Ready, Set, Meditate!
With all the press about the benefits of meditation, you may be thinking it’s time you began meditating. But how to get started? One of the greatest challenges for beginning meditators is the great noise of their minds. It is easy to feel like a meditation failure and so it helps to have a little help.
The best starting place is to study with a meditation teacher, but if you would prefer to dabble on your own, there are many resources available. There are apps for your smart phone, podcasts, online websites, books and more. The number of resources can be overwhelming, so here are some suggestions to get you started.
Google the word “meditation,” you may well be overwhelmed. Your search will yield pages and pages of resources. In addition to websites, you will find YouTube videos and playlists on Spotify and other music services. With so many different resources to choose from, I suggest you start with on-line resources from these well-known teachers: Tara Brach, Joseph Goldstein, and Sharon Salzberg.
Apps and Podcasts
There are numerous apps available for your iPhone, Android or iPad. Most apps offer a few free guided meditations but require you to subscribe in order to access the rest of their content. This can be expensive as some of them cost upwards of $100 a year! So the app I usually recommend to students, because it is free, is Insight Timer. Some of this apps most appealing features are a customizable timer (ie: bell to start and end your meditation session) and the ability to search for guided meditations by topic (sleep, stress, anxiety, etc.) or by teacher. You can also keep your own library of favorite meditations with the bookmark feature. Insight Timer offers paid courses, but by and large its content is free. While this is the app I recommend most often, I encourage you to explore others, such as Headspace, Calm, and10% Happier to find one that works for you.
I don’t have much personal experience with podcasts, but I recommend reading this article about the best meditation podcasts. Many of them are by teachers mentioned here.
Books and Other Resources
In addition to the meditation teachers mentioned above, I’d also recommend resources from Jon Kabat-Zinn, Sally Kempton, Thich Nhat Hahn, and Pema Chodron.
Jon Kabat-Zinn has written several books worth reading: Full Castatrophe Living and Wherever You Go There You Are. The latter is shorter and a good place to start. You might want to check out resources at your local library. I found in my community library a set of CDs by Kabat-Zinn on which he describes mindfulness meditation and provides several guided meditations. Sally Kempton and Pema Chodron also have written books about meditation and offer guided meditations by online. There are many other teachers out there, so this is meant to be a starting place rather than a comprehensive list.
Another resource is the recently popular book by Dan Harris called, 10% Happier. Harris, a news anchor for Good Morning America, writes about his journey from being skeptic about meditation and its benefits, to a proponent (see his app “10% Happier”). The book is funny as well as informative both about meditation and the world of network news. Again, check your local library for a copy.
Whichever of these resources you choose to use, remember to be gentle with yourself as you begin practicing. Some days your mind will be quiet and blissful, and other days you won’t be able to quiet it for 30 seconds. This is normal and even experienced meditators struggle some days. Keep at it. The long term benefits are worth it.
To learn more about the benefits of meditation, read my blog post, “Sustain Your Brain.”
Still overwhelmed and not sure where to begin?
Try one of these guided meditations: