Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche says beginners should keep things simple and easy when starting meditation. You surely don’t want to argue with a Buddhist monk, especially when he is the happiest person in the world. The meditation master recommends that you keep your sessions short during the first few days or even weeks. He suggests –
“You cannot meditate a lot at the beginning; it’s not a good idea. If you are very new, may be do 5 minutes a day. But do it for 30 days. Then, it will become a habit. Once you build up that habit, you can add another 5 minutes, and it gets easier and easier.”
As a rule of thumb, it is widely believed that a daily 10 minutes of meditation practice can have significant effects on your body and mind. But it mainly depends on you and how you want to go about it. As I have been practicing mindfulness meditation for a few years now, I would recommend you get started with mindfulness meditation for beginners as it is perhaps the simplest and most effective methods. You may also try guided meditation as a beginner, if you want.
Here’s how you can start practicing meditation as a beginner-
1. Pick a spot
Choose a location in your home which is distraction-free and has decent room temperature. It can be your bedroom or living room or anyplace you feel comfortable in.
2. Sit down comfortably
Sit down on a meditation cushion or chair in a comfortable position with your spine straight. Imagine an invisible string is tied to the top of your head and it is connected to the ceiling above. Maintain this posture as comfortably as you can.
3. Close your eyes
Gently close your eyes without exerting any force to keep them shut. Keep them softly closed throughout the entire duration of the session.
Start with a few deep breaths: take a long, slow, deep breath in (for a count of 4 seconds), now hold your breath (for another count of 4 seconds), then gently and slowly release your breath (again for 4 seconds). After doing this a few times, relax you breath and breathe naturally. Do not make any efforts to control the pace of your breaths.
As you close your eyes and start breathing, bring your entire attention on your breaths. Focus on how you inhale, the exact moment when your inhalation ends and you start holding your breath, and when you start exhaling your breath releasing it fully. Keep your attention on the entire process of breathing in, holding your breath and breathing out.
When you breathe, focus on how it feels on the tip of your nose and inside your nostrils. You may focus your attention on any specific element of your breath. Just keep breathing naturally. That’s it. That’s all you need to do. But it’s easier said than done.
6. Be aware
As you already know that awareness is the essence of meditation and that your mind will wander while you meditate, the next thing you need to do is be aware. Every time you start thinking of something or your mind gets engaged in something external, gently bring your focus back to your breath without any judgment. Every time your mind wanders, repeat the process. The more you are aware, the better your practice will be. Otherwise you are just sitting there motionless, which is not what you want. Awareness is everything in meditation. And this is the hardest part. You can also do a full body scan to see how each part of your body feels while you meditate.
You might feel bored. You might wonder when it’s about to end. You might feel a slight pain in your knees, back and other joints. But as long as you are sitting comfortably, keep your focus on your breath unless you feel you are done with your practice, which can be 2, 5 or 10 minutes during the first few weeks.
Forget the ‘HOW’. Just DO.
Don’t try to perfect your practice just yet. Make mistakes. You don’t have to do it right. In fact, what you may perceive as wrong meditation might just be the perfect technique. So forget about your posture and your technique. Simply focus on your breath. As long as there is awareness, you are in a meditative state. And that’s all that matters.
When should you meditate
There are no specific rules regarding when you can meditate. You can meditate anytime you feel comfortable and ready. However, try to avoid practicing meditation after eating as it is best to meditate on an empty stomach. The only thing that matters is that you do it regularly and consistently.