Eight Tips for the Meditation Beginner

1. Successful meditation will require a clean mind and body. Be sure to abstain from alcohol and any non-prescription drugs for at least 24 hours beforehand. Drugs and alcohol will muddy your mind, and you want your mind to be alert and aware. Wait a few hours following a large meal. Your body’s digestive processes can be a serious distraction as you attempt to relax. Finally, if you ingest caffeine or smoke cigarettes, wait about an hour after doing so to begin your meditation session. Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants that can create restlessness in both your body and your mind that would impede your meditation efforts.

2. Make sure you make the time. Turn your phone to silent and let anyone else in your home know you are not to be disturbed during your meditation time. Schedule your meditation as though it is an appointment you have with yourself, even writing it in your calendar if that will help you stick to it. Meditating at the same time each day will help you quickly make a habit of it.

3. Your environment matters. Choose a quiet place where you feel safe and comfortable and where you will not be disturbed. You do not need to contort your body into advanced yoga positions in order to meditate successfully, but you do need to be comfortable enough that you are not distracted by aches, pains, and discomfort.

4. Meditation begins by relaxing your body. Adjust your posture so you are sitting up straight, then gradually stretch and relax every part of your body. Flex your toes, feet, and calves. Stretch your arms and flex your hands and fingers. Gently roll your neck side to side. Shift your position if you need to in order to be comfortable. Focus on relaxing any sore or tight muscles. Once you are relaxed and comfortable, your mind will be ready to begin the process of meditation, free of any external distractions from your body.

5. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply and deliberately, inhaling through your nose and exhaling from your mouth. It can be difficult to breathe deeply at first, but after a few breaths your breathing should become deeper and fuller. Focus simply on the in and out of your breathing.

6. Do not get frustrated with yourself. Your mind will wander. This is normal and it is all right. As thoughts pass your mind, instead of focusing or dwelling on them, let them enter your mind and pass right out again. Learn to acknowledge your thoughts as you have them and then let them go instead of holding onto them and considering them. If you find yourself becoming too distracted, try repeating a mantra or concentrating again on your breathing until you have regained your inner peace.

7. Do not expect major results immediately. Beginning meditation is much like beginning an exercise regimen, and the muscle you are targeting is your mind. At the start only five minutes of meditation may be enough. Keep working at it and gradually you will be able to meditate for longer periods of time and achieve deeper states of consciousness. Always stop if you feel tension or the beginning of a headache. Just like any muscle, if you overwork your mind it will become sore. Above all, do not worry about meeting your expectations on a particular timetable. Simply relax and learn how to meditate by practicing regularly and dedicating yourself to it.

8. At the end of your session, do not jump up to answer the phone or start cooking dinner or have a conversation. Allow yourself to return to regular consciousness gradually and gently. Open your eyes, stretch slowly, and reflect on how you feel. Meditation can be an amazing tool for rich and meaningful observations about yourself and the world around you. Always allow yourself the time to absorb whatever you have learned.

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