As a meditation teacher, I’ve taught hundreds if not thousands of people how to meditate, all from the comfort of their own home. And I’m delighted to help you too.
In this guide, I’ve included lots of meditation tips and answers to common questions. I’ve also included some excellent meditation scripts and guided sessions so you can start practising mindfulness right away. And last but not least, a guide to furthering your studies with books and courses, so you can continue to learn the art of mindfulness.
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A Simple Meditation For Beginners
When I was getting started with meditation, I was eager to try all diffrrent types of meditation techniques. But that was my mistake. Because it is best, in the beginning, to choose one simple method and to stick to it for a couple of weeks at least.
I always recommend starting with Anapanasati, which is the proper meditative breathing technique. So let me show you how to do that first.
- Sit with good posture. While there are technical positions such as the Tibetan Buddhist Vairocana position and Lotus posture, Anne Cushman (author of Moving Into Meditation) states that no particular posture is required. So, just sit comfortably.
- Close your eyes. I used to make the mistake of holding my eyes too tightly. Dont do that. Just let them be closed lightly.
- Observe your breath moving through your nostrils. You may count breaths if it helps you focus. As you continue deep breathing you will reduce amygdala activity, reduce sympathetic nervous system activity, and promote parasympathetic nervous system activity according to Mladen Golubic, a physician at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine. Basically, you will relax.
- Gradually expand your awareness until you are aware of the entire process of your breath moving around your body, entering your nose, going down your throat, into your abdomen, and then back out.
- When thoughts or feelings occur, calmly observe them, and continue to watch your breath. You might find it helpful to label your thoughts, saying, “This is just a thought” and “This is just a feeling.” This is a traditional practice used in Buddhist Vipassana meditation, which is one of the main methods I teach.
- The goal is casual awareness of the present moment. You should not be trying to change in any way. As Tibetan Buddhist meditation teacher Pema Chodron says, “Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.” So, accept your own mind and its actions. Do not be judgmental of your practice.
- It is normal to notice that your mind is wandering, you’re dwelling on the past, worrying about the future, or daydreaming. Buddhists refer to this as Monkey Mind. Shunryu Suzuki, the author of Zen Mind Beginners Mind, states that a large part of meditation is reducing the monkey mind. If you do find your mind wandering just gently return your focus to your breath.
- Continue focusing on your breath for 108 breaths.
What is meditation?
Meditation is the practice of focusing the mind on one element of the present moment in order to quieten the mind and produce calmness.
Well, that’s what they say. But I’m sorry. They are wrong. So let me tell you. Meditation is deliberately focusing the mind on one or more things to create different psychological effects, of which calmness is just one.
More on that later.
You might have heard about meditation from apps like Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer, or from luminaries such as Jon Kabat Zinn, Sharon Salzberg, and Tara Brach. Or, if you’re into yoga, you might have heard about Dhyana, the method discussed in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali and the Eight Limbs of Yoga
These different people and products describe meditation in slightly different ways. But ultimately, meditation is about two things: Focusing, and seeing things as they truly are.
Meditation is about seeing things as they are
Meditation is about Kensho, which is a Buddhist term meaning to observe the true nature of things.
Sometimes we observe (focus on) the breath, sometimes sounds, and sometimes other objects like a crystal or candle. But whatever we observe, we aim to see the true nature of it. And this is important because a lot of the suffering we humans experience is caused by an inability to see things for what they truly are.
My life has taught me that everything is easier when you see things for what they truly are. Take thoughts for example. I used to get lost in my thoughts and I would think my thoughts were real. That caused me a lot of stress and anxiety. But just by using some beginners meditation exercises I learned to see the truth of thoughts. I learned that thoughts are not real. And that has saved me from a lot of stress.
That’s why the ultimate purpose of meditation is to see things as they truly are.
But mindfulness is a little different to meditation
Many people don’t realise that mindfulness is different to meditation.
Mindfulness is about present moment awareness and there are tons of different mindfulness exercises. On the other hand, meditation is any technique involving deliberately focusing the mind on certain things.
