Meditation For Beginners: Basically Everything You Need To Know

Published by Paul Harrison on

Here’s the first thing to know about meditation for beginners: You will get out of meditation what you put in.

As a meditation teacher I’ve helped people change their lives with meditation.

Beginners come to this site (THE DAILY MEDITATION) looking to learn how to meditate, and I regularly hear comments about how quickly you guys, my readers, have benefited from meditating.  

If you’re a beginner learning meditation for the first time, be excited. Because by the time you have finished reading this guide (5 minutes ish) you will know everything you need to know to meditate properly.

Here’s what you’re about to learn:

  • How to meditate
  • An easy meditation for beginners to get you started on the right foot
  • Best meditation positions for beginners
  • A guided meditation for beginners (all you have to do is close your eyes!)
  • More meditation tips for beginners
  • A look at the best music, apps, and books on meditation, among other things
  • And tons of insight from me, your meditation teachers, Paul Harrison.
  • You’re excited for this, right?

Let’s get into it.

To start with, let’s discuss the benefits of meditation beginners can expect to see quickly.

 

Introduction To Meditation For Beginners (quick explanation)

You’ve probably heard of meditation before, and you may have read a few articles on the subject. But many beginners learn meditation the wrong way. So let’s take a look at what meditation really is and how to do it.

I’ve written a more thorough explanation for you to take a look at.

But in this beginners guide let’s just cover the basics.

So what do you think meditation is?

Meditation is the practice of focusing the mind on something.

That’s it (well, actually, there’s a lot more to it, but this is the basic premise)

Meditation is focusing the mind.

When you practice breathing meditation, for instance, you focus the mind on the breath. And when you practice movement meditations you focus on the body.

And that is basically what meditation is all about. It does actually get a lot more technical than this. But for now, simply think of meditation as focus.

And if you want to learn more about the how and why of meditation you will probably want to read my article on how meditation works.  

Now lets talk about why meditation matters and the benefits of meditation beginners can expect.


Benefits of Meditation Beginners Can Expect To See Quickly

Obviously, you want to meditate because you want to get all the benefits of meditation, right?

Here’s the good news: You will get many benefits from meditation even the very first time you do it. And the longer you continue to meditate the more benefits you will get (just like going to the gym, only for your mind).

But today you’re just beginning meditation. So what benefits are you going to see right away?

Here’s some of the benefits of meditation beginners will see right away:

  • Relaxation – within ten minutes
  • Increased awareness – within ten minutes
  • Happiness—after twenty minutes, and continually improves over time
  • Anxiety and stress— symptoms will reduce twenty minutes and continue to reduce thereafter
  • A quieter mind – within ten minutes
  • Depression – symptoms will reduce after a few meditation sessions, depending on the type of depression and the severity of it
  • A calmer mind – after your first few meditation sessions
  • Insight—gradually develops over time

There are a lot of benefits of meditation for beginners (see the link at the top of this section for a complete list of 100 benefits).

Now you know what you’re going to get out of meditation, it’s time to actually do it.

 

A Meditation For Beginners To Try

Let me show you my favorite beginners meditation.

This is a really easy meditation technique for beginners to try for the first time.

Before you do it though, take a look at my guide to the basics of meditation. It covers important points you need to know if you want to be successful with meditation.

Now, try this beginner’s meditation method:

  1. Sit comfortably somewhere quiet (could be in your home, at the park, anywhere peaceful and quiet)
  2. With your eyes open, take ten deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Count each breath.
  3. Close your eyes and place your hands in your lap, one hand on top of the other with the palms facing upwards
  4. Close your eyes
  5. Watch yourself breathe. Focus your mind on your breath coming and going through your body.
  6. Let your breath go (stop controlling it and just watch the breath).
  7. Count to 108 breaths.
  8. Open your eyes and spend 5 minutes observing the feeling of calmness in your body and mind.
  9. Express gratitude for this meditation.
  10. This is the best easy meditation for beginners. Did you enjoy it? Feel more calm? Leave a comment and remember to subscribe to our newsletter below and let me know your thoughts on this technique.

Want to see some other meditations suitable for beginners? Take a look at my guide to 31 meditation techniques.

 

Meditation Positions For Beginners

You have probably seen experienced meditators sitting in lotus position with their legs crossed meditating.

And you might have thought “My hips have zero flexibility. Do I have to sit in lotus to meditate?”

The answer is “Oh hell no”.

You can sit however you want to meditate. It is entirely up to you.

