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Let's Meditate: A Beginner's Guide

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

The thing about meditation is: You become more and more you. -David Lynch

Meditation is more often than not shrouded in misconception, making it either intimidating to begin or made to feel intangible. It’s a shame really, as it is a simple practice accessible to just about every cognizant human being, with an assortment of styles to choose from.

Early in my practice I hid a bit from meditation, it felt overly *spiritual* in a way I wasn’t prepared for yet. At that time my idea of meditating was from reading Siddhartha, and some limited understanding of Buddhism. It ran something along the line of needing to sit in silence for an indeterminate amount of time thinking of nothing. That was definitely impossible. That is still impossible! This brain was and still is, very busy. So, in this article I’ll dive into how I found my way, my recommendations to make it accessible, history, insights, modern science and practical tips.

Let's go.

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Starting at the Beginning

Meditation's history has deep roots that have grown and evolved over thousands of years and across cultures. Impossible to condense into a paragraph as we can look in ancient Vedic texts of India across to the shamanic guided meditations practiced by hunter-gatherer cultures. Meditation has, throughout known history, been a universal human experience. Siddhartha Gautama's enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in 6th century BCE is a pivotal moment, illuminating a path for countless seekers. Before, from there and as it traversed continents meditation has continuously evolved, reflecting always the desire for a reconciliation with the experience of being human and to create connection with the world’s greater mysteries. The word itself meditation is derived from the Latin meditatum meaning to ponder. It is the act of pondering the self, the body, the environment around us, and the universe at large.

A Myriad of Benefits

Meditation's impact goes far, far, FAR beyond finding calm. Here’s a shortlist of known benefits:

  • Enhanced cognitive function.

  • Stress reduction.

  • Improved focus.

  • Strengthened immunity.

  • Reduction of chronic pain.

  • Slowing of brain aging and Alzheimer's prevention

  • Improved emotional intelligence

  • Blood pressure regulation, lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

  • Enhanced sleep quality and reduced disruption.

  • Reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression.

  • Mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) for addiction recovery.

For those of you that would like to take a big, bookish deep dive into the science - I go into detail about all of this, as well as provide links to published articles and scientific studies, here.

The Meditation Mosaic

Meditation styles vary dramatically, and there are many to choose from. Often times new clients I work with become overwhelmed by the expansiveness of the styles and bodies of knowledge. Having so many options doesn’t mean, however, one needs to do or try them all. You just need to explore until something touches a chord. Each technique offers a unique experience, and experimentation is the best path to find what works for you.

The standards are a great place to start. Guided sessions led by an experienced teacher either in person or online will offer gentle assistance, and helps declutter the process. Unguided meditation, or silent meditation, is a solitary exploration using contemplation techniques.

Beyond those starting points there is a rich tapestry of styles. Focused Attention anchors the mind in the breath, while Body Scan heightens awareness of physical sensations. Yoga Nidra merges deep relaxation with exploring consciousness. Visualization fosters mental imagery, enhancing concentration. Loving Kindness spreads positivity, dissolving negativity. Skillful Compassion opens hearts, promoting happiness. Resting Awareness encourages presence.

The mosaic widens even further along distinct paths of practice. Zen meditation encourages presence. Mantra and Transcendental meditation foster deep focus through mantra repetition. Vipassana meditation explores reality’s essence through silence. Chakra meditation balances energy centers, and Qigong meditation heals through internal energy. Sound Bath Meditation quiets the mind with sound vibrations.

This exploration is yours and no-one else’s, so follow your intuition. Remember that the technique matters less than integrating its qualities—calm, empathy, mindfulness—into your daily life.

The Simple What

It wasn’t until my first training that I was given an explanation of meditation that resonated with me, and changed my approach to the practice.

Vintage Conductor

Picture a symphony orchestra. When all of the individual musicians sit down and begin tuning their instruments prior to a performance it is.... well, it's absolute chaos. There is a cacophony of dissonant noise, sounds and tones that go in every direction without focus. But then a conductor walks in, draws their attention, and pulls the noise into a flowing current of harmonious melody with each player having an important role in the collective piece. Your thoughts are the players, and meditation is the conductor - bringing order to our mind, transforming its scattered notes into a serene composition.

Beginning on a meditative journey, beginners often grapple with misconceptions. The idea of 'emptying the mind' creates enormous hurdles. Meditation is not about cessation but release—letting go of intrusive or obsessive thoughts, steering clear of negative inner dialogue, and embracing quietude. The only way to arrive there is through, to sit with yourself, welcome what arrives and then release rather than attach to it. Some days will flow effortlessly, while others will demand patience and persistence. It’s all part of the learning, and deep understanding of Self.

The Simple How

Initiating meditation is simple enough, find a comfortable spot and breathe.

  • Choose a mediation style. The choice is personal.

  • You should be seated either:

    • a) on the ground with your legs crossed and hips slightly elevated by a block or pillow, this will prevent stress on the low back and support circulation so your legs don't fall asleep.

    • b) on a chair making sure both feet are hip width apart and flat on the ground. If it is difficult to get up and down from the ground, a chair will better suite you.

  • Place your hands facing up or down on your thighs or knees, whatever feels intuitive.

  • Take a moment before you begin to just feel. Feel into your body, are you supported? Can you sit here comfortably for 5-10 minutes? Feel into your breath, can you breathe easily and fully? Adjust if necessary.

  • Take a deep breath in through the nose filling the belly, lungs and diaphragm and then let it out from the mouth. Relax. Begin.

Start with short durations, gradually building resilience. The essence lies not in complexity but in consistency.

Making Space

In an ideal world a meditation space seeks minimalism and quietude. The real world and those who live in it, however, can sometimes make that impossible. At the very least seek out a place you feel calm and can have 10 minutes alone. TURN OFF YOUR PHONE. This is enough, start here.

Consider as well, that mediation can really be done anywhere and anytime. The practice in purpose is to release what is happening around you. For example, I have an unfortunate and intense fear of flying that rears its head during turbulence of any kind (tiny bumps, and I’m gripping the armrest for dear life). I’ve learned that meditating for just 5-10 minutes loosens the anxiety and calms the irrational part of my brain, even in a tiny space full of other humans. My point is that the right time and place to practice can, and should, be entirely your own.

Nurturing the Ritual

Consistency blooms from simplicity. Establish routines—in the morning right after you wake, a lunchtime pause, or a quiet introspective moment before bed. The key lies in nurturing the practice, allowing it to grow into your life over time and with intention.

bhāve tyakte niruddhā cin naiva bhāvāntaraṁ vrajet

tadā tan madhya bhāvena vikasatyati bhāvanā

bhaave tyakte ni-ruddhaa chit na eva bhaava–antaram vrajet

tadaa tat madhya bhaavena vi-kasatyati bhaavanaa

Cast aside the ten thousand things,

And love only one.

Don’t go on to another.

Engage your lively awareness

With this one focus—

One object, one thought, one symbol.

Now go inside.

Find the center,

The soul, the heart.

Right here,

In the middle of the feeling,

Attend the blossoming—

Attention vast as the sky.”

Excerpt From: Lorin Roche “The Radiance Sutras.”

Embracing Quietude

In this wonderful chaos we call life and the experience of being human, meditation is a path to understanding and… acceptance. To sit inside yourself and feel *ok* is as much as most people hope for, but I’ve found this path opens the possibility of much more than just ok-ness. Embrace its simplicity, its transformative power. Let the misconceptions dissolve, and listen to your true nature. Within its stillness, the quiet, you'll discover the universe.

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