Welcome to our space of learning! I have created The Beginner´s Meditation Handbook as a tool and to provide a safe space for beginning students to grow in their practice of meditation. You may be looking into meditation for a myriad of different reasons. This is good!
What you will find through this meditation handbook is a tool that you can use at your own discretion in daily life and any situation. Meditation is a real-life practical tool you can use to reconnect with yourself and renew your faith in yourself. It will help you renew your heart with love and your intentions with kindness.
I want you to freely use this meditation book as the tool it is intended for. You may return to it as many times as you wish as you advance through your practice. My purpose here is to bring you from your current state of innocent unknowing to a place of mature confidence.
A Silent Retreat
Meritt, British Colombia. Somewhere on the mountainsides of the Cascades there is a small center that sits back in the forest traveled to by dirt road with an electric fence to keep the bears out.
The center had a side for men and a side for women with a courtyard in the center. The halls were also separated by the meditation hall on the north end and the kitchen/cafeteria on the south end. The halls on each side had rooms throughout them with 1-4 beds in each dorm.
Here 25 men and 25 women and assorted volunteers stayed for 10 days and 10 nights. There were rules we were asked to follow, to honor the practice of Vipassana. Let me tell you, this was the most intense form of meditation practice I had ever experienced.
We did not speak to each other. There was to be no communication with one another. No gestures, no eye contact. Nothing. Ya, it was a little weird. But I decided to honor my commitment for the 10 days. I was here to meditate.
And I did. At 4 a.m I rose from my bed and entered the hall onto my cushion with my blanket wrapped snuggly around me and I meditated. Our meditation instructions were simple. Observe your respiration.
We were to remain perfectly still if possible. And I did. I started to notice pain in my body. All over the place, really. One spot would fade and then another would rise.
As the days progressed, we were taught to move from observing our breath to scanning our bodies for any sensations. The fundamental lesson that was taught was to not be attached to positive feelings and to not be averse to negative ones.
This meditation technique claims to heal and revitalize you in life. I can say that after spending 10 days of sitting with only the thoughts in my own head that there is truth to be found in those claims.
Through this meditation, I am able to consistently meditate for longer than an hour that was previously limited to no longer than 20 minutes due to an injury in the knee. The pain in the knee has been gone since then.
Practicing meditation will bring you real results both psychologically, existentially, and physically. We are here to grow, heal, and most importantly, to thrive.
Now, let us begin your journey.
I cannot recommend enough to get some blank pages in a journal to fill. It is good to have an immediate reflection period after meditation while it is fresh in your mind and has the most clarity. It may not make sense when you write it, or it may seem pointless but that´s OK. Do it anyway.
Do it for the next four weeks after meditating every day and then look back at your first entry. Then re-read the final entry you just wrote. When you see this reality in front of you, then you will keep writing.
Aside from this personal experiment, you will find the journal represents a tangible product of your discipline and consistency in your practice. The more you use the journal, the more steps you are advancing.
Other than a journal, there are other items that can make your meditation experience more pleasant and more practical. Acquiring a meditation cushion or a seiza bench (kneeling bench) can greatly enhance your comfort while sitting and also extend your meditation practice.
Pain is a huge block for a lot of people. Having a personal seat to improve your comfort will keep you excited about meditation and give you a dedicated space to practice your meditation. You can even get meditation chairs with back support if you have more severe back problems.
There are other items that can enhance your meditation experience as well like blankets, robes, or even something to block the light from your eyelids.
How to be Consistent
Another big problem beginning meditators run into with their practice is consistency. Be sure to first enter into your meditation practice without any expectations. If you expect it to be a certain way and it is not, you will become averse to the practice.
Accept how things are. Maintain your meditation practice by meditating every day. The first key to consistency is to be able to affirm to yourself that you do actually meditate every day. Do this by making it true. Even if you only meditate for one second while sitting in the chair at the office, do it. But do it longer.
What this will do is switch you from the mindset of trying to become consistent in meditation to simply extending the length of your practice. You will be working on extending your practice for the rest of your existence, so this is a good place to be.
If you find yourself forgetting to meditate then get a silly pin or a coffee cup that says the word ¨Meditate¨ on it. Get reminders. This will get you through the first wall of your practice.
Having Trouble Sleeping?
Another great way to maintain a daily meditation schedule is meditating right before bed. It is best to be sitting if you can but even if you fall into bed exhausted you can still meditate lying down.
Just lie in bed and close your eyes and practice the same breathing techniques while lying still. You may lay in whichever position is most comfortable for you, but try to lie still. Inner peace comes from outer stillness.
You may lay and practice your meditation like this until you can no longer be still or you fall asleep. Doing this will allow you to easily adopt a consistent meditation routine.
