The popularity of meditation, particularly mindfulness meditation, has exploded in recent years. Because of this, huge waves of people are just beginning their meditation practice, or still working out the kinks, and could use some simple guidance.
I don’t pretend to know everything, but I have uncovered a number of tips and tricks from my own meditation practice over the years which I’d like to share here for everyone. I’m sure just about everyone can find at least a few tips from the 50 below which will help them move their practice forward or deepen their practice in general.
Below are 50 meditation tips for beginners starting their own meditation practice (centered around mindfulness meditation practices). The title says meditation tips for beginners, but the reality is even if you’ve practiced for a while there’s probably at least few points here you can use to take your practice to the “next level” so to speak.
I hope you find them useful. Here are 50 meditation tips for beginners: _____________________________________
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50 Meditation Tips for Beginners
1. You can meditate anywhere
Meditation isn’t just sitting in a crazy difficult folded leg position (the lotus position) with your eyes closed.
You can meditate anywhere, any time of day, and in multiple positions with multiple forms.
Expand your practice to your entire day and utilize multiple forms to see the real power of meditation. To learn how to meditate, or for ideas on where to start your practice, you can read How to Meditate for Beginners.
2. You don’t have to close your eyes
It’s a common misconception that you have to do meditate with your eyes closed, and while this is perfectly acceptable (for sitting meditation at least…), it’s highly beneficial especially in the beginning to meditate with your eyes partly open to help you maintain alertness and avoid dozing off.
Many traditions and backgrounds meditate exclusively with eyes partly open, never closed.
3. Start simple
Don’t jump right into walking meditation or mindful eating, start with breathing meditations. The most basic, most common, and most useful of which is mindful breathing.
This is essentially the same as sitting in meditation (with mindfulness of breath), so whether you sit or take a minute or two throughout your day to practice mindful breathing, whatever works for you is fine.
4. Walk it off
There’s an exception to the last point. Whether you’ve just begun or have meditated for some time, if you feel a strong energy in your body, or are extra restless, you shouldn’t force sitting in meditation, you should get up and walk slowly with mindfulness (walking meditation).
This is a common practice that helps the practitioner calm their nerves so that they can sit more successfully.
In the beginning, you should sit despite this restlessness, but if you’ve sat for a few weeks and still find yourself moderately restless it can be beneficial to do walking meditation for a moment and then sit after.
This is also a valuable advanced meditation tip for those who are experiencing an abnormal level of restlessness.
5. Find what works best for you
Once you’ve practiced mindful breathing for a few weeks I’d suggest you start trying out the various other forms of meditation. This usually begins with walking meditation and expands out to eating meditation, driving meditation, and so forth.
It’s limitless really, and I wouldn’t just dive into them without some instruction, but you’re free to experiment, find what works best for you, and structure your meditation practice accordingly once you’re passed the initial phase of practicing mindful breathing.
Keep in mind, I’m not saying don’t sit in meditation, but I am saying that you can sit for half a day in meditation or you can sit for 30 minutes and do other meditative forms, like do walking meditation, and focus on simply living your everyday life as it is in mindfulness.
For anyone living a halfway “normal” life, this is generally much more effective and far more natural.
Even with regards to sitting meditation, there’s no one way to do it. You can sit and be mindful of your breath, or you could mix it up and be mindful of the many sights and sounds within your field of awareness as well. Or you could even meditate on compassion from time to time.
The choice is up to you, so find what works best for you.
6. It usually takes practice (but not always)
Some people get the idea, that is, how to be mindful, almost immediately. But most people take a while to get the hang of it.
I was the latter, so if you’re having some difficulty in your practice don’t worry, it’s only natural. There’s no rhyme or reason to this, and those more proficient at first don’t go on to be better at mindfulness, they just get it faster.
So don’t be discouraged by this and think it “isn’t for you” or something else discouraging. The challenges you’re facing will actually help to strengthen your practice.
7. Soft focus, not hard
While mindful, it should feel as though you have a soft, but constant, focus on your object of meditation (your breath, steps, etc.) and of anything else that comes into your field of awareness, rather than a hard focus that makes you strain your eyeballs and hurt your brain.
If this is what you’re doing simply relax a bit and remind yourself that you’re not forcing your awareness, or focus, on one point.
Your object of meditation works more like an anchor helping you stay in the present moment, rather than a laser target that’s concentrating your focus.
If you become drawn away, by a thought or sensation, this isn’t a bad thing, it’s only bad if you don’t acknowledge it with your mindfulness.
These thoughts and sensations coming into your field of awareness are totally natural, and should be welcomed (of course after acknowledging them, come back to your object of meditation- breath, steps, etc.).
8. Don’t worry about whether you’re doing it right or not
I didn’t get the hang of mindfulness right away, it took me some time. Get a good resource with instruction on how to meditate and simply follow it as best you can, practicing at least a little each day.
As long as you’re doing that, don’t worry about whether you’re doing it right or not. With time, provided you’re doing you best to follow the instruction, you’ll get the hang of it.
9. Don’t worry about your hands
I know you’ve probably seen pictures before of people meditating (who hasn’t?). In those pictures, they were usually doing something specific with their hands, right? That specific hand placement is called a mudra (Sanskrit for “sign”), and it’s generally meant to symbolize some important principle in the particular meditation or spiritual tradition that it originated from.
