The difference between meditation for beginners and for advanced practitioners isn’t the practice so much, but how the experience is perceived and understood. For most people that are just beginning a meditation practice, there’s the idea that the goal is to empty the mind of all thoughts. This can create frustration because it’s impossible to just sit down and have no thoughts! Over time with regular practice, you can expect to experience a quieter mind with less negative thinking arising, but to achieve the state of no-thought would be to experience enlightenment, which I do not have any expertise in 🙂
The seasoned meditation practitioner knows the goal of meditation isn’t to empty the mind of all thoughts but to practice making room for all thoughts and then not judging or attaching to those thoughts that constantly enter the mind.
So, what is meditation, exactly?
Everyone talks about meditation, but what it actually is can seem vague and confusing when you’re beginning. I remember that it did for me. I see most people in recovery skip over meditation as a tool, and I feel it’s a shame because it’s such a powerful solution to the most common struggles that most people experience in recovery. My first mentor in my recovery always said “meditation not medication“, which has proven to work the best for me over the last 11 years of my recovery. Even meditation for beginners can have profound benefits right away.
From a historical perspective, meditation is an ancient practice that is believed to originate in India. According to the oral teachings that I’ve received while studying yoga in India, the practice of meditation dates back 50,000 years (which may suggest that human beings need it to be well).
In lineages such as Yoga and Buddhism, there are multitudes of specific techniques that are taught as meditation. These usually include sitting in a comfortable position, but with your spine straight to allow energy to move freely, shoulders rolled down the back to allow the breath to fill the lungs and heart space, and the eyes closed to lessen the distractions of the surrounding environment. Different breath patterns or mantras are given as something to focus the mind on away from the thoughts that are guaranteed to continuously arise during the practice.
Meditation is a spiritual practice, not a religious practice, so you can add meditation to anything you already believe or do and it will only enhance things for you.
Meditation is the practice of turning one’s attention inward and strengthening the ability to focus the mind’s awareness in a single-pointed way. By practicing this super-power, you can begin to choose the thoughts you identify with, and create space between those thoughts, emotions, and your actions. A regular meditation practice creates space for all of our feelings, thoughts, bodily sensations, and the things happening in life that are out of our control to have space to exist without judgment. These are priceless skills to cultivate as part of a sustainable and enjoyable recovery.
Imagine the ability to not feel compelled to immediately react to emotions or thoughts. This is a powerful way to exponentially increase your freedom from the addictive mindset. A simple meditation (even for beginners) practice can help improve your level of freedom right away.
What’s the purpose?
The goal of meditation for beginners is the same as the advanced practitioner: acheiving a state called ‘mindfulness’. This is a mental state that is achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly and compassionately acknowledging all of one’s thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations.
What are the benefits?
- Quality Sleep
- Calms Anxiety
- Emotional regulation
- Fewer cravings
- Connection with our inner soul-voice
- Connection to God, the universe, creation, etc
- Mental clarity
- Acceptance of self, others, and life
- Health and vitality
- Ability to handle stress
- Positive outlook
- Balanced moods
Meditation for Beginners: 6 Simple Tips
The most important element of ‘setting’ is to create and maintain a strong energetic space in which to practice meditation. Choose an area that’s free of foot traffic and other distractions.
Tip: Create and maintain an alter including items such as a small table or shelf to display statues, pictures, candles, books, or anything else that you feel a soul connection to. The alter is an external representation of your inner alter (the sacredness inside of you): a sacred place where you sit down to be with and recognize the sacredness of you.
The most important element of posture is to maintain a lengthened, aligned spine. All energy circulates through the spine, so holding a strong spine during meditation allows energy to flow smoothly without obstruction. You can choose a posture (on the floor with legs crossed or in a chair with feet flat on the floor) that allows you to be as comfortable and relaxed as possible. It’s helpful to elevate the hips on a cushion for comfort and a more stable foundation.
Tip: Be seated on the front edge of the cushion rather than the middle to allow for the natural curve of the spine. If you’re seated on the floor, place one foot in front of the other rather than crossed.
3. Timing and Duration
There’s no need to place restrictions and rules on meditation timing and duration. It’s more likely you’ll fall away from practice if you make too many restrictions and rules. It can be helpful in developing a consistent practice if you aim for a regular time. Give yourself freedom to commit on your own in a way that feels good for you.
Ideal times to meditate are sunrise (or upon rising) and sunset (or before you go to bed). What’s important here is that you find what works with your schedule and that you show up for your meditation practice every day.
The Ideal duration for practice is 30 minutes in the morning and 10-20 minutes at night. Starting out with a 5-minute meditation and working up by 5-minute increments can be a good, stress-free way to build your practice.
It’s preferable to meditate on an empty stomach or wait at least 30 minutes after eating. If you meditate upon waking, it is helpful to wash your face with cold water to stimulate energy. You may choose to wash your hands and feet to promote clean thoughts. Wear non-restrictive, breathable clothing. It’s important to wear natural fiber clothing to promote freshness and energy flow. You may also choose to add some gentle stretches or yoga movements before sitting to activate the energetic body.
You can keep this really simple by just concentrating on your breath, allowing each breath to be deep, expanding the belly. Exhale fully, emptying the belly. Take breaths and exhales through the nose rather than the mouth. Breathing techniques can also be helpful. Here are a few to try out:
- Box breathing – Breathe in for 4 seconds (counts), hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds
- Breathe in deeply, breathe out fully, count 1. Breathe in deeply, breathe out fully, count 2. Continue until you have reached 10 and begin again
- Breathe in 2-3-4, hold-2-3-4, out 2-3-4-5-6-7-8 (4-4-8 breathing technique – excellent for insomnia too)
- Take 3 deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth
- Breathing should be done through the nose vs the mouth
- Gently place your tongue on the back of your teeth while doing these breathing techniques
It is important to close the eyes while meditating. Our eyes are busy and distracted by all that we see. By gently closing our eyes, we can focus our attention inward and practice the art of concentration and relaxation. You can bring the gaze of the closed eyes to the point where the skull meets the nose bone in between the eyebrows. This is the third eye center or the pituitary gland. Focusing the eyes at the point can bring energy and awakening to the prefrontal cortex region of the brain, when our ability to make good decisions (not driven by emotion) live.
You can also just softly close the eyes for a more relaxed experience.