Mindfulness is also a lot more versatile than meditation. Joseph Goldstein [co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society], calls mindfulness “the quality and power of mind that is deeply aware of what’s happening”.
And so, mindfulness is just about being aware.
Meditation teacher Tara Brach says that mindfulness is used to “become mindful throughout all parts of our life. It’s about observing the mind, noticing mind wandering, accepting and observing thoughts and feelings, and paying attention to the moment.”
Tips on Meditating Properly
When learning to meditate properly, follow a few simple rules. Like so…
1: Start with a simple meditation
There are many different ways to meditate. Indeed, Buddhist meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg says, “Meditation is the ultimate mobile device. You can use it anywhere, anytime, unobtrusively”.
Some methods are quite technical. These are not ideal for beginners.
In my experience as a meditation teacher I’ve found that the best meditations for beginners are:
- Mindful breathing
- Repeating a simple mantra like OM
- Candle Gazing (otherwise called Trataka)
Many people like to start with guided meditation. However, research from Harvard Medical School shows that guided meditations aren’t as powerful as traditional techniques.
Here is another simple meditation technique to try.
An Easy Exercise
- Sit somewhere quiet where you will not be disturbed. Sit comfortably with good posture (you do not need to sit with crossed legs if you find this uncomfortable).
- Tell yourself that you are going to be relaxing for the next 20 minutes.
- Take a few deep breaths to relax. If you have tension in your body, stretch gently.
- Begin to breathe. Count the in-breath to a count of five “1, 2, 3, 4, 5…”
- When you reach the end of your inhalation, stop for a count of two
- Now breathe out to a count of five
- Let each breath begin naturally. Do not force it. Just let your breath come and then start counting again.
- Simply focus on the sensation of your breath moving around your body.
- Continue to a total of 108 breaths.
(1.b) But also try some traditional methods
I personally consider the following to be a ideal meditations for newcomers.
- Loving Kindness (Metta Bhavana)
- Vipassana (observing your mind)
- Anapanasati (mindful breathing)
- Guided meditation
- Mantra meditation (meditating on simple sounds)
- Samatha (meditating on any one object)
- Mindful eating
- Jon Kabat Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
- Contemplation meditation
- Trataka (holding your gaze still)
In my lessons I always tell my students that their meditation posture is important. There’s a good reason for that: Your mind and body are one.
Elizabeth Broadbent Ph.D. tells us that bad posture reduces focus and good posture “can make you feel prouder after a success, increase your persistence at an unsolvable task, and make you feel more confident in your thoughts”.
Basically, your body posture affects your mind.
It took me a long time to learn this but trust me, your meditation position is important.
Here is the best meditation position for beginners:
- Sit on a chair
- Place your feet shoulder width apart
- Balance your weight evenly across your sitting muscles
- Make sure your spine is straight but relaxed
- Slightly lower your chin to elongate your neck and spine
When you’re just learning to meditate, you will probably concentrate on the various breath-based methods.
Proper breathing is essential to proper technique. When you meditate correctly, your breath will come from your diaphragm, and it will be relaxed and rooted. Your breath might be quick in the beginning, but it will slow down and deepen as you meditate.
If you breathe slower when meditating, that’s perfect. But I always tell my students not to force it. Just let your breath be and calmly observe it.
As you relax, your breathing will become deep and diaphragmatic, not because you’re focring it, but because you are relaxing.
In my experience one of the biggest meditation mistakes is forcing the breath. Don’t do that.
Make sure you have a proper meditation space at home. This area should be a specially designated spiritual space.
The rules for spaces are:
- Must be peaceful
- Should be quiet
- Should be conducive to relaxation and focus
- Have as few distractions as possible
5: Developing a daily habit
A lot of people ask me how to meditate daily. For beginners, it can be hard to get into the habit.
I recommend that you keep your home meditation practice to a specific time of day. When you know that at 6 AM you’re going to get up, enter your Zen space, and focus on your breath for twenty minutes, you create a habit.
