Beginners can find meditation frustrating. These top 10 beginner’s techniques and tips make meditation easier to start and to stay with.
Meditation can make you healthier, happier, and more productive.
It can even help you live longer.
But mastering your thoughts has never been easy and our multitasking, sensory-bombarding world makes it harder than ever.
Meditation is not complicated, but it’s not easy either.
Read on for five of the best meditation techniques for beginners, plus tips to help beginners succeed with their meditation.
The 5 Best Meditation Techniques for Beginners
Meditation usually involves sitting quietly, often paying attention to your breath, but it doesn’t have to.
There are movement-based techniques like yoga and walking meditations as well.
There are endless ways of classifying the many different kinds of meditation, so don’t be daunted if you see terms you aren’t familiar with like Kundalini or binaural beats meditations.
Mindfulness meditations are the most popular and straightforward types of meditation.
They involve just actively working at quieting the mind, usually by focusing on the breath or on a phrase.
Technique 1: Breathing Meditation
Breathing meditation is the most simple, basic form of meditation.
Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and breathe naturally, preferably through your nose.
Focus your attention on your breath, but do not try to change or control it.
When a random thought barges into your head, simply label it as “a thought” and bring your attention back to your breath.
This meditation actually trains your brain to stop jumping around and stay focused on the present.
Technique 2: Mantra Meditation
Mantra meditation involves sitting quietly while silently repeating a word or phrase called a mantra to yourself.
If you say it out loud, it becomes a chanting meditation.
A traditional mantra is “so, hum.”
Think to yourself “so” as you inhale and “hum” as you exhale.
But you can simply say “in, out” to yourself if you’d prefer.
At first, thoughts will pop into your head constantly.
That’s expected and normal.
The important thing is to not get discouraged, but just notice that your mind has drifted and gently bring yourself back to the present.
Technique 3: Walking Meditation
Movement meditations are great for those who have trouble sitting still.
You may want to consider a moving meditation if you have anxiety, since some people find meditation makes their anxiety worse. (1)
The simplest moving meditation is a walking meditation which can be done anywhere, anytime.
A walking meditation is not the same thing as simply taking a walk.
The difference is both your attention and intention.
Walking while listening to an audio book or talking on the phone doesn’t count!
Consciously putting one foot in front of the other while concentrating on the sounds of nature, the feeling of the ground under your feet, and the sensation of the weather on your skin — that’s a walking meditation.
If you are lucky enough to live or work near one, walking a labyrinth is a wonderful way to do your walking meditation.
If you live in the US or Canada, you can check this labyrinth locator to see if there’s one near you.
As you walk, just as when you sit and meditate, unwanted thoughts will pop into your mind.
Gently remove them.
Other excellent movement meditations you may want to look into are yoga, tai chi, and qi gong.
As long as you are mindful, you can turn any activity into a meditation.
Think of the famous “wax on, wax off” scene in the movie Karate Kid, where polishing a car became a moving meditation.
Technique 4: Kirtan Kriya Meditation
Kirtan Kriya is a type of meditation from the Kundalini yoga tradition, but don’t let the mystical sounding name daunt you.
This meditation is simple and has science to back it up.
During this meditation, sit comfortably and repeat the sounds “sa, ta, na, ma.”
You can say the sounds out loud or to yourself.
As you say the sounds, move your fingers in succession like this:
On “sa,” touch the index fingers of each hand to your thumbs.
On “ta,” touch your middle fingers to your thumbs.
On “na,” touch your ring fingers to your thumbs.
On “ma,” touch your little fingers to your thumbs.
Research has confirmed that doing this meditation for 12 minutes per day increases blood flow to two parts of the brain involved in retrieving memories.
It can improve memory in otherwise healthy people and has proved useful even for those with Alzheimer’s.
Other proven benefits include improvements in mood and sleep.
You can learn more about the proven benefits of this meditation in Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation’s white paper Yoga and Medical Meditation as Alzheimer’s Prevention Medicine.
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Technique 5: Binaural Beats Meditation
If you’ve tried mindfulness meditations, but felt fidgety, frustrated, and unfocused, you aren’t alone.
Quieting your “random thought generator” is hard!
If you’ve read the bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love (or seen the movie), you’ll recall that even when the author was living in an ashram in India, she still found meditation a frustrating struggle.
She felt continually pressured that she wasn’t doing it right, which made her feel stressed out and bad about herself.
Kind of defeats the point, doesn’t it?
If meditating in an ashram is hard, no wonder it’s hard for you to squeeze it into a hectic modern life!
The most common complaints about traditional meditation include feelings of impatience, frustration, and boredom, and not getting the desired results.
This understandably leaves many people, even when convinced of the many health benefits, wondering if they are wasting their time.
If this sounds like you, there’s a different kind of meditation you can try.
One that most beginners find easier and more rewarding.
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Binaural Beats: A Meditation Shortcut
In recent years, sound technologies have been created that induce the same brainwave state of consciousness as traditional meditation.
Binaural beats meditation programs are one widely used technology.
The major advantages of this high-tech approach over traditional meditation are that it is super-easy and results come quickly.
All you need to do is listen to sound files on headphones to bring about a meditative brainwave state.
Some binaural beats meditation programs offer free downloads.
Here are two I have listened to:
- Zen 12 — 12 minutes of your choice of relaxing music or a guided meditation
- OmHarmonics — 10 minutes of lush, relaxing music
The Top 5 Meditation Tips for Beginners
Now you know the best meditation techniques for beginners, but the success of your meditation practice is not assured.
That’s because not everyone who starts meditating sticks with it.
To understand why people don’t continue with meditation, Mindvalley, one of the world’s largest personal development websites, surveyed 400,000 of their customers.
