I wanted to compile a beginner's guide to meditation plus list of my favorite ways to meditate – even when I'm super busy.
I'm doing this for you because meditation is truly changing my life and I care about you. But I'm also doing it for me, so I have one place where I can keep adding all things awesome as I discover them. And, I'll end with my entire daily routine.
Before I get into that, I'd like to talk about what is meditation (and what it isn't) and why we should care, and I'll call that…
What Exactly is Meditation and Why Should I Care?
Here's a short video with a great explanation and ONE method of meditating.
It's not my favorite way to meditate, but it's a great explanation of why and how. And it's a method that you can do anywhere.
Seriously, how cool is it that every time your mind wanders and you bring it back (because dude… we have constant thoughts!!!), it is actually strengthening your brain?
What NOT To Do.
For best results, I would strongly recommend these things…
1. Do not jump in too fast.
Just because you read a blog post that said successful people meditate between 20-60 minutes a day doesn't mean that you need to.
It's more like brushing your teeth. Commit to doing 1-10 minutes EVERY day for a week. You can always add more once it becomes a habit. Plus, honestly, if I had tried to sit down for 15 minutes twice a day right off the bat, I would have quit the first day. 😉
2. Do not listen to all of the BS RULES of meditation.
That almost ruined it for me. One program I was in, there were so many rules that I never meditated consistently. Don't meditate after coffee, or after a meal, or after a cocktail, or before bed.
Ummm… when CAN I meditate then?
After reading “The Morning Routine” and “Tools of Titans”, and seeing that tons of people benefited from meditation after a cup of coffee and maybe even a meal (gasp!), I just decided to do it. And if I go to the beach and have a cocktail with brunch and I want to do an afternoon meditation, I do.
How Do I Sit During Meditation?
Personally, my back prefers that I meditate where I can sit with my back supported against a wall or in a chair, with my head free (not leaning back). I can not get comfortable sitting in the middle of the room and I suck at meditating on the beach unless I have a chair. (Your body may love this, so I'm just giving you suggestions.)
I do typically sit cross-legged (yoga style) because it's comfortable for me, but you don't have to. If you sit in a chair, you can put your feet on the floor.
Sit and picture the top of your head stretching up, without feeling rigid. I aim to be comfortable, but also have nice posture.
Most meditation teachers do not recommend that you lie down though, so try to sit unless you physically can't or you're too ill to. Seriously, if you've got the flu, do meditate, but do it however you can and if that means on your side with a cool towel on your face, do that. It's all about the self love.
Ok. I'm sitting. Now what?
Next for me, is breathing and mindfulness.
I took Emily Fletcher's Ziva Meditation course awhile ago, so now I run through this on my own without the video.
I do slower breathing than she does. (I do in for 6, hold for 2, out for 8) But then I run through my senses and then stack them all up like a tower in my head before starting my actual meditation.
ok. I'm Relaxed and My Senses are Stacked. Now How Do I Do Meditation?
There are a bunch of different ways to meditate and I use most of them. They are all good!
Sometimes I use special audios (brain training music / sounds) and apps to relax me. Frequently, I grab my mantra and we hang out for awhile – two buddies just chilling together. And other times I sit and just breathe for a bit, watching thoughts come and go like an outside observer, thinking “Isn't that interesting?” as the thoughts pass by.
So let's talk about some of these and which ones you might want to try.
The Beauty of the Breath.
As a NON-expert in meditation (just a busy person who runs multiple businesses and is a huge proponent of it), I do recommend doing meditations *without assistance* from apps on occasion, just so you know that you can, even if it isn't your preferred method.
Yes, by all means, apps are great, but, I encourage you to also meditate where you are not dependent on technology.
Otherwise, picture this…
You are on a boat and you drop your phone into the ocean. You'll be on the boat all day, and you are frazzled and stressed out. All you can think is “I wish I had my phone so I could meditate!” That's silly.
Or you are traveling and you packed your charger in your checked suitcase (DOH!) so your phone battery is way low.
You're thinking “Here I am in this busy airport. I wish I had my phone charger so I could meditate.”
