Quickstart Guide to Meditation

Diabatsu great Buddha of Todaiji Temple, Nara, Japan, by Jaitra GillespieHaving been meditating as a student of meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy for over seventeen years now, I get asked for advice and tips on how to begin meditating so often, I thought it about time I wrote some of them down.

Learning to meditate is simple

Learning to meditate is both incredibly simple and incredibly complex. In theory, the essence of meditation is the simplest thing in the world — stilling your mind — but as with most things in life, there are a thousand and one methods to doing so, and a book and spiritual path dedicated to each one.

Furthermore, as anyone who has attempted a little meditation will tell you, making your mind quiet and still is anything but easy; in reality it is akin to the proverbial impossible task of making the crooked tail of a dog straight, and in many traditions of meditation, a goal seen to require lifetimes to completely master.

But for now, forget you read any of that. Think not about the mountain ahead to climb; think instead of the words of Lao Tzu: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Here is a simple guide to taking that first step.

Simple guide to begin to meditate

  • Sit comfortably with your spine straight. You don’t have to sit cross-legged — sitting on a chair is fine.
  • Relax your body. Focus on feeling each part of your body relax one by one, i.e. your feet, your legs, your arms, your chest…
  • Breath deeply at first, then gently and softly. Try to allow your body to breathe for you, or feel that you are entering into a natural rhythm of breathing. Never force your breath or do anything that feels “unnatural”.
  • If you prefer, instead of focusing on your breath you can try concentrating on an object like a candle flame or flower.
  • Try to let thoughts go when they come. You can imagine thoughts are like clouds in the sky, passing by you without leaving a trace, or that you are on a bridge and thoughts the river passing beneath.
  • Mantras or a repeated phrase are fine if they work for you, but not at all necessary — all techniques are just one more way to focus and still your mind.
  • Burning incense and meditative music are aids that can help put you into a meditative zone or space.
  • Practise every single day, preferably at the same time, as it trains your mind into a routine and helps to build momentum. Only 5 or 10 minutes is enough, and longer of course fine, but don’t force yourself past what feels natural or comfortable.
  • Find what works for you, what takes you into the “zone” of meditation, then work at getting better at slipping into this state, and staying there for longer.

You will start to notice results and positive side-effects of your meditation practise relatively quickly — even in a week or two.

Sitting still for 10 minutes will change your life

Yes, it really is that simple. Sitting still for five or ten minutes really can change your life — increase your concentration, reduce stress, increase creativity, make you sleep better, intangibly but permanently make you happier — and it requires neither fee, course of study, equipment or complicated technique. You’d really be crazy not to do it, and to paraphrase a famous meditation master, only those who meditate are truly sane.

More learning to meditate resources

  • Ingrid Yorson
    Posted at 19:35h, 16 September

    These are good tips for beginners. Many always assume that meditation is hard and you have to exert so much mrntal energy to achieve it.

  • Jaitra
    Posted at 06:50h, 17 December

    Thanks Ingrid, you’re so right — meditation is about exerting less mental energy, not more!

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