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How to Meditate for Beginners: 10 Essential Tips

by Evelyn on March 22, 2011

To develop self mastery, meditation is essential practice. In fact, it appears that just about everyone you know is extolling its benefits. And you are eager to join the bandwagon too. However, it is possible to encounter frustration when you first get started. Your mind is in a constant stream of chatter. As such, it becomes impossible to sit still! After a couple of tries, you may even conclude that, “I just cannot meditate!”

how to meditate for beginners
(Picture taken: meditating in serene surroundings in Thailand two years ago.)

I would like to believe that it is possible for the majority of us to meditate. The exceptions would be those with mental health issues. I have come a long way since the days when I had the same complaint myself. In fact, I recall that I would previously give plenty of excuses in not being able to find time to meditate. I would choose to do something else “more productive” than a seemingly passive activity like meditation. Over the years, I would find that the time that I spend in quiet meditation is not a waste of time but rather an investment in clarity. I now meditate almost every morning, save for days when I need to go out early.

Meditation is the way to the emptying of thought. It is a disciplined practice of silence. It allows you to de-clutter your mind of distracting thoughts and negative emotions. Meditation helps you build a bridge for spiritual connection from within. It also assists you in channeling insight and inspiration.

“Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.”
– Buddha


My Meditation Experiences

And yes, there have been several occasions when I slip into deep states of profound peace and bliss easily. Where there is a need for awareness, I have also found myself being able to access subconscious memories of past lives. Don’t be mistaken, however. Not every session results in a jaw-dropping never-before sublime moment of epiphany. There are also several occasions when I have found it hard to quieten my thoughts.

And when I do, it feels as if I am starting as a beginner once again. It would mean going back to the same basic principles on how to meditate. My first attempt in meditation started more than 10 years ago when I was pregnant with my first child. My mother-in-law (currently passed on) accompanied me on a weeklong retreat to Chang Mai in Thailand. I had my first lessons under the tutelage of her friend, a Buddhist monk. Meditation didn’t prove to be life-changing for me back then, but it allowed me to know how a meditative practice of silence can help calm the mind. A few years later, my mother-in-law who had derived much benefits from meditation became a Buddhist nun herself.

Drawing on my personal experiences, allow me to share the following notes on how to meditate. I would like to share tips that have worked for me. I believe that these tips can help anyone who wishes to cross the hurdles of beginning meditation.

10 Essential Tips on How To Meditate – A Beginner’s Guide

1. Let go of wanting. When I first got started, I wanted to have all the experiences that I have heard possible with meditation – states of pure bliss, gaining psychic powers, seeing angels, having conversations with spirit guides and hearing booming voices from heaven. Over coffee, I would listen to these stories told as if they were everyday experiences. My eyes would widen in excitement.

I would forget about the fact that these friends had been meditating for years. Neither were the stories nearly as dramatic as I made them out to be. With overwhelming desire, I wanted what they were experiencing. All the wanting and craving made me so frustrated when I didn’t have them!

This went on for months. I wanted to give up! Well, eventually, I decided to stop all that wanting. And when I started letting go, I found myself going into states of meditative trance easily. It’s also when things starting getting really interesting for me.

Hence, refrain from seeking to attain spiritual experiences that you have heard about. There is no destination to reach. As such, it is a good idea to enter into your sessions without any expectations.

2. Recover on sleep first. This is a tip that I learned from Ajahn Brahm, head abbot of Bodhinyana monastery in Perth, Western Australia. Should you be having inadequate sleep, it’s far better to catch up on your rest first before attempting to meditate. It is hard to make much progress in meditation if you are constantly falling asleep.

3. Meditate in conducive environments. Choose peaceful surroundings. Avoid having loud music in the background or being able to hear a ton of activity going on outside your room. These are distractions that you are better without, especially if you are a beginner in meditation.

While burning incense is not necessary, you may want to incorporate it as part of a ritual. A ritual allows you to honor the time set aside for sacred space. Incense of sandalwood and lavender are great selections.

