How To Meditate Properly, For Beginners [TUTORIAL]
As a meditation teacher, I spend a lot of my time explaining to beginners how to meditate properly. I even wrote several books on how to meditate for beginners.
When you are learning how to meditate as a beginners, you need to follow a few simple steps.
I will always remember when I started to learn how to meditate. Within a few days I’d tried 31 meditation techniques.
When you’re just starting to get into meditation, you can make a lot of mistakes.
Me? I did everything wrong. I did not know how to meditate properly. And I did not follow the basics of meditation.
Within months of first starting to learn meditation I had already journeyed through Chinese culture, Buddhism, Hinduism, modern spirituality, New Age, and so many other subjects.
I felt the very world were a huge smouldering pot of philosophy, science, and spirituality.
Seriously, If You’re A Beginner, Learn How To Meditate Properly From Today
You may have heard that meditation is safe. So why is it so important that beginners learn how to meditate properly? After all, nothing can go wrong, can it?
Actually, yes. Plenty of things can go wrong. I discovered that for myself years ago.
One morning after finishing a meditation session I happened to turn on the TV while eating a bowl of fruit salad.
The cameraman was zoomed in on a string of brown beads wrapped around someone’s wrist. I later learned it was a meditation mala (read: How to DIY or buy malas)
The camera zoomed out further to show the old and wise brown eyes, the weathered face, the red robes, and the big childlike grin of the Dalai Lama, one of the world’s best spiritual gurus.
Below, a headline read, “Dalai Lama discusses the rise of meditation in England”. This was the Dalai Lama telling beginners how to meditate properly, about the very basics of meditation.
The TV interviewer was enquiring about the benefits of meditation when she happened to ask “And there are absolutely no risks from practicing meditation”?
I scoffed. Silly interviewer. Of course there are no risks of meditation. That was what I thought, because how could meditation possibly be risky? It’s the healthiest thing in the world, isn’t it?
Turns out if you don’t learn how to meditate properly you might suffer for it
The Dalai Lama’s eyes narrowed and he raised his hand and said “Meditation is very powerful. It must be learnt properly.”
The Dalai Lama continued to explain that when meditation is learnt in the East it is learnt alongside philosophy, history, and other aspects of culture.
In the East, meditation isn’t taken as a standalone practice but as one spoke in a wheel (literally, the “Wheel of Dharma”, called DharmaChakra).
Only when all spokes move as one can the wheel begin to turn.
Truth is, you need to learn meditation properly because there are some serious health risks of meditation.
Meditation should be learned properly. Because believe it or not, there are serious health risks when you practice meditation the wrong way.
Here’s why it’s so important for beginners to learn how to meditate properly
In the West millions are beginning to learn meditation as a standalone.
The Dalai Lama himself has stated that, “People need to learn more about Eastern tradition rather than proceeding to meditation too quickly. Otherwise mental and physical difficulties will appear”.
Yet if you ask most beginners how to meditate properly, they will give you a bunch of false information.
Beginners meditators hurl themselves into meditation like a puppy chasing after a ball, diving in at the deep end then desperately trying to learn how to swim.
It is essential that beginners learn how to meditate correctly.
The Basics Of Learning How To Meditate For Beginners
Unfortunately there are lots of myths and lies about meditation.
If you actually ask most beginners how to meditate properly, they will probably share many of those myths and lies as though they were true.
I wish I’d had someone to tell me to slow down, to show me the essential basics of meditation, all those years ago when I was starting out, someone who let me know the essential basics of meditation.
I literally launched myself into meditation, practicing every single different technique I could get my hands on (and there were hundreds—we’ll discuss them a little later). I was just so excited to be practicing techniques that the old masters used, techniques that have been handed down through history.
It’s hard not to get caught up in excitement once you start to discover all the different meditation techniques and the myriad ways in which they can benefit you in your own life.
But only fools rush in. That’s true of love. And it’s true of meditation.
As a beginner I had no clue how to meditate properly. I was the fool that time.
The wise know to go steady.
That’s why I think you and I ought to go over the basics of meditation now, before we start to do actual techniques. That way, you will know how to meditate properly.
- To start with, take a look at this article on the real meaning of meditation. It provides a lot of important background info for beginners. Then proceed with the steps below.
The Right Way To Learn How To Meditate (For Beginners, This Is Essential)
There are many hundreds of meditation techniques
Those techniques use the mind and body in subtly different ways.
However, there are some similarities shared across the spectrum of techniques.
There are basic rules of meditation on which the house is built.
If you think meditation isn’t working for you, check these things. These are the essential bricks and mortar out of which any meditation regime should be constructed. These are the all important basics of meditation.
A Guide For Beginners: How To Meditate Properly With The 10 Basics of Meditation
When it comes to learning how to meditate, for beginners these tips are essential.
1: Know that when you’re learning how to meditate, beginners need the right space
- Get started with my guide to creating a meditation room.
If you want to know how to meditate properly, start by getting your space set.
It is important to set aside a special place for meditation.
