind depending on your meditation goal.
Allow The Thoughts In And Out
Acknowledge that your mind will wander, and the thoughts will come and allow them. However, try as best as you can to avoid focusing on the thoughts. Do not analyze them, at least not when you should be meditating.
Also, keep in mind that these random thoughts and even images can appear in your mind for no particular reason. And even while it can be tempting to focus on them, you should not spend time on them or try to force them away. Give them the freedom to appear, and when you choose not to concentrate on them or try to push them out, they should disappear just as they came. Then, you can gradually shift your mind back to your meditation practice.
Use Your Breath To Improve Your Focus
Again, it is entirely normal for random thoughts to appear during meditation. And if they seem to appear too frequently, breathing can be one way to regain focus. When you notice your mind has wandered or the random thoughts and images appear, slowly take a deep breath and pay attention to how you feel doing it, and return to the meditation or repeat if needed.
Enjoyable and relaxing, a meditation or relaxation music can help you achieve and maintain your focus during meditation. Take time to observe and hear all of the instruments and sounds blended to make the music as you try to relax and refocus.
Don’t Take It Too Seriously
While meditation is no doubt an important activity, it doesn’t have to be a serious one. When meditating, keep it simple and relaxing.
Pick a comfortable posture, a smile on your face if you want, and your muscles relaxed. You can even have a friend or two join your sessions or join a meditation class closest to you. Remember, a meditation session can be fun and therapeutic at the same time.
Remind Yourself Of All Of Meditation’s Benefits
When starting to meditate, it can be easy for any beginner to become demotivated from the lack of visible benefits or inability to focus during the sessions. Don’t let this be you. Remember why you started, and all you stand to gain if you continue practicing meditation.
Journal Your Meditation Experience
As you start and improve your practice, write down your experiences/how you feel before and after each meditation session. Don’t hold back. Include details like the thoughts you get, your feelings, and mood changes before and after each meditation session. Also include the ideas or perspectives you gained after each meditation session. Journaling your experience would help you stay motivated and disciplined enough to continue the practice.
Don’t Rush Your Meditation Sessions
This is one of the reasons a meditation space is essential. Avoid disruptions and resist the urge to rush into your sessions, and then rush out to a different activity.
Learn to finish each meditation session gently and, if possible, sit a few minutes to process the experience at the end of the session. Depending on your meditation posture, you may also want to stretch your body and then journal your experience, including the ideas or inspiration you received during the practice.
Embrace Your Experiences No Matter The Difference
Meditation sessions can yield different experiences, and all of these experiences have to be embraced. Some days, you may feel joy, warmth, sadness, calmness, or even frustration at the practice. This is normal. Accepting that these varying experiences are some of the things that makes the practice intriguing will help you keep at it.
How To Focus Better During Meditation: Conclusion
When learning how to meditate or trying to improve your meditation practice, focusing can be challenging for many people. And this can happen irrespective of the type of meditation. I discussed some of the tips you can apply to improve your meditation focus in this article. With consistency, you should see your concentration improve and your overall wellbeing better for it.
Thoughts/questions on how to focus better when you meditate? Share in the comment section below.
Mindful Strategies For Recovering From Loss
Losses are devastating and recovery can often seem worse; we are flooded with all kinds of emotions: sadness, regrets, frustrations, disillusionment, and anger. And even though we wish they could all go away, these emotions take their sweet time and can overwhelm even the strongest of us if we allow them. We begin to dread the coming days as nothing seems to get better.
The fact is, grief is something most of us have and will experience at some point in our lives. Whether it’s the loss of a friendship, a romantic relationship, death or even a material possession; loss is painful. So, what can you do to cope better? How do you recover from loss mindfully?
I’ll share some effective mindful strategies to help you cope with and recover from loss and grief. Before anything, you have to understand that no recovery strategy will make it all go away in one day. Healing takes time but you can rest assured that when these strategies are implemented, you will come out on the other side a stronger, better and more aware you. Give it time.
Request For And Accept All The Support You Can Get
No one has to go through grief alone. It’s not “weak” to seek and get help from people who care about you. Freely request and accept help from friends, family, support groups and spiritual leaders. There is nothing weak or shameful about requesting for the help you need to get through the trauma.
Take Mindful Walks
Walks! Good old strategy for getting out of stressful situations. Going for brief walks outdoors can help you take your mind off of things even though temporarily. You also get to leave the loneliness behind especially if the indoors have been a huge trigger.
Make the walks brief. Just a 5 or 10-minute walk will do. Begin by standing with your feet secured on the ground. Then, slowly raise your chest, pull back your shoulders to release your posture and begin the walk.
As you begin your walk, take note of your every breath you take and let out. Feel each breath as it flows through you and purifies your entire being before it is exhaled.
