How to Get Started with Meditation

A friend of mine asked for tips on getting started with meditation. I’ve found a meditation practice to be deeply helpful to maintain a centered, happy existence.

I’m no expert on the subject, but here’s a basic guide on what I’ve found helpful:

Posture / Space

  • Find a comfortable, relaxing space.
  • Assume a standing or seated position. You should be relaxed, but upright. Erect, but not stiff.
  • Eyes: depending on your personality, you may want to close your eyes, stare into a mirror, or look at a peaceful landscape. Experiment to see what you enjoy.

Meditation Practice

Pick one of the following styles. I use all three in different contexts.

In each case, commit to a time interval ahead of time, say 5, 10, or 15 minutes, set a timer, then begin.

1. Classic Zen-style Meditation

In this meditation, we attempt to maintain an empty mind, which is incredibly difficult for humans to do! Our minds are like chattering monkeys, impossible to sit still. And yet it is this unwillingness to sit still that makes sitting still even more important. The trick is to not get frustrated with yourself as thoughts come in and out of your head. It will inevitably happen. The important thing is to not become frustrated and to head back into thoughtlessness.

  • Assume your standing / seated position.
  • Breathe deeply, fully in and fully out, ideally from the belly. Don’t force it, though. You’ll find a comfortable rhythm.
  • As a thought enters your mind, don’t get upset. Simply say “thinking” to yourself, to acknowledge that a thought has entered your mind, dismiss the thought, and return to thoughtlessness.
  • Savor the moments of thoughtlessness. You may feel a tingling in your brain. Try to play with the tingle.

2. Mantra Meditation

Instead of focusing on maintaining an empty mind, this meditation is about using a repeated word, or mantra, to center your focus. It’s different but similar to the Zen-style meditation.

Essentially, the steps are:

  • Assume your standing / seated position.
  • Breathe deeply, fully in and fully out.
  • Pick a word/mantra for this meditation session. Example might include “peaceful,” “powerful,” “fearless,” or whatever emotion you are hoping to cultivate.
  • In your mind, establish a rhythm/cadence and say the word over and over to yourself. You’ll get the best results if you synchronize your rhythm with your breathing. For example: “in peaceful, peaceful out peaceful peaceful.”
  • You should begin to feel sense of increased focus or even a buzzing sensation in your brain. It will carry over after your meditation.

3. Compassion Meditation

Sometimes, I fall into a place of lack of compassion and connectedness with other people. I find that deliberately sitting down and reminding myself that “we are all in this together” or that “we are all one” helps me to increase my sense of happiness and compassion.

Rough steps:

  • Assume your standing / seated position.
  • Breathe deeply, fully in and fully out.
  • Think of those people who are suffering, angry, or sad.
  • Send your deepest love & compassion to them. Understand that they are like the left hand that does not realize it is connected to you, the right hand, through the rest of the body.
  • This one creates a sense of calm within me and is one that I turn to in times of great conflict and angst.

Resources

Great resources I’ve found helpful:

Hope this helps. Let me know how your meditation journey goes!

Written on May 28, 2017

David Kay has dedicated his life to the advancement of the technological singularity. When not working to change the future of software development, he enjoys meditation, rollerblading, and jazz piano. If you found this article helpful, join his weekly newsletter.