The Proper Way to Sit
The only proper way to sit for meditation is whatever way is most comfortable for you. I have always been advised to be comfortable, just be comfortable. And this is true. You do not want the lack of comfort to be interfering with your commitment to consistency and discipline in the beginning stages of your meditation practice.
The reason that people will sit while meditating is because sitting sends the message to the mind that the body is not going to be doing anything but it also says I am not sleeping. Standing is an active posture while lying down is an inactive posture. Sitting is neutral and gives you the strongest psychological foundation for successful practice.
Now you know you can be in any position you want while you meditate, it´s still good to understand how to sit in the traditional lotus posture. The full-lotus pose helps to open the hips and also stretches the muscles in the hips and back.
It is used to calm the mind and improve concentration. You can watch the video below to be guided through the sitting position. This video will give you all the different styles of Lotus position so you can sit in the way that´s most comfortable for you.
If you´d prefer to get right into meditation you can keep moving down!
Breathing, Chanting, Thinking
Meditation has been documented back for thousands of years. Millions of silent practitioners sitting silently in quiet peace sweeping through the ancient timelines of humanity. In modern times, there is ironically a lot of movement in the world of meditation.
Spiritual practices like Buddhism, Yoga, Reiki, and other practices have swept across into the western territory of the globe in recent decades. It speaks to the global community as a whole that we are looking for a way to slow things down, to be more aware, to love more, to connect.
When you begin in meditation you will find different teachers will want to begin you with different practices depending on their cultural background. This is ok. I would always recommend to be a student, not a follower. Listen with intent to understand, but only act from within your own heart.
The three basic practices are observing your breath, mantra chanting, and mindfulness techniques. We will begin with the breath.
Observe Your Breath
The most practical way to enter into a meditative stance is to simply observe your breath. Most people will unfortunately not advance past this first stage. They get caught up in the desire to see fantastic visions or have drastic positive changes in their life immediately.
It is more like how C.S Lewis stated: ¨As life goes on, day by day, nothing changes. But when we look back…everything has changed.¨ You may not see results immediately, but know that it is an age-old tale of the teacher to tell the student ¨You must keep going. Work through this. You must keep going.”
And only the student can quit.
So, now you sit. You sit in a way that is most comfortable for you. Perhaps this is even lying down. Try to remain still if possible. Remember, inner peace comes from outer stillness.
You close your eyes and quiet your mind and simply observe your breath. Just observe.
Do not try to change it. Do not try to breathe harder or lesser. Do not try to breathe faster or slower. Just observe. Watch as the breath goes in and watch as the breath goes out.
Now, I understand it is hard to read and meditate at the same time. To be a little more practical, you can experience this back to basics guided meditation with this video that will guide you through the intricacies of the breath and how to utilize it for meditation:
This is where you will be for some time. As you meditate with this technique you will find that the mind likes to wander. Suddenly, you will be thinking of the laundry you need to do today. Or how that person cut you off on the way to work. Or how you really shouldn´t have ate that corndog, but man, it was good.
Then you remember ¨Ah yes, I am supposed to be focused on my breath right now.¨ Back to your breath. Until the mind wanders again. Do not get frustrated that the mind is wandering! It is ok. Just observe it.
¨Ah, my wandering mind it is off again. Come back, come back. Let us observe respiration.¨
Very easy. You will only lose if you get upset at your mind. It is already wandering, there is no point in getting upset at it for doing so. You didn´t even realize it was wandering until you were upset at it. So, no anger here. Just call it back and again observe your respiration.
As you may have guessed, millions of meditation practitioners throughout history have not just been sitting so serenely for eons by observing their own breath. As is natural within humans we all must feel the essence of progress. We must move forward and we must see results.
Ideally, to advance past this beginning stage you will want to be meditating least 20 minutes a day while observing your breath. If you are still working on extending your meditation then still absorb all this information. It is much easier to get to where you are going when you know where it is you want to be.
With meditation, there are no strict rules. In some cases, yes, but in your own individual case, it is always best to follow your heart. What you feel is best is normally best. So! With breathing techniques, the standard teachings will lead you into techniques that will greater connect with your physical body and ground you within this reality.
Check out this Body Scanning Meditation Guide to advance further into the sensations of your body and breath, then we will get into mindfulness techniques!
Mindfulness in this context is regarded as a human having full awareness of their presence and what they are doing. It allows us to remain calm and not become overwhelmed by external events happening around us.
As my dearest friend once told me: ¨When I´m mopping the floor, I´m REALLY mopping the floor. I am not thinking of the thing I want to do when I´m done or the person I talked to yesterday. I am wholly, fully, entirely here and I am entirely mopping this spot on this floor with every cell in my body, every fiber of my being.¨
This is mindful.
