I’ve spent many years on the spiritual path being quite overwhelmed concerning the huge offer of meditation techniques, books, teachers and systems. For a long time I did not know where to start and what to do. I have received many teachings and studied a lot but I never came across a basic meditation practice for beginners that would actually keep me interested long enough to continue. Instead of discovering clarity I found myself more confused and bewildered over the time. So I dabbled around a bit – that is until I decided to dedicate myself to a single practice and cultivate it earnestly.
Getting started with your meditation practice is quite simple however. I would like to share three secrets with you that have helped me heaps:
1. Do it
2. Do it right
3. Do it consistently
Do it – sit down and practice the technique
Getting the results of Meditation practice is of course dependent on doing it. You have to make the time, adjust your lifestyle and create the best “growing conditions” for successful practice. These growing conditions (such as a qualified guide and a quiet lifestyle which is conducive to inner silence) are not enough in and of themselves. You have to sit down regularly and do the same technique, moved by the wish to discover true peace and rest within your center. I found some inspiration in what Bruce Lee said: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who had practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
Do it right – commit to the structure
Doing the practice the right way is very important. I have wasted a lot of time jumping around alternating the technique to my liking. Basically the “right way” here means sticking to your teachers advise perfectly, putting it to the test diligently, practicing the technique beyond preference until results start showing. That requires commitment, trust and diligence. Having these ingredients we will soon see proper results (joy, bliss, deeper insights and the ability to go beyond stress and relax under pressure etc., to mention just a few). I recommend a few points to practice the right way:
- Practice under the guidance of a qualified spiritual guide.
- Seek advise from your teacher regularly
- Practice the technique twice daily or more often if you can
- Read good books to receive inspiration
- Stick to the exact structure and work on mastering it
- Take your time, let go of expectations
- Trust the technique, have faith in the process
- Cultivate the steps you are working on throughout the day
- Have a supportive community of spiritual friends who practice the same method
- Know that you get better each time you cultivate mindfulness
Do it consistently – cultivate joyful discipline
Consistency is key. Do the same thing over and over again and you will get better at it, eventually even master it. In order to really explore a technique and “enter” it you have to stick to it and do it. The technique doesn’t get wider in scope or more complex – it deepens as you go along. It’s about doing the basics over and over and experience the secret hidden passageways and insights that are buried within the seemingly simple structure. We also should practice our technique throughout the day and night. Each time we remember our meditation we should engage the practice. Whether you are sitting on a bus on the way to work, while waiting at a traffic light, while walking through the town or waiting for someone – train your mind according to your level. Dig deeper with consistency and you are cultivating the right way.
Make yourself a training schedule you feel enthusiastic about and go for it. In the first week you want to learn the technique. After each week you should add five minutes to your session until you can sit still for one hour. I highly recommend joining a Yoga class until you can sit well for one hour. From week two onward you should drop the guided practice and do it by yourself – training your mind well. Having practiced this technique for one hour at least once every day (one full hour) for one, two or three months you should go on developing the next step which will follow. Moving on early will not help the process. If you are interested to get started, begin right here with these meditation stages for beginners.
8 thoughts on “Basic Meditation Practice for Beginners”
Thanks Toby for this great post! I am also one of those who read and listen a lot of different teachers, try a little bit of this and that,get inspired, get bored, try another approach etc. In the end, I learn a lot, and the learning is rich in “theory” but shallow in practice. Somehow all the accumulating knowledge with the limited practice does evolve and lead to some level of insight, even piece of mind occationally, but it is very vague and easily disturbed. What you say in this blogpost about sticking to one practice and giving it focus and time is very insightful. However, I find it very, very challenging.
I believe I am struggling with priorities. I am an entrepreneur with two growing companies, I have too school aged children, and life is very full. Work and children are my passion, but so is finding the “truth” and a more stable piece of mind. Combining them seems impossible. I try to meditate 1-2 times a day, but when I sit down, I feel a rush of other priorities coming into my mind: “This needs to be done now. This should have been done yesterday! I can not use time for meditation, when so many things are undone. I will not be able to have any concentration anyway, so I better just forget meditation and get some work done.” I look at these thoughts for a while, appearing in my awareness, but I can not really get distance to them, I am somehow just faintly aware of them. Then I get sucked in and I give it up. And I know that I will not develop deep insight like this. Then I think – “Ok, tomorrow I will try harder so stay with whatever is. I will sit still – whether I have any concentration or not.” And next day it does not get any better. Any ideas or tips on this?
Many thanks for your comment 🙂 I am glad it inspired you to question further. The struggle with priorities is a very real one and it will get better over time. It’s in fact a struggle of whether we make happiness or activity a priority. You could go through your life making activity a priority – hoping that it makes you happy eventually. That’s what most people probably have learned to do. “Doing makes you happy”. However when you are embarking on the spiritual path you will gradually learn from experience that “happiness makes the doing”. This is an option that is less considered but would certainly be of more benefit to this ailing world.
Just keep sticking to learning, keep the wish alive – protect it well. Eventually you will see just how important spiritual practice is – that it is not something you try to “squeeze in”. This understanding grows over time. In the meantime trust in the power of your practice – even if it’s just a little bit. Keep your mind away from concerns and keep it quiet in every free minute you remember that you are right here.
I will include your question into tomorrows class – it is very valid for many people I believe.
Thank you for your post. I have a question about the “1 technique only”. After your retreat which was very empowering for me, I did the 10-day Vipassana retreat in Singapore, which I did like very much in term of purpose, message and clarity of the practice. I then joined 1-day Vipassana they organize here once a month (now my pregnant belly is too big, I’ll have to stop!) without teacher/guideline though. They also say to not “mix” techniques. But then I’m reading “mindfulness, bliss and beyond” and p.25 it is said that vipassana and Samatha are 2 facets of the same process. I don’t really understand what it really means in term of practice. Does it mean your practice and Vipassan practice are actually 1 same broad practice ? Can I disgress then from the “strict” vipassana technique (breath in nose area,then body, then metta) ? Thank you for your help.
Thanks for your wonderful – and very famous – question. I will discuss it in the teachings tomorrow. Glad to know you are staying on track!
Thank you very much Tobi. It’s awesome to receive such a dedicated answer. I really needed it, I was indeed quite confused. It is much clearer now.
Great! Glad it helps Ophelie! That’s what this blog is for 🙂