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 is not easy and our multitasking, sensory-bombarding world makes it harder than ever.
Meditation is rather simple, but it’s not effortless.
Read on for five of the best meditation techniques for beginners, plus five 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.
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.
" Buddhist meditation teacher and bestselling author Sharon Salzberg wisely said, “We don’t meditate to become better at meditation. We meditate to become better at life.”
But 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 here like Kundalini or binaural beats meditations.
Here are our favorite meditation techniques for beginners that are simple to do.
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.
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Technique 2: Mantra Meditation
Mantra meditation involves sitting quietly while silently repeating a word or phrase called a mantra to yourself.
(You can also say it out loud, in which case 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 to simply 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 trying to sit still and meditate makes their anxiety worse.
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 a labyrinth, 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.
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As you walk, just as when you sit and meditate, unwanted thoughts will pop into your mind.
Gently push them aside.
Other excellent movement meditations you may want to look into are yoga, tai chi, and qi gong.
As long as you are performing it mindfully, any activity can become a 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.
Kirtan Kriya Meditation
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.
Technique 5: Binaural Beats Meditation
If you’ve tried mindfulness meditation 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 struggle.
She felt continually pressured that she wasn’t doing it right, which made her feel stressed out and bad about herself.
If meditating in an ashram is hard, no wonder it can be 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 meditation’s many 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.
In recent years, sound technologies have been created that induce the same brainwave state of consciousness as traditional meditation.
Binaural beats is one widely used technology that is incorporated into meditation programs.
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.
The Top 5 Meditation Tips for Beginners
Now you know the best meditation techniques for beginners, but your success is still not assured.
That’s because not everyone who starts meditating stays 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.
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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 stick 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 two top reasons people quit meditating were lack of time and feeling that it was just too hard.
Do any of these sound familiar?
Well, here are 5 great beginner’s meditation tips to help you overcome these obstacles.
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.
The Puppy Technique
Monitoring your thoughts is like training a puppy.
You say ‘stay’ but after a few breaths, the puppy wanders away.
You gently pick it up and bring it back.
The essence of this tip is to remind yourself to be kind and patient with yourself when your thoughts wander.
Because they inevitably will.
Tip 2: Make Meditation a Daily Habit
There’s a fundamental, underlying reason people don’t stick with meditation.
They fail to turn their meditation practice into a 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.
Information captured by the former Lift goal-tracking app found that beginners who meditated daily for 11 days were 90% likely to continue.
This is why many meditation programs (and other self-improvement programs) are often designed as 21-day challenges.
Initially, how long you meditate doesn’t matter nearly as much as that you do 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, even a small one, you no longer have to rely on dwindling supplies of willpower and motivation to keep it up.
Tip 3: Banish Meditation Myths
One persistent myth that keeps people from meditating is that it smacks of new ageism; it’s too “far out.”
Many major universities offer free meditations on their websites to help their students deal with stress.
Some of the most successful people in the world, like Oprah Winfrey and Richard Branson, attribute their success in part to their regular meditation practice.
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.
But remember, the point of meditation is to learn to notice and monitor your thoughts, not to eliminate them.
That rarely happens even for very accomplished meditators.
Tip 4: Take Advantage of Free Meditation Help
Meditation is simple, but it’s 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 do an online search for “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 you live.
InsightTimer is the #1 free meditation app for both Android and iOS.
This app offers thousands of free meditations presented by some of the world’s best meditation teachers including Jack Kornfield, Ram Dass, and Thich Nhat Hanh.
You can access meditations by category.
They offer a 7-day meditation course specifically for beginners.
They also have playlists of the beginner’s meditation techniques we’ve mentioned above, such as breathing meditations, brainwave entrainment (binaural beats) meditations, kundalini meditations, and mantra meditations.
InsightTimer offers so many meditations of all levels that it truly can be a “one stop shop” for meditations that will grow with you as you become more accomplished.
Tip 5: Be Clear About Why You Are Meditating
The last tip for staying with meditation 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?
It can make you more resilient to whatever life throws your way.
Do you have difficulty keeping up at school or on the job because you have trouble learning and can’t stay focused?
Meditation enhances your ability to learn and improves focus and concentration.
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.
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:
Once you’ve discovered your big why, write it down and refer to it if you ever get discouraged with meditation and feel like quitting.
As Buddhist meditation teacher and bestselling author Sharon Salzberg wisely said, “We don’t meditate to become better at meditation. We meditate to become better at life.”
Perhaps this is the best reason of all to meditate.
Meditation Techniques for Beginners: Take the Next Step
Deciding whether to meditate is really a no-brainer.
It’s been proven to help improve health, happiness, and productivity.
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 meditate at least 10 minutes per day, 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.
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