This group was certainly aware of the benefits of meditation.
So why didn’t all of them meditate? What stopped them?
The top reasons survey respondents didn’t stay with meditation were:
- they couldn’t tame their mental chatter
- they couldn’t focus
- they felt physically restless
- it took too long to see results
Another Mindvalley survey found that the top reasons people quit meditating was a lack of time and a feeling that it was just too hard. (2)
Do any of these sound familiar?
Fortunately, we’ve got beginner’s meditation tips that erase these excuses.
Tip 1: The Puppy Technique
My all-time favorite beginner’s meditation tip is this analogy from meditation teacher Jack Kornfield, author of Meditation for Beginners:
Monitoring your thoughts is like training a puppy.
You say ‘stay’ but after a few breaths, the puppy wanders away.
You go back and gently pick it up and bring it back.
The beauty of this tip is to remind yourself to be as kind and patient with yourself when your thoughts wander.
Because they inevitably will.
Tip 2: Make Meditation a Daily Habit
The main reason people don’t stick with it is that they fail to turn meditation into a daily habit.
As anyone who has tried to quit a bad habit can attest, a habit, once formed, is easy to stick with and hard to break.
Research shows that beginners who meditate daily for 11 days were 90% likely to continue. (3)
Initially, how long you meditate doesn’t matter nearly as much as that you are doing it every day.
Leo Babauta, meditation authority and founder of Zen Habits, suggests that beginners commit to just two minutes of meditation per day until they’ve formed a meditation habit.
Taking baby steps is a proven way to rewire your brain to form healthy new habits.
And once you’ve developed a habit, no matter how small, you no longer have to rely on dwindling supplies of willpower and motivation to keep doing it.
Tip 3: Blast Meditation Myths
One persistent myth that keeps people from meditating is that it smacks of new ageism; it’s too “far out.”
But, in fact, conservative medical institutions such as Mayo Clinic, National Institutes of Health, Harvard Medical School, and Carnegie Mellon University endorse it for its many health benefits. (4, 5, 6, 7)
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Some of the most successful people in the world, like Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, and Richard Branson, attribute their success in part to their regular meditation practice.
Famous athletes are always looking for anything that will give them an edge.
Another limiting myth is that the goal of meditation is to completely clear your mind of thoughts.
When thoughts creep in, many beginners give up in frustration, believing they’ve failed.
The point of meditation is to learn to notice and monitor your thoughts, not to completely eliminate them.
That rarely happens even for very experienced meditators.
Tip 4: Take Advantage of Free Meditation Help
Meditation is simple, but often not easy.
Learning to monitor your thoughts may be one of the best things you’ll ever do, but it may also be one of the hardest.
Fortunately, there’s an abundance of beginner’s meditation help available, and much of it is free.
If you would like to take meditation classes or practice meditating with others, just google “meditation” and the name of your town or city.
You may be surprised at the variety of places offering meditation classes.
Besides meditation-specific organizations, classes are sometimes held at libraries, hospitals, YMCAs, community colleges, health spas, and churches of all denominations.
Also, Meetup.com is a great resource for finding meditation groups in your area, no matter where in the world you live.
Free Online Meditations and Apps
There are many websites and apps that offer free meditations that you can either download or listen to online.
But if you’re looking specifically for guided meditations for beginners, here are my top two recommended sources.
Udemy, the world’s largest marketplace for online courses, has dozens of beginner-level meditation courses.
Most courses are in the $15 range, but many are free.
InsightTimer is the #1 free meditation app for both Android and iOS.
This app offers nearly 8,000 free meditations presented by some of the best meditation teachers anywhere, including Jack Kornfield, Ram Dass, and Thich Nhat Hanh.
You can access meditations by category.
They have meditations specifically for beginners.
InsightTimer offer so many meditations of all levels that it truly can be your “one stop shop” for meditations for life.
Tip 5: Be Clear About Why You Are Meditating
The last tip for staying with your newfound meditation practice is to be very clear about your “big why.”
You may be meditating because you think you “should” or because someone guilted you into it.
But if you really don’t know your underlying reason for meditating, motivation and willpower will eventually let you down.
Here are some food-for-thought questions to ask yourself, along with why meditation may be the answer:
Are you tired of being constantly stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed by negative thinking?
If so, then meditation can quiet your mind, control negative thinking, and reduce stress. (10)
Do you have difficulty keeping up at school or on the job because you have trouble learning and can’t stay focused?
It actually builds a better brain by building new brain cells and neural connections, while increasing brain plasticity.
Are you dealing with a mental or physical health challenge?
Over 1,000 published studies support the many health benefits of meditation. (16)
Meditation can alleviate symptoms and help you better cope with both the physical and psychological aspects of illness.
Meditation has proven beneficial for people dealing with addictions, anxiety, depression, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, heart disease, HIV, insomnia, and even Alzheimer’s. (17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
Once you’ve discovered your big why, write it down and refer to it if you ever get discouraged and feel like quitting meditating.
As meditation expert Dr. Paula Watkins wisely says, “We don’t meditate to become better at meditation. We meditate to become better at life.” (27)
Perhaps this is the best reason of all to meditate.
Meditation Techniques for Beginners: The Bottom Line
Deciding whether you should meditate is really a no-brainer.
It’s been proven to make you happier, healthier, and more productive.
There’s a variety of beginner meditation techniques to choose from, one is bound to be a good fit for you.
And while you should expect to spend at least 10 minutes per day meditating, you can start doing as little as 2 minutes until you make it a habit.
Remember, the goal is not to empty your mind of all thoughts, but to gently bring your mind back to the present when it wanders.
It’s not always easy, but it is that simple!