There are a number of suitable meditation techniques for beginners and then there are more advanced meditation practices. Some of the simpler techniques are to meditate on the breath, on an object, use a sound or music as the focus of the meditation, listen to a guided meditation, or to repeat a word or phrase or chant.
Meditation was once seen as something strange, but now it is much more acceptable. Studies have been done and it is now recognised that it has many benefits, including relieving stress and anxiety, and better concentration and focus.
Getting ready to meditate
If meditating at home, you need to choose a suitable place to meditate where you will be uninterrupted, and comfortable. You may want to use scented candles, or essential oils in an oil burner to create a relaxing atmosphere.
The most popular posture recommended for meditation is sitting cross legged on the floor. If you find that difficult, you can use a meditation cushion. If you find getting down onto the floor is too hard, then you could meditate sitting on a chair. Lying down to meditate is not recommended as you may get too comfortable and fall asleep, which is not what you want to achieve. Keep the spine straight no matter what the position you choose. Relax the neck and shoulders, place the hands loosely in your lap, so that your arms are relaxed. If sitting in a chair, the feet should be flat on the floor.
How often and for how long to meditate
Aim to establish a regular routine for meditation. You can begin by introducing a practice of only ten minutes a day to start off. It is better to do a regular shorter session, than to do gigantic bursts of sixty minutes at a time, done only every few weeks or months. Meditation done regularly will reap the most benefits. If ten minutes is not attainable, try beginning with 2 or 3 minutes, increasing by another minute every couple of days until you are comfortable with a session of ten to twenty minutes.
There are different approaches to meditation. Some tell you to be very strict about place and time, and how long to meditate. Some recommend at least 30 minutes or even one hour every day. I believe in not being too hard upon yourself, especially in the early stages. By making the goal too big and unrealistic, you have more chance of failing to achieve your goal. You can gain success starting with a smaller goal and slowly building upon it.
Sit comfortably in your meditation position. As the attention wanders, and it usually will, then gently bring you attention back to the focus of your meditation. Remember, there is no place for self-recrimination in your meditation session.
Different types of meditation techniques
Meditation on the breath
This is suitable for beginners because of the simplicity of the technique. Nothing is needed except you; you need no props or external objects. It involves breathing gently through your nose and being aware of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils.
Meditation on an object
In this meditation the technique is to place an object in front of you and to focus on it. The object could be a beautiful ornament, or picture. You could use a mandala poster (mandala is a particular type of picture that is used for meditation). A favourite object to use in this type of meditation is a candle, using the flame to focus on.
Meditation on a sound
You can choose a word or phrase, something positive or uplifting. It may be Peace, or Love. Repeat it slowly, either out loud or silently in your mind, for the duration of your meditation time. The Om sound is often used. Another phrase to use is So Hum, which means That I Am. Repeat So on the in breath, and Hum on the out breath. You may like to use a Meditation CD of these sounds.
Visualisation is often practiced when doing Yoga, either in a class, or using a CD or DVD. A visualisation meditation involves beginning with meditation on the breath, and then visualising a positive scene, or positive feelings. A simple visualisation is to visualise feeling positive as you breathe in, and as you breathe out, visualise negative feelings and tension leaving your body.
Meditation to music
There are many CDs available that feature music for meditation and relaxation. You can use them in your meditation practice as a focus. As they go for a specific period of time, it makes timing your meditation session easier. The aim is as for any meditation, to quieten the mind, and slow it down.
These are meditations where you listen to a commentary that takes you through a meditation. The verbal instruction will usually talk you through the process of relaxing the body, and may involve visualisation of a scene or of a journey.
The techniques presented here can be practised at home. You could also find a meditation course or class to help you as you begin. In a class, you have a teacher to guide you and to answer questions. Attending a weekly class may help motivate you as you build a regular practice into your life.
As you practice meditation, you will begin to get the hang of getting still and slowing down the mind. “Anytime Meditation” is useful at any time in the day that you can take one or two or three minutes out. We live in a fast paced world, and it is easy to get caught up in the whirl and hype of what is going on around us. It may be that there are many demands placed upon us in our jobs. Our performance and productivity may be constantly monitored. Or we may be raising children, and constantly taking care of their needs and feel that we do not have a moment to ourselves. This “Anytime meditation” can really help in those situations. It can also help to quieten our racing thoughts, and to calm anxiety in a stressful situation – if we have to attend an important meeting or interview, give a talk or presentation, or face a deadline.
It is preferable to close your eyes, but this may not be possible, depending where you are.
Breathe in through your nose, then exhale slowly. As you breathe out, let the tension drain out of your body and your mind.
Call up the feeling of calm that you have experienced in your regular meditation sessions.
As soon as your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the breath.
Continue for between one and three minutes.
After doing this I feel grounded, and more aware of myself in my surroundings, rather than caught up in the hype around me. It reduces my feelings of stress and anxiety.
More advanced meditation practice
After you having been meditating for a while you may want to try some more advanced techniques such as mindfulness meditation, walking meditation, chakra meditation, and Vipassana meditation. You may consider attending a meditation retreat – these can go for a weekend or longer, some go for ten days.
Meditation can be simple and can be fitted into your life in short sessions if need be, and you will get better at it just by doing it. Benefits can usually be seen after just one session. Be gentle with yourself when doing your meditation, let each session be what it is, with no judgement about how it went. Meditation can be so beneficial to your health and wellbeing that you don’t want to create obstacles to it by being competitive and stressing to be better at it.
You can try any number of these meditation techniques for beginners – you may find you get more benefit from one than another, or different results from different techniques.