4. Avoid eating a heavy meal before meditating. After a heavy meal, more blood flow is required for digestion. Blood is diverted from all parts of your body – including the brain – to break down the food in the digestive organs. Consequently, you tend to feel sleepy.

Then again, don’t meditate on too empty a stomach either. You may feel tempted to cut short your sitting time because your tummy is rumbling with hunger.

5. Release the “I must”. When I try too hard, I would usually find it difficult to meditate. I would be applying excessive mental energy by willing myself to sit. My thinking mind would insist that “I must”, “I should” and “I ought to”. Eventually, instead of experiencing peace, I feel irritated and tense.

Now that I recall such times, I laugh at the hilarity of them all. More progress can be made if we learn not to build each moment into a crescendo of resistance.

6. Allocate time to meditate. This point is also about not fighting the moment. Obviously if your mind is preoccupied with 10,001 things to do, then you will find it hard to feel settled. The idea is to make time and space for meditation. Since meditation is an investment in clarity, then it is important to make it a priority.

When mediating, bring your full presence into each moment. Be at peace with being where you are. Not in the past and certainly, not the future. Know that other things can wait until your session is over. You may want to start with 15-20 minute sessions.

7. Relax first. It may be hard to relax in a split moment, especially if you have just been doing a ton of stuff prior to your meditation session. Get into the mood for meditation by relaxing first. Ideas include taking a warm bath, listening to some light background music and making a nice drink for yourself.

Should you still encounter difficulty, using some tools and techniques may help for a start. You may want to try using binaural beats. I don’t use them nowadays but have found them useful previously in the past. More information on “binaural beats” can be found by clicking on the banner image below…

8. Avoid making the process painful. Meditation is not meant to be a painful exercise. While it is a disciplined practice in stilling your mind, it is not necessary to institute strict requirements such as sitting on bare wooden floors, meditating for hours, waking up at 3am to meditate and so on, in order to learn how to meditate. .

As a beginner, it is best to manage your expectations. You may just give up too soon by putting yourself in too much struggle. Hence, sit on a cushion if it makes you more comfortable. Nonetheless, try your best to maintain your posture by keeping your back straight.

9. Maintain focus first. To contain a wandering mind, it helps to choose something to focus on at the start of the meditation. Some people like to use beads, others the candlelight. However, I prefer not to rely on anything external. I use the breath.

Breath meditation has numerous health benefits. When you bring attention to your breath, you breathe more deeply and slowly. You bring awareness to the life sustaining activity of your body. The process helps you to relax your heart and lowers your blood pressure. You also become more energy efficient.

As you allow yourself to be fully present while maintaining focus, you would eventually find yourself slipping into the gap between thoughts. Within the expanding space of nothingness, you experience pure awareness.

It is within the thought-to-thought gap that insight arises. While insights are also thoughts, they arise from the source pool of pure intelligence. An insight provides illumination from the dark.
- Abundance Alchemy: Journey of Gold

10. Refrain from self judgment. So your mind has trailed off for the umpteenth time? And you are feeling frustrated with yourself about not being able to focus on your meditation? Don’t get caught up in self reproach.

Wandering off is very normal. It is the mind’s habit to keep busy with thoughts. However, please know that keeping busy does not necessarily lead to intelligence or awareness; especially if you are mired in thoughts that are unhelpful, limiting and unnecessary.

Through meditation, you are allowing your mind to take a break. With endless processing going on, it is in need of a vacation too. Hence, without any self judgment, bring your attention back to your breath and continue to sit.

Gain Clarity With Deep Meditation

A constant stream of chatter prevents us from experiencing the world as it-is. Much of our thoughts are not about the here and now. Through meditation, we learn how to observe – without filters, emotional bias and subjective opinions. We become less caught up in the emotional content of our stories. We break out of habitual negative thinking.

Truth is realized with the awakened eyes of clarity. In the process, we experience who we really are. And consequently, we become empowered to manifest the most extraordinary life for ourselves.

“Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.”
– Hans Margolius

Share Your Experience

Share how your experience with meditation has been. Is there any tip that has worked for you? Offer a word of advice and encouragement to beginners who would like to meditate but who are facing challenges.

