Beginner’s Meditation Tips: A Fidgeter’s Guide

These simple tips can get a meditation practice going

The first time you join a sitting meditation group, you may be joyful at the prospect of being there, but feel a bit awkward. Know that as a beginner, there are just two things you will likely struggle with at your first sitting meditation: sitting, and meditation.

You may not be able to sit still despite concerted effort. You may get something of a yoga workout changing positions to find comfort.

Perhaps your mind will wander as you try to breathe slowly and relax. You will suddenly be getting itches that you know you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Your back may hurt. Your legs may hurt. You think, “How much longer? Am I meditating right? Do these people realize I don’t know what I’m doing?”

Be kind to yourself. Know that all you need is a few simple tools. You need something to do with your restless mind and body, and you need to realize it is OK to be physically comfortable rather than sitting in a yogi’s full lotus. In fact, feeling comfortable is absolutely essential to meditating for any length of time.

easy meditation Zen suggestion for nervous, twitchy beginners is to use a counting breath exercise that will keep you occupied long enough to actually sit still and relax for a few minutes. Even semi-success with a basic breath-counting technique will give you the confidence to play with more breathing exercises.

When practicing, sit comfortably in simple cross-legged style, or on a chair with your back straight. Rest your hands comfortably in your lap. If you are able to perform a full or half lotus, bully for you! Do it!

Square breathing

Inhale for a count of four seconds. Hold your breath for a count of four seconds. Exhale for a count of four seconds. Hold your breath for four seconds. Repeat ten times. Breathe naturally for a few minutes afterward. Enjoy just following your breath. This will be easy as you will likely feel something akin to a runner’s high. If thoughts come to you, good, or bad, just observe them. Label them “thinking,” and drop them away. Now try…

Triangular breathing

Inhale for a count of four seconds. Hold your breath for four seconds. Exhale for four seconds. Repeat ten times. Feel lovely. Observe and drop thoughts. Just enjoy being. Then try…

Slow exhale breathing

Imagine your respiratory system as a bellows, with your nose as the air opening, and the base of your lungs as the wide open bellows. Breathe in filling your lungs from the bottom up. Your abdomen should move out, and your shoulders should not rise. Now, inhale for the count of two seconds, but try to quickly fill those lungs in those two seconds. Now exhale very, very slowly. Try to exhale to the count of ten. Repeat this ten times. 

This next exercise is extremely challenging. The Zen teachers who recommend this say you must commit to perfecting it, and that it can take a lifetime to do so. However, since you are in no hurry and meditation is an end unto itself, it’s OK! It is known as the 1:4:2 healing breath.

The Healing Breath

The 1:4:2 is said to have all sorts of positive health benefits, thus the name. With this breath, you must keep the ratios at 1:4:2, multiplying to increasingly lengthy times as you improve your capacity. Do not be in a hurry to do this. Start with 2:8:4; that is, a two-count inhale, using the bellows method described above, an eight-count holding of your breath, and a four-count exhale. If you ever become able, perform the same with 4:16:8. If you find yourself gasping for air, stop. You are not ready or able to perform this breath and it is counterproductive.

Other Meditation Tips

* You may try focusing on a single object, such as a flower, a statue of a Buddha or Bodhisattva, or a candle flame. It helps the mind to focus on something, rather than jumping to and fro like a monkey. A note on object meditation: There is nothing quite like gazing at a starry sky for a 30 minute meditation if you are able.

* Don’t judge your meditation as “good” or “bad.” What’s most important is to just do it. The commitment is the key. If you did it, you won. Some days your meditation will feel better than others, just as the rest of the activities that fill your days feel better or worse on different days. “Good” and “bad” are meaningless value judgments in meditation.

* Meditate every day at a regular time.

* Meditate for 30 minutes. If you cannot do it, start with 15 and work up to 30.

* If you are poor with sticking to commitments, make yourself a short, 30 day commitment to meditate at the same time every day, no matter what. 

Good luck in your journey, and may your meditation bring you peace, insight and health.

If you enjoyed this article, check out Beginners Zazen Meditation

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