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Learning to Meditate: An Instructional Guide for Beginners

Updated on August 10, 2017
WiccanSage profile image

Sage has been a Witch for 25 years. As a teacher and writer, she enjoys writing informative articles to teach others the Craft of the Wise.

Meditation is a cornerstone for religions like Wicca, as well as any magical practice. For many, the biggest obstacle to developing a good meditation regime and reaping the benefits of it can be getting started. Modern culture inundates us with stimuli in the form of electronic entertainment, distracting gadgets, overcommitting ourselves and more ways to waste time than we can count. It takes time to re-train yourself to still your mind and create a sense of inner calm. A poor understanding of what meditation is further complicates attempts to practice it.

Do you really need to meditate? Learn the answer here.

Meditation helps us cultivate a state of mind conducive to ritual, spiritual experiences, psychic development and magical workings. It really is a lot simpler than most beginners think. Here is a brief guide to help you get started.

Learning to Meditate

Meditation is an art that takes practice.
Meditation is an art that takes practice. | Source

What Not To Do

Sometimes the best place to start when teaching someone what to, is to explain what not to do. When you try to meditate, you should not try to:

  • get too comfortable; meditation is meant to be a relaxed state of awareness, but you're not trying to get so relaxed that you want to fall asleep.
  • clear your mind. That's right; I said don't try to clear your mind. Sadly this common misconception thrown about, and it's the very thing that trips up so many beginners. Trying to force your mind to do anything (even to banish thoughts) during meditation is the antithesis to what meditation is supposed to be.
  • expect major cathartic events like visions, visitations, astral projection and the like. Sure, they're things you might work up to and occasionally experience, but really, that's not what daily meditations are supposed to be about. Putting that kind of performance pressure on yourself is really going to get in the way of your efforts.


Recommended Meditation Book:

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Short Meditations
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Short Meditations

This book offers simply instructions to help you get started in meditation.

 

What to Do

Along with the caveats, there are a few measures you can take to ensure your efforts are successful. To get started meditating, you should:

  • set aside a place that is calm and quiet. Make it a place away from the hustle and bustle of the household, away from windows that face noisy traffic, playing children or barking dogs. It should be a place where you can go for up to 30 minutes at a time, undisturbed, with a comfortable place to sit.
  • Plan to meditate regularly. You'll get the most out of it if you keep up with a consistent routine. You don't have to start out big-- just 5 to 15 minutes each day. You can increase it incrimentally as you start to get into the habit, but at most on any given day you won't need more than 15 to 30 minutes.

This is Your Mind on Meditation

Meditation helps foster a peaceful state of awareness.
Meditation helps foster a peaceful state of awareness. | Source

A Basic How-To Meditate Guide:

  1. Stretch for a couple of minutes. It will help release some tension and let you relax more easily, and will also prepare you for the time about to be spent sitting still.
  2. Get into a fairly comfortable position. Unless you're planning to fall alseep, it's best to sit up with your spine straight. Let yourself sink into the position so you're not forcing yourself to sit rigidly. You can cross your legs if you're on the floor, or you can put your feet flat on the floor if you're sitting on a chair. Lay your hands on your lap.
  3. Close your eyes.
  4. Take a deep cleansing breath. Breathe in through your nose slowly and deeply (without straining), then let it out your mouth even more slowly and completely. Do this once or twice, then let your breath just fall into a normal, natural rhythm.
  5. Find something to root your consciousness in the moment. This might be your breath, or your center-- that spot behind your navel deep inside. If you're using soft music, you can focus on that. This root essentially keeps you grounded in the moment. Don't force concentration on it-- simply allow yourself to be aware of it.
  6. Thoughts and feelings may drift by as you sit there meditating. Let them. You can observe them; be curious about them, but try to remain detached from them. For example, if your mind starts racing with the idea of what you need to do before dinner, or with the anger you felt after arguing with your spouse, don't get tense. Just observe it, with an attitude of, "Hmmm... look at that."
  7. Return your awareness to your root, and let the thoughts and emotions drift by. Don't engage them or let them carry you away. If you have trouble letting them go, pull a Scarlet O'Hara and tell yourself, "I can't think about that today; I'll think about that tomorrow." Return your awareness to your root.
  8. If there are any distractions-- such as a dog barking or someone in the house drops something, treat them the same way as the thoughts and emotions. Note them, and let them go drift on by. Think of all these things as though you are rooted in the earth, and they are clouds in the sky on a breezy day-- acknowledge them if you must but let them just drift past you.
  9. When you're ready, take a couple of cleansing breaths and open your eyes. You might want to stretch again.

