In this guide, we’ll discuss how to get started with mindfulness meditation for beginners.
If you’re just getting started with mindfulness as a beginner, you might wonder what the craze is all about. Why is it one of the fastest-growing health practices of the past decade? What will you get out of it?
There are so many amazing benefits of mindfulness meditation for beginners to look forward to. It will make you relaxed, happier, and less anxious. Just take a look at my article on the best mindfulness exercises for kids and adults to see what it’s all about.
An Explanation Of Mindfulness Meditation For Beginners
Mindfulness is the psychological quality of focusing on the present moment without judgment. Essentially, this is done by paying attention to our senses instead of living in our heads.
It’s exercise and philosophy that comes from Buddhism. The term “mindfulness” comes from the Pali term Sati and the Sanskrit word Smrti. It means, “Bare attention”. And that is the heart of mindfulness: paying attention to the present moment.
In Sanskrit, “Mindfulness” means to remember. And indeed, a large part of mindfulness meditation for beginners is remembering to be mindful.
Interestingly, there are several different ways of defining mindfulness, and experts do not always agree.
What does “Mindfulness Meditation” Mean?
Different experts define “mindfulness” differently:
- Jack Kornfield calls it “Attention”
- Mahasi Sayadaw calls it “Concentrated attention”
- Herbet V. Gunther calls it “Inspection”
- Erik Pema Kunsang and Buddhadasa Bikku call it “Recollection”
Many people wrongly believe that mindfulness is meditation. This is in fact a fallacy.
There is a difference between mindfulness and meditation.
Meditation is a specific practice in which we focus on one part of the present moment for a set duration.
Mindfulness is the general quality of being mindful in life.
However, confusingly, there is also a specific meditation technique called mindfulness, which is based on Zen, Vipassana, and Tibetan meditation techniques).
Generally, today, when people say they are “practising mindfulness” they mean they are generally being aware of the present moment. And when they say they are doing “mindfulness meditation”, they mean they are formally meditating.
The Two Types Of Mindfulness (Beginners Should Do Both!)
- Dispositional (trait) mindfulness: Dispositional mindfulness refers to a general conscious awareness and non-judgmental attitude.
- State mindfulness: An actual meditation technique
Mindfulness has developed over recent years through luminaries like Jon Kabat-Zinn, who created Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Thích Nhất Hạnh (1926– ), Herbert Benson (1935– ), Jon Kabat-Zinn (1944– ), Richard J. Davidson (1951– ), Jack Kornfield, and Sam Harris.
Thanks to experts like these, there are now many different ways to practising mindfulness.
Today mindfulness is used in therapy through methods such as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy [MBCBT]. And it is also used in schools, prisons, hospitals, business, and many other avenues.
Mindfulness comes form Buddhism.
In the Buddhist tradition, mindfulness is the first factor of the Seven Factors of Enlightenment and “Right Mindfulness” is the seventh element on the Noble Eightfold Path. There are also different forms of mindfulness in Buddhism:
- Anapanasati: mindfulness of breathing
- Satipaṭṭhāna: mindfulness in everyday life
- Samprajaña, apramāda: “clear comprehension” and “vigilance”, from Theravada Buddhism.
Practising these different types of mindfulness will help us to become enlightened.
It’s really easy for beginners to get started with mindfulness meditation!
One of the best things about mindfulness meditation for beginners is that it doesn’t require anything more than a little effort.
You don’t need to buy anything either. You don’t need a meditation chair, mala, mindfulness app, or anything else, although many people do enjoy using guided mindfulness meditation videos. You just need to focus your mind on the present moment.
Yes, all you need to do is focus on the present moment.
When you focus on the present moment, you will begin to feel inner peace and calmness, and you will experience fewer negative thoughts and emotions.
Beginners can practice mindfulness both through meditation and by generally being more aware.
As Steven F.Hick stated, mindfulness practice is best when used both formally and informally. In other words, practice proper meditation, and also generally live in the moment.