It is better that this place be a specially designated spiritual space.
The rules on a meditation space are:
- Must be peaceful
- Should be quiet
- Should be conducive to both relaxation and focus
- As few distractions as possible
When you are beginning meditation, meditate in the same space and reserve that space for meditation.
If you have ever visited a nature reserve you will know why it’s important to preserve certain spaces.
You can feel the energy of a nature reserve the moment you enter it. It’s pure, wild, natural, a beautiful space that immediately conjures feelings of freedom and tranquility. The same is true for a meditation space.
Over a period of time your meditation space will become a sanctuary filled with spiritual energy. You will enter the room and immediately feel purity, tranquility, and warmth, because you have preserved the purity of the space.
It’s great to know that if you ever feel stressed you can enter your spiritual space and be free from it all.
Your spiritual space doesn’t have to be a whole room, it could be a corner of a room or a part of your garden, or it could be a public space.
At my home in Oxfordshire there is a brook at the bottom of our field. The brook is always quiet but for the gentle trickling of the water and the occasional rustle of wind in the trees. It is a spiritual space for me, a space where I can sit and feel free, where I can balance and heal. It’s one of my many spiritual spaces.
So that’s the environmental aspect of how to meditate properly. There are more basics of meditation though.
3. The Best Time To Meditate For Beginners
- Get in the routine of meditating by downloading a good app.
There are good times to meditate and there are bad times.
The worst time for a beginner to meditate is when they are highly emotional.
When you are starting to learn meditation, only meditate when you are already relaxed (later on you can turn to meditation in times of need, but not in the beginning).
It helps to have a routine too. And there are apps like Headspace and Calm that can help you with that. In fact, one of the keys to knowing how to meditate properly is getting in the routine.
Routine is everything.
When you know that at 6am you’re going to get up, enter your meditation space, and meditate for twenty minutes, your mind becomes pre-programmed for tranquillity. Not only does this help you start the day positively it also creates a habit that will help you to continue to meditate even on those days when you don’t really feel like it (and no matter how wonderful meditation is, there always will be some times when you feel like skipping practice).
When I was touring England doing The Canterbury Tales (I played the overweight, alcoholic miller, though I don’t think it was typecast), I set the alarm for 5am every morning so I could meditate every morning for at least 20 minutes. Because we were on tour it was impossible to have one designated space so instead I would take myself off to some field or park and meditate there instead—there’s always a space and time worthy of meditation, no matter where you might be or how busy you might be.
4. Get rid of negative energy before you meditate
Experienced meditators are able to use meditation to stop negative energy. But beginner meditators should get rid of that negative energy before beginning.
When you enter your sacred time and your sacred space, you want to already be relaxed. That’s why, before you enter your meditation space, you should release negative energy .
Give yourself at least five minutes in which to relax before you enter your meditation space. That’s the fourth of our basics of meditation.
5: How To Meditate Properly By Using The Right Posture
There are several different body poses you can use when you meditate.
Part of learning how to meditate for beginners is learning the right postures.
The best way for beginners to meditate is usually sitting down. And good posture is vital.
Once you do enter your meditation space, you’ll want to check your posture. Good posture leads to good health and also to a relaxed, aware, and peaceful inner state.
If you really want to know how to meditate properly, you absolutely must have the right posture. Although that does not men you have to sit crossed-legged (read the link above).
One of the most important basics of meditation is to sit with good posture.
Having good posture will also help with your breathing, another important aspect of practice.
This is one of the absolute most important of all basics of meditation.
Make sure you have an awesome meditation cushion. This will support your body and prevent injury.
6. The most important thing about learning how to meditate properly: Breathing
This is arguably the most important of all these basics of meditation.
As you meditate your breathing rate will naturally slow down because you are relaxing.
Your breathing may slow to a rate it’s never been to before, both during practice and after.
I find that when I’m teaching people how to meditate, for beginners the breathing aspect can sometimes be a surprise. They’re used to having their breathing rate up high, then suddenly they meditate and it slows down to half their regular breathing rate.
In 2003, Harvard scientists studied a group of ten meditators and discovered that their respiratory rates were much lower than non-meditators. This lower respiratory rate is indicative of lungs that are working more efficiently, and also of a clam and relaxed body and mind. That’s one reason why meditation is so healing, because it slows you down and increases circulation.
So, be aware that your breathing rate will slow when meditating and also after meditating.
Some beginner meditators try to force the breath. The breath should actually be relaxed. It should be slow, but because you’re relaxed, not because you’re hlding your breath.
Pay extra attention to your breathing. This is the whole key to knowing how to meditate properly. For beginners, it is absolutely essential to get this right.
7: The Right Attitude For Beginning Meditation
Another key aspect of learning how to meditate, for beginners, is their attitude.
The right attitude is one of non-judgment. This is the absolute number one most important of all our basics of meditation.
It can be very easy to judge yourself as doing something right or wrong. After all, how many times are we told in our day to day lives that we’re good / bad, right / wrong?