May you find yourself in the loving embrace of pure awareness,

loving kindness meditation
P.S. Don’t forget to send love and healing to the Japanese, while meditating. 30% of all proceeds for the month from the downloadable copy of my book will be donated to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami 2011 Relief. Click here to download an instant copy now!

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex Blackwell | The BridgeMaker March 23, 2011 at 5:16 am

Evelyn,

Thanks for a simple, easy-to-follow guide. I have always be motivated to try meditation, but never got started. Your post has helped me to find a good starting point.

Alex

[Reply]

Evelyn Reply:

Hello Alex,

I know what you mean by being interested but never getting started on meditation. As I shared in my post, I previously viewed it as a waste of time and preferred to do something more exciting or measurable. However, meditation has helped me gained more peace, love and healing. It’s never too late to get started!

Abundance always,
Evelyn

[Reply]

Angela Artemis/Powered by Intuition March 23, 2011 at 7:48 am

Hi Evelyn,
I loved your post. I’m a former meditation instructor, so I can never praise it enough! I think we should be teaching it in our public schools. I believe our society would be transformed if we were a society of meditators. Your tips were fabulous and just so spot on. I really enjoyed it so much Evelyn.

[Reply]

Evelyn Reply:

Hi Angela,

I had no idea that you were a former meditation teacher. Glad to know that you have enjoyed the tips here too :-) You made an interesting point about society being transformed if we can be all meditate. I agree as it is a practice in mindful awareness.

Abundance always,
Evelyn

[Reply]

The Vizier March 23, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Hi Evelyn,

I remember when I first became aware of my thoughts and tried meditation. It was truly hard to keep still because stray thoughts kept popping up. But thankfully over time, I learned not to be too bothered about them and gained better control over my thoughts through meditation.

Hahah! Like you I thought that I could gain psychic powers and wisdom through meditation. But to expect this from meditation would be to miss the point and the stillness of our minds.

I agree that we should not make meditation painful. The more we try to force ourselves to do something, the more likely we are to resist it. But if we were to make the process more pleasant, we will find it much easier to meditate. This is especially so if it fits in with our routine and nature nicely. I for one like to meditate in the mornings when I wake up. But before I do so, I need to make sure I have settled all the affairs on my mind the previous night before. With less things to distract me, my meditation experience will be more meaningful.

Thank you for sharing this lovely article! :)

Irving the Vizier

[Reply]

Evelyn Reply:

Hello Irving,

Agreed that having expectations tend to cause us to miss the point with meditation…ha! Craving does lead to suffering.

Mornings are the best time for me. I do other clearing work in the evenings. During the trance-like waking up state in the early mornings, it is possible to tune into important messages for myself.

It’s great that you have settled most affairs the night before in order to have a more pleasant session in the mornings. Thumbs up to this tip!

May you be well and happy always,
Evelyn

[Reply]

rob white March 23, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Hi Evelyn,
I love you clear, easy instructions… you certainly have plenty of experience to share from. It’s important for folks to realize that practicing meditation can easily be done by anyone. I’ve found the best way for me to practice is meditative walking through nature. It takes but a few minutes before I experience the fact that I am not the mind… and I am not part of that circus parade of thoughts going by. They may be restlessly jumping about, but I am not restlessly jumping about with them. When I get to this place of quiet-calm, I am able to take my power back.

[Reply]

Evelyn Reply:

Hi Rob,

It’s wonderful to enter into no-mind. I love the experience of nothingness. Your comment made me smile while recollecting. I like what you said about not being part of the circus parade of thoughts.

I won’t dare call myself advanced, even though I have experiences with meditation. I am still a student. Nevertheless, I enjoy sharing what has or has not worked for me previously. I humbly request to continue learning from meditation masters or just about anyone who has great tips to share :-)

Namaste
Evelyn

[Reply]

Trisha March 23, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Hello,

I’ve been meditating on and off for about 2 years. Just recently, I started doing it on a schedule which is working impeccably. But something I found along the way is using a “Tri-Focal Meditation Technique” by Rebel Zen in his ebook Psychedelic Meditaiton. Instead of focusing on one thing, for instance the breath. You move between three things to focus on. One being the breath another being the things you hear and the third is the play of light behind your eyes. This tripod method gives my mind many things to focus on and not get bored.