If you’ve been practicing yoga, then this is an opportunity to put your years of practice into use. Even if you are a yoga newbie or have never even practiced it, now is the time to take up the practice.
Yoga is effective against anxiety and is also known for its mood-boosting quality. The best part? Even the simplest parts of the routine such as focused breathing and moving during your poses and postures can do a world of good to your mental and physical health. Plus, it keeps you from dwelling excessively on the grief. If you want, you can join a yoga class or invite a friend or two to join in your practice.
As much as you would want to keep your mind and body distracted from the trauma with as many activities as possible, you can still benefit from quiet reflections. Quiet reflection works on all kinds of traumas. And it’s simple to apply.
Sit and think about the other times in the past when you had to cope with trauma whether minor or major. Think about the strategies you applied and how you finally made it out of that experience successfully. Then, try to pull together these strategies and apply them to your current circumstance. You did it before, now you have the experience to do it better.
Allow Yourself Feel The Grief
Sometimes, the pain hits harder than before and there is no escaping it. Don’t try to. Instead, feel the emotion, its depth and let yourself slowly and mindfully breathe through each wave of grief. Not only does doing this helps you stay grounded, but it also helps to bring you back to the present.
A technique derived from Tai Chi, Breathe Works, just like mindful walking, has proven to be helpful in stressful situations. Start by sitting upright in a comfortable area with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Take 3 short inhalations, and exhale one. Repeat the sequence up to five times or even more if you want.
Imagine A New Life
It’s hard to imagine what tomorrow will be like when you’re overwhelmed with grief. But you still have to try. You don’t have to see the entire picture right now. Start small; each day, try to imagine a future without the present grief.
Yes, it is raining today but you have to remember that it won’t rain forever no matter how much it rains. Start seeing the sunshine from your imagination and soon, you will start to look forward to this new life.
Counting Sensations In Three
A few times each day, devote 5 minutes of your time to this exercise. While sitting or standing, listen closely for 3 sounds, observe 3 smells, find 3 things, feel 3 textures and if possible taste 3 things within your environment. This practice brings your mind back to the present moment. As you observe, touch, taste, smell these things, thank each one them for the awareness they bring you.
Mindful Strategies For Recovering From Loss: Conclusion
It’s easy for us to admire and praise others who picked up their broken pieces and rose above their traumas. However, when we are faced with grief, navigating our way out of it can seem impossible.
But no matter how much it hurts, we have the ability to rise through it all. Seek and accept help, draw strength from within, implement helpful mindfulness practices, do anything that helps you let go of the past and transform your life for better.
Allow the past remain in the past; you don’t live there anymore. Yes, it will take time, but allow every step you take lead you forward; not drag you back to your pain.
And it’s alright if you never completely get over the loss (do we ever fully get over any significant loss?), it is part of the things that make you a living being. You have emotions, feel, express and learn from them. And in the end, if you allow it, you will be transformed into a better version of you.
Mindful Travels: How To Meditate On Your Trip
Many believe meditation should be reserved for those periods when you’re home alone or with others but somehow manage to snatch some alone time. Wrong! Meditation can be practiced ANYWHERE even when traveling. And if you have a phobia for flying, meditation is a practice you should begin now.
In-flight hours are great opportunities to practice meditation and mindfulness. Meditation offers several benefits including helping to ease anxiety and stress. And if you fly or travel via any means frequently, it is a practice you should make a part of your travel routine.
Doing so not only helps to keep you from feeling anxious during the flight, you’ll arrive at your travel destination grounded and more balanced.
Meditating When You Eat
During trips whether local or international, you’ll likely come across new meals or variations of the meals you know. While introducing your buds to something new and tasty is always a delight, it is also an awesome opportunity to practice mindfulness.
Mindfully pay attention to the ingredients of a meal. Attempt remembering each and every single ingredient as you eat. Slowly eat to enjoy the whole experience of nourishing yourself. This will improve your digestion. Slowly and thoroughly chew and swallow every spoonful.
When swallowing, do so mindfully to savor the taste of the food and drink
When snacking on fruits, nuts or any other healthy snack, see it as an opportunity for refreshing meditation experience. For example, you can take a single cracker or an apple slice and transform it eating it into a new meditation experience.
Try to remain completely aware of the process of chewing, every bite you take, and when it hits your taste buds before swallowing.
Meditating In a Security Line
If you’re flying, you’ll probably have to wait in long lines at security. Seize the opportunity to shut your eyes, and take out some to get your breath in tune.
Deeply inhale to allow air into your lungs and pause briefly at the top, then exhale deeply pausing again before your next breath. As you breathe, take note of the qualities of each breath; the sensation and texture as the air moves in and out of your nostrils.
Open your eyes briefly to take some steps forward when it’s your turn to move ahead in line. Continue the meditation where you stopped till you leave the security line.
