As a meditation teacher, many people ask me about the best ways of learning meditation at home.
If you’re interested in the different ways of learning to meditate at home, the good news is that you are spoilt for choice. Today, we have meditation apps, tons of online articles, books, DVDs, CDs, Youtube videos, online courses, retreats (when they open again) and private meditation teachers.
Let’s take a look at the best ways of learning meditation. I’ve ordered the options below from worst to best and explained my reasoning.
Your Options For Learning Meditation At Home, Ranked
*You might like to read my own guide to meditating at home.
5: Online Content
There is an absolute ton of content about meditation online, mostly because meditation is now a billion-dollar industry. Some of that content is truly in-depth. Some websites, like Lion’s Roar and Tricycle, offer truly excellent content. Plus, there are some excellent Youtube videos featuring the likes of Sharon Salzberg, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Tara Barch.
Some online content is truly awful, though. I’m not going to point fingers. But it’s fair to say that there are people who write about meditation online who don’t necessarily know a lot about it. I’ve seen all sorts of bad advice and some outright dangerous advice.
Reading online articles is not the best way of learning meditation. Why? Because it is next to impossible to know which content is good and which is terrible. If you’re just trying to learn meditation for the first time, and you don’t currently know a lot about it, there’s no real way in which you can determine whether an article or video is high quality or not. Ultimately, that means you’re getting a mix of both good and bad advice. It’s just too unreliable.
4: Meditation Apps
We all know that in 2021, daily meditation apps are everywhere; just take a look at the Play Store. There are apps like Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer, Synctuition, and more. The problem with these apps is similar to the problem with online content. It can be incredibly difficult for a beginner to know which content is good and which is bad.
Mindfulness apps have thousands of meditations because they value quantity over quality. And just like online articles, it can be difficult to distinguish between the good and the bad, especially if you are a beginner.
No matter what Andy Puddicombe tries to sell us, mindfulness apps are far from the best way to learn meditation. Indeed, this was proven by research from Harvard Meditation School in 2019, which showed that using meditation apps is nowhere near as effective as traditional meditation. You also have to be aware of the huge difference between guided meditation and actual meditation.
McMindfulness is a fad
I can see the value in apps as a cheap and easy way to relax, but they are very much “McMindfulness”, as Jon Kabat Zinn says [creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.] While they are cheap, however, they are also a huge waste of time. Think about it.
Studies suggest that we should meditate for around twenty minutes a day. That’s two and a half hours a week. Ten hours a month. But if you’re an inexperienced meditator, do you really want to spend that much time doing a meditation technique that might not be the best one for you? I wouldn’t.
Plus, some meditation apps are actually dangerous. For proof, go ahead and look up Trataka, which is an app available on the Play Store. This app asks you to meditate on a black dot in the middle of your screen while flashing images appear all around it. It is loosely based on the yogic meditation Trataka (Candle Gazing), which is done in a dim room where the only thing you can see is a candle. Studies show that meditation can lead to hyperawareness and that looking at flashing images while in a state of hyperawareness could cause seizures. Yet this app is readily available for you to download. Honestly, we are talking about mental health. Are you seriously going to trust your mental health to app developers who really just want to show you ads?
3: Meditation Books
Sitting right in the middle of this list is the oldest way of learning how to meditate: books. Even in 2021, with the rise of meditation apps, books are still one of the best ways to learn meditation for beginners.
There are some truly exceptional meditation books out there, from authors like Thich Nhat Hanh [founder of The Plumb Village Tradition] and Jack Kornfield [Buddhist meditation expert who teaches Vipassana]. I started learning meditation 20 years ago by reading Awakening The Buddha Within by Lama Surya Das [American lama in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition]. It was a truly inspiring book, without which I would not have become who I am today, an online meditation teacher.
Another reason why books are one of the best ways of learning meditation is that they have a structure. Online articles, Youtube videos, and meditation apps don’t usually have a true path. You do the meditation you want to do or read the article you happen to see in your Facebook feed, and it’s all completely unstructured.
Just as you would learn to play the piano by learning your scales first and then trying an easy piece before progressing to Bach, it is crucial to learn meditation in a structured way.
Unlike most apps and articles, books give you a structured format. You progress from one chapter to the next, doing the exercises and gradually improving your meditation practice. That, along with some genuinely exceptional authors, is what makes books one of the top ways of learning meditation at home.
2: Meditation Courses
Coming in second in this list is online meditation courses. Again, there are a great many of these, and they vary in quality. Some of the best meditation courses include the eight-week MBSR course at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and The Center for Mindfulness Studies.
The good thing about online meditation courses is that they are structured. Unlike articles, videos, and apps, there is a definite pathway to learning meditation when taking an online course. Some online meditation courses are taught by legitimate experts too, like Tara Brach [founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, D.C] and Pema Chodon [American Tibetan Buddhist, disciple of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche].
The downside to taking an online meditation course is that they are almost always prerecorded (ones that have a live teacher tend to cost thousands). You learn the generic information about meditation, but no one gives you direct personal guidance about changing your own life with meditation. While the information is often good, courses lack the personal aspect.
Meditation is very much a personal thing. Consider how complicated your mind is. You have a unique mind. To make the most out of meditation, you need to know how to apply it to your mind and your life. Meditation courses will give you good general information, but they will not be personalised for you.
See my list of the best online meditation courses.
1: Personal Meditation Lessons
Personal meditation lessons are the creme de la crème, and it is easy to see why. There is no other way of learning meditation in which you get to discuss your unique situations with a meditation teacher directly.
This is why I chose to go this route for my meditation teachings. I was going to make an app, but then I figured it would be too impersonal. I was also going to create a course but, again, the same problem. So, I chose to go a different route and teach meditation classes online privately.
Why is this the absolute best way of learning meditation at home? Honestly, I think it’s obvious.
A private online meditation class allows you to discuss your situation and your mind with an expert. Just consider how complex your mind is. There is no way that some generic information from a book or app will give you the best answer to your unique problems. Only a one-on-one lesson with a private teacher can do that.
Hate to gloat. But my experience has proven me right. As a private meditation teacher, I’ve had so many students with unique situations that required unique solutions. Just consider some of these students, whom I will keep unnamed to respect their privacy.
Example of my students
- One student told me that she felt like everyone she met was judging her. She’d been using breathing meditations, but they hadn’t solved the problem. I developed a unique method for her based on Buddhist Karuna. This technique trained her mind to see the world as a place of acceptance. Her words to me? “I cried with joy afterwards.”
- Another student said specific thoughts consumed her and made it impossible to live in the moment. I taught her a form of meditation from Kriya yoga called Soham. It trained her mind to let go of thoughts.
- Another student told me he couldn’t sleep at night because he was haunted by one specific thought, which represented itself as an image in his mind. I led him through Vipassana and taught him how to break down the thought, so it no longer affected them. He told me he slept properly the next night for the first time in months.
My point? It would not be possible for these unique individuals to get the best answer to their problems had they not taken a private online meditation lesson. You cannot get such specific and accurate guidance from a book, app, article, online course, or any other way. That is why the best way of learning meditation at home is in a private online meditation class.
Are you ready to take a lesson? Book your own private online meditation class today.