Benefits of mindfulness meditation for beginners
It is important to note that although there are scientifically proven benefits of mindfulness, it is best to have no goal in mind when practising.
When you’re getting started with mindfulness, expect nothing. Benefits will happen, but the more you let go of expectations, the more you will get out of it.
Unlike virtually all other forms of therapy, there is no goal with mindfulness. It’s just about being present. Although some people use mindfulness for stress, anxiety, depression and other issues, there ideally should be no set goal of mindfulness.
That said, there are significant benefits of mindfulness meditation. Some of those benefits are spiritual, like attaining enlightenment (nibbana), and some are health-related.
Science and Applications of Mindfulness Meditation
Scientific research has found a direct relationship between Trait Mindfulness and mental health (Trait Mindfulness is the quality of being mindful, as opposed to State Mindfulness, which is a meditation technique).
There are many benefits of mindfulness in therapy and for psychiatric disorders, as well as for general health.
One of the most popular reasons people practise mindfulness is that it reduces rumination and worry.
However, there are physical health benefits of mindfulness too. Mindfulness leads to stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system and regulation of the sympathetic nervous system, along with reduction of the stress hormones cortisol, norepinephrine, and adrenalin, reduced activity in the default mode network, improvements in the immune system, and reduced inflammation.
Basically, it is very good for mental health.
Because of the many benefits of mindfulness meditation, it is now widely used in psychotherapy and general health.
Some of the different forms of mindful therapy include:
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (clinical behaviour analysis used in psychotherapy)
- Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (used mostly for depression)
- Mindfulness-Based Pain Management (for living with chronic pain and illness)
- Dialectical Behavioural Therapy: psychosocial treatment created by Marsha M. Linehan for treating Borderline Personality Disorder
- Mode Deactivation Therapy: For teens with behavioural problems.
- Morita Therapy: for accepting and letting go
- Adaption Practice: For self-discipline
- Hakomi Therapy: A somatic psychotherapy
As well as these therapy settings, there has also been significant development in the use of mindfulness in school, such as through the Mindful Kids Miami organization, The Inner Kids Program, MindUP, the Holistic Life Foundation, and the Mindful Life Project.
Meanwhile, big developments are helping in the use of mindfulness for business. Google, Apple, General Mills, the U.S. Army and Procter & Gamble have all started introducing mindfulness in business settings, as so are government organisations.
Measuring your mindfulness
You might wonder how mindful you are. And indeed, there are different ways to measure your mindfulness.:
- Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS)
- Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI)
- Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS)
- Cognitive and Affective Mindfulness Scale (CAMS)
- Mindfulness Questionnaire (MQ)
Clearly, there are big benefits of mindfulness meditation! So how do you do it?
2 Exercises In Mindfulness Meditation For Beginners
When you’re just getting started with mindfulness as a beginner you might wonder just what the heck the practice actually is. It is basically living in the present moment.
When we talk about being mindful we mean living in the present moment non-judgmentally. It is about perceiving things as they are. That is the core principle for beginners to understand.
So let’s think about what it means.
Most of the time, we are stuck in our heads, lost in thoughts. And we tend to think of those thoughts are real. We don’t see things for what they are; we see our delusional perception of reality.
Mindfulness is the opposite. When we are being mindful, we are focusing on the thing that we are doing at any given time. For instance, when being mindful of the breath, we are focusing solely on the breath. And if we do think thoughts, we remind ourselves that it is just a thought and not reality. When you’re getting started, simply focus on the present moment.
GreaterGood explains that it is about “Maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.”
So what it means is this: focusing on the present moment and having a clear perception of reality.
There are many ways we can do this, including:
- Exercises like yoga
- Breathing techniques
- Meditation [beginners guide below]
- Conscious eating
To start, let me teach you a mindfulness meditation for beginners. This will help you to live in the present moment and to let go of unwanted thoughts.
Beginners Mindfulness Meditation Script 1
Before you start this technique, you will want to read my article on meditating properly for beginners.
Once you’ve read that guide, follow the instructions below.
