Learning to Meditate: An Instructional Guide for Beginners
Meditation is the cornerstone for many religions (like Wicca) and magical practices. For many, the biggest obstacle to developing a good meditation regime and to begin reaping the benefits of it can simply be getting started. Modern culture constantly inundates us with stimuli in the form of electronic entertainment and distracting gadgets. We are always overcommitting ourselves with more ways to waste time than we can count. It takes time and practice to re-train yourself to still your mind and to create a sense of inner calm. A poor understanding of what meditation is further complicates attempts to practice it.
Meditation helps us cultivate a state of mind conducive to ritual, spiritual experiences, psychic development and magical workings. It really is a lot simpler than most beginners think. Here is a brief guide to help you get started.
Learning to Meditate
What Not to Do While Meditating
Sometimes the best place to start when teaching someone something new is to explain what not to do. Remember the following when you attempt to meditate:
- Do not get too comfortable. Meditation is meant to put you in a relaxed state of awareness, but you're not trying to get so relaxed that you fall asleep.
- Avoid trying to clear your mind. That's right, I said don't try to clear your mind. Sadly, this common misconception is thrown about in spiritual circles, and it's the very thing that trips up so many beginners. Trying to force your mind to do anything (even to banish thoughts) during meditation is the antithesis to what meditation is supposed to be.
- Try not to expect major cathartic events like visions, visitations, astral projection and the like. Sure, they're things you might work up to and occasionally experience, but really, that's not what daily meditation sessions are supposed to be about. Putting that kind of performance pressure on yourself is really going to get in the way of your efforts.
Recommended Meditation Book:
This book offers simply instructions to help you get started in meditation.
What to Do While Meditating
Along with the caveats, there are a few measures you can take to ensure your efforts are successful. To get started meditating you should:
- Set aside a place that is calm and quiet. Make it a space away from the hustle and bustle of the household. Steer clear from windows that face noisy traffic, playing children, or barking dogs. It should be a place where you can go undisturbed for up to 30 minutes at a time with a comfortable place to sit.
- Plan to meditate regularly. You'll get the most out of it if you keep up with a consistent routine. You don't have to start out big—just 5 to 15 minutes each day will suffice. You can increase your sessions incrementally as you start to get into the habit, but at the most you won't need more than 15 to 30 minutes on any given day.
This Is Your Mind on Meditation
A Basic How-To Meditate Guide:
- Stretch: Do this for a couple of minutes. Stretching will help release some tension, allow you to relax more easily and will also prepare you for the time about to be spent sitting still.
- Get into a fairly comfortable position: Unless you're planning to fall alseep, it's best to sit up with your spine straight. Let yourself sink into the position so you're not forcing yourself to sit rigidly. You can cross your legs if you're on the floor, or you can put your feet flat on the floor if you're sitting on a chair. Lay your hands on your lap.
- Close your eyes: Visual distractions can be overstimulating and can get in the way of your concentration.
- Take a deep, cleansing breath: Breathe in through your nose slowly and deeply (without straining), then let it out through your mouth even more slowly and completely. Do this once or twice before allowing your breath to just fall into a normal, natural rhythm.
- Find something to root your consciousness into the moment: This might be your breath or your center spot behind your navel deep inside. If you're using soft music, you can focus on that. This root essentially keeps you grounded in the moment. Don't force concentration on it—simply allow yourself to be aware of it instead.
- Let your thoughts and feelings drift by: It is okay to observe and be curious about your thoughts, but try to remain detached from them. For example, if your mind starts racing with the idea of what you need to do before dinner or with the anger you felt after arguing with your spouse, don't become tense. Just observe with an attitude of, "Hmmm . . . look at that."
- Return your awareness to your root: Let your thoughts and emotions drift by. Don't engage them or let them carry you away. If you have trouble letting them go, pull a Scarlet O'Hara and tell yourself, "I can't think about that today; I'll think about that tomorrow." Return your awareness to your root.
- Treat any distractions the same was as you would thoughts and emotions: Treat a dog barking or someone in the house dropping something the same way as you would your thoughts and emotions. Note them, and let them drift on by. Think of all these things as though you are rooted in the earth, and they are clouds in the sky on a breezy day—acknowledge them if you must but let them just drift past you.
- Take a couple more cleansing breaths, and open your eyes: Do this when you are ready. You might even want to stretch again.
Keeping Up the Momentum
Try to meditate for a minimum of 5 minutes, and whenever you reach your goal try to increase it by a minute or two until you can go for at least 15 minutes. You may have to remind yourself a few times to get into the habit, but you'll start looking forward to the sessions after awhile and may start doing two sessions a day. Meditation is an excellent way of making you feel refreshed, calm and de-stressed.
Meditation is a practice that many people keep for the duration of their lives. It really is all you need. However, if and when you feel ready, you can move on to other techniques and more advanced methods.
Some people don't do as well with voice-guided meditation. Fortunately, the right sounds can tap into those parts of your brain that you want to activate, and lull those parts you want to relax.
© 2013 Mackenzie Sage Wright