Meditation Aids

Relax: A Liquid Mind Experience
Relax: A Liquid Mind Experience

Meditation aids can help drown out the background noises.

 

Step-by-Step

How to Meditate
How to Meditate | Source

Keeping Up Momentum

Try to meditate for a minimum of 5 minutes, and whenever you reach your goal try to increase it by a minute or two until you can go for at least 15 minutes. You may have to remind yourself a few times to get into the habit, but meditation as a way of making you feel refreshed, calm and de-stressed; after a while you might look forward to these sessions. You might even increase to two sessions per day.

You can keep this practice up for the rest of your life if you like and it's all you need. However, if and when you feel ready, you can move on to other techniques and more advanced methods.

Meditation Aids

Deep Alpha: Brainwave Synchronization for Meditation and Healing
Deep Alpha: Brainwave Synchronization for Meditation and Healing

Some people don't do as well with voice-guided meditation. The right sounds can tap into those parts of your brain that you want to activate, and lull those parts you want to relax.

 

© 2013 Mackenzie Sage Wright

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    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 7 weeks ago

      Meditating is a lot like 'zoning out'... sounds like you're off to a great start!

      When you achieve the right state of consciousness (Alpha state, also known as 'in the zone' to some), you will be in the moment and usually will be unaware of time.

      You're onto it, just keep practicing :o)

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      NinaEberhardt 8 weeks ago

      I'm very new to... well all of this but expecially meditating. I've only done it once. I planned to take only 5 minutes like you suggested. I felt like I was doing OK and kept focus on my breathing. Then I found myself focusing on the black I could see from having my eyes closed.... I could see what looked like gentle light bursts and swirling... it was almost memorizing and I just kept watching. Then i heard someone come in the house and I kind of snapped out of that. Did some cleansing breaths and ended my mediation. When i looked at the time about 15 minutes had gone by and it only felt like a couple. Any thoughts? Was I meditating or just "zoning out"? Thanks.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 5 months ago

      Thank you Gretchen!

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      Gretchen 5 months ago

      Really intrigued by Wicca/wiccan n trying to learn n read everything that's "true"....have read a few articles you've written n definitely will be continuing...

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Hi Ollie; You will find that meditation is an EXCELLENT way to help discipline your mind and decrease symptoms and problems with ADD/ADHD. Moving meditations are a great way to get started if you have hyperactivity, and once you begin training your mind you will find your focus becoming more and more pronounced.

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      OllieTrolley 3 years ago

      This was very helpful, with and ADHD mind, it likes to dart from one thought to another. This helped me relax and clear my mind.

      Thank you.

      -Ollie

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Hi, Greatstuff. Thanks for commenting! That is an unusual meditation position, lol, but whatever works. That's all that's important.

    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 3 years ago from Malaysia

      This is very informative and I like all your dos and don’ts. I meditate every morning before getting out of bed. My meditation position is weird; I will lie on my stomach with my face just below the pillow (like sleeping face down) as this position gives me the best 'option to apply some of your dos and don’ts) and when I get to the alpha stage, I feel like I am floating, great sensation.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Hi Sara! Thank you, I'm glad you found the advice helpful. I can't tell you how many people I've known who got tripped up on the 'clear your mind' thing. It's not surprising a lot of people give up in frustration. Good luck with your goal this year! Start small, and as the benefits grow, it gives a lot of motivation for more. Comments are much appreciated!

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thanks Sangre, I'm glad you find my hub useful. Meditation is funny, it's one of those things that seems hard to fit into a busy day-- and once you do get used to it you don't know how you got through the day without it. Even five minutes can make such a difference. Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate the comment!

    • SarahLMaguire profile image

      SarahLMaguire 3 years ago from UK

      Helpful advice here about not trying to clear your mind. When I"ve tried to meditate, I've ended often getting frustrated with myself for 'not doing it right' - just the opposite from how it should be. A more regular meditation practise is something I want to aim for this year.

    • sangre profile image

      Sp Greaney 3 years ago from Ireland

      I tried this one in a workshop with a friend, but I never did it at home by myself. I can never find the time to do it. Your instructions are great, I might have to stop making excuses and find the time.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thanks Victoria Lynn, I hope it helps you out. If you are one of those who have trouble sitting still altogether, you might want to check out my hub on moving meditations, showing you how you can get into a meditative state of mind while in motion doing a task. I appreciate your comments.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      It's hard for me to try to meditate without becoming distracted. This is the best step by step guide I have seen. Very well laid out!

