Beginner meditators need practical tips as well as general guidelines to create a positive mindset for a sustainable practice. Whether you’re completely new to meditation or just getting started, please treat yourself with compassion. It is as much about a new habit as it is about a proper mindset, which sets the foundation for fruitful learning & practicing.
Table of Contents
- What is meditation?
- Where do I start?
- What are the best poses?
- When’s the best time to meditate? How long should I do it?
- How often should I meditate?
What is meditation?
According to Psychology Today:
“Meditation is a practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualization, the breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth.”(1)
If you are a beginner and are wondering: “How often should I meditate?” “How long?” or even “Am I doing it right?”, I want you to know you can’t get it wrong as long as you follow a few suggestions and trust your intuition.
Because, broadly speaking, you practice meditation in order to “pause” the thinking mind and reach a state of consciousness that is quite different from the one we are usually in. It is a state of intentional stillness during which you observe the stream of thoughts in your head — for a few conscious breaths or longer — and do nothing else.
It is also the first of the Fantastic 3 practices I use and recommend to support your healing process and, above all, manifesting a life where you thrive as a quietly empowered introvert. The second one is gratitude, the last one is manifestation. Neither of the latter steps can be properly practised without a few moments of meditation.
Its purpose? Connecting YOU to your deep, inner Self.
It represents a godsend for every human being, even more so for us introverts. It teaches us to watch the whirlwind of thoughts while grounding us to the present moment. A very concrete one.
Not to mention the many benefits meditation has been linked to by a number of scientific studies. It has proven helpful in helping treating physical and mental issues alike, and:
Some research suggests that practicing meditation may reduce blood pressure, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression, and insomnia.(1)
Where do I start?
With so many meditation styles and techniques, you get overwhelmed so fast that you risk giving up. Or getting lost in a sea of conceptual questions, like: “Which style is best? Do they all work? How often should I meditate to get the hang of it and reap its benefits?”
Anyway, this is not the point of meditation.
You will see that, over time, you will be able to feel the answers to all those questions right inside of you. Trust your intuition first and foremost.
The general goal is not to be hung up on the how/how often/how long, but to learn how to show up for yourself through this life-transforming practice. Showing up in a way that feels comfortable, so that you will want to do it more of it instead of less and less until you quit.
I am going to offer some basic guidelines that are great for beginners and serve as useful reminders for experienced practitioners, as well. In fact, I stand by two mottos: “Less is more” and “Back to basics” as a means to return to what truly matters. Both in spiritual matters and life in general.
Back to our tips…
These are simple pointers shared by most traditions (for example, hands in prayer or on your lap, sitting with a straight back, observing thoughts without judgment…), aka: timeless reminders that less is more, and going back to the basics is always a good idea.
Right now, let’s not worry about styles, traditions, or unanswered questions. Let’s focus, instead, on a just a bunch of tips that are going to come in handy for the first steps into the practice.
Your breath, your best friend.
The number one tip – which will never go out of style — is to focus on the breath.
If you sit in a quiet place and focus on your breath, even for a few seconds, you will be meditating.
- Try to relax your upper body and take it easy.
- Observe the movement of your full breaths – that is, in through the nose and out through the nose.
- One, two, three, four, five conscious breaths and… you’re done.
Congratulations! You have already answered one of the most frequently asked questions on the subject: “How am I supposed to do it?”
On the other hand, you may have had a hard time focusing, giving your undivided attention to those few breaths. Please know it is totally normal. Worries, feelings, or thoughts were there, nevertheless you grounded yourself a little bit more firmly thanks to mindful breathing.
It is HUGE. You, my friend, watched the breath for the first time.
“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts”Thich Nhat Hanh
In simpler terms, once we use our breath consciously, we connect with it and start paying attention to the present moment. We are sweetly, inevitably drawn to the here and now.
What are the best poses?
Depending on the type of meditation you opt for, you will be sitting, walking or lying down.
Sitting has always worked best for me and I believe you will appreciate it too, especially in the beginning stages.
