Meditation is the simplest thing … and that’s why it can be so difficult.
The following meditation tips will help you to avoid some common pitfalls beginners face, and build a strong foundation for your practice.
When you are ready to start, we offer a number free online guided meditations.
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Before You Meditate
Attempting to jump straight from a busy work day into a silent peaceful state of deep rest is a bit overly optimistic.
Instead, by taking a little time to prepare for your meditation you can give yourself the gift of a deeper and more pleasant experience.
Possibly the most important meditation ritual of our time – put your phone on airplane mode. There’s no better way to ruin a meditation than by leaving your phone on and getting a call or text in the middle. So turn off your phone or put it on airplane mode as soon as you get ready to meditate. Still have a corded phone? Unplug it!
Warm-up your body with yoga or light exercise
Before starting your meditation do a few warm-ups or beginner’s yoga exercises. These will help to improve circulation, remove any inertia or restlessness, and will make your body feel lighter. At the least, take a walk around your building or office.
A short warm-up before meditation will also allow you to sit peacefully for a longer period time.
Calm the mind with breathing exercises
You can also do a few rounds of a yoga breathing exercise, such as Nadi Shodhan pranayama as well. Learning a simple breathing exercise like this can make meditation significantly easier.
Why, you ask? Because the breath is so connected to our mind and emotions, as soon as you slow and steady the rhythm of your breath, it quickly leads the mind into a peaceful, meditative state.
Well, meditation is conscious relaxation. If you lay down, the mind has the tendency to fall asleep. And if you stand or walk, the mind has a tendency to stay active.
How to sit
- Sit straight and comfortable.
- Chairs and pillows are ok as long as you don’t recline too much.
- Sit still – Once you’re comfortable, don’t adjust unless it hurts, or not adjusting becomes a big distraction. Since the mind and body are connected, moving the body tends to keep the mind moving as well. If you allow your body to get still, you’re halfway to a quiet mind.
Allow the breath to get light and smooth
If you practiced some breathing exercise beforehand, you’ll probably notice that your normal breath has become very smooth and light.
As you begin your meditation, allow this process to continue. As your breath quiets down, your mind will quiet down on its own.
If you actively practice any breathing technique during meditation, you’re going to be keeping your mind engaged, and won’t slip into as deep a rest as by letting your breath relax.
Let the breath be light and even
One powerful tip for deeper meditation is allowing your breath to effortlessly get lighter and smoother. Since the breath is so connected to your mind, a light and even breath, helps bring the mind to an ever quieter place.
Sink into the space between the breaths
You may notice that in the state of deep meditation, you’ll be barely breathing.
You can’t force this state, or your next breath will be a gasp, but as your breath quiets down, begin to pay attention to the space between your breaths. If you can gently sink into this practice, you’ll find it’s a very quiet place to be.
Eyes and Face
Keep your eyes closed
The eyes are directly connected to the brain. Keeping the eyes open keeps you alert because the brain is hardwired to notice any change in the environment and evaluate if it poses a threat.
Keeping your eyes closed in meditation allows you to bring your attention inward and fully rest.
Or, start with eyes mostly closed
One technique to begin meditation is to keep your eyes almost closed. Sometimes, if you jump straight to eyes closed, your mind starts racing immediately, Instead, looking at a still point on the floor can keep your mind still, and transition from your eyes open state of activity to an eyes closed state of rest.
Then, when the mind is quiet, allow the eyes to close.
Let Yourself Smile
Maintaining a gentle smile throughout your practice keeps you relaxed, peaceful and enhances your meditation experience. You will feel the difference.
Don’t cling on
You might get interested or excited by some thoughts that come up in meditation. Before you know it, you’re planning the rest of your day, or thinking up some snarky comment you should have said in an argument.
It’s ok, this happens. But as soon as you notice, you want to catch yourself and redirect.
Instead of clinging to your “important” thoughts, just tell them, “I’ll come back to you in a few minutes.” If the thought is important, you’ll remember it later.
Don’t push them away
On the other hand, you might have all sorts of thoughts that you don’t want to have, but they just keep coming on their own.
But it’s not as easy as saying, “OK, mind – stop thinking”.
See, there is a rule in the mind: What you resist persists.
Let’s try an experiment – for the next 30 seconds, whatever you do, don’t think about a purple elephant. Go ahead and try.
You couldn’t do it right?
If you go into meditation trying to have an empty mind, every little thought is a probem, and you feel like an instant failure. You start beating yourself up for being no good at this meditation thing.
Whatever you do, please don’t try to clear your mind. You’re just setting yourself up for failure, in a self-defeating cycle of thinking about not thinking.
Let them be
Instead of fighting with your thoughts, just let your thoughts come and go like watching clouds in the sky.
Here’s another classic illustration from Zen:
If you swim in a pond and stir up a bunch of dirt in the water, what do you do get it clear again?
Nothing. You just let it be and after a little while, it clears itself. Anything you try to do to the pond to get it still would just stir it up again.
Letting your thoughts be, you come into harmony with your thoughts. You will notice them, and they won’t bother you. You won’t be afraid of them, because you know that they will come and leave you. You won’t be identified with them, or let them control you. You will see, you are not your thoughts – you are the space in which thoughts arise.