There’s one important caveat about meditation positions for beginners to be aware of: your meditation position should help you to focus and to be still inside and out.

The best meditation positions for beginners are positions that feel comfortable and grounded, so you don’t need to fidget and so you feel calm.

Take a look at my guide to meditation positions for more on this

Guided Meditation For Beginners

Maybe you prefer to just close your eyes and listen to a guided meditation. Beginners often love guided meditations because they’re easy and relaxing.

I like this guided meditation for beginners, by Jason Stephenson. Have a listen.

Back To Basics Guided Meditation: For beginners & returning meditation users

It’s easy to see the benefits of guided meditations for beginners. They’re easy, relaxing, and require zero commitment.

Do you prefer guided meditations or traditional meditations? Leave a comment and remember to subscribe to our newsletter below and let me know.

Tips For When You’re Beginning Meditation

You now know the basics of meditation. Beginning to meditate will be easy for you now. But let me share a few of my top meditation tips that beginners should know.

  • Don’t ever meditate if you’re extremely emotional at the time (relax first. Once you’re an experienced meditator, then you can meditate at challenging times, but not yet).
  • Always go slow and take it easy, man!
  • Don’t go chasing nirvana. Just sit and be at peace, my friend.
  • Try a couple of different techniques to start with, but don’t nuts trying every technique you hear about.
  • If it doesn’t feel right, let it go. Don’t continue to do a meditation techniques that doesn’t feel comfortable.
  • Don’t break your legs sitting in lotus position. Just sit comfortably or stand.
  • Remember, sometimes you’ll be amazing at meditating, at other times you will suck bad—it’s not biggie!
  • Do it for 20 minutes per day to start with, then build it up from there.

More Meditations For Beginners To Try

Sooner or later you’re going to want to try different meditation techniques. That’s cool. Do it. But don’t go nuts, and only ever try easy meditations. Beginners who try to do challenging meditation techniques too early are setting themselves up for a headache (literally).

I’ve selected some meditation techniques beginners can try safely and easily. Take a look at each of these and try one or two of them.

  • Some of these are from specific religions, others are suitable meditations for atheists. 

Breathing meditations

Breathing meditations are generally considered the best meditations for beginners. They tend to be easy and they are very relaxing—perfect for when you’re just starting to learn meditation.

Here are the best breathing meditations.

Buddhist meditations:

Buddhist meditations are probably the most popular ones, and most of them are suitable for beginners. I’ve written a list of the best Buddhist methods for beginners.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is actually two different things. It’s both a meditation technique and it’s the art of living in the moment. Both of those techniques will help you to relax, to focus your mind and to basically enjoy life, which is what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Here, I’ve taken the liberty of writing a totally awesome guide to mindfulness for beginners like you.

Tools To Help Beginners Learn Meditation

Do you love stuff? If so, you’ll definitely love meditation stuff, by which I mean tools and items that will help you to meditate.

Today, in 2018, there are tons of great products to help beginners meditate. You’ve got apps, books, DVDs, brain-sensors that actually know when you need to meditate, traditional items like singing bowls…

Basically there’s a lot of meditation stuff. And when you’re trying to get into meditation this stuff get really help you to learn, to practice, and to commit to your practice.

Take a look at my selection of the best meditation products because it will help you to meditate for real.

Important Tips For Beginning Meditation

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

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

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. 

Oh boy.

This is the single worst piece of advice that you will ever read about meditation.

You should always consider your health before meditating.

Why?

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 

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

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.

Wrong. 

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.

Leave a comment and remember to subscribe to our newsletter.

And that’s basically everything beginners need to know about meditation

In this guide we’ve covered all the basics of meditation beginners need to know.

Bookmark this guide and keep coming back to it as you learn to meditate. Also make sure you read the other links (especially the one about different meditation techniques) because there’s a ton of great info there to help you to start meditating.

Now, if it’s cool with you, I’d like to ask a favor: could you leave a comment and let me know if you found this tutorial helpful? Is there anything I should add? Oh, and if you liked it, share it! I keep this site alive thanks to the support of all you guys.

Cheers!

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Paul Harrison

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

2 Comments

Josephine Ann Peck · April 21, 2019 at 2:07 am

Years ago I use to mediate in a hot tub with Epsom salts. After reading this I just realized it was mediating. Very informative information . Very detailed. I will be back for more. Thank you

Sekhem · December 30, 2018 at 12:26 am

108 breath count , very helpful . Body felt good after the first time . Thank you.

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