Meditation is an exercise for the mind, that will help you:
- Observe and notice your thought habits
- Manage the daily stresses of life
- Increase your daily happiness and peace-of-mind
With this guide, you’ll receive a simple, practical roadmap to help you get started with your own meditation practice, so you might experience those benefits (along with countless others) for yourself.
- Guided Meditations
- How to Meditate: The Breathe Meditation
- Starting Your Meditation Habit
- Meditation: Tips for Beginners
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If you’re new, it can help to start with guided meditations. Just put on some headphones, press play, and enjoy the practice.
Guided Breathe Meditation (Alan VanToai) – 3 minutes
Guided Breathe Meditation (Alan VanToai) – 7.5 minutes
Gratitude Meditation (Alan VanToai) – 3.5 minutes
Diaphragmatic Breathing (Walter Roth) – 3 minutes
How to Meditate: The Breathe Meditation
Meditation is extremely simple.
There are various forms that you might explore as you get more into the practice, but to start, we’ll begin with the most basic form of meditation: the breathe meditation.
Very simply, breathe meditation is the practice of focusing your attention on your breathe for an extended period of time.
When you catch your mind wandering, just smile, release the thought, and bring your attention back to the breathe.
It’s a deceptively simple practice that’s easy to start, but with enough depth for a lifetime of learning, exploration, practice, and mastery (in other words: the best kind of practice).
1. Sit & Breathe
Sit comfortably with your back straight and with good posture, but relaxed — no tension in your back, neck. Shoulders relaxed.
No need to sit cross-legged on the floor or anything like that — it can put a strain on your back unless you’re used to sitting like that. A comfortable chair is perfect.
Place your hands on top of your legs or in your lap — whatever’s comfortable for you.
Then close your eyes, and take long, deep breathes through the nose.
Focus your attention on the sensation of breathing, wherever you can feel your breathe the most.
For some people, this could be on the rising and falling of the chest, or passing of the breathe through the throat.
I tend to focus my attention on the point of the nose where the breathe passes in and out.
Try and maintain your focus on that point, and breathe.
Inevitably, the mind will wander — to thoughts, anxieties, planning, sensations, feelings, daydreams…
“How long has it been so far? What time is it? I have to get to the office soon. Have to send that email. So much to do today…”
“I’m a little hungry. Is anything in the refrigerator? Maybe I’ll stop by Juicy on the way to work. Man, when was the last time I went to Juicy? Haven’t seen Huong in a while….”
Appropriately, this is referred to as the “wandering mind”, and it is an indispensable part of the practice.
Resist the temptation to feel frustrated with yourself when you catch your mind wandering. This step is the practice of meditation.
When you notice the mind has wandered, simply take note of whatever it is you’re thinking about, let it go, and return your focus back to your breathe.
For my favorite advice on how to have a positive attitude with this step, see the “Attitude” portion in the tips, below.
4. Back to the Breathe
With that positive frame-of-mind, smile, and bring your attention back to the breathe.
That’s it. That’s meditation. It’s that simple.
Starting Your Meditation Habit
With the process down, it’s simply a matter of working the practice into your daily life.
Sit daily, every morning after your morning shower, but before eating.
Start small, sitting just 2 minutes per session for the first 5 days.
Use the timer app on your smartphone to time each session. Be sure to set the alarm to a softer, smoother sound, so it’s not so jarring after sitting silently for a few minutes (“Chimes” on the iPhone timer does the trick nicely).
As you start getting used to the practice, slowly begin ramping up your sitting time: 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, etc.
Practice a few sessions at each incremental level before increasing again.
Don’t overextend. Just do what feels natural and comfortable. Let meditation remain a treat, not a chore.
The exact time isn’t important, just that you build a daily practice.
Eventually, as your mindfulness “muscle” grows stronger, your mindful awareness will start leaking into other areas of your life, beyond the boundaries of your timed meditations.
You’ll begin eating mindfully, walking mindfully, listening mindfully, living mindfully (more on that, another day).
A simple practice, with plenty of depth. The best kind, indeed.
Meditation: Tips for Beginners
This is, for me, the single most pivotal piece of wisdom I’ve received regarding meditation. It changed the way I meditate.
When you catch the mind wandering, in that moment of recognition, your impulse might be one of frustration or self-criticism — that you’ve caught yourself doing something wrong, or that you’re not meditating “right”.
This frustration is natural, but, thankfully, misguided.
The wandering mind is as integral a part of the meditation process as the downward motion of a weight is to a weight-lifting exercise.
Without it, there would be no practice. It is the practice. So don’t be self-critical.
Instead of getting frustrated, instead of seeing the wandering mind as a failure, recognize it as a triumph: it is only in the moments of recognizing the wandering mind that you get to practice bringing your awareness back to the breath.
With that frame, the recognition of the wandering mind is a moment in which you can be happy.
You’ve recognized your silly wandering mind going off on it’s own, and then, like a loving parent, you can patiently redirect your attention back to your breath.
If you perceive meditation as a chore, something you “should do”, or “have to do”, it’ll be an uphill battle.
Instead, view meditation as an indulgence.
Fall in love with the tranquility, the peace, and the calm meditation offers. A welcome refuge from the constant swirl of thoughts, anxieties, distractions, and chatter that circle our mind throughout the day.
Like a warm bath for the mind.
Do less than you think you can. If you think you can sit for 10 minutes per session, sit for 5. If you think you can sit for 5 minutes, sit for 2.
I recommend starting with 2 minutes a day for the first 5 days — it’s a starting point that makes the prospect of meditation far less intimidating, and lets you start building the practice into your daily routine first, before ramping it up.
Sit in a chair.
Don’t worry about sitting cross-legged on the floor in full-lotus or anything. Sit upright in a chair — it’ll be less stressful on your back, and more comfortable.
Build the habit.
Once a new practice becomes habit, it becomes second nature (like brushing your teeth). It builds a momentum of it’s own, and you’ll no longer need to exert willpower or discipline to continue.
That’s the dirty little secret of building new habits (healthy eating, regular exercise, etc.): you don’t actually need to rely on that much willpower or discipline to build them into your lifestyle.
You only need to exert enough willpower to build the new practice into a habit, at which point inertia takes over.
Routine, Routine, Routine.
Meditate at the same time, every day.
The time of the day isn’t critical, but first thing in the morning is a great place to start. Evenings after dinner are also great.
Whatever time you choose, stick to it consistently. It’ll help build the practice into a habit faster, solidifying the meditation into your daily routine.
Thank you for reading.
– Alan VanToai
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