The goal of mindfulness meditation is to awaken the connection between your conscious mind and your subconscious mind. Your subconscious is the root of your thoughts and where they stem from. To connect with your subconscious is to connect with an uncovered part of yourself.
To practice mindfulness, you simply need to intend to practice mindfulness during your meditation session. In practice, the goal is to simply observe your mind as it is. We are not searching for enlightenment, or even quieting the mind. We are simply observing the mind as it is.
As it is. No judgement. You allow your thoughts to arise and acknowledge them. Once acknowledged, you can simply let go of them and they will pass away. No action. Just observation.
Allow your judgments to pass. There is no need to attach to them or let them define you. Again, you will find your mind likes to wander and will sometimes escape with these thoughts. Return to the present moment when this happens. Return to observation.
Return to observation.
When you work this way and you work consistently and diligently you will begin to see your mind wanders less frequently. You will become more concentrated, more focused.
There is no true necessity to ¨advancing¨ past mindfulness. With it, however, you will find that over time your mind becomes clear and absent of nagging thoughts. With this now clear space in your mind, you can start to focus your attention deeper inwards. You can experiment with other meditation techniques.
This particular space is where I´ve found visions occur, foretellings, out of body experiences and astral traveling occur. All within the quiet spaces of the mind.
Feel free to explore the world of meditation from here. You can dive deep into the shamanic culture of the South Americas or even the European Celtic shamanic culture. You can delve deeper into Buddhism of South-East Asia and ask questions to find answers about yourself and your reality.
String Theory Mindfulness Technique
This is an advanced mindfulness technique that I started with while beginning in my practices of mindfulness. The technique is simple, yet challenging. This technique I have named the String Theory. It will teach you how to complete an objective without trying too hard, but also without giving up.
When you sit down for meditation in whatever posture is comfortable for you then simply close your eyes. Visualize a string. It can be any type of string, whatever you can see naturally. A rope, a ribbon, a thread. Anything is ok.
Now, while visualizing the string attempt to tie the string in a knot. Once completed, then untie the knot.
Repeat this exercise until you feel you are done meditating.
A key aspect to understand about this technique is that you will learn to focus on the string but if you focus too hard it will change into something else or become warped or impossible to manipulate. If you don´t focus enough the string will simply disappear, wisped away into the depths of your mind until you call it back.
Practicing this daily you will help you obtain what you want in life. If you ask for something from someone you know that you may need to remind them – but if you don´t remind them enough they´ll disappear back to their lives. It´s that sweet spot. If you´re pursuing a romantic interest you have to show interest…but not too much or they crack under the pressure and it´s over.
This technique will get you into your sweet spot. That precious little space of energy where everything just works and you´re not really sure why it is but it definitely is.
Mantras have been of special help to me in my evolution in meditation. They work like positive affirmations that you are constantly repeating to yourself. The words slowly filter themselves into your subconscious like seeds and become rooted as your beliefs about yourself and begin to grow.
How to Meditate with Mantras
Mantra meditation is also simple. Have you noticed a trend? Choose an assortment of words that have meaning to you. When you´ve chosen them then you may sit down in whatever way is comfortable for you and begin meditation.
Repeat your chosen mantra to yourself silently in your mind while remaining perfectly still. As an example, I used a mantra ¨I am happy, healthy and strong.¨ You can find other ideas here. If you find a better word as you are meditating than what you are using, than use that better word.
Allow your mantra to evolve with you.
Your Comfort Zone
As you progress through your meditation practice you may find yourself growing bored as time goes on. This is normal. Anything you begin in practice will have a huge spike of improvement followed by a plateau. To continue to grow it is necessary to get outside of your comfort zone.
If you desire and you find your practice becoming easy then this might be a good time to add different variables to your meditation. Some people like to attend group meditations to get out of their comfort zone. Personally, I find my growth to be most enhanced my meditating in crowded places.
Never did I go to a place with people on purpose to meditate, but whenever I found myself waiting in life I would meditate. The presence of other people, strangers, during your meditation creates a different element to your practice and creates a different challenge when it comes to concentration.
The Path Continues.
Your journey has begun! After The Beginner´s Meditation Handbook the path continues forward from here. Stay vigilant in your practice. Return here for new inspiration when things get stale. Engage with the growing community and you will find practitioners who have overcome the same challenges you are dealing with now.
Following these steps and this path, will move you closer to a place of peace. We are all wanting to be at peace. Once you find this peace you will want to share it with others so they may experience it with you.
And please! Feel free to share your experience in the comments below. Or any hardships you might be experiencing with your meditation practice! I, and the rest of this community, will do our best to help you along with any struggles and we would love to relate and connect with each unique experience across the globe!
Keep focused. Be happy!