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Meditation for beginners

Most first-time meditators find it strange to sit in silence, to sit with their innermost thoughts and feelings, to sit and do nothing — the very things that, funnily enough, the mind tends to resist. To a beginner, #meditation might initially feel a little alien, perhaps even daunting, but that’s okay. People have been meditating for around 3,000 years, and many have doubtless experienced the same reticence, trepidation, or wonder that first-time meditators often feel.

Maybe you want to start meditating because you want to be less reactive, feel less stressed, orbe more focused. Maybe meditating is part of a wider personal development plan of some kind. Or maybe you’re looking to improve your relationships with those around you. Whatever the reason, training the mind through meditation is training in awareness, and training in awareness offers the potential to fundamentally transform your perspective on life.

Our entire existence is experienced through our minds, and our perspective on life can dramatically alter once we begin meditating. Being inspired to start meditating is very different from actually doing it, however, and you’ll only feel the benefits of meditation by beginning and maintaining a regular practice. In order to get meditation, you need to do meditation. In order to calm your mind, you need to begin by sitting with its untamed nature.

Meditation is simple to learn and involves some fairly straightforward techniques. Before getting started, let’s take care of a few practicalities and answer some everyday questions.

The experience of meditation

When you close your eyes and follow the instructions of your first guided meditation (whether in-person or via a recording), you should expect your mind to be busy, easily distracted, and restless, if not more so. Just because you’ve chosen to sit and meditate doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly experience uninterrupted calm, in the same way you’d never expect to tame a wild horse overnight.

The process of meditating is straightforward and easy: simply sit and practice. All you have to do is close your eyes, stay focused on your breathing, and let your mind do its thing. This is the one skill where you don’t have to strive to achieve something — just a place of stillness where no effort is required.

There is no such thing as a good or bad meditation. There is only awareness or non-awareness. The moment you realize you’re lost in thought, that’s awareness, and that’s when you return to the object of focus (usually the breath). This is all you have to keep doing — return from your distracted thought to the breath, all the time honing your awareness. With perseverance, the periods between awareness and distraction will get longer and longer.

Before starting, it’s good to familiarize yourself with how the mind works and what to expect of it when you sit down to meditate. A good introduction is this short animation that uses the experience of sitting by the road watching traffic to explain how meditation helps change your perspective on your thoughts or feelings by teaching you to observe and let them go without getting caught up in them.

Changing Perspective

Meditation doesn’t promise to solve your problems, and there’s no guarantee of everlasting happiness. Life, with all its challenges and uncertainty, will still happen. What meditation can do is change how you choose to relate to, react to, and view the circumstances happening around you. It offers a pocket of stillness amid all the outer chaos. With a consistent practice — and with a certain amount of open mindedness and a willingness to investigate — the change it brings about is gradual, subtle, and intangible yet profound. It involves a growing sense of awareness and understanding that can ultimately change the way you feel about both yourself and others.


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