Meditating At Takeoff
If takeoff makes you nervous, then you should include meditation in your takeoff routine. True, it may seem daunting to meditate during a not-so-fascinating part of your flight but it is exactly why you should do it.
However, to successfully do this, you’ll need to use a pair of earphones or earplugs. A guided meditation on your phone or tab will also be needed. A guided meditation will help you ease into relaxation by taking the edge off if you’re often worried or fearful about takeoffs.
Meditating During the Flight
If it’s your first flight or you always feel nervous during flights, meditation can help.
Not a few people fear flying and most still find it hard to set aside their fears even when flying is known to be the least likely transportation method to be involved in a crash.
If that is you, a meditation mantra will go a long way in taking your mind into a much quieter and focused place. The flight mantra will help bring to your mind a sense of restful awareness. Try the following lines after you’ve taken a few deep and mindful breaths for a calmer and enjoyable flight.
Inhale, and then silently say “I am safe.”
Inhale; silently say “I am joyful.”
Exhale, and then say, “I am at peace.”
Repeat the lines of mantra for 10 – 15 minutes (or more if you want). You may need to set a timer to know when exactly to stop. When it ends, spend a few more minutes focusing on your breath, letting your eyes stay shut and breathing in and out through your nose before opening your eyes. You should feel more peaceful after.
Meditating At Landing
Just like during takeoff, many have fears of landing. One way to direct your attention from the entire experience of landing is by directing your attention away from the experience and visualizing the activity after landing.
You can try:
Imagining the arrival, the people you’ll meet, the culture, food; just any exciting detail about the vacation without the landing itself in focus.
On a business trip, visualize the reason you’re traveling, the training or meeting. Imagine every single activity going just as planned.
Relieve all of these memories in detail no matter the purpose of your trip and doing so will help calm you as the plane lands.
Meditating In Your Accommodation
Finally, you’re at your destination. While accommodation will differ from place to place and some facilities without a meditating or quiet area, it is still not a good reason to skip meditation.
Shut off all distractions like your smartphone, the TV, and the tabs then find a comfortable area of your room to meditate. You can devote 15 minutes or more each day to meditating and it shouldn’t matter if you’re sharing the room with others or staying alone.
If you have to stay in a dormitory and find it too rowdy for proper meditation, find a time in the day when it’s quiet to meditate. Or ask the staff if there’s a quiet place you can go to meditate for some time. If they have a place, make use of it daily and if they don’t, try meditating in the dorm till you leave.
Tips For Meditating Better When You Travel
There are several things you can do to improve your meditation and mindfulness when you travel, we outlined some of them below.
Listen to music
Listening to calming music is one way you can improve your meditation when traveling. It can be done on any part of your journey; at takeoff, mid-flight, landing, etc.
The best part? You only need your portable gadget e.g. a smartphone, an iPad or a tab. Listen mindfully to each note, instrument, and the words within the music as you meditate.
Dwell in the present
Meditation should help you be more in tune with your environment. During your trip, you’re naturally more aware of the new environment. However, taking everything in can be daunting and even impossible and that itself can cause some distress until you grow comfortable with it.
Thankfully, meditation can help to ease and bridge the shock of the new with the comfort that can only be derived from discovering new things and meeting new people. When you meditate, you’ll also be able to remain mindful of things deserving of more attention during your trip.
Breathing properly is essential for effective mediation. A good breathing technique would be effective at calming your body’s natural response to stress and tune out negative thoughts.
When meditating on transit and at any point, inhale for four counts allowing your stomach to expand while you do it and then exhale for eight counts. Do this for five minutes or more. You can either allow it to steer you into deeper meditation or repeat whenever you feel anxiety or fear creeping in.
Use a meditation app
If you’re just starting out at meditation, meditation apps are great options to consider when traveling. These apps help you stay focused by allowing you shift some amount of responsibility into a more effective guide.
Simply have them installed on your phone, plug in your earphones, close your eyes and visualize yourself relaxing peacefully.
To encourage meditation, some airlines even provide in-flight entertainment in the form of mindfulness films. Headspace is a popular one. This app helps flyers switch off from the stress and work mode, into sleep or focus.
Besides those, there are other great meditation apps you can download and they include the Headspace app, Calm, Simply Being, Inside Timer, and Aura among so many others. Simply pick any you prefer. You can check out our review of the top 7 meditation apps to help you choose.
Items You’ll Need For An Effective Plane Or Travel Meditation
- Earplugs or earphones without music to shut out the sounds
- A blanket for warmth
- Your preferred positive affirmation mantra
- A smartphone with guided meditation
- A hat or cap to keep your ears and head warm
- A pillow for comfort
Do you meditate when you travel? Share some of your best meditation practices in the comment section below.