How to Start a Meditation Practice for Beginners
I used to hate learning how to do something before I completely understood WHY it mattered. That was not my path to meditation. I didn't understand why meditation mattered or how it really helped me live a better life until years after I knew what meditation was.
I pretty much grew up with it. As a kid I had posters of affirmations on my bedroom wall. My dad played Joseph Murphy and Roy Masters tapes and I grew up in an extremely musical household (in my opinion, one of the best kinds of meditation). I would have long, illuminating conversations with my dad and one uncle in particular who both talked about the power of getting quiet, going within, trusting in the unknown, tapping into our awareness, and understanding that we are so much more than our physicality.
Little by little, over the years I dug deeper into meditation. I always found that I was much more clear and much more focused when I was practicing meditation than when I wasn’t. Things just seemed to work out well when I was consistent with my practice. Tests felt effortless. Presentations were a breeze. Important conversations seemed to click into place. But although I’m writing about how meditation has really been a source of stability and peace in my life, I haven’t always been consistent. It took me a long time to make the connection between the ease I'd experienced in certain situations and meditation. It took me years to discover what purpose meditation truly served in my life.
Initially I thought meditation was a really relaxing thing to do in the moment, but then I’d open my eyes and return to regular life wondering how I was going to get through the next frustrating thing that showed up. It took me years to realize the interconnectedness of it all - that it’s all a meditation - the minutes you’re sitting in silence, the moments when you’re working on a short story or a song, the times you’re in swimming in the ocean, and when you’re thinking about how to get through the conflict you’re having with a family member or friend. I had to learn that the energy and awareness I cultivate in meditation is with me at all times, in all situations.
And for me, that’s the beauty of the practice… it prepares us for everything.
It gives us the gift of our true selves over and over again. It opens our minds and our hearts to be ready to let go of the prescriptiveness of society and instead, teaches us how to simply exist. How to breathe. How to trust. How to surrender. How to find peace.
There are so many ways to meditate - so many schools of thought, so many teachers and practitioners. Because of this, I've developed a no boundaries approach to meditation. I love all types of practices. I find truth and peace and a sense of self in so many of the approaches. I’m not here to say that one is better than another. I’m not here to say that one is right and another is wrong.
All I know is that everyone's path to and through meditation is different, and that's what is so amazing about the practice: you can reap the benefits of it without having to adhere to any strict, rigid standards.
What I’ve come to know is that each approach fits what I need at a different point in my life for a different reason.
Sometimes I needed stillness and silence and to focus on the circulation of my breath. Sometimes I needed guided meditations with themes and mantras. Sometimes I needed binaural beats to help me elevate my vibration and feel rejuvenated. Sometimes I needed yoga and a really long time in savasana. I watched Eat Pray Love and decided I, too would meditate by sitting and smiling with my face, my mind, and even with my liver. I read Thich Nhat Hanh and began practicing walking meditations. I remember I went an entire semester practicing walking meditations all across campus. I wish I could remember why I stopped. I practiced mindfulness when I could remember to be mindful.
Eventually I began practicing mindfulness and meditation in order to find space and contentment where there was little acceptance in the outside world. I had been in so many situations where I simply wasn’t enough, in school, in social circles, in jobs, in relationships, in everything. And meditation was the only space where I knew how to exist as myself without have to filter what anyone else thought about me. And if I began judging myself in meditation? I didn’t have to accept it or analyze it. I could let that thought go and return to breathing, return to living.
And that was how my process evolved, changed, grew over time.
Every time I go through a moment of self-doubt or a challenge that I have no clue how to overcome, I come back to the trust that meditation has taught me. I've realized how much of an anchor meditation has been for me. How powerful giving myself kind awareness has been. How much I need to LIVE meditation - a life always in the now, always present, always awake. How much of a reprieve practicing this way of life has given me. To let go of conditioning and allow my life to unfold no matter what the outcome…
So I’ve committed - like someone would commit to a vocation or to raising a child… I’ve committed to doing the things that bring me back to myself, the things that make me feel excited to be alive. The things that can be so easy to give up on if I allow it… Meditation. Yoga. Writing. Researching. Talking to you guys. This blog. I've committed. No going back. No giving up.
Here are some tips that I’ve used in the past (and will continue to use) that will help you learn how to start meditating and stay consistent with your practice.
1. Decide which type of meditation you want to try.
And then accept that there is no “right” way. Give yourself permission to experiment, research, and practice in a way that works for you. Feel free to try different kinds of meditation until you find one that feels good, one that’s a great fit - one that helps you feel present and attentive.
2. Try not to worry too much about accessories and fancy meditation gadgets in the beginning.
If it’s distracting you or outright stopping you from beginning, don’t worry too much about the extras. They aren’t mandatory. They might prove to be a nice addition to your practice over time, but you can definitely meditate without them. Plus, once you get started with your practice you’ll have a better sense of whether you need a particular cushion or bell or male beads.
3. Make a schedule and stick to it.
Don’t judge the schedule. And don’t argue with the schedule. Don’t try to impress yourself or anyone else with your schedule. It isn’t important for other people to know that you wake up 15 minutes earlier every morning so that you can meditate. Your practice isn’t for them, it’s for you!
If you feel like adding meditation to your schedule in the morning is too much for you, it might be a good idea to begin accepting meditation as a way of life instead of another activity to add. Begin by practicing pure awareness - being more attentive to the entirety of each breath you take, each step you take, each movement while you’re brushing your teeth. Every time your mind wanders away from your current activity, bring it back without judgment or accusation. If you don’t have time to add a distinct 5-15 minute practice to your morning routine, dedicate a morning activity to kind awareness - paying complete attention to that moment with joy in your heart. And then commit every morning.
4. Put the meditation first.
No matter what your experience is with meditation during your first couple of weeks or months, try not to let your judgments of your experience cloud your mind. Give yourself time to settle into your practice. Continue showing up even if you begin to think meditation might not be for you. Let those thoughts pass, and just bring awareness to the fact that thoughts are occurring.
Trust that the thoughts you think might not be true and return the mind to your breath. If you’re getting distracted by researching and investigating, obsessing over the hows and whys, continue to put the practice first and over time you’ll discover the details and benefits of meditation for yourself.
5. Find a meditation buddy.
Accountability works for many people, especially when they’re beginning a new routine. Grab a buddy and check in with each other on a daily or weekly basis. Talk about how your practice has been going, what challenges you’ve encountered, and if you’ve been consistent or not. Having support for new habits (especially solitary ones) brings a new level of fun to the activity and can help us keep the promises we’ve made to ourselves.
I check in with my VIP Meditate & Wonder community weekly with tips and quick chats about bringing more meditation and wonder into our lives. So if you’re looking for a meditation buddy, the VIP community is a great place to start! If you haven’t already joined and gotten your M&W freebies, sign up below. Can’t wait to see you inside.