Thank you for your informative article. I think this will assist people in starting meditation on their own.

[Reply]

Evelyn Reply:

Hello Trisha,

It’s great that you are liking the Tri-Focal Meditation Technique. Do what works for you :-)

Namaste
Evelyn

[Reply]

Zeenat{Positive Provocations} March 23, 2011 at 11:42 pm

HI Evelyn,
I loved loved the simplicity of these tips…more so cause we tend to forget about the simple “letting go” or “no expectation” in wanting to gain an epiphany everytime we meditate.
I personally echo your thoughts…that sometimes its sublime, there are out of body experiences and travels to new lands..and sometimes its just quite. I guess the Divine knows when we need what..leaving it to the higher power makes it so very simple and a divinely guided meditation…what do you think?
Thank you fro sharing these timeless tips.
SO Much Love,
Z~

[Reply]

Evelyn Reply:

Hello Zeenat,

It has been amazing what the mind can tune into. When there is little or no expectation, the experience can be pretty astounding! It’s true that often enough, our higher selves or higher power know what we need. The fewer the expectations of what our experience should be or look like, the greater the possibility of what you can access!

Thank you so much for your warm support and encouragement :-)
Evelyn

[Reply]

Chris Edgar March 24, 2011 at 1:14 am

Hi Evelyn — I love what you said about letting go of the expectation that we will have an altered state or profound experience by meditating. Often, I think, meditation is just a way of seeing more clearly what’s there all the time, rather than distracting ourselves from what’s there through various forms of busy-ness. Trying to be transported into a higher realm or something like that, I think, can actually be another way of “keeping busy” and avoiding what’s there.

[Reply]

Evelyn Reply:

You’ve made a great point about being able to see what is already there. Preconceived ideas and thoughts can cloud the mind from realizing that the solution or thing that we are looking for is just right in front of us.

Well said! There is no need to “try” to be transported into a higher realm. Too much mental will makes the process of meditation more difficult than necessary.

To clarity and insight,
Evelyn

[Reply]

Galen Pearl March 24, 2011 at 2:06 am

Very helpful tips! Thank you! I have just started Shambhala mindfulness meditation training and I’m really enjoying it. It is giving structure and consistency to my former sporadic efforts to develop a meditation practice. Meditation is a great way to start my day.

[Reply]

Evelyn Reply:

Hi Galen,

I have always found some structure helpful! Glad that you’re enjoying yours and in the mornings too :-)

May you be well and happy always,
Evelyn

[Reply]

Lawrence March 24, 2011 at 8:46 am

Hi Evelyn,

Thanks for the article. It is really not easy as a beginner. Personally I find the use and focus of breath the most practical and useful too. I use a simple technique of 4-2-6; breathing in for 4 counts, holding the breath for 2 counts, and exhaling for 6 counts.

[Reply]

Evelyn Reply:

Hi Lawrence,

I have tried counting breaths too in the past. It has helped me. Thanks for sharing about the 4-2-6 count!

Warmly,
Evelyn

[Reply]

Stephen Gemmell March 26, 2011 at 12:59 am

Hi Evelyn, thank you for your very clear guidance. I know that I really do need to practice more. Thanks again for your help, Stephen

[Reply]

Evelyn Reply:

Happy to know that my tips will be a useful guide for you!

Have a great weekend ahead,
Evelyn

[Reply]

Hilary March 27, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Hi Evelyn .. thanks for this .. I’ve printed it out – to peruse and keep to refer to .. it’s great having it set out so clearly and so simply – thank you.

Lawrence’s idea .. makes a lot of sense – particularly when we’re starting .. to get used to the technique that breathing is a technique! Cheers – Hilary

[Reply]

Evelyn Reply:

Hello Hilary,

It’s nice to know that you’ve found the list of tips useful enough to want a hard copy. It’s great that you realized that we need to relearn how to breathe properly!