You can sit in a chair or with your legs crossed. Make sure your back is straight up to the back of the neck, your shoulders are down, your chin tucked in slightly towards the throat. The hands rest on the knees or in your lap. Start breathing in through the nose and out through the nose. Pay attention to its movement in and out of your nostrils. You will likely be distracted by physical sensations or thoughts, even if you’re only aiming for 5 or 10 full breaths.
It’s OK. Simply bring your attention back to the inhales + exhales.
You get distracted, you go back to the breath.
You get distracted, you go back to the breath.
You get distracted, you back to the breath.
And so on.
Right here lies the essence of this incredible work. Showing the f*** up for yourself, re-committing to the practice, breath after breath. Over and over, again.
When’s the best time to meditate? How long should I do it?
As for “How long should I meditate?” (as well as “How often should I meditate?”) my answer is: small, sustainable steps will prove a winning strategy at the beginning.
In fact, you don’t have to meditate for hours in order to see change, not now not later on.
Five to ten breaths is an excellent amount to begin and it takes a couple of minutes (if not less).
Sounds pretty doable, right?
Stick with this amount for the first weeks, and by all means go back to it whenever need to. Then build up: increment one more breath, minute, or session as you get more and more comfortable.
You can literally take some conscious breaths anywhere and anytime.
For instance, take advantage of bathroom breaks. Those are a great solution if you don’t have a quiet space (like me, when I grew up) or if you are at the work all day. (like me, when I work in the office). Believe me, only five breaths will have a huge impact on your mental health.
The best time?
- First thing in the morning is considered ideal. That way, you are soon ‘done’ with it but, most importantly, created a moment of centering before taking on the daily madness.
- Before bed is another popular option. Although, in this case you have a higher chance of falling asleep, especially if you choose to meditate lying.
At the end of the day (pun not intended!), carving out a few moments of stillness and focused attention is what matters most. Regardless of prescriptions, more or less strict, issued by gurus or masters.
I am sure you will soon identify the moment that works best for you.
How often should I meditate?
The idea of doing it every day and building a regular practice is very intriguing. I’d love to be that consistent myself.
However… Who am I kidding? I’m not the most disciplined introvert on Earth and gasp for air as soon as soon as I’m “ordered” anything.
Does “Every day” feel overwhelming? Maybe you need to redefine your optimal frequency. It can look like three times a week, almost every day, ‘only at the weekends until you add more days’, etc…
In any case, if you manage to meditate frequently enough to create some sort of habit, you will soon realize you will yearn for the post meditation feeling. It will prove stronger than all the distractions occurring while you’re practising, stronger than your own resistance telling you to skip it, or the voice in your head that would rather be scrolling the IG feed than sitting quietly for ten breaths.
Thanks to that sensation of well-being, against which your ego fights so hard, meditation will soon become a form of supreme self-care. A chance to reconnect to + nurture your Soul.
Meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg says: “One of my meditation teachers said that the most important moment in your meditation practice is the moment you sit down to do it. Because right then you’re saying to yourself that you believe in change, you believe in caring for yourself, and you’re making it real. You’re not just holding some value like mindfulness or compassion in the abstract, but really making it real.”(2)
You will feel in your bones the Soul inspired answers to “how/ how long/ when/ how often should I meditate” and practise accordingly.
Whenever you find yourself resisting the practice, simply acknowledge it; don’t judge your intentions or thoughts. Remind yourself of the fact that you can take 5 to 10 conscious breaths right where you are. And, if you happen to be near a quiet space, you can easily transition into a longer session.
A commitment to a sustainable practice will ensure you show up more often.
As long as you rely on intuition to create a sustainable practice, you will be able to show up for your meditation practice more regularly and lovingly. Beyond the urgency of questions like: “Am I doing it right?” “How often should I meditate to reach calmness?”, How often should I meditate to reap any benefits at all?”
As I have seen in my journey and that of others people’s, it’s vital to stay away from what’s supposed to be morally acceptable or even mandatory.
In meditation like anything else.