Special times to meditate
There are certain times of day that are easier to meditate. The late morning and early afternoon are generally ideal for working. I notice that around 4 or 5pm, my mind is tired from work and ready for a rest. Taking a meditation break after work is a great way to recharge so you can enjoy the evening with a fresh and clear mind. But don’t wait too long, or your stomach will says “hey, it’s time to eat!”
- At sunrise and sunset, nature transitions from night to day and back again. These times are also ideal for meditation and spiritual reflection.
- Before sunrise is also a special and effective time to meditate. The world outside is quiet, the house/family is quiet, and so are you!
When is the best time to meditate?
This of course, will vary from person to person depending on your preferences and schedule. Personally, I like to meditate first thing in the morning after a shower and before I have breakfast. This way, I’m feeling clean and fresh, with a light stomach.
Choose a time that’s quiet
Meditation is your time to relax and to be present with yourself, so choose a time that fits well with your schedule, when disruptions and distractions are unlikely. This way, you will be free to enjoy it.
Meditate at the same time daily
There is great power in habit. Getting in a routine of meditating at the same time daily, eliminates a number of questions and doubts that otherwise can stop you from practicing. “Should I meditate this morning or later?” becomes “I’m about to have breakfast, so I’ll sit and meditate first like always”.
Meditate on a relatively empty stomach
In order to meditate properly it is helpful to have an empty stomach. Mediation works best before meals or at least two hours after having eaten. When the stomach is full one can become drowsy or even distracted by indigestion!
On the other hand it is best not to try and meditate when you are extremely hungry, otherwise you may find that the only thing on your mind is the prospect of food! Needless to say this does not enhance meditation either.
Choose a quiet place
The place you choose to perform your meditation techniques is equally as important as your choice of a suitable time. Consider selecting a location that is quiet and peaceful, somewhere you feel comfortable. The stillness around you can help facilitate stillness within you.
Make a special place
If you try to meditate in your office chair, or in front of the TV, you might find yourself doing those other activities instead.
Making a place in your home just for meditation helps in a number of ways:
- Your mind and body will associate that space with meditation
- Serves as a visual reminder to meditate
- It’s already set up – keep whatever props/tools you like to have to meditate in one place, so it’s easy to just sit down and start.
Chair or pillow(s)
As we discussed above, sitting tall and comfortable is key. Don’t feel any shame to sit in a chair to meditate. It’s one of the easiest ways to sit straight, still and comfortable.
Blanket or shawl
The body temperature often drops when it gets deep rest. So beginning with a blanket or shawl is usually a good idea.
Also, if you’re going to meditate outside, a light blanket or shawl can protect you from the wind or bugs, either of which can pull the mind into activity.
If you haven’t learned a meditation technique yet, guided meditations are the way to go. This will help you meditate easily. All you need to do is close your eyes, relax, and follow the instructions as you hear them. Guided meditations give your mind just enough to do that it doesn’t roam around on its own, while helping guide you through some simple techniques to find that place of quiet.
- Free guided meditations online: Art of Living offers a variety of free guided meditations for different moods – Click here to experience the joy of a Guided Meditation now.
- Best Meditation App: Sattva is the world’s first advanced meditation timer and tracker with challenges, trophies and guided meditations to inspire you to meditate everyday! It’s free on ios, android and the web.
- Guided Meditation CDs: If you prefer a physical cd, we offer many of them in our online store.
Use a meditation timer
Has it been 10 minutes yet?! At first, a timer can help you sit through a meditation without succumbing to the temptation to keep peaking at a clock.
When you learn to meditate well, a timer can help you not accidentally meditate for longer than you planned and find yourself late for a meeting.
End your meditation slowly
As you come to the end of the meditation, try not to be in a hurry to open your eyes or to move around. Simply remain present in the stillness you have cultivated. Take a few moments to soak this in. Then when you are ready, gradually become aware of your body and your surroundings. Finally allow your eyes to slowly open.
How to Learn
Learn from a qualified teacher
Trying to learning meditation from a book or even on youtube is quite limited. Learning in person from an expert gives you a chance to share your experience, ask questions and get feedback on all the subtleties.
Get a personalized mantra
Of all the things I have learned about meditation, the most powerful was been receiving a personal mantra. Although I have had many a peaceful time in a guided meditation on youtube, or trying out some meditation tips like the ones I’ve shared above, it is nothing like the stillness and depth of peace I experience when I use my mantra.
What is a mantra? It is a subtle sound – a vibration that takes you inward. But it’s not just any sound, and it’s not just saying it in any old way. There is a tradition from India of teachers giving a student a personalized mantra, specific for them and their needs, and teaching them the delicate art of using the mantra to slip into silence.
You can get a personalized mantra in an authentic time honored tradition and expert training in our mantra meditation course called Sahaj Samadhi Meditation.
Meditate in a group
The mind is a field that extends beyond the body. Have you ever sat with someone who is feeling very awkward, very shy, or very angry? Even if they don’t say anything, you can feel it right?
Like that, if sit with a group of people who are all very quiet and peaceful, it helps you to do the same.