Meditation Made Simple for Beginners

Meditation can be grasped even by beginners.
Meditation can be difficult for beginners, but there are ways to make it simple. Compassionate Eye Foundation/Taxi/Getty Images

Question: Meditation Is Hard To Grasp For Me. Is There An Easy Meditation For Beginners?

"I always hear about the stress relief benefits of meditation, but I've tried it once or twice, and it's difficult for me--I find it difficult to think about 'nothing'. Still, I keep hearing about the benefits, and I'd still like to try. Do you have any tips on meditation for beginners?"

Answer: You're right about the benefits of meditation. Meditation can stop the stress response and slow your heart rate, calm your breathing, reduce cortisol levels, and more.  Meditation works well as a short-term stress reliever by helping you to create "space" between yourself and what is stressing you, which can allow you to gain the perspective that a little distance can provide. Meditation can also allow you to calm your body and mind, which can allow you to reverse your stress response. But perhaps the most beneficial aspect of meditation is that it can enable you to build resilience to stress in the long term, effectively allowing you to have an added ability to cope with stress that you haven't even encountered yet!  These are all reason to move beyond any initial discomfort with learning the process of meditation so you can create this as a habit in your life.  Unfortunately, the challenges of meditation can be enough of a hurdle to keep many people from learning it effectively and practicing it often enough.

Knowing that you're not alone in your experience and that many people find meditation difficult to grasp at first should give you heart. This is because our minds aren't used to being completely quiet, and it does take some practice to stop thinking about the future, the past, our to-do lists, that jerk at the office, and all of the other things we need to think about in our daily lives. Meditation for beginners is a skill that takes time to master, like any other skill. Once you realize and accept this, it's actually easier to learn, in most cases, because this understanding quiets your 'inner critic' and the negative self-talk that sneaks in and provides a running commentary on how you're 'not doing it right'.

Fortunately for beginners, there are many different types of meditation to try, so if you can't get into a meditative state as easily using one technique, there are several more to try. (This article on different types of meditation can give you more ideas on what to try, with resources on how to get started.)

More good news about meditation for beginners is that you don't have to sit in a room in the lotus position to do it. Certain activities that allow you to 'be in the moment' without having to do a lot of thinking, such as getting exercise, doing yoga, or even gardening, can help you to get into a meditative state of some sort. This can often seem easier when you're just starting out and can give you practice in maintaining a quiet mind and staying in the moment. As you try these things, just try to focus on what you're doing and be fully present; if you notice yourself thinking about anything else (in other words, if your inner voice tries to start a conversation), congratulate yourself for noticing, and gently return your attention to the present moment. With time, it will become easier and easier. Good luck!

Meditation for Perfectionists

Perfectionists can find it particularly difficult to master meditation if they focus so much on doing it well that they become caught up in their thoughts about their performance.  Fortunately, there are tricks around this, too. If you are a perfectionist, try these tricks to enhance your ability to progress with meditation.  This should not only help your attitude and approach to meditation, it should help your approach to other areas of life where perfectionism can bog you down.

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