No, you don’t need to be a zen master to find inner peace. Anyone can do it. You can do it. If you think it’s not for you because you find it hard to switch off, then it is definitely for you. And I get you. My brain is constantly busy with thoughts, ideas, work, organising, kids, plans, stuff. But even in the midst of the craziness, I can access moments of complete stillness. A safe haven. And this is the magic of meditation; it unlocks a powerful mental focus and creates a path to an extraordinary state of inner peace. Here’s a complete guide of meditation for beginners to get you started.
What is the Point of Meditation?
Meditation offers complete focus and emotional resilience. In particular, it is incredibly effective to combat stress, anxiety and other mental health conditions. When you are able to break a negative state, (it might take a bit of practice but is achievable by everyone), you become a master of your thoughts and feelings. Because you are in control of them, not the other way around. You can change your state. And this, for me, is the ultimate superpower.
Anxiety, particularly chronic anxiety, is caused by subconscious programmes running in the ‘background of your mind’. They fire out thoughts of worrying about the past or the present: what could have been, what might happen and so on. In other words, anxiety is not caused by an actual threat, but simply by thoughts. Will power alone is usually not enough to disrupt those programmes, so when you tell yourself ‘stop having those thoughts’, it simply doesn’t work.
Meditation accesses a brain frequency that will allow this control. The ability to exist only in the present eradicates anxiety completely. Because when your attention is focused, you cannot experience anxious thoughts. You are entirely absorbed in the right here, right now; and right here right now, you are safe, you are not in danger, nothing is threatening you, nothing is going wrong. So you are simply ‘being’ and experiencing what is around you and within you right now.
The Power of Meditation
The more you practice meditation, the better you will become at being present. Imagine a life where you could truly enjoy each moment as it happens, where you could hug a loved one and really take in all the connection and energy it brings you, where you could wholeheartedly enjoy an activity without stressing about work. When you get really good at it, meditation offers you the power of mind over matter. You can be in control of your thoughts, and therefore in control of your feelings and behaviour.
How Does it Feel to Meditate?
Imagine your mind as a room full of junk and spider webs, and now imagine how it would look and feel once you have cleared up and cleaned it. However overwhelmed you are, meditation gives your mind calm, space and clarity. It releases all tension and accesses a state of deep connection and peace. In fact, the inner peace you reach feels deeper and more profound than anything else you might have experienced. It brings you an almost other-worldly experience, that many describe as a ‘natural high’.
Is Meditation a Body or Mind Practice?
Meditation is a holistic experience. Although it is strictly speaking a mental thing, it is difficult to separate mind and body. Much of meditation is achieved by engaging the body, for example, through deep breathing. In this case, slowing down the breathing sends a message to the brain that the body is relaxed. In turn, the brain activates the ‘calm and relaxed’ mode and relaxes the body, which further engages the symbiotic relationship between the two. Yoga is also a great example of mindful body movement.
Can Anybody Meditate?
Yes. Anyone can meditate. Just like physical exercise, anyone can do it and train themselves to get better at it. For those who find it difficult to start (I did), guided meditation will greatly facilitate the process.
Mindfulness: A Guide to Get into Meditation for Beginners
Guided meditation is perfect for those who are not sure what to do. If you simply want a taste of it, then start by paying attention to moments, practice mindfulness. For example, as you are eating something delicious, focus entirely on the experience, the taste, the consistency, the flavour. Similarly, as you are in the shower, feel the hot water on your skin, notice how it runs on your body, wonder whether the temperature is right or perhaps too cold or too warm. When you hug someone, feel the energy of the connection, be entirely in that moment. A simple meditation technique is scanning your body to notice how each part feels (step by step guide on this below).
Where is Good to Meditate?
For me, the best location is undoubtedly outdoors. There is increasingly more evidence on the benefits of nature on humans and if you let it, you will notice those yourself. Taking a walk in the forest, on the beach, through some fields, will connect you outwards and inwards. During that walk, take it all in, the scenery, the air, the noise, everything. Stop for a moment, and use all your senses to complete the experience. Close your eyes and allow yourself to feel the breeze, notice how it makes you feel, its temperature, its gentleness or strength, notice what you can hear, smell, taste, what your body is feeling. This simple mindful exercise is the perfect way to start meditation for beginners.
How Long Can you Meditate For?
Of course, allowing 30-60 minutes every day would be ideal, but let’s face it, not many of us would make the time for this. The beauty of meditation is that it can be incorporated in your everyday life, when showering, eating, walking, driving even. It is about being mindful of moments, noticing what is around you but also what is happening inside of you. I never spend one hour meditating, but I do meditate most days, a few minutes -or even seconds- at a time. When you are in the queue at the supermarket, don’t scroll through your phone. Just take the moment to notice what is around you: is it bright or dark? what can you hear? What is the temperature like? how are you feeling? Can you smell anything? Are you calm, agitated, stressed? etc.
Here’s a Step by Step Instruction to Get You Started with Meditation
There are several types of meditation; for example, meditation through body movement, breathing, body scan, visual imagery.
Body Scan Meditation for Beginners: How to Start
A simple user-friendly meditation for beginners, accessible to everyone is the body scan. Here’s how to do it:
- Seat comfortably or lay down
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths
- Start to become mindful of all areas of your body.
- Focus on your feet.
How do they feel? are they tense or relaxed? resting comfortably on the floor or surface they are on? are they warm or cold? are they painful anywhere? Take some time to scan around your feet and notice everything about them.
Body Scan Meditation for Beginners: The Full Guide
- Then move up to each area in your body and repeat the process
- Your ankles
- Your calves
- Your knees
- Your thighs
- Your bottom
- Your stomach
- Your chest
- Your shoulders
- Your upper back.
- Your lower back. Spend some time all around your back, there is often tension and/or pain that can be noticed.
- Back up to your shoulders
- Your neck
- Your head
- Your forehead
- Your eyes
- Your nose
- Your cheeks
- Your mouth and jaw
- Now rest for a few more seconds taking in the relaxation and open your eyes when you are ready.
Research shows that meditation changes in brain structure and function; MRI scans show that the amygdala -the brain’s fight or flight (stress) centre- shrinks after an 8-week mindfulness course. It thickens the pre-frontal cortex, responsible for learning, memory, decision-making and concentration. It also enhances connectivity between brain regions. Meditation is literally the magic recipe to optimise your brain and access inner peace.
Try it! It’s free! And the best thing is that you don’t even have to take time out of your busy schedule. Just start with being mindful. In short, stop for a moment to notice what is around you. For instance, when you have lunch, really focus on the food you are eating. Take a break at your desk and do a quick body scan. Here’s a free guided meditation to get you started, download it now and enjoy the journey into inner peace.