Whether you are experienced or new to meditation, let’s talk about meditation in a new light. It has long held a reputation in the west that makes it seem mystical, difficult, culturally different, and not something people routinely add to their day. However, you can successfully learn to meditate even if you are brand new.
Studies have shown that being able to successfully learn to meditate is dependent on four criteria. A new meditator has to choose an amount of time to meditate, even if short, that they can be consistent at. They need to choose a posture that is comfortable which can include standing or sitting in a chair. They also need explicit instructions for what to do and an idea of what to expect as their experience increases.
If you were to interview 1000 ultra-successful people you would find that the vast majority have a practice based on meditation. They refer to it in a way that is comfortable for their culture, experience, or belief system such as intention, prayer, mindfulness, or meditation. Nevertheless, all of them are separating from whatever activities make them successful and are deeply contemplating, breathing, or going within. By definition, successful people are usually really busy, right? Well, many share that their success is the result of their practice and they wouldn’t go without.
So why was it so important to them to learn to meditation and what are they saying that they get out of it?
- Reducing stress
- Increasing focus
- Increasing self-awareness, happiness, peace, and joy
- Improving healthy living
- Less reactive in difficult situations
- Seeing problems as opportunities
- Seeing unfortunate circumstances as lessons
- Helps enforce a healthy balance between work time and personal time
What they share is the collective belief that time is needed to rest, rejuvenate, and empower the one thing that makes everything else possible. “Presence of Mind” let’s us clearly see what is important and be open to what is possible.
Types of Meditation
Comparing meditation to sports is a great way to understand it. There are many different types of meditation and each is undertaken for different reasons. Just like sports has soccer or swimming, or boxing, meditation has its own categories. It is important for you to think about your goals and why you want to learn to meditate so that you can choose the right type. Types of meditation can be grouped by:
- Mantra-based: repetition of a word or phrase over and over again
- Observational: sitting in a calm state and watching the thoughts that come up
- Concentrative: focus on the breath, a gong, or a sound
- Aspirational: cultivate a quality
To simplify things, know that there are many different ways that meditation is practiced but a few meditation habits that make the changes in your life possible. With so many meditation traditions and styles, know that anyone proclaiming that there is only “one way” is way off base. Here are some general meditation tips:
- There are no rules: Don’t get caught up in the way it’s done. You don’t need to buy anything special.
- Start small: Choose just a few minutes. It’s better to create a consistent practice that you can make longer.
- No expectations: Don’t expect to have good or great meditations. You will have sessions that you don’t feel anything and your mind is all over the place or you even fall asleep! It is about the process and the eventual momentum.
- Make a commitment: The benefits can be seen after a series of small changes. Most people have successfully added mediation to their life by meditating for short daily sessions at about the same time every day, in the same place.
- Choose the path that feels right to you. There are many types and heritages of meditation. Choose whatever you connect with and seems doable to you.
“Meditation: Because some questions cannot be answered by Google.”Unknown
6 Basic Steps to Learn to Meditate Effectively
- Find a quiet place to sit: If you are new to meditation, don’t agonize over your lotus posture. You want an erect spine but choose a chair or cushions that are comfortable to you. Many traditions stand, laydown, or sit in a chair.
- Set your intention: Just think about the type of meditation and set your intention about what you would like to accomplish.
- Set a time if you are beginning: The whole idea of meditation can be daunting. Set a timer so that your mind is willing to work on focusing because it knows there is an end near.
- Focus on your intention: Think about your intention. When your mind interrupts you, just gently return to your intention.
- Focus on your breath. Many of us cannot sit quietly without the mind going crazy but there is an easy answer. The body will not allow your mind to wander if you are watching or counting your breath.
- Bring your mediation to a close. 5-10 minutes/day is great for beginners. Consistency trumps perfection. Don’t just get up and walk off. You did a great thing so smile about that and mentally end your session. It will make tomorrow’s commitment easier.
Once you get the hang of meditation, you can dive deeper around a specific thought, incorporate imagination, and even express some gratitude during your session. Structure is not necessary for every day.
Readers of Tai Chi Basics consistently ask for resources on how to start meditating or improve their practice. This is the same for people who attend my tai chi class. Tai chi, like life, is a moving art and sitting still proves to be difficult. The fact that tai chi is physical is a disadvantage for people with mobility issues but meditation works well in this situation. These are people who have heard of the benefits of meditation and already have an Eastern practice that they are doing! So why aren’t they successful? Because they are my students, I have had the luxury of asking why people were unsuccessful and then fixing it so that they learned to meditate. Here is what they said:
Top Reasons People Did Not Start or Stick with Meditation
- Too technical: I was too knew and the terminology and teachings were too technical.
- Not enough time: I started but couldn’t commit for that amount of time.
