Want to give meditation a try but don’t know where to start? Check out this uber-guide to meditation for beginners – bursting with tricks, tips, and techniques on how to get started (and maintain a regular practice).
Meditation is all the rage these days (and for good reason).
Meditation genuinely saved my life.
My anxiety and panic was so severe at one point that I was seriously questioning whether I still wanted to be on this earth.
But after plenty of therapy – in conjunction with a daily meditation practice – I healed.
And I know that my meditation practice is what’s kept me (relatively) sane since.
Meditation has been proven to boost focus, increase productivity, improve creativity and overall well-being, all without the need for any fancy equipment or expert knowledge.
Maybe you’ve even tried it before but didn’t find it worked for you (or like me, said your mind was “way too busy” and gave up after a couple of attempts). #guilty
Whether you’re a total beginner or you want to give your practice another shot, here’s basically everything you need to know before you start meditating on the reg.
So what actually is meditation?
Meditation is a deliberate practice (as in, we consciously decide to do it) where we sit and observe the mind.
Sounds simple enough, right?
We don’t try to empty our mind, we don’t try to make it go quiet, and we don’t try to stop ourselves thinking.
We simply watch what happens.
We also use an anchor (e.g. the breath, a mantra, or a visualisation) that we focus on as we meditate; that way, whenever we notice our mind wandering, we can bring it back to our anchor and re-focus.
Myth-busting – meditation for beginners
Myth #1: You have to empty your mind
Meditation is about learning how to discipline our mind, and noticing the patterns of our thoughts.
We think 95% of the same thoughts every day (which is crazy, right?) and most of our behaviours are habitual, rather than chosen.
Once we notice the most common thoughts we have, we can start to make connections between our thoughts, feelings, and behaviour.
From there, we can begin to make the shifts we need to become the person we really want to be.
Myth #2: You have to sit in lotus position
You can meditate lying down, standing up, sitting down, with your eyes open or closed – whatever works for you, man.
You can meditate while you move your body, while you watch the flicker of a candle, or even while you write.
For example, in the 8 week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy courses I teach, a huge part of the meditation program is the mindful movement and walking meditation.
And in my yoga classes, I teach meditative breathwork, yoga nidra, and gratitude meditation.
Equally, there are tons of different meditation schools, styles, and formats.
It’s all about finding what works for us as individuals.
Myth #3: You have to do it for hours every day
I started out with just 5 minutes day. For reals – it was all I could manage.
In the beginning, it’s all about just getting started – practicing when it’s manageable and realistic according to your current schedule.
Of course, the longer you can meditate for, the better the benefits will be (and the deeper clarity, nourishment, and rest you’ll feel), but there’s absolutely no minimum time to meditate for.
Even one minute is better than nothing.
Just be wary of using the “I don’t have time” excuse as a way to avoid trying it out.
Try it right now
Let’s try a little experiment.
Follow the instructions below to giide yourself through a super quick meditation, or download my free guided ones here.
- Settle into a comfortable position, closing your eyes or lowering your gaze.
- Scan your body from head to toe. Notice how your body is feeling in this moment, and observe what thoughts and emotions might be lingering in your experience.
- Come to focus on the breath. Without trying to change or manipulate your breathing, pay attention to the gentle, easy, effortless breath as it flows in and out of your body.
You just meditated – yay, you!
How to start a regular meditation practice
There are also a few elements to consider that’ll make your meditation practice a whole lot easier:
Let’s tackle them in order, shall we?
1. Create time for meditation
The #1 excuse I hear from clients or students about meditation is that they just “don’t have the time”.
Well, I’m calling BS on that one.
Let’s be honest, time’s never on our side. We’re all super busy, all the time – the solution, therefore, is to make time.
Decide when you want to meditate and create the time to do it.
If it means waking up 10 minutes earlier or stopping scrolling on social media on a morning, so be it. If it’s important to you, you gotta make it work.
Here are a couple of other tips to make more time for your practice:
- Schedule your practice into your calendar, like you’re setting a date with yourself every day
- Leave a 5-10 minute ‘buffer’ at both ends of your practice (so if you want to meditate for 10 minutes, set aside at least 20 to allow for unexpected obstacles)
- Set a low barrier of entry – if 10 minutes isn’t realistic for you, start with 5, 3, or even 1 minute a day
2. Create space for meditation
What makes a meditation practice so awesome is the sense of peace and restoration you get from it; so the area you practice in should ideally be a place you really want to be in, and one that makes you feel all lovely and cosy.
The best way to do this is to consciously design a peaceful area for yourself – any quiet corner will do, preferably in a separate room to where you watch tv or work on a computer (which you’ll unconsciously associate with active thinking and doing tasks).
If you can’t practice in another room – for example, if you live in a teenie tiny city centre studio apartment like I used to – maybe cover the screens with a cloth or blanket.
Here are a few other ideas for creating a gorgeous meditation space:
- Candles or incense sticks to burn
- Dim lighting, such as a salt lamp or fairy lights
- Objects you love or collect, such as stones, shells or crystals
- A cosy blanket to keep you nice and warm
- Fresh flowers to surround yourself with life energy
- A supportive chair, stool, cushion, and/or yoga mat
3. Create discipline for meditation
Once you’ve got your time and space set up, the next task is to keep yourself disciplined long enough for your new practice to become a habit.
This is fo’ sho’ the most difficult part, and the hurdle where I fell the first time I tried meditating.
The key is understanding how habits really work.
In the beginning, we’re all excited and motivated to “change our life”, then once the reality of the habit sets in, we get bored/don’t feel any different/decide we can’t be bothered, and throw in the towel.
This is where you fight back against your desire for instant gratification.
This is where you remind yourself why you’re doing it, and remember that if you stay the course, the long-term benefits will so worth it.
Here are a few other tips for maintaining discipline in your practice:
- Plan your practice in advance – lay out the comfy clothes you’ll wear and clear up your meditation space way before your scheduled practice
- Remember (and write down) your why. Why did you want to start meditating? What are you working towards? Refer to this whenever you feel like giving up
- Treat each day as a fresh start. You’re a fallible human, just like the rest of us, so if you don’t manage to practice one day, be kind to yourself – but don’t use it as an excuse to give up. Simply start afresh the next day
4. Create love for meditation
The fourth (super important) element you’ll need is a big ol’ dose of love.
Without love, what are we humans, anyway?
Cultivating love for your meditation practice is vital for maintaining discipline.
The love you have doesn’t have to be for the practice itself, but perhaps another aspect of it (the way it makes you feel, the fact you’re prioritising your self-care or mental health, the time it gives you to focus only on yourself).
For example, I fell in love with meditation because it helped me feel in control of my thoughts, feelings and emotions. And then I fell even deeper in love when I realised it could help me calmly deal with the lack of control actually have over my life.
So regularly ask yourself, what do I love about meditation?
Here are a few other tips for cultivating love for your practice:
- Keep it comfortable – make sure you choose positions that feel right for your body
- Find the right style. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different meditation styles and disciplines until you find the one that works best for you
- Explore a group practice, if there’s a meditation group or meetup local to you. There’s something special about meditating in a group – plus you’ll get to meet tons of like-minded people
- Let go of trying to achieve a specific outcome. Remember that the reward is in the journey, and focus on what feels good for you