Last updated December 5, 2023
Learning how to meditate is pretty straightforward. Here’s our go-to guide for how to meditate in seven simple steps!
Meditation is a powerful tool that can have a profound impact on our mental and physical well-being. Studies show that regular meditation can lower stress levels, improve mental clarity and even enhance sleep.
One of the most appealing benefits of meditation is that it helps quiet the constant chatter of our minds, allowing us to tap into our intuition and live more fully in the present moment.
When we are NOT present, however, we miss out on the richness of life. The smell of our dog’s fur as we snuggle, the way the sun feels on our skin, a smile from a loved one, the flavor of dark chocolate as we savor every bite.
No matter how fast life is moving around us, there is always a place of stillness inside. By training our mind to live more in each present moment, we stop seeking peace and serenity and realize it’s right here, right now. Below is a guide for getting started with meditation in seven easy steps.
The Seven Simple Steps of Meditation
If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.Lao Tzu
1. Sit upright comfortably
One of the most important things to keep in mind when getting started with meditation is to find a comfortable position. Ideally, this means finding a seated position that allows your back to be straight and supported, without causing discomfort.
This can be done on a chair, cushion or meditation bench. Your feet should be flat on the floor or crossed in front of you and your spine should be tall and aligned, so that you can breathe easily and deeply. The breath serves as an anchor to the present moment and can help to bring a sense of calm and relaxation to the body.
You may be wondering whether it’s okay to meditate lying down? Absolutely. The mind tends to be more alert when we’re seated and upright, thus the reason most teachers suggest seated meditation whenever possible.
You may also be wondering whether it’s okay to kneel. Again, absolutely. Kneeling is another way of sitting for meditation if you don’t want to be cross-legged.
2. Gently close your eyes
This step helps to reduce external distractions and to focus on the present moment. Closing your eyes also helps to reduce the stimulation of your visual sense, and to shift your attention inward.
3. Breathe deeply
Our breath is an ANCHOR to the present moment and a tool available at all times. Start by taking 10 deep breaths and counting to five during each exhale and inhale.
Allow your lungs to fill up as you inhale and then slowly exhale through your nose, allowing your shoulders to drop. Repeat.
4. Slowly scan your body, and notice any sensations
This is a great step because it’s checking in with our body. How many times a day do we ask others, “How are you?” A lot. How many times a day do we ask our body, “How are you?” Hardly ever.
Scan your body and notice any sensations or areas of tension. This step is about bringing your attention to your body, and noticing any sensations that you may be experiencing. This could be tension, pain, itchiness, warmth or coldness.
You can start at your feet and work your way up to your head, or vice versa. This allows you to check in with your body and bring yourself fully into the present moment. Additionally, be aware of any thoughts or mental distractions that may arise during meditation, and allow them to pass by without judgment or attachment. If your mind does wander, simply bring your focus back to your breath.
5. Be aware of any thoughts you are having
Do you ever get stuck overthinking? Here’s a chance to notice your thoughts WITHOUT getting roped in by them. It’s important to acknowledge them, and then let them go. You don’t have to follow them or engage with them, just let them pass by like clouds in the sky.
Notice what thoughts are present, for instance, “I need to call my mom, I have to go to the grocery store.” Allow each thought to come up, and pass by, without any judgment or attachment.
6. When your mind wanders, focus on your breath
It’s a fact. Your mind will wander. And when it does, come home to your breath. Your breath is the number one tool to help you stay grounded, connected and focused in the moment. When you focus on your breathing, your heart rate slows down, your mind begins to quiet and your body relaxes.
7. Gently open your eyes when you are ready
This step is about coming out of the meditation practice, and returning to your day. Open your eyes gently, and take a moment to adjust to the light. Take a few deep breaths and notice how you feel. Stretch or move your body if you need to, and then get up and go about your day, with a sense of calm and clarity.
Meditation as a Supportive Tool
It’s important to start small, and to begin with five to ten minutes of meditation practice. The recommended time of day to meditate is in the morning, before having coffee or other stimulating substances. As you become more comfortable with meditation, you can gradually increase the length of your practice.
Meditation is not just something you do while sitting on a pillow. It’s a tool that can be used throughout your day. Even if you don’t have time to close your eyes and meditate, you can still practice conscious breathing during a meeting, in a traffic jam, or in a conversation. By practicing meditation regularly, you’ll find that you are better able to handle stress and find inner peace in your everyday life.
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Article provided in collaboration with Devon Combs, leader of the award-winning Unbridled Retreat.