You can meditate anywhere you can breathe. So, hopefully that means anywhere and everywhere.
But, for me, I don't just want to be capable of doing it. I also want to be comfortable meditating without assistance, so that, if I need to (or want to), I can slip into it easily without feeling like I'm missing something.
Like when I was in Italy. I wanted to hear the wind blowing through the cypress trees and the birds and the animals and the planes flying overhead so I could wonder what adventures those people were going on. It would have felt yuck to me to put on headphones in that moment. So I was glad that I was comfortable doing it.
Make sense? 🙂
So how does this work?
Personally, when I'm in public, I oftentimes put my headphones on just so people don't talk to me, even when I don't have them plugged into my phone. #introverttip
Then, it's really as easy as this. You sit. You breathe. You notice the breath coming in and going back out. You feel a thought come, and you observe it and then dismiss it, going back to noticing your breath. It's as simple as that.
YES. You will have thoughts. You can't stop them any more than you can stop your heartbeat by trying to. So, the goal is to notice when it happens and think “Oh there's a thought. How interesting.” And go back to your breath. Remember, from the first video, that redirection is what is training your brain!
Beyond the Breath. A Buddy in your Brain.
I initially learned to meditate through a program that was designed to teach you how to meditate with a mantra and no technology. (Again, the “you can meditate with or without technology, anywhere you can breathe” plan.)
Before you run off screaming, a mantra isn't anything weird. It's just a positive word that you let float around in your head. When the thoughts come, you gently come back to it without any judgment. Similar to focusing on your breath, but it's a word instead.
I like to call it my little buddy in my brain. In fact, I'll even think to myself “Come on out little buddy. It's time!” and then at the end, I think “Thank you, bud. See you soon!”
When I just do breathing and no mantra or music, my brain wanders a lot more and I don't look forward to my meditations as much. And yes, I know, looking forward to them isn't the point. But if I'm going to be spending as much as 45 minutes a day doing this, I like to enjoy it some.
Here are some options for choosing a mantra if you wish. Remember it is not necessary.
- Pick a word in English that makes you happy. Example: “love” or “blessed”.
- A sound or a word in sanskrit that you just like the feel / sound of. An example would be “Om”.
- A word in Sanskrit (or any language) that means something to you. An example would be “shanti” which is “peace” in Sanskrit.
- Apparently there is even a mantra mentioned in the bible. “Maranatha” which, according to what I found means, “Come, Lord.”
The important thing is, if you choose one, to not say it or scream it in your head or beat it up. Just let it float around in there, and hang out together. Then release it when you are done.
I Get that I Need to Not Rely On Technology, But If I Wanted to Use It, What is Best?
This is totally preference, but I will share mine below.
There are tons of options. I would say to try them all until you find something you love.
- Guided (Someone talking you through a meditation)
- Nature Sounds
- Braintraining (ie. Binaural Beats kind of sciency stuff)
- A mix of several of the above
Guided or Not-Guided?
I have personally not found a guided mediation that I want to listen to consistently. Probably the closest one that I have done that I've really liked is by Vishen Lakhiani from MindValley when we did it in person at their event in San Diego.
Here it is for your reference:
Here are some other free guided meditations (not in an app) to try:
Which Meditation Apps are Best?
There are really so many that it's hard to know which one you'll like best. So definitely try a few.
If you're looking for free apps, these two are free at the time of writing this:
Smiling Mind – This app has a ton of mindfulness exercises for children and adults. This is less meditation and more guided audios / mindfulness, but it's really cool. Plus it's a non-profit and they work with schools, so I'm happy to recommend them.
Insight Timer App – This app has a huge variety of things to listen to, and, as you can see below, you can choose guided or unguided meditations for any amount of time. OR you can just use their timer function and it'll ding when you're done.
Many of the other free apps require a paid subscription to really access much – which is fine, but just assume they do before signing up. If that's not what you want (or you're just getting started), then try Insight Timer app or Smiling Mind or the app I recommend below or even YouTube first.
Short Meditations for Busy People.