Honestly, it’s not a big commitment. You can get many of the benefits of meditation from just 8 minutes a day according to Richard Davidson [professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and founder of the Center for Healthy Minds].
6: Change your attitude
It is impossible to meditate properly if you have the wrong attitude.
The correct attitude is non-judgmental. To meditate properly, you need to let go of your judgmental mind and accept things as they are—especially yourself.
When you’re not sure how to meditate, you often get distracted during your practice. You think to yourself, “Am I meditating correctly? Is this right? Is that right? etc.” And these unwanted thoughts, ironically, prevent you from meditating. That’s why you should adopt a nonjudgmental attitude and just go with it.
In Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn, says, “With the mindfulness attitude of non-judging, we find a more effective way of handling the stress in our lives.”
7: On Buddhist methods
Buddhist meditation requires more than just mindfulness. In Buddhism, meditative exercises are just one part of a much bigger practice. You also need to understand the philosophy of Buddhism. And you will need discipline and patience. It isn’t a case of “sit down and focus on your breath”. It involves study and gradual development. To learn more I recommend reading some of the works of Pema Chodron.
8: How To Know You Are Meditating Properly
One of the main reasons people take lessons with me is to find out whether they are meditating correctly.
So, how can you check?
Ask yourself if you feel better after your session and if it benefited you for the rest of the day. If you didn’t notice the benefits, you probably are practising the wrong way. In that case, you might like to change to a different method.
Easy Types of Meditation At Home
In this section, we’ll look at simple ways to meditate at home. Try each of them and let me know which one is your favourite.
One of the most straightforward is to meditate in bed. If you do this, check you have good posture. Then proceed with the steps below.
- Bring your awareness to your breath
- Take 25 mindful breaths
- Begin to notice your body and the feeling of lying down
- Let your muscles relax and let the bed take your weight.
- From here, you can either continue with a traditional technique or listen to some relaxing music.
I do not recommend meditating in bed all the time because you will not focus as much as you do when sitting up. But I myself have had those days when I just want to lie down and relax. And at those times, I let myself meditate in bed.
In The Shower
This is a method I learned from Shauna Shapiro, Ph.D [Professor of Psychology at Santa Clara University].
- Start by getting the water to the right temperature.
- Make sure you’re standing tall and relaxed with good posture.
- Now begin to focus on the sound of the water coming out of the shower.
- Feel the shower water on the crown of your head and bring your awareness to that sensation.
- Move your awareness down your body, feeling the water cleaning you.
- Now focus on the steam from the water as it enters your mouth.
- Feel the steam moving into you and cleaning you from the inside.
- Continue to be mindful as you clean your body. Observe the feelings and the fragrances.
- Now take ten mindful breaths and say, “My mind and body are pure”.
In The Bath
Writing for VeryWell Mind, Elizabeth Scott, MS says, “Bath meditation combines the standard benefits of meditation with the benefits of a relaxing, hot bath, which can soothe tired muscles”.
- Get in the tub
- Let your body relax and make sure your head and neck are supported.
- Make sure you’re not putting your mouth below water level. No one’s drowning on my watch!
- Take twenty-five mindful breaths to relax.
- Now feel the warmth of the water around your body. Feel how your body relaxes in the water.
- Focus on the sensation of the water meeting your body, like one soft energy bubble cocooning you.
- Now slowly begin to clean your body with the soap.
- As you move your hand and the soap around your body, be mindful of the areas you touch. Ask those areas to relax
- Once you have finished, say the mantra “My mind and body are pure”.
In The Garden
Try some of these exercises:
- Create a Zen garden
- Try five-senses methods (focus on the scents, sights, and other sensory information in the garden)
- Do a slow and relaxing Zen Walk around the garden
- Pick your favourite flower and meditate on it
5 Ways To Learn Meditation At Home
1: Our free beginner’s meditation guide
My passion here on THE DAILY MEDITATION is to teach people to meditate correctly. That’s why I have created a massive guide showing you the top 31 ways to meditate.
