Bruce Lee summed up meditation best: “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water.” Of course, unless you’re a lowkey martial arts master, that’s easier said than done.
But meditating isn’t as intimidating as it seems. Even if you’ve never meditated, don’t stress. We’re giving you the what, who, when, where, how, and why so you too can empty your mind on your first try.
Meditation is a technique to calm, center, and train the mind. In other words, it’s a way to create a more positive, healthy state of being.
Sometimes loss, pain, or anxiety makes us feel helpless. But with meditation, we can take ownership over our state of mind — and change it for the better.
With Others: Guided Meditation
If you’re the type with a loud subconscious, then guided meditation is a good way to start. Guided meditation — where a teacher leads a session through an audio or video recording — is widely available on podcasts, apps, and YouTube. Here’s an example:
The Meditation Minis podcast has free episodes designed specifically for sleep, anxiety, and stress. Headspace is a subscription app that delivers customized, thematic sessions. You can also follow a guided body scan meditation while lying in bed, exploring the different sensations you feel.
Alone: Non-Guided Meditation
Of course, you don’t need a class or lesson to get started. Non-guided meditation means meditating at your own pace. If you’re feeling confident, simply meditate freely.
There are a few different positions to get in your best zen. Try one of these depending on where you are.
- At home: Cross-legged is the most common position, but any position you like will work. Get a comfy cushion and maintain an erect posture. No slouching.
- At work: Bring attention to your body while sitting in your desk chair. Relax your shoulders and place your hands in your lap.
- At the gym: Try meditation through movement —a la Bruce Lee — while walking or running.
- In bed: Lying in corpse position can help with emotional and physical recovery before bed — and help you fall asleep.
Meditation doesn’t need to be a major undertaking. It can be as long or as short as you want. You can do it on the way to work, in bed — even in the shower (face yoga, anyone?).
But while their are no limitations, it’s helpful to set a timer or follow a short guided lesson the first time so you don’t create unrealistic expectations or fixate on how long you’ve been concentrating. Online meditation timers offer soothing alternatives to your stressful phone alarm sounds.
Pearl Jam popularized the phrase almost 10 years ago, but it still rings true: Just breathe.
Start by taking slow, deep breaths and pay attention to the natural flow of your breathing. Where is it coming from — your stomach, chest, or nostrils? Feel the air as you exhale and observe your body without trying to change it.
While you’re breathing, your mind might (read: will definitely) wander. You may even fall asleep while meditating. And that’s OK. Be kind to yourself while your thoughts stray, and gradually return your attention to your breathing. Breathe in, breathe out, and be compassionate with yourself.
Studies have found that the age-old practice induces a relaxation response in the nervous system that can lead to an overall sense of psychological wellbeing. And as if that’s not enough, meditation can actually improve sleep.