1: Close your eyes. Do not cram your eyes together. Make sure your eyes are very relaxed and that they are at rest. They should be gently closed.
2: Breathe through your nose. You might like to take a few deep breaths just to relax. Then allow your breathing to come naturally and to be gentle and smooth.
3: Focus on your breath coming through your nose. Begin to observe the sensations of your breath moving through your nose. As a beginner, it may be a challenge at first. That’s fine. Don’t get frustrated if your mind wanders. Just gently return your focus to the breath.
4: Count to 108 breaths. 108 is a sacred number. We usually take this number of breaths when we meditate. You might feel rushed to get to the end. That’s normal. Remind yourself that your idea of rushing is just a thought, and any feelings are just feelings. Then continue to focus.
When you’re just getting into it, you might struggle to get to 108 breaths. You might get distracted. That’s normal for a novice. Don’t be frustrated; be glad that you started mindfulness. Next time you will make it to 108 breaths.
Beginners Mindfulness Meditation Script 2
Above I shared an easy mindfulness meditation technique for beginners. Now it’s time for the proper Buddhist technique. Beginners can do this too. Just go slowly. And if you would like to learn more, read my guide to Buddhist meditations.
Here’s the script.
1: Sit comfortably with good posture. You can sit on a special cushion, on the floor, park bench, wherever you like. Just make sure you’re comfortable.
2: Place your upper arms parallel to your upper body. Let your wrists drop so that your hands are placed gently on your lap. You can choose to adopt one of the meditation mudras if you like. What matters is that you are comfortable.
3: Drop your chin and let your gaze drift softly downwards.
4: Your eyes: You can choose to have your eyes open, to let your eyelids drop so your eyes are partially closed (three quarters closed is good,) or to completely close your eyes.
5: Relax for a few minutes.
6: Focus on your breathing. There are lots of different types of breathing meditations. The best is to simply focus on your breath moving through your nose This will help you to relax.
7: Focus your mind on your breathing. Pay particular attention to how your breath flows between your lips and through your nose.
8: At times, you will notice that your mind wanders. This is inevitable. When this happens, simply relax and gently bring your focus back to your breathing. When thoughts arise, accept them. Do not try to obstruct them and do not judge them. Just observe them and let them come and go.
9: When you feel that you need to move, or you get an itch, take a moment just to sit still. Then consciously decide to move. It’s important that you consciously decide to move as this will train your mind to be inwardly still.
10: Ending: At the end of your practice, open your eyes and lift your gaze. Sit still and be consciously aware of the sounds around you. Notice any feelings in your body. Notice any thoughts. Take a moment and consciously decide to carry on with your day.
If you want to take your practice further and develop the habit, Mindful recommends getting a buddy to practice with.
How To Continue Learning Mindfulness Meditation
If you tried the beginner’s mindfulness meditation scripts above, you’ve already started to relax, and you might wonder how to continue. Do you want to go further? If so, here are the best books for 2020. Alternatively, you might like to learn from a CD or DVD.
One thing I recommend when you’re starting is to use some reminders. A famous quote says, “Mindfulness is easy. Remembering is the hard part”.
Forgetting to be mindful is the beginner’s biggest problem. You will probably find you lose focus quickly. You get distracted. Thankfully it gets better with practice. But even then: your focus varies day by day.
Have you ever experienced days when you were living in your mind? Days when you weren’t paying attention to what was happening around you? At those times, you might say you were mindless. You were ignoring reality and focusing only on your thoughts. Did you notice how you started to feel negative / sad/ anxious / stressed at those times?
When you are mindless, you are much more likely to experience negative emotions. That’s why the practice is so valuable because it trains us to live in the present moment.
Using apps and reminders will help you to remember to practice and to stay mindful throughout the day. Make sure you find opportunities in your day to practice. For instance, by being mindful at work.
Mindfulness video by Sauna Sapiro at TedX
Explanation of the practice by University of California, Berkley.
Benefits of the method by the American Psychological Association.