Beginner's Tips for Meditating

If you're just starting out with meditation, you might be overwhelmed by all of the information out there.

Here are some of the most basic things to know to get you started...

Sitting. You can choose to sit in the traditional "lotus" pose on a cushion, where you cross your legs and rest your feet on your knees. But I find it easier to sit up straight in a chair with my neck and shoulders balanced and relaxed (this is the hardest part), feet on the floor, and hands resting on my lap or by my sides.

Distractions. Make sure to meditate where you won't be interrupted. I find that turning off all electronics and dimming the lights helps me to relax and focus.

Mind Wandering
. Your mind will wander, particularly when you are just starting out. Don't feel discouraged or dwell on it. When you feel your mind begin to wander (like starting to tick through the dozens of tasks you need to get done that day), acknowledge it and return your attention to your breathing.

Breathing. The goal of meditation is to focus your attention more and more, eventually shutting out all distractions. A good way to start is to focus on your breathing. Focus on each part of your body and how it changes when you breathe in and out. You can also count your breaths as a way to focus.

Guided Meditations. These are free and easy to access on the Internet. The auditory recordings can be anything from soothing music to instructors walking you through guided imagery or specific messages to help with anxiety, self-esteem, etc.

Time. Start off slow. If you can only focus for five minutes a day, start there. After a few sessions, bump it up to 10 minutes. Then, gradually increase as you like. Some people meditate just 10 minutes a day, some can meditate for an hour or more.

If you'd like to learn more about meditation, I recommend reading The Relaxation Response by Dr. Herbert Benson. He's a cardiologist who studied meditation and its effects on the heart back in the 1970s.