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You’ve likely heard a lot about meditation lately—but you also may have questions. What does meditating actually entail? Do you have to clear your mind completely? What are the benefits of meditation? Maybe you’ve even been to a meditation class, but now you’re wondering how to meditate at home.
Wherever you’re at, we’ve got you covered with a guide on how to get started with a daily meditation practice.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, meditation is defined as “to engage in contemplation or reflection.” There are dozens, if not hundreds, of forms of meditation interwoven in cultural and religious practices. In fact, archeologists have reason to believe that meditation has been practiced for over 7,000 years—so it’s truly an ancient practice!
In short, meditation is taking time to tune inwards, connect to your breath, and take a pause in your day-to-day life. Meditation hosts a wide range of benefits including stress reduction, a deeper connection to one’s body, more spaciousness in emotions and responses to situations, possible relief from chronic health symptoms, and much more.
It can also help you regulate cortisol, according to Skillshare teacher Dandan Liu. “Cortisol is a hormone released by your body when you’re stressed, and too much of it can lead to major imbalances to your body, which then cause major diseases,” she explains. “Meditation reduces the level of cortisol emitted by your body.”
Types of Meditation
There are hundreds of ways to practice meditation—from guided meditations, mindfulness meditations, and Buddhist meditations to simply focusing on your breath. The type you choose to practice will be aligned with your goals for meditation, any spiritual or religious rituals you’d like to integrate, and what feels most comfortable and effective to you. Here are some popular meditation approaches to consider integrating into your daily meditation.
“One of the best definitions of mindfulness is that it is a present moment, nonjudgmental awareness. What this means is paying attention to what’s going on in the present moment without judging it as good or bad,” explains Skillshare teacher Jeremy Lipkowitz. Many popular meditation apps and guided meditations use mindfulness as a focus—grounding you in the present.
Focusing on Breath
Another approach to meditation is by focusing on one’s breath, sometimes controlling and manipulating the pacing of the breath as well, such as box breathing. “Box breathing is a breathing technique you can use to put yourself in a state of calm, which involves breathing in for four seconds, holding your breath for four seconds, breathing out for four seconds, and then holding your breath for a further four seconds before starting again,” explains Skillshare teacher Grow with Guri. “This form of breathing can help to overcome stress and help you to keep calm in a stressful situation.”
If sitting quietly isn’t for you, worry not! There are movement-based, art-based, and journaling-based approaches to meditation, among others. For example, in An Introduction to Nature Journaling, forager Johanna teaches how to journal in the forest as a form of meditation!
Just like there are many meditation techniques, there are many approaches to how to meditate. If you’re wondering how to meditate properly, while there are a variety of approaches to make your meditation effective, you’re likely to receive many of the benefits of meditating from however you choose to tune inwards. But if you need some guidance, here’s a simple approach to mindfulness meditation.
Step 1: Find a Comfortable, Quiet Spot
Whether it’s a quiet room in your house or a corner of your bedroom where you can be undisturbed for 10-20 minutes, find a quiet place to get cozy. Many people like to sit with a cushion on the floor, but you can also sit up in your bed or on a couch.
Step 2: Cue Up a Guided Meditation
If you’re new to meditation, you may appreciate a guided meditation to help walk you through the steps. Once you’re settled into your comfortable spot, cue up the mediation on your phone or computer. If you’re meditating on your own, now’s a good time to set a timer for however long you’d like to meditate.
Step 3: Find a Way to Anchor
Many meditations advise you to close your eyes if that’s comfortable for you, and some people like to hold onto an object for additional grounding. If you’re wondering how to meditate with a crystal or another object, simply hold it comfortably in your hand as you listen to the guided meditation, and use it to return back to if your mind wanders.
Step 4: Relax Into the Guided Meditation
Listen to the cues of the teacher, focusing on your breath or whatever prompts they share. If you are not using guided meditation, focus on your breath by noticing the sensations of your inhalations and exhalations through your nose. You may also find it helpful to repeat “inhale” as you breathe in, and “exhale” as you breathe out if you find your mind wandering away.
Step 5: Open Your Eyes
When you’re guided meditation ends, or when your timer goes off, open your eyes. Congratulations, you just meditated!
How Do You Begin Meditating?
If you’re new to meditation, you may want to start by taking a mediation class, such as Meditation for Beginners—Getting Started with Meditation to walk you through the process. It may also be helpful to download a meditation app, like Calm or Headspace, that will guide you through as you get the hang of the practice.
What Do You Think About When Meditating?
It depends on what style of meditation you’re practicing! Some meditations encourage you to focus on your breathing, while others may provide visualization prompts or guided imagery. The point is not to eliminate all thought—it’s to narrow your focus on your breath or another anchor point as guided by the tradition or teacher. Even after years of meditation, you will likely still have drifting thoughts. When you do, noticing those drifting thoughts and bringing yourself back to the breath or visualization is a key element of meditation practice.
What Are the Best Postures for Meditation?
Many meditations encourage you, if accessible, to sit upwards—whether that be on a pillow on the floor, on your bed, a chair, or on a couch. Liu explains, “The most important thing is that there is stability and no strain. A lot of people, like me, like to sit on the floor because it makes you feel more connected with the ground. If you choose to do this, you can use pillows or folded blankets to help you gain stability. To do this, tilt your pelvis forward with a cushion underneath.”
Other meditations, like a body scan, often encourage you to lay down, if accessible and comfortable.
There are a variety of classes on Skillshare to learn the basics of meditation, different meditation techniques, and guided meditations. You can even learn how to meditate in bed! Here are a few to get you started:
- How to Practice Mindfulness & Mindful Meditation by D’Yonna Riley breaks down what mindfulness is, how to approach it, why setting boundaries is important, and more in this introductory class.
- Meditation 101: Spark Joy, Peace, and Creativity in Your Daily Life by Dandan Liu walks you through the fundamentals of meditation, breathing techniques, different types of meditation, and offers a variety of guided meditations as well.
- NAIKAN (Introspection) – Japanese meditation to help you find your IKIGAI by Yukiko Sato helps you look inside and find deeper meaning.
- Kick Start your Day with Mindfulness – Simple Meditations for Beginners for Stress Free Life by Dr. Pallabi Bhagawati is an approachable, beginners mindfulness meditation course to get started with your daily meditation practice.
- Calm Your Monkey Mind—Beginners Guide to Meditation by Grow With Grui reviews different meditation techniques, the benefits of meditation, moving through social anxiety, and more.
If you’re looking for guided meditations, these apps may be helpful:
- Insight Timer: A treasure trove of meditation resources, including everything from guided meditations, a meditation timer, talks on meditation, meditation music, and more.
- Move & Meditate: This app combines movement classes with meditation and also provides guided meditations and an intro to meditation class.
- Open: With a focus on mindfulness, this app offers guided meditations, movement classes, and breathwork classes.
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