It contains tons of information on all the different techniques.
It’s crucial that you find a teacher who is right for you. Otherwise, they will teach you inappropriately.
We all have individual styles of teaching that we like. And we all have our own beliefs. Some teachers are amiable and teach simple techniques. Others are more serious, religious types who will teach you not only about the techniques but the philosophy too.
My own style of teaching is all about acceptance, non-judgment, compassion, and helping people to heal.
There are lots of great books on meditation. I recommend the folowing authors:
- Jon Kabat Zinn
- Thich Nhat Hanh
- Shunryu Suzuki
- Sharon Salzberg
- Dan Harris
- Pema Chodron
- Jack Kornfield
If you dont want to do meditation at home, try a retreat. Some of the best meditation retreats for beginners include:
- Esalen Institute, Big Sur, California
- Bali Silent Retreat in Mount Batukaru
- Shambhala Mountain Center, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado
- Simple Peace Hermitage, Assisi, Italy
5: Online Courses
Some of the best online meditation courses include:
- The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Mindful Awareness Research Center, which has podcasts, an app, and courses.
- The University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego), the Sanford Institute, and the Compassion Institute
- Vipassana Fellowship Meditation Course
- Mindfulness Program at the University of Toronto: School of Continuing Studies
There are tons of meditation apps available. They include Buddhify, headspace, Insight Timer, Calm, Synctuition, Breethe, and Sattva.
But a word of warning. Meditation apps are overrated. They are popular because they are easy and cheap. But they don’t provide proper tuition like a course or an online meditation class does. They’re a fun way to start meditating, but that’s about it.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation is beneficial to most areas of our life. Yes, it helps with health and particularly mental health, but it also helps with happiness, social life, work, even relationships.
When you start meditating, you can expect to see the following benefits quite quickly:
- Stress reduction
- Anxiety reduction
- Relief from depression
There are very few known side effects of meditation, although people with epilespy should consult a healthcare professional before starting, and some have reported worsening symptoms of anxiety and depression after meditating.
Where can I meditate at home?
You have already chosen to practice meditation at home, but where exactly? Some atmospheres are more conducive to inner peace than others. A room with a water feature, for instance, is a good choice. Or how about in the garden?
I’m struggling to find the time…?
Try practising for ten minutes one hour before bed and try some mindfulness while doing housework (so you can meditate while still getting things done).
I want to practice with my children. Any advice?
Meditating with children is a great idea, but be sure to pick the right kind of meditation. Simple techniques like mindful breathing are the best option.
I can’t find a quiet spot…?
If noise is a problem, there are a few solutions. You could play meditation music to cover the noise. You could go for a Zen walk. Or you could look for an alternative place to practise.
I find it hard to focus. Any advice?
Almost all beginners find it hard to focus when meditating. This is natural. Don’t worry. Keep trying, and you will naturally develop focus over time. Try counting your breaths to help you focus, or recite a simple mantra, such as OM.
Should I find a teacher or school before beginning?
This is entirely up to you. It certainly isn’t necessary. The practice is safe and relatively easy. That said, the knowledge a teacher or school can offer is valuable. It depends on how much you want to get out of your practice and how much you are willing to invest.
I’ve been practising for a few weeks but haven’t seen much benefit…?
Try changing technique. If you’ve been using seated methods, try standing or moving. If you’ve been doing mindfulness, try mantras etc.
Is it okay to practice in bed?
Practising in bed is okay but not ideal. The reason it is not ideal is that you want to meditate while you have energy. If you’re tired when you start, you’re likely to drift off.
Do I need any specific items?
There are many meditation items and tools available, such as Hindu japa malas, Christian rosaries, meditation chairs, mindfulness apps, singing bowls, and crystals, but you do not actually need any of these items.
Now you know how to meditate, you’re going to find life so much more relaxing. You can cut out the stress and the noise and find some good old fashioned you time.
I hope you found this guide helpful. To get the most out of meditation, book an online meditation lesson or corporate meditation class with me today.
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison