Learning how to meditate is simple but not necessarily easy. Here are 7 Steps to Meditating to get you started, as well as meditation tips and obstacles you may encounter along the way and how to overcome them.  

Steps to Meditating from Meditation Sunshine Coast 

  1. Preparation
  • Set a time you can stick to every day that fits in with your schedule.
  • Let children, partners know not to disturb you.
  • Lock out any animals if they are going to distract you.
  • Create an inviting dedicated space and decorate it with things that will help you relax and create a ritual, e.g. candles, incense, flowers, pictures (items that are of relevance and symbolic to you).
  1. Positioning
  • When learning how to meditate it’s important to be comfortable and relaxed but aware, in a position that you can sustain for long periods.
  • Get into a comfortable and symmetrical posture:
    • Sitting cross legged on the floor or a cushion;
    • Sitting forwards on a chair with your feet flat on the ground (put a pillow underneath them if they aren’t flat);
    • Kneeling on the floor with a cushion underneath you;
    • Making sure your pelvis/hips are higher than your knees;
    • Ensuring your back is upright but shoulders relaxed;
    • Resting your hands on your thighs or cupped in your lap;
    • Letting your head “float” on your shoulders.
  • Avoid laying down unless you are trying to get to sleep but if sitting is too uncomfortable then:
    • Lie on your back completely symmetrical;
    • Rest your arms by your sides with your palms facing upwards (so your shoulders are relaxed);
    • Place a pillow under your thighs or head if you have lower back or neck discomfort;meditation postures
  1. Connecting with the Breath
  • Take one or two deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth to release any tension in your body and bring your awareness to the present.
  • Begin to breathe in and out through your nostrils, focussing your attention on the motion of your breathing – this could be either of the following which I call anchor points:
    • The feel of the air coming in and out of your nostrils;
    • The expanding and relaxing of your chest with each breath (expanding with each breath in and relaxing with each breath out);
    • The inflation and deflation of your tummy with each breath (inflating with each breath in and deflating with each breath out).
  • Allow any thoughts to come and go without trying to analyse or control them and gently bring your awareness back to your next breath (using one of the anchor points above) if you get too attached to any particular thought.
  1. Body Scan (aka relaxation)
  • Mentally scan through your body from head to toe.
  • As you are scanning down notice any parts of your body that are holding any tension, tightness or discomfort.
  • As you breathe out try to release the tension in that area then move on to the next body part.
  1. Method or intention
  • Relaxation, e.g. continue focusing on your breathing or body scan.
  • Sound, e.g. listen to some relaxing instrumental music or singing bowls.
  • Mantra or affirmation, e.g. repeat particular words for a few minutes.
  • Active, e.g. walking, dancing or drawing.
  • Insight, e.g. ask a question or seek internal guidance then let it go and see if any thoughts come to you.
  1. Rest in the stillness
  • Focus on the background of stillness which is the silent presence between your thoughts and each breath.
  • Allow your mind and body to relax for a few minutes.
  1. Reconnect and reflect
  • Gently bring your awareness back to the space around you using your breath and senses.
  • Reflect on any insights your may have received or set an intention to continue your mindful awareness or feeling of relaxation (if that was the intention) throughout the rest of your day or night.

You don’t have to follow these steps every time you sit down to meditate and more advanced meditators can quite often cover the first 4 steps in a couple of minutes before relaxing into a blissful state of stillness. These how to meditate steps are a recommended guide for beginners to get the most out your meditation practice initially. It is important to at least relax the body and mind first (steps 1 to 4) before any meditation, to enable the flow of the stages that follow.

 

Meditation Tips

  • Keep it simple – try practising the same meditation every day for a week before moving on to another one.
  • Be motivated and dedicated but enjoy it and don’t see it as a being a rigid disciplinary goal.
  • Don’t judge yourself even if you become uncomfortable, restless, impatient or emotional.
  • Let go of yourself and any objectives or goals you want to achieve from your meditation and just be.
  • Don’t treat it as escaping from reality but rather as embracing it more fully.
  • Prepare and practice just as you would for physical exercise.
  • Even if you can only do 10 breaths a day or 10 minutes a day this is better than doing nothing or doing one hour a week on one day.
  • Try to work your way up to 20-30 minutes a day to receive the full and lasting benefits of a meditation practice.

 

Meditation Challenges

Following are some possible responses that you may experience as you learn how to meditate and begin your meditation practice. These are completely normal, and in most cases easily overcome.

  • Difficulty relaxing – try doing a body scan or going for a walk or dance to move the restless energy.
  • Disengagement – meditation is a means to embrace life rather than escape reality. It is normal to feel sensations of “drifting off” but if you are feeling dizzy, lightheaded or disorientated then focus on your breathing anchor point (nostrils, belly or chest) or senses. If any sensations become too intense try meditating for shorter periods or doing physical exercise beforehand.
  • Drowsiness– sleepiness is fine if you’re doing a meditation at night with the goal of having a restful sleep (it’s not ideal to meditate in your bed otherwise) but if you are falling asleep whilst meditating during the day then try sitting rather than laying down. Also avoid eating and drinking before meditating and ensure you are getting enough sleep at night.
  • Emotional responses, e.g. giggling, crying – this is a sign of tension release and will usually clear as you continue. Be gentle and kind to yourself until it does and if it becomes too intense you may wish to stop and continue later when you are feeling more relaxed. It is normal for emotions and thoughts to arise when sitting for long periods without the distractions of keeping busy.
  • Hyperventilation/hypoventilation – breathing changes can result in decreased or increased levels of Co2 which can cause dizziness and anxiety. These symptoms should pass but if not try physical activity like walking.
  • Negative associations – guilt at taking this time out for yourself or being perceived to be spending time doing nothing can spoil your meditation time. Remind yourself that relaxation is important for physical and mental wellbeing and meditation can help you be more productive as it brings greater focus and clarity.
  • Physical discomfort – you may be able to focus on your breathing until any cramps or pain go away or massage or rub the area or if need be stretch and mindfully move your body into a more comfortable position.