A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation

We’re living in perilous times. Every day of quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic is a little bit different, and it feels almost impossible to prepare for the day’s upcoming mood. But there’s one practice you can adopt that provides mindfulness, centeredness, and an ability to take everything one day at a time and to find your peace within those ever-changing tides: meditation.

I started meditating this year on the instructions of mental health professionals. It seemed a bit silly: sitting by myself, with all of my stress, and trying to let it all go. I’ve always considered myself something of a free-thinker, but meditation seemed beyond my jurisdiction—maybe something some people, who didn’t weather daily mental storms, could access. But not me. Still, I forced myself to do it so I’d have something to talk about in my next therapy session. And I was astounded at how quickly I felt the benefits of meditation.

Woman meditating gif. Giphy

It’s not a cure-all. I still have bad days. So does anyone who practices meditation. But it’s still a beneficial practice that keeps things in perspective, and the best part: you don’t need to be an expert, or take any classes, or do anything all that special to get into it. It’s all about finding the program—be it app, video, or method—that works best for you.

Here are some simple ways you can get into meditation from the comfort of your home, no prior knowledge or studying required!

Choose a time to meditate

The best thing about meditation is that you can do it literally whenever, wherever. I’ve found it most effective to do first thing in the morning, right after I roll out of the bed. But if you already have a set morning routine you don’t want to disrupt, you can squeeze it into the day wherever it works best. And better yet, you can find guided meditations online that are tailored to the time of day you’re meditating.

It’s fun to experiment with a schedule at first to see where it best fits into your day. There’s no right or wrong way to meditate, nor can you meditate too few or too many times per day.

Download an app

One of the easiest ways of getting into meditation is via phone apps. There are so many great ones available for iOS and Android, including arguably the most popular one on the market: Calm. Voted the No. 1 app for sleep and meditation, Calm is an excellent way to find your way towards mindfulness. To get started, just download and open the app, which will prompt you with questions about your goals and what brings you to Calm. You can then customize your layout and select from different tools.

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The Calm app can help you with sleep, including ASMR sessions and sleep stories—narrated bedtime stories from folks like Jerome Flynn and Stephen Fry—and also guided meditation sessions. There’s a huge selection and so much mindful fun to be had within the app. It’ll walk you through your first meditations and help you develop the right daily plan for you.

You can try Calm free for seven days; after that, it’s $60/year—in other words, $5/month, which is not bad for all of the great content the app provides.

The interface for the meditation app Headspace.Headspace 

Another popular meditation app is Headspace. Like Calm, this app lets you choose from different guided meditations. Before you get started, you can check out the Headspace website, which has a ton of foundational information about meditation, including the benefits and any other questions you might have. (“What is mindfulness?” “How can meditation improve self-esteem?” “How can I sleep better?”)

Once you feel comfortable, you can load the app and start with a free 10-day beginner’s course that guides you through the essentials of mindfulness and meditation. After that, Headspace costs $69.99 for a yearly subscription (which comes to $5.83/month) or $12.99 for a month-to-month plan.

Another meditation hack: If you’re an Audible subscriber, the audiobook app comes loaded with a ton of free meditations from MoveWith. (This is what I use, and it’s fantastic!) Select from time of day or different types of meditation; many of these focus on movement-based meditation, which help flood your body with endorphins and get your lymphatic system in gear for the day.

Seek out customizable sessions on YouTube

If you want to try out meditation but don’t feel comfortable putting money towards something you’re not sure you’ll stick to, worry not! YouTube is an excellent resource when you’re first getting started with meditation. And the best part, other than the whole free thing, is that you can tailor your meditations to your interests. Wanna find your way to zen like your favorite Star Wars characters? There’s a meditation video for that!

Want to wander the streets of Diagon Alley in your mind before bedtime? There’s a video for that too!

You can search almost any pop culture term plus meditation on YouTube and find a world of videos that will transport you into a fictional world. This is another excellent way to get into a practice you’re unfamiliar with.

Continue to experiment and expand 

Like I said before, there’s no right or wrong way to meditate, and it’s never worth stressing yourself out over. As long as you keep an open mind, chances are you’ll eventually land on a practice that works best for you. And once you learn the proper breathing tricks and tips, eventually you might not even need guided apps or videos, and will be able to find your centered place on your own.

Meditation is completely customizable, and can be a lot of fun once you start adding it to your life. Give it a whirl and see what works for you—you might be surprised at how it impacts your day and overall levels of mindfulness.

Featured Image: Lucasfilm

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