A Beginners Guide to Meditation

By Luke McLeod

Let go of your expectations

My initial expectation of meditation was wrong. I treated it as something I needed to master. That it was somehow a way to ‘cure’ the problems I was experiencing in life.

The idea that I could master peace-of-mind was, in actual fact, working against me and my progress.

I was almost at the point of giving up, that I finally surrendered to the real magic behind meditation.The best advice I can give those who are new to meditation, is to let go of any reasons you have to start meditating. Let go and and enjoy the process. Go into it expecting nothing and I’m confident you’ll come out of it with more than you can imagine.

Find your zone and essential gear

There are a few key things that increase the effectiveness of meditation, particularly when starting out. First is finding a place you feel comfortable and relaxed in. For me, this was down the road from my place at the beach, in the early morning.

Nature has a special energy and immersing myself in it when I meditate helps me no end.

Another is your surrounding sounds. Again, when starting out, minimising potential distractions helps. Picking a place you know will be quiet, or if you can't, get a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

If you can find a quiet place in nature, then this is your sweet spot. If not, then music may be necessary to keep you focussed. So, grab those headphones, download Spotify and press play on some binaural beats or meditative music. (I personally prefer nature sounds like the crashing of waves).

As you progress and get stronger with meditation you may be able to practice in any environment. Your mind will welcome any noises around you. You may even find peace and connect with what you once found were distractions.  

Man meditating on a clifftop

Priming your body

Another thing you may struggle with is letting your body physically relax. Initially, it'd take a while for my body to relax, or I’d find myself fidgeting or having to break my sitting position.

I found that a few Tai Chi exercises before meditation helped put my body in a relaxed state ready for focus. But, if Tai Chi isn't your thing, try light stretching and breathing exercises before meditation.

Once your body is feeling nice and relaxed, find a sitting position that is comfortable for you. There’s often this preconceived idea that you have to sit like a pretzel to meditate, which isn't the case at all.

For me, it’s sitting in a chair, feet firmly planted on the ground (shoes off) and hands resting in my lap. Make sure to sit in a position that activates your core (pull your belly button in). Ensure you have a long, straight spine. Other than that, find a position where your body feels most comfortable.

Don't forget to life's most essential process: breathing

You’re now ready to delve into the meditation practice itself. Close your eyes and start focusing on the cycle of your breath.

Bring your attention to the area around your left nostril. Really feel the air entering the nostril and follow it all the way down into your lungs. Once it fills up the space in your lungs, follow it as it begins to leave. Let your body sink and relax a little more with each breath out.

When you feel ready, gently bring your attention to the right nostril and repeat this process a few times. Finishing with focusing on the breath entering and leaving the body. With your breath getting deeper and heavier.

Woman meditating on a lake shore

Detach from your body

When you’re ready, take your focus all the way down to the very tips of your toes. As if you’re putting your mind into your toes. They may feel tingly as if there’s energy swirling around and through them. 

Focus on this energy as it begins to move around your feet and creep up your legs. Take your time with this and just focus on the different parts of your body as this energy moves up. The calves, around the knees, your thighs, hips and into your lower back. You might notice that your lower body begins to feel heavy and detached. As if it’s becoming a part of the ground underneath you. Just let this happen and continue to follow the energy as if moves up and around the body.

Let your torso, shoulders, arms and hands go. Notice that your spine is still long, straight and strong. Leaving only your neck and head left. Take your time as you feel the energy move around neck and head. Paying particular attention to the detailed areas around your face. The last part of the body ‘to go’ is your eyes. Focus on your eyes, only your eyes and when you’re ready just let them melt away.

Tap in your primary senses

At this point, you may feel very light and your attention is now looking to grab onto something. Each one of us has a primary sense, this could either be auditory, visual or kinaesthetic (touch). Let your focus drift to what it naturally gravitates to. This could be the sound of the waves or birds chirping around you. It could be the colours flashing before you or the gentle breeze touching your face. Whatever you pick up on first, focus on that and then go deeper with it. Dance with it. Connect with it. Get lost with it. All we’re doing here is being completely connected with the present moment.

What you’ll often find when you’re doing this is that thoughts will pop up and break your connection. This is completely natural, so don't worry. When this happens, welcome the thought and let it go on its way. Then, bring your attention and focus back to whatever primary sense you’ve connected with.

This essence of meditation is a simple repeating of this process. You can’t stop thoughts entering your mind, but you can move them aside. Make sure you then reconnect back into the sense you're connected with.

The more you repeat this process, the more you’ll notice ‘the space’ between thoughts. This 'pop-up' will lengthen and that is where you'll find the ‘special space’ of meditation.

Woman meditating on a beach shore

Coming back

To ‘come back’ from that meditative state, when you’re ready, begin to bring awareness back into your body. Just like the detachment process, do the same thing in reverse order. You don’t need to take as long to do this, just start from the head and work your way down. Moving your focus through each part of the body as if you’re waking it up.

Then when you’re ready, open your eyes and where ever your gaze is, let it sit there for a while. This is when I like to give thanks for everything I have in my life and set my intentions for the day. How I want to feel and approach what’s ahead of me.

Meditation doesn’t have to go for a particular period of time. For me, the whole above process goes for about 30mins.

  1. 10 minutes for the stretching breathing (or Tai Chi phase)
  2. 5-10mins for the detachment process and
  3. 10-15mins for the connection & coming back phase.

If you want to go for longer, great go for it! If you can get what you need in a shorter period of time. Awesome!

The most important part with this process is to find what works for you. Even if the above steps don’t quite resonate, I’d encourage you to not give up.

Continue to research and explore different techniques that might work for you. Lead yourself to s place of peace and contentment.

To learn know more about how you actively begin to practice meditation, visit my website.

Happy meditating,
Luke

Luke McLead | Soul Society