But in meditation there is no right and no wrong, there is simply what is.
These are the essential basics of meditation. They are the roots which you must plant in order to watch your spiritual self grow. By sticking to these simple rules you’ll ensure a safe and successful meditation practice.
And just s a friendly warning, be careful where you learn meditation from.
There is a lot of bad advice around today.
In fact, let’s take a look at some of that bad advice.
How To Meditate Properly By, Er, Not Cocking It Up
Above we looked at how to meditate properly. Now let’s look at how to meditate improperly.
Here are 5 ways everyone keeps cocking up meditation.
1. As a beginner learning how to meditate, you need to acknowledge the health risks
Has anyone ever told you there are no risks and no side effect of meditating.
This is the single worst piece of advice that you will ever read about meditation.
You should always consider your health before meditating.
Because even though meditation is perfectly safe for 99% of people, there are a few select people who experience negative effects when meditating.
One of the most important parts of learning how to meditate, for beginners, is to realise that yes there are health risks.
Epileptics, for instance, should arguably never meditate. Meditation can cause increased hypersynchrony in the brain, which can lead to seizures. If you have ever had an epileptic experience, please contact your doctor before you start meditating. Likewise, those with a history of mental health complications should also contact healthcare professionals before beginning to meditate.
2. When learning how to meditate, beginners do not need to sit in lotus
- Learn the right sitting posture in my guide to Zen meditation.
This is a classic piece of meditation advice which is usually misinterpreted.
The idea that you must adopt a certain sitting position before meditating is simply not true.
When learning how to meditate, beginners just need to be comfortable.
You do not need to sit in lotus position to meditate. If you struggle to sit in lotus position, you can just as easily sit on your knees.
If you are trying to learn how to meditate properly then I guess it makes sense to try lots position. But if you cannot sit comfortably in lotus then stop.
Some types of meditation like Zen do involve specific sitting positions, but even then it is not compulsory.
What matters is posture.
You need to adopt proper posture and meditate in a position that will allow you to relax.
But that position does not need to be lotus position or any of the other traditional Zen meditation positions.
What matters is that you are comfortable, balanced, and have good posture.
3. When learning how to meditate, beginners don’t necessarily need to be relaxed
Again, this is not entirely true.
When you’re learning how to meditate as a beginner, you should be relaxed. But some types of meditation are actually not that relaxing. And if you don’t feel relaxed when you meditate, it doesn’t mean you need to stop.
People suffering from stress, anxiety, or depression, as well as people with general worries, will often feel less relaxed at first.
Meditation forces you to face your fears and anxiety. Meditation brings those fears and anxieties to the surface so that they can be released. However, in order to be released, they first have to be faced. That’s why you may sometimes feel less relaxed when meditating.
When I suffered from an acute reaction to extreme stress many years ago, meditation made me feel worse. It was quite a challenge to motivate myself to continue to meditate. I did continue, and eventually meditation began to cure me of my stress. Without meditation I may never have recovered. But it was vital that I go through the stress in order to overcome it. Relaxation is often a secondary stage in healing.
4. When learning how to meditate, beginners should stick to a few easy methods
- Get started with my Beginners Meditation Plan.
Here’s the worst thing to do when learning how to meditate as a beginner: Try all the different techniques when you’re new to meditation.
There are lots of publications that teach beginner meditators advanced meditation techniques. Big mistake. There are some meditation techniques that are completely unsuitable for beginners (Merkaba, Dhyana, Bhakti)…
Good advice for meditators is this: try a selection of different beginner techniques.
But definitely do not go nuts.
The Dalai Lama himself tells us that we must respect meditation and go at an easy pace. No one, for instance, should start meditating with an advanced technique like Nataraj (a dance meditation created by Osho).
Start with breathing meditation. Then down the line try another form of meditation, something simple like Zen walking. Then begin to advance in a progressive fashion. Don’t rush.
If you want to learn how to meditate properly as a beginner, pick maybe 3 different beginners techniques (for a good mix: one should be breath-based; one should be movement-based; one should include a mantra).
5. If you seriously want to know how to meditate properly, don’t stop after 20 minutes
Many beginner meditators believe that meditation begins and ends in the designated time slot.
In other words, if you’re meditating for 20 minutes then once the twenty minutes is up you’re done.
If you truly want to know how to meditate properly, one o f the key basics of meditation is that it continues after the session.
In truth, what you do immediately after meditating is just as important as what you do while meditating.
At the end of your meditation sessions, you should take a further 10 minutes just to relax. That way you can smoothly transition back to your normal mental state. This period of time after meditating is important for allowing your mind to adjust.
When you’re learning how to meditate as a beginner, meditate properly. Period.
If you are a beginner meditator and you want to learn meditation the right way, read my book Your Best Meditation. In the book I share my journey to enlightenment and I lead you though a practical course in meditation. Take a look at that link and join me on the path to enlightenment.
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Paul Harrison is a meditation teacher, author and journalist based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential. Don’t miss Paul’s inspirational and enlightening book: Your Best Meditation