If you only have a few minutes to meditate and you want something to listen to, the best free option I've seen is the Insight Timer App.
Whether you have less than 5 minutes or an hour, you'll find meditations that will work for you.
As I mentioned, I'm not big on guided meditations, but they also have music, too. 🙂 Same general concept.
Plus, even though they have literally thousands of options, once you find a few that you enjoy, you can favorite them so you can choose one of the ones that you personally enjoy very quickly.
Only Got a Minute? Like Literally? Do One-Minute / One-Moment Meditations.
This video is pretty old, but I do like the concept.
I use their free One-Moment Meditation app, too.
It's super simple. The app reminds you to do your one moment meditation each day and it has the same cute little dude on it. Then you can choose if you want a warm up and cool down (which is guided) or not. And then you click “Start”. He tells you to get comfy and close your eyes and breathe a few times, then begin. A minute later, he comes back and says you're done. Easy peasy.
What I LOVE about this concept is that you're only allowed to do it for one minute. No longer.
The reason is that, when life feels hectic and you need to recenter yourself, you've been doing the brain version of bicep curls every day. So, you can close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and get your feet back under you – FAST.
What is It Supposed to Feel Like when I Meditate?
That is an excellent question. It's not “supposed to” feel like anything specific. In fact, it can vary by session, by month, by minute, by second.
Sometimes, for me, my monkey mind won't calm down at all and 5 minutes in I realize that I've been running a thought process and hadn't had my mantra or breath in mind at all during that time.
Sometimes it feels like wrestling a 40 lb walleye for 15 minutes.
Sometimes it feels magical. Like a whale is swimming through my brain.
Sometimes it feels peaceful and calm and zen.
Sometimes it feels like I did nothing for 15 minutes and “this stupid meditation crap doesn't work”!
Just being real with you. 🙂
Here's what I do every day.
Roll out of bed, grab a cup of water (add green powder) and my coffee and bring them both to my bedroom. Drink the water concoction, and set my coffee on my night stand.
Then, I grab my phone and choose my meditation app for that morning. if I'm listening to something, I put on my headphones, sit comfortably in bed, close my eyes.
I tend to use Omharmonics or Insight Timer app if I do use an app.
Before I start the app, though, I do a breathing exercise (in for 6, hold for 2, release for 8) and then the mindfulness exercise that I posted above (Come to Your Senses).
Then I look at the time (if I'm not using an app) or I press play on the timer / music and let my mind rest. (Remember, even while you sleep your mind is still active, so this time is so needed!)
After my 15-20 minute meditation ends, I decide whether to do another or if I'm ready for the day. I either choose a second 15 minutes after a few sips of coffee, or decide that I'm done.
Usually if I do a second one, it's just silence with me and my mantra. (Or my afternoon one is.)
After the meditation time, I stretch a bit in bed. Nothing too big. Just some forward stretches and side stretches – mostly so I can reach the puppies and pet them a bit.
I then grab my notepad and write the following four things.
- My number of days in a row of the habits I'm currently practicing. So, for instance, it may say “Day 45 of BAD (Book a Day)“.
- My “creation statements” (through my coaching with Belanie Dishong).
- I write “Why am I so thankful?” on the same page and list 10 reasons. They might be something basic to life like clean water (which so many on the planet do not have access to), or sushi (because sushi), or men who do yoga in kilts (comments filtered).
- My 5 wins for the day. Basically what 5 things do I need to accomplish so that the day will have been a success to me? They may be personal or business or a mix of two.
I get out of bed, calm, thankful, and ready for my day. I am less reactive when things go wrong, and I don't physically feel like crap, like I'm in fight or flight all day. I can just be.
Most days, I do a second afternoon 15 minute meditation. If my schedule does not allow, then I either do a shorter one or skip it and I don't judge myself for it.
I ALSO have the One-Moment Meditation app that I mentioned above and I do it at least once per day.
I hope you've enjoyed this!
If you love this, you'll go crazy for this:
Find out why successful people like Oprah, Jerry Seinfeld, and Tim Ferriss meditate every day.