A Beginner’s Guide To Meditation

The word meditation may spark images of a twenty-something year old hipster, cross-legged on a beach somewhere sitting on an organic cotton towel, humming away while a gentle breeze gently caresses his man-bun.

Not the case, guys – meditation has been around since, well, basically forever and certainly stands the test of time. Some of the earliest written records of meditation come from the Hindu traditions of Vedantism, from around 1500BCE.

While for some, meditation is part of spirituality or religious culture – some research has suggested it may help people manage conditions such as anxiety, asthma, chronic pain, depression and heart disease.

Have you ever wanted to give meditation a crack, but aren’t sure where to start? Here are three of the most popular meditation methods that you can do today.

Guided meditation

What is it?

Guided meditation is a modern phenomenon, with possibly the simplest method and an endless supply of free guides available online. Guided meditations come in the form of an audio file (generally a podcast).

How do I do it?

Really, all you need to put yourself through a guided meditation is a secluded and quiet space, a set of headphones and your preferred guide. There are a few you can choose from: like guided imagery, relaxation and body scans, and affirmations.

If you were tense and stressed, a relaxation and body scan would be beneficial. This helps you achieve a deep relaxation in your whole body, targeting each muscle group by tensing and flexing specific areas, accompanied by soothing instrumentals.

Those who struggle with anxiety – affirmations offer an almost immediate sense of calm. Coupled with relaxation and guided imagery, these meditations are used to leave an imprinted message in your mind, keeping you cool, calm and collected. They only take around 30 minutes, or you can listen to ones designed to send you to a deep, uninterrupted sleep.

Guided meditations are a great starting point – they allow access the benefits of meditation from your own home at your own pace.


Zen meditation

What is it?

Zen meditation originated from ancient Japanese culture, with roots tied to the Chinese Zen Buddhism tradition – dating back to as early as the sixth century. Now, practiced widely in the West, the meditation is becoming increasingly popular.

How do I do it?

Generally, this type of meditation happens on the floor, over a mat or cushion with crossed legs in either the lotus or half lotus position, but that’s not entirely necessary – a chair will do the trick.

So long as your back is completely straight, you will have your technique down pat. Zen meditation is very much focussed on breathing – inhaling and exhaling in specific patterns in order to reach a state of relaxation.

Zen meditation is a very sombre style, with loads of strong communities practicing it, as well as plenty of information available on the net. Although often having strong ties to Buddhism, the religious connotation is mostly just formality, helping maintain some structure to the practice.

Mindfulness meditation

What is it?

Mindfulness meditation is a Western adaptation of traditional Buddhist meditation practices. In short, the practice is essentially staying focussed on the present moment, taking deep and concentrated inhales and exhales while paying attention to the sensations, thoughts and emotions that arise.

You know when you were a kid and you had just gotten out of an all in brawl with your siblings and your mum or dad would tell you to take deep breaths and count to ten? This is essentially just that, with a few extra steps.

How do I do it?

The formal practice says to sit down on a cushion with a completely straight and unsupported back. It’s most important to be conscious of your breathing: when you inhale, take note of how it feels (same with exhaling).

Acknowledge any feelings that may come up, but allow them to be a fleeting thought, without dwelling on anything. Same goes with distractions: you’re going to hear external noises, just acknowledge them and allow them to disappear with your next breath.

This is the most popular starting point for aspiring meditators, with it being taught at schools, hospitals and other institutions.

Meditation doesn’t have to be scary, these are just three different methods of a plethora – all uniquely designed to achieve different wellness benefits. If you’re ever unsure as to whether or not you’re getting them done correctly, you can find loads of helpful channels on YouTube.

Bradley is a writer from Newcastle who enjoys travel, Tina Fey and is a connoisseur of cheap red wine.