- Too long: The course took too long, too much teaching upfront.
- Too expensive: I want to try this out but not for that price.
- Too basic: I tried but I wasn’t getting anything out of it.
- Too different: I like what I am doing (e.g. tai chi) and don’t want to start something new like yoga.
- Too uncomfortable: I can’t sit with my legs crossed.
Here is what I learned: Yes, meditation is good for you, but everyone was arriving at its door with extremely different goals and levels of experience.
- Some people are super interested in meditation but not wanting to plunk down a lot of cash just to try it out.
- Many have tried meditation in the past without success and they are skeptical.
- Tai chi and yoga practitioners want to improve their practice but don’t want to add something completely different or new.
- Some don’t want to dabble in the basics and are ready for a big deep-dive.
More and more people in my class were able to learn to meditate regularly when I asked better questions and made better suggestions to set them off in the direction they were wanting to travel. This included demystifying what Westerners think consciousness is. So here are the top courses that I now recommend. I am a huge fan of Udemy which is a website where teachers from all over the world get support to build high quality courses on pretty much anything imaginable. What this means for us is that we get direct access to some top-notch meditation teachers that we would not have been able to access even a few years ago.
1. The Best Meditation Course for Beginners
I need to get up on a soapbox a bit to talk about this course. It saddens me to think about how many people are not able to learn to meditate because of the complexity that is layered on top of it right from the beginning in so many classes. This course is the exact opposite. It successfully gets people up and running with meditation and they can choose to learn more or do advanced courses down the road. Every meditation teacher, no matter how skilled they are, started in a simple way!
Let me tell you a bit about the course but then I invite you to read the reviews because the low cost, high reviews, and 50,000+ students who have taken the course says it all. Keven Ellerton is an accomplished meditation teacher who is a westerner. I think this point is important because he made the distance from living in a stressful way and not meditating to becoming extremely proficient. His research (and travel to do so) is extensive but he doesn’t wear it like a badge. Most importantly, he hasn’t forgotten what the process was like at the beginning and he has captured that in this course.
2. Meditation Based in Eastern Philosophy
For those of you that are tai chi, yoga or other practitioners, Taoist meditation aligns well with the goals of our arts in raising the body’s energy level, raising our awareness of our body’s energy, and actively using our energy to transform our life or the lives of others. I included this course because it is both a basic entry point for learning to meditate and instructional in the philosophy of meditation.
And what better way than to learn from a Taoist Monk who teaches and lives at the epicenter or Taoist thought, and birthplace of the internal martial arts. You read that right. Master Gu was supported to put this class together to expand Taoism and improve the lives of others. And he is not just a Taoist monk from Wudang (joke intended), he is the founder of the Wudang Taoist Wellness Center. And if that were not enough, if Taoism were to spread he saw the need for proficient teachers to speak English. So he learned English, which is superb. Having researched and studied Eastern arts for a very long time, I can’t tell you how rare it is to have 1) a master practitioner who 2) speaks English and can correctly convey the ideas.
In this course Master Gu teachers from the woods from Wudang Mountain which includes a meditation portion so that you can meditate along with him. This course is on the short side which some reviewers found perfect while others wished for more.
3. Advanced Meditation Training to Learn to Meditate at An Instructor Level
One thing that I have found over the years is that the quickest way to become proficient at something is to study as though you are going to teach it someday. This doesn’t mean you have to teach it. However, courses that are put together for “instructors” are often the very best organized, contain documentation, needed information, and the concepts are presented from different angles. They know you are going to have to reach different types of students. But in fact you get the bonus of thinking about different concepts in unique ways. Think about it, if you were going to teach a course to students, versus teach a course to people who may teach in the future, how much more thorough does your information has to be?
The Complete Meditation, Mindfulness and Mind Training Course is taught by Michaël Bijker who has vast experience in meditation, qigong, and yoga. He leans in on all of these arts and wealth of teaching knowledge. This is what I love about this course. It’s not all rainbows and “you should be feeling…” messages. He covers the reality of what you encounter when you learn to meditate like boredom and agitation and how to get past it.
Secondly, meditation should heal. Even if your a really healthy person you can spend more time feeling like you just got back from vacation because of lower stress and better sleep. For those people whose health is subpar, many students have successfully targeted things like anxiety, bad sleep, poor moods, and feeling depressed.
Everyone benefits from meditation assuming they get over the initial hump and develop a consistent practice. Tai chi practitioners especially benefit from undertaking meditation. Think of it as isolating one aspect of the art to practice which you then move back inside the tai chi form or qi gong set. Find a program or teacher that is right for you, and mediate. Even if you tried before unsuccessfully, meditate. You have nothing to lose and a different world to gain. Get where I am going with this? Meditate!