Mudras can be used to enhance your practice specifically while sitting in meditation, so feel free to use them, but in no way think that they’re required.
10. Wake up
In a very literal sense, you should be wide awake when you attempt to meditate, especially sitting in meditation, as otherwise, it becomes very easy to doze off. If you’re not, you might need to wait until a better time or find a way to wake yourself up beforehand.
This could be something simple like caffeine or something more complex like only meditating during a specific time in the day (such as an hour into your morning, when your energy is full and the sleepiness of the morning has worn off).
While meditation isn’t about rejecting anything or quieting your mind to the point where you stop thinking (an impossible and useless feat), the beginnings of meditation are about bringing the mind to rest.
This is because, before you do this, your mind will be too active to sit back and observe, which is the entire point.
A simple trick you can do to help this along is simply to stretch a bit before you begin meditating, as this will help to not only relax you but activate your body to some degree. It doesn’t matter what you do, just pick a few simple stretches that relax you and do them for a minute or two before meditating.
12. Posture is important
Your ability to stay focused while meditating is directly connected to your posture.
Without proper posture, you’re more likely to doze off and improper posture is usually an obstruction to your breathing.
To some degree, this isn’t something you have to worry all that much about, as often just becoming fully present will make you realize you’re slouching and stand up straight. But in any case, make sure while sitting in meditation that your back and neck are straight.
13. You don’t have to sit in the lotus position
If you don’t know it, the lotus position is that position which involves sitting cross-legged and then placing each leg on top of the opposite thigh.
The lotus position is not something that everyone is capable of doing (or should try doing) even with practice.
Feel free to sit in a chair, it really doesn’t matter. Keep the main thing the main thing, and that’s the actual act of meditating. Everything else is there simply to help support your practice, even physical positioning.
14. Don’t sit and meditate on a full stomach
Zen students avoid meditating on a full stomach, as this generally leads to an increased tendency to doze off. Of course, it can be equally bad to meditate while you’re starving, so I’d suggest against that too.
It’s not as difficult as it sounds, just something to stay mindful of as it can affect your sitting meditation specifically.
In the beginning of your practice, or even if you’ve practiced for some time and just had a tough day, the stress and general restlessness you’re feeling can make it really difficult to meditate.
To combat this, adopt a simple half-smile. We hold a huge amount of tension and stress in our facial muscles, and a light smile (a half-smile) can relieve much of that tension and stress. It’s a simple act with a powerful effect.
16. When questions arise, stay focused and mindful
In the beginning, it’s natural to become frustrated with your practice and wonder what you’re doing, why it isn’t working, or just feel like quitting.
During this time you need to meditate more than ever. Stay focused and know that it’s just a part of the process (largely, just the process of removing the jitters and stress from your body).
With time, your mind will calm and you’ll find a great sense of peace from your practice again, often even more than before the ordeal.
Don’t just breathe (or walk, chew, etc.), while being mindful it’s highly useful to count while doing so. Counting to yourself helps keep you awake to the moment and helps you notice when you’ve become distracted.
You can simply count from 1-10, one number for each inhale or exhale. So: inhale (one), exhale (two), inhale (three), and exhale (four). If you notice yourself slip, start the 10 count over.
If you have a heavily productivity centered mindset you might find yourself trying to cheat here. Don’t, there’s no point. All you’ll end up doing is fooling yourself and hurting your own practice.
The quality of your practice is dependent upon your willingness to be honest with yourself. This technique can really help you improve your practice, so don’t get in the way of your own ability to get the most from your practice.
18. Set a timer
If you don’t set a timer, you’ll have no idea when to stop and often end up pausing your meditation to glance at a clock constantly, interrupting your practice and making yourself even more uncomfortable and distracted.
By setting a timer you can relax and focus on your meditation practice, knowing you won’t go over your time and miss what you have to do afterward.
19. Don’t set a timer
OK, a timer isn’t always a good idea. In general, my rule with a timer is that it’s good to use one, but keep it in a place where you can’t see it or get to it, such as up on your desk while you sit several feet away on the floor, and with your chair blocking your computer screen for good measure.
This way there’s no way for you to find out what time it is during your meditation, but you still know your timer is set, and so can rest comfortably knowing that you should just stay focused since your timer will tell you when you’re done.
But even after doing this, sometimes just knowing there’s a timer set can be the very cause of your restlessness. If you find that happening, just don’t set a timer.
Sitting without a timer can be really pleasant, and is the way I almost always meditate. It feels more natural, like I’m free to just float off as long as I please. Of course this is a luxury I’m not always afforded, and the likelihood is neither will you, but when possible it can be really nice.
20. Don’t sit longer than you can
Even so, after calming yourself before meditating and using a timer in the proper way, in the beginning at least, you’ll grow increasingly more restless as time goes on.
Maybe that time is 5 minutes, maybe it’s 10, or maybe it’s 20. Whatever it is, if you’ve only been meditating for a week, a month, or even a few months, there’s a time period you’ll get to where you just can’t sit any longer before feeling like you’re crawling out of your skin.
Once you get to that point, just stop sitting. It’s as simple as that. There’s no reason to push it. If you do this consistently, each day, you’ll gradually be able to sit down for longer and longer periods until the point where you feel as though you could sit forever peacefully without this feeling ever arising.