With love,
Evelyn

[Reply]

Anil March 28, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Hi Evelyn

Thanks for this useful article. Now I feel confident to start meditation using these 10 essential tips.

[Reply]

Evelyn Reply:

You are welcome, Anil :-)

Abundance always,
Evelyn

[Reply]

J.D. Meier March 28, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Very nice distillation of your lessons learned for getting started.

> it’s far better to catch up on your rest first before attempting to meditate
I like your focus on the basic needs. It’s true that meditation doesn’t make up for a lack of sleep, and it’s also true that it’s tough to do something well when you lack sleep.

[Reply]

Evelyn Reply:

Hello J.D.,

I wonder why we make meditation so difficult when there are obvious ways that we can actually make it easier for ourselves. Glad you agree that catching up on sleep first is important!

With love,
Evelyn

[Reply]

Joyce at I Take Off The Mask March 29, 2011 at 5:20 pm

I’ve once read in a book that, “the most effective approach to meditation is to try your best without focusing too much on the results.” In my own way of meditating, which is to prayer to my personal God, I am able to do just that, I am able to relax, knowing He is always there, listening, supporting me when even my best isn’t enough. ;)

[Reply]

Bingz April 5, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Hello Evelyn!
I so LOVE meditation too :)
sometimes what I get is peace, some amazing spiritual experiences, and other times it’s to clear my mental mind as I observe my attachment to the past and fear of the future.

Personally I find it extremely difficult to do Tip #1 – Let go of wanting. I add an extra step before this, setting a clear intention first at the start of every meditation. It could be “I seek assistance to align fully with Divine Abundance”, or “to experience stillness” or even “I set the intention to know what I truly want”. I will then Let Go after stating the intention, and trust that whatever happens is meant to achieve my intention in the end.

Thank you for sharing, and thank you to all who’ve shared their experiences and tips as well!

[Reply]

Davina Torner April 14, 2011 at 10:01 am

Remarkable post on binaural beats. I’ve had really captivating experiences while listening to distinct types of binaurals. I have found I am heavily affected by binaurals that help out with concentrating and retaining content. Nevertheless, one should watch out on many of these commerical places. They come up with some outrageous claims. Binaural beats are not miracles. They give good results, but you you must definitely listen every evening to truly ascertain any results.

[Reply]

Be_Beep April 17, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Thanks, Evelyn. This post is beautiful and useful. I use breath to help me to concentrate too, but sometimes I must combine it with focusing on thoughts.

Lack of sleep has been an issue for me. I used to think that I can “replace” sleep with meditation (since I read that some meditators do not sleep much–well, okay, perhaps this may occur to advance practitioners only). But it never works for me; forcing myself to sit silently and close my eyes when I’m sleepy only triggers me to slumber.

[Reply]

Danny Viduya February 6, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Evelyn,
Thank you for sharing your tips and experiences with us all. I’m young with a motivated mind aimed to seek peace within myself. I wish to enlighten myself more and I believe it can be done by practicing meditation first. Once again, I appreciate the easy practice you’ve provided us. Thank you.

-Danny

[Reply]

Katie August 2, 2012 at 9:13 am

I prefer to chant while I meditate. This is because I feel really distracted when trying to concentrate even in silent surroundings. For me, meditation should let us go of all our unproductive thoughts and allow us to focus on all things positive inside us and around us. So, I use this mantra to relieve myself from everyday stress and frustrations by chanting it at a voice that is loud enough for me to listen to and does not attract anybody else’s attention.

[Reply]

BEEKAY October 17, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Evelyn,
it was really wonderful to go through your experience of meditation. I really found it of immense importance. but i felt that if you would have actually shared in what manner you did that , it would have been alot more helpful for beginners like me. but nevertheless i still is a good one.

[Reply]

Ganesh Kumar December 16, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Hello Evelyn,
A very useful set of guidelines but i realized my weakness is the very first point of your article, can’t thank you enough for your article.

[Reply]

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