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      I stumbled on it in college taking a stress management course, the teacher had us do a couple of guided meditations in class and then gave us 'homework' to meditate daily and bring in a journal about our experiences/feelings with it. It's something that just stuck with me, it makes it a bit easier to face the crazy times. Thanks so much for your comments!

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      I've never meditated before, because I never knew how. But I think everyone can certainly benefit from finding a quiet place to reflect and open their minds. I know my house gets totally crazy at times and I just wish I had a quiet room to hide in! LOL

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      This is so true, Anna Haven. State of mind is so important and can really make all the difference. Meditation helps us tap into an inner peace that can make dealing with everything else so much better. When I stop for a while I notice a huge difference in my state of mind. Thanks so much for your comments.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thanks Lettyann; that's exactly it. I've never been a Buddhist but I learned a lot from a Buddhist who ran a meditation group at a UU church, and he would always say "Remember, if you're trying to do something, you're doing it wrong." It is a confusing concept to so many, to just sit there and not force anything and let yourself simply 'be'. But once you get someone to do it, their eyes seem to open and they're like, "Ohhh, I get it now." Thanks so much!

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 3 years ago from Scotland

      Great article. You explained it really clearly and captured the essence of it perfectly.

      The benefits are huge and with a bit of practice it does becomes easier and an integral part of your day, as you said.

      The world is a better place and we sense our place within that whole much better with meditation and visualisation. :)

    • Lettyann profile image

      Lettyann 3 years ago

      LOVE the advice not to try to "clear your mind". I learned meditation through Buddhist traditions, and it was really emphasized that when we try to "control "our minds, we are being counterproductive. Great guide!

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thank you DreamerMeg; I love it when the universe just kind of guides you like that to just what you were looking for. Glad to be of help, thanks for the comment.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thank you MPG Narratives; I have been meditating for years and occasionally I let the practice lapse for a while. Then I realized how easily stressed and tense I get and get back into it again. Comments are much appreciated, glad I could motivate you.

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thanks Catgypsy. It can take time to get used to it. There are also other meditative techniques that I am working on describing in articles to come, so maybe you'll find something more suited for you. Thanks for the comment!

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thank you Billy! Ahh.. the 60s... when people really knew how to let their minds just go. Maybe a little too much sometimes,but still... thanks so much for the comments, I appreciate it!

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thank you DzyMsLizzy; that 'clear your mind' thing trips so many people up, it's true. There's definitely better ways to work with the 'busy monkey-mind' (lol, I like that) than trying to force it to go against it's nature. Your comments & votes are much appreciated!

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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thanks for the recommendation Nell Rose, I'll have to look into it that CD. I usually listen to singing bowls for my regular meditations but every now and then a change of music/background sounds is very refreshing. Thanks for you comment!

    • WiccanSage profile image
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      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Thanks Carolyn; I used to not be much of a routine person - I was more a fly by the seat of my pants person - so it took a while for me to settle into it regularly. Once you get used to it, though, it's like showering or brushing your teeth. You just sit down and do it.Thanks for your comments!

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 3 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Serendipity! Was just talking about learning this, this morning, about half an hour ago!

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Marie Giunta 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Meditation was a part of my life for years but I have let it lapse lately. This hub has motivated me to start again. Thanks, voted up, useful and pinned.

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 3 years ago from the South

      I have some trouble meditating. I find it hard to let thoughts float by and not get caught up in them...but you have inspired me to try again. Great hub!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I have been meditating for decades...since the 60's actually. Great information here my friend.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

      This is the best guide I've yet read. I especially appreciated the "DON'T" try to clear your mind. That, indeed, has always been my stumbling block; I have what a friend of mine calls a "busy monkey-mind," that simply will NOT clear and leave me to think only of my 'happy place' image.

      I've bookmarked this, as well as voted up, interesting, useful, shared and pinned!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      This is great Wiccan, and so true about the not trying to clear your mind, it really does do the opposite. I remember a few years ago I had a Tape, shows how old it was, no CD! lol! It was called Awakened dreaming, it was fantastic to meditate too, I sometimes came 'round' after about an hour, thinking it was five minutes! so darn relaxing! if you can find it on cd its well worth it, great hub, voted up and shared! nell

    • CarolynEmerick profile image

      Carolyn Emerick 3 years ago

      I enjoyed this article. I need reminders to make meditation a part of my routine.