Everyone can agree that feeling calm, having the ability to focus and being happy are things we all want to achieve. Not just temporarily but long term!
In this article we will explain how to practice one of the most simple and enjoyable forms of meditation so that you too can achieve these states of mind.
We'll walk you through an overview of meditation and then step by step on how you too can practice it :)
So what is meditation?
What Is Meditation - How Can It Benefit You?
Meditation is an absolutely amazing tool and practice that we can use to calm our minds, improve our focus and become and be happier. There are many different ways to practice meditation, and the meaning / purpose of meditating may differ from person to person. This guide is an excellent starting point that will pave the way for almost any other type of meditation you may wish to learn and practice in the future.
I'm going to share an overview of the style I have experience with and teach you how to practice one of the simplest and most effective styles of meditation, commonly called "breath awareness meditation". Breath awareness meditation is great if you would like to achieve any of the following:
- Reduce stress during meditation, immediately after and even when not meditating
- Improve focus and concentration
- Become less irritable and more calm
- Reduce anxiety
- Become happier
This is just but a small list of the benefits meditation can bring into your life. We would love you to share other benefits you've noticed in the comments below!
So how does one actually meditate?
How To Practice Breath Awareness Meditation
Get Comfortable & Find a Quiet Place - Make It Easier For Yourself
To start, get comfortable and find a private and peaceful location where you won't be bothered and is ideally quiet. If you're unable to find a quiet place you can use headphones or earbuds and listen to some white noise, or relaxing meditation music (just search for some on YouTube). Binaural beats audio is very cool too!
Personally I like to practice without the aid of anything electronic because this means I am cultivating a practice that I can do anywhere without needing something external to allow me to practice meditation.
There's no problem with background noises or music in your location, just as long as you're hearing it more so as background noise rather than active noise that you find distracting. As you continue to develop your practice, your ability to tune out background sounds will likely improve. One day noises that you find distracting may become completely unnoticed.
Here's something you might be wondering...
Timing & Repetition - How Long Should I Meditate & How Often Should I Practice?
Many people ask how long they should meditate for and the truth is there's no one right answer. People new to meditation may find overly long practices to become tedious, boring and difficult. To avoid this, I recommend beginners starting with 5-15 minutes per session until they feel comfortable trying longer sessions.
If you have never meditated before I would just start with a quick 10 minute session. What's far more important than the length of your meditation is turning it into a frequent habit. With habit, your desire to increase the duration of your meditations will naturally increase, but the opposite is not true in my experience.
One off meditations can be great for experiencing some of the benefits I listed above. Typically, to enjoy these benefits even when you're not meditating, a daily practice is highly recommended.
For this reason, just starting with a nice and easy 5-10 minutes per day can be a great way to start cultivating your practice and habit.
When I am meditating alone I like to use an alarm on my phone to time my meditations (be sure to put your phone into airplane mode to avoid distractions).
This helps me to avoid thinking about whether I have meditated long enough and instead allows me to more easily focus on meditating. Use a low volume and unjarring alarm sound to help come out of meditation nice and calmly.
However! As I mentioned above, relying on external tools to practice meditation is not ideal in my opinion. Another option is to simply meditate for as long as you can comfortably without relying on a timer of any sort. Experiment with both ways, find what works best for you!
There's more you should know...
Get Into Meditation Position - Ensure Your Body Supports Your Mind
The key to your bodies meditative position is any position where you can support your spines natural curvature and posture. Good posture during meditation is absolutely essential!
Two of the most common meditative positions are sitting cross legged or lying on our backs on the floor.
If your body is not active and you don't normally sit cross legged, you may find it very uncomfortable just to sit cross legged for a few minutes on the floor. Your meditation should not be a physical torture session, so if you find discomfort in this position, don't sweat it! Simply use the next body posture we will discuss down below. You may be interested to know that many styles of yoga (particularly hatha yoga) are practiced with one of the main reasons being to get the body into a state where it can be comfortable in meditative positions.
If you chose to sit cross legged, ideally sit outside! If you can't, inside it completely fine too. Sitting on a thin blanket, carpet, or any other soft support (but not too soft!) will help keep the points of your body touching the ground comfortable.
