Beginning a meditation practice can feel like a daunting endeavor. However, meditating regularly is one of the most rewarding and beneficial habits you can develop for your mental health and emotional well-being.
You’ve just got to start—and stick with it.
Which is why it’s important to feel somewhat successful in the beginning stages of practice. Fortunately, you don’t have to start with a 30-minute silent meditation on your breath. There are dozens of more approachable meditation techniques that will help calm your mind, increase concentration and develop internal awareness.
Side note: Beginning meditation students often have an easier time being led and enjoy guided meditations. Electronic apps such as Headspace and Insight Timer offer a variety of guided meditations, including different lengths of time, and a wealth of recordings can be found elsewhere online.
Choosing a technique that gives your mind something to focus on, whether that be a word or an object, sensations in the body or ambient sounds, is going to serve you much better in the beginning than more free-form type of meditations. That being said, below are five meditations that beginners frequently enjoy.
Rather than focusing on a mantra or simply the breath, beginners may have an easier time focusing their attention on an external object, such as a photo, flower, mandala or, everyone’s favorite, a candle flame. An ancient technique, gazing meditation (known as Trataka) is a highly effective way to calm anyone’s mind down and become present—leading to greater concentration and an expanded state of awareness.
Just as useful as seated meditation, walking meditation is a simple, universal technique that can be done anywhere outdoors. The practice involves a slightly slower, steady and even walking pace that looks more like a moving meditation than a stroll in the park. You begin standing and feeling your feet on the ground, anchoring your awareness in your body. Then as you walk, pay strict attention to bodily sensations—meditating on the physical experience of walking.
Yoga nidra means “yogic sleep,” which is a very deep yet conscious state of relaxation. A form of guided meditation, the practice of yoga nidra involves lying comfortably on the floor and following verbal cues that systematically bring your awareness to different parts of the body. Eventually, you become aware of your whole body. It’s a powerful meditation for re-balancing the nervous system, reducing symptoms of anxiety. The overall effect is extremely relaxing.
Mandalas are considered sacred circles that have been used as a form of meditation and spiritual practice across religions (most notably Buddhism and Hinduism) for centuries. More recently, they’ve emerged in the form of popular coloring books—combining meditation and art therapy. Surprisingly soothing, coloring mandalas can help relieve stress and anxiety (taking your mind off other things) while also allowing you to express your creative side.
Any of the senses can be used at any moment to focus the mind and become present, including hearing. One simple and quick way to that is by actively tuning in to all the sounds around you. Hear all the noises coming and going, without labeling or becoming fixated on any one particular sound—just listen to everything taking place in the immediate present.
Photo credit: Ashley Batz, Unsplash