We get it. Meditation can seem incredibly intimidating. However, truth is, it’s actually a lot easier than you probably think. (No really!) And the little effort that it does take is really worth it. After all, as someone wise once said, if you’re going to spend most of your time inside your head, you might as well make sure it’s a nice place to be.
Meditation can help you become more self-aware, and more in tune with your own emotions and thought patterns, so you can actually be in control of your mind, versus just blindly going on auto pilot. Meditation can help you become more calm, focused, attentive, and happy, as well as less stressed and anxious.
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get to know yourself better and become more in control over your day-to-day thoughts and feelings, meditation may be just what you're looking for.
So here’s how to get started (the easy way!).
5 Tips for Getting Started with Meditation
1. Find Your Guide
First up, you’re going to need a guide. This doesn’t mean that you’ll need to pay to attend some fancy, in-person meditation class, or that you need to travel to some far-flung country to find a meditation master. It just means that you’ll need a little help along the way. Many beginners — and even experts, for that matter — feel more comfortable when meditating with a guide.
There are a variety of guided meditation apps out there, some examples of the most popular ones are Headspace and Calm. However a more affordable option, well-suited to those who find that the pre-mentioned apps can cause a bit of overwhelm, is Flow Meditation.
Flow sets itself apart from providers like Headspace and Calm by allowing you to keep your eyes open as you watch footage of scenery from Iceland while listening to a guided meditation session. Even if you choose to meditate without a guide, the Flow app still allows you to enjoy the scenery, plus music or nature sounds. With Flow you can take a break in nature, with or without guided meditation.
And remember: a lot of beginners need to try a variety of options, to find the guided (or unguided) meditation that works for them.
2. Set Your Intentions
What exactly does it mean to “set your intentions”? It can sound a little complex and abstract, but it’s not really that complicated of a process. Basically, setting your intentions just means to become mentally focused on what you want or desire, and then becoming mentally receptive to the universe providing you with that want or desire. One way that many practitioners become more open to their intentions and the universe is via meditation.
If you like the idea of becoming one with your intentions and using meditation to help you become more focused on your goals, all you have to do is perform a quick check in before you begin meditating. How are you feeling? What’s taking up most of your head space today? What do you want? What are your goals? How do you feel about those wants and goals? Name those feelings and then accept them.
Then, when you’re finished with your meditation sessions, check in again and see how the answers to those questions have changed and how your emotions have evolved. It isn’t always the goal of a meditation session to change your feelings, but to simply make you more aware of them and more receptive to them.
3. Don’t Worry Too Much About the “How”
No, you’re not doing it wrong - stop telling yourself that you are. Meditation isn’t something that’s “right” or “wrong.” It just is. It might take you a little while to become comfortable with meditation, sure — but that doesn’t mean you’re doing anything incorrectly. So, rather than feel guilty about your discomfort, acknowledge it for the emotion it is and then let it go.
Is your mind wandering? No problem. That doesn’t mean that you’re failing meditation either. It just means that you’re human and you’re adjusting to a new practice. Applaud yourself for being aware enough to notice the patterns of your mind and becoming more in tune with your mental patterns. After all, the goal of meditation isn’t always to simply quieten your mind completely, as some might think.
Scared to be alone with your thoughts? Most people are. But don’t think of meditation as being forced to sit with your discomfort as you sift through those uncomfortable thoughts. Think of meditation as an opportunity to examine those thoughts more thoroughly and decide what you want to do with them. Maybe you need to come to terms with some difficult feelings. Maybe you need to more thoroughly explore some feelings and thoughts, to reach greater clarity.
Don’t think you can sit still that long? Again, no problem. A “successful” meditation practice doesn't always include sitting still. In fact, some forms of meditation encourage you to jump around or dance or be active in other ways. There’s no reason to worry about keeping your eyes shut, either. You can look around. You can focus in on one viewpoint. You can observe the beauty in your natural surroundings.
If you don’t feel like your meditation session provided you with some sort of profound revelation, don’t get discouraged. Not every meditation session is going to be profound, just like not every exercise session is going to be invigorating. Putting in effort and trying means progress - just keep going.
4. Be Kind to Yourself
This is not one that’s always easy.
All too often, we’re completely way too hard on ourselves, much harder than we would be on a friend, family member or, likely, even a stranger. If you know that you have a tendency to be hard on yourself, forgo setting any certain expectations regarding your meditation practice. Just meditate when and how you want to, for however long you want, however you want. Don’t make any hard and fast rules about your practice.
Be kind to yourself — the important thing is that you tried and that you put in the effort.
But on that note, you also need to commit a little — just give yourself some grace if you don’t meet your commitment every single time. Maybe you make a very low-stakes, easy commitment.
Maybe you decide to commit to meditating once per week. It doesn’t matter when or where or how, just that you do it. Once you commit to actually doing it, you’ll likely find that sticking to that commitment is easier than you thought.
It’s all about actually getting started in the first place.
What Kind of Meditation Should You Start With?
If you do just a quick search for guided meditation options, you might feel a little overwhelmed by all of the various different options that are available to you. But if you want to start somewhere really simple, try a meditation practice focused on breathing.
Breathing techniques and exercises have been researched for thousands of years, including breathing as related to meditation. Breathing exercises can have incredible benefits for our bodies and minds, calming us, and relieving stress and anxiety (this is why, often, therapists will recommend patients suffering from anxiety to practice breathing exercises).
Flow offers a meditation exercise called “Expand Your Breath” in which you practice controlled breathing. In the meditation you're asked to inhale slowly, in a controlled manner, for a few seconds; then, you hold that breath for a few more seconds; and then you release the breath in a similarly controlled manner, for an additional few seconds. The result is an overall calming effect, and the lowering of your blood pressure. After doing this repeatedly for a few moments, you’ll feel yourself calm down. It’s a great practice for when feeling stressed or anxious.
Just Go For It
So what’s the best way for you to get started with meditation as a beginner? It’s simply to just go for it. There’s no wrong way to meditate and, if you don’t like it, no one's going to force you to do it ever again. If you do like it, though, all you have to do is keep at it. You have very little to lose, and lots of mental and physical benefits to gain.
For more information and to get started right now, visit flow.is or download the Flow app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. You can also download the Flow virtual reality experience via SideQuest or Oculus.