While sitting cross legged, gently pull the top of your head upwards to bring length into your spine. This will also help you support the natural posture/curvature of your spine. You do not need to hold this movement throughout your meditation, because you will not be able to relax if you are actively using your muscles. This movement should be used to help find a spine supporting position. Your shoulders should be pulled back and down with your heart shining forwards. Again not holding, just using these general alignment tips to help find a comfortable seated position.
The second posture that might be better for your unique body is simply lying face up on the ground (also called savasana). Again, lying on a thin blanket, carpet, or any other soft support (but not too soft!) will help keep the points of your body touching the ground comfortable. Your legs can be spaced at about hip-width distance apart or even a bit wider with your feet comfortably facing upwards or hanging outwards to the sides. Your arms can be slightly spread with your palms facing upwards.
The choice is yours, simply find a position you can stay in comfortably for 5-15 minutes (or however long you wish to meditate). Comfort is important because movement will distract your focus during your practice. While your are meditating, try your best to remain completely still (aside from your breathing).
Once your are settled, close your eyes and allow yourself to relax, thank yourself for taking the time out of the day to practice self care through meditation. Give yourself permission to forget about everything else for the duration of your meditation practice, these precious moments are yours to enjoy completely.
Now...the moment you've been waiting for:
Breath Awareness - Learn The Core Principle Of This Practice
Begin to take slow and deep inhalations through your nose followed by exhalations through the nose. The breath should start and end from the bottom of your belly. The belly should be moving inwards and outward. This is called diaphragmatic breathing. With each inhalation and exhalation, simply focus your mind on the action of breathing. Focus on the sensation of air coming in your nose, filling your lungs, and as you exhale the sensations you feel as your lungs naturally complete a breath cycle.
As you begin your meditation your may consciously help your lungs get into this deep, rhythmic and diaphragmatic breathing. But as you continue your practice, simply having your focus on your breath should help to sustain this style of breathing, you do want to consciously exert your control over your lungs throughout the entire practice. You are here to focus and observe. To relax and enjoy.
As you focus on your breath, you may have all kinds of thoughts pop into your mind and distract your focus from your breath. This is completely normal! Let the thoughts come, don't try to stop them because it's impossible. Simply let them come and pass by. Avoid bringing your attention and focus to the thoughts and following them down their story lines. When you catch your focus coming off the breath and onto the thoughts, gently bring your focus back to the breath and let the thoughts float away.
This is the hardest part! Focusing is similar to flexing a muscle, and just like a muscle, we need sustained practice to achieve progress and growth. Like anyone new to exercising, your mind may find focusing challenging and difficult, but if you keep at it with some discipline, your ability to focus will massively grow.
The best part?
The Effects Of Meditation - What Can You Expect To Happen From Meditating
During your meditation, your mind and body may become calm, or they may not. What is certain that if you frequently meditate, relaxation will eventually come. It is common to experience some relaxation during meditation and directly afterwards. But! These feelings can be yours all the time. Continued practice will helps bring these lovely benefits into every moment of your life.
Longer and more frequent meditations can help to accelerate the journey of strengthening your focus, within reason. Like most things, a natural balance between the rest of your life and meditation will likely result in the most vibrant growth for yourself.
That's not all...
Additional Thoughts On Meditation - Help Make It a Habit
Meditation groups can be a great way to promote accountability for yourself to ensure you do it. They're also a great way to meet like minded individuals who are interested in self growth and will certainly be happy to share their knowledge with you. Just do a quick Google search "your city name meditation group" to find one near you, they're typically free or extremely cheap to attend.
Many will meet on a weekly (or more frequently basis) and you will meditate together. The meditations are often followed by group discussions about healthy and happy living in some way.
Comments & Questions - Get Extra Support & Share Your Opinion!
It was awesome to put into words how to practice breath awareness meditation. If you have any questions or comments about this article, or anything else, I would love to hear from you. Join our free community meditation forum here: Community Meditation Forum
If you think you know someone who might benefit from learning how to meditate, please share this article with them.
- Robert O'Kruk