Why do people meditate?

Well, that isn’t a question with an easy answer. There are an infinite number of reasons, with an underlying theme of the search for inner peace; particularly peace of the soul.

Attaining peace for many is becoming more and more elusive. In the search for more money and possessions, many people live a life of materialism. They are always looking into the future and seldom concentrate on the present. They rarely, if ever, look within them to monitor the state of their inner self.

Once someone decides to examine within, they come to find the various pieces of themselves in disarray. This is when meditation is often explored. Others meditate to contemplate life and their surrounding environments.

They examine the realities of their lives and discover the meaning of the world to which they belong.

Meditation is associated with enlightenment. Buddhists, for example, recognize the high instances of suffering in the world and the ultimate purpose of their meditation is to free humanity from pain and suffering.

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” ― Amit Ray

To do this effectively, one must know what causes pain and suffering. Normally, this is down to desires and expectations from the world, from people in one’s life, and from life itself. Expectation can breed despair, and this is what man must conquer. He must stop expecting from the world.

To meditate is to be enlightened, to see things in the light of reality. Life is an ever-changing reality. To live life fully and enjoy the freedom of living, one must control their cravings and desires. Only when this is achieved will a person be able to know that life is not as complicated as commonly believed.

However, you don’t have to be a Buddhist to meditate and your reason to start can be anything. Just know that meditation is a great tool to help you find inner peace, and to preserve it, no matter how frustrating the outside world can be.

Given the right motivation and the right purpose, this activity is one that will keep you focused on the truth, living in the now, and living a healthy and satisfied life.

If you’re interested in learning more, we’ve compiled this complete beginners guide to meditation. Here you’ll learn about the many benefits of meditation, how it’s done and useful resources that will help you on your meditation journey.

The Complete Beginners Guide to Meditation

Meditation Boosts the Brain

Meditation has a countless number of mental, physical and spiritual benefits. For one thing, it is known to boost brain power!

Scientists have revealed that meditation can cause beneficial changes in the brain. The research reports that those who meditated for 30 minutes a day for eight weeks, had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain. These parts of the brain were associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. Brain Waves were monitored, and the results are impressive…

M.R.I. brain scans taken before and after meditation found increased gray matter in the hippocampus, an area that’s used primarily for learning and memory. The images also highlighted a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, a region linked to anxiety and stress.

A control group that did not practice meditation showed no such changes.

In a separate study by The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), research suggests that meditation yields more marked changes in the electrical brain wave activity associated with wakeful and relaxed attention, than just resting without any specific mental technique.

The brain always has some level of electrical activity, whether we are mentally active, resting or asleep. During this study, researchers monitored the frequency and location of electrical brain waves through the use of EEG (electroencephalography). EEG electrodes were placed on participants using a custom-made hat.

The Participants of the study were experienced practitioners of Acem Meditation, a nondirective method that was developed in Norway. They were asked to rest with their eyes closed for 20 minutes, before meditating for a further 20. The abundance and location of slow to fast electrical brain waves (delta, theta, alpha, beta) provide a good indication of brain activity during meditation.

During the study, the theta brain waves were most abundant in the frontal and middle parts of the brain.

  • Alpha brain waves were much higher in the posterior parts of the brain during the meditation part of the exercise than during the 20 minutes of relaxation. Alpha Waves are characteristic of wakeful rest.
  • Delta brain waves are characteristic of sleep. There was little delta activity during the relaxing and meditative tasks. This concludes that nondirective meditation is different from sleep.
  • Beta brain waves are characteristic of the brain working on goal-oriented tasks, such as planning a work project, or reflecting actively on a particular issue. The EEG showed much fewer beta waves during meditation and resting.

There are several studies that indicate better relaxation and stress management can be achieved by meditation techniques when you refrain from controlling the content of the mind.

These methods are often described as non-directive as they do not relate to a specific experience or state of mind. They allow a person much greater control over the mind without getting too involved. Instead of concentrating on getting away from stressful thought and emotions, you simply let them pass in an effortless way.

This is mindfulness meditation and the benefits are many.

The Complete Beginners Guide to Meditation

Meditation for Pain Relief

Another reason why many people take up regular meditation is to relieve long-term pain. Studies have show that Meditation for Pain Relief significantly decreased secondary pain felt by patients.

Ask anyone living with a chronic pain and/or illness and the majority will describe the experience as intolerable. Dependent upon pain medication, what are you supposed to do when you’ve taken the maximum dose of painkillers and the pain is still present?

Of course it’s natural to fight back against these feelings of suffering. Our bodies are not designed to exist in a constant sense of pain. However, what if the constant cycle of struggle, medication, and waves of pain can be aided with another form of treatment?

Recent studies have focused on analyzing the human brain when undergoing chronic illnesses. The mind does not only feel pain, it processes the information that being in pain contains. It constantly analyzes the different sensations in order to find an underlying cause, remove it and avoid further pain and damage to the body. However, this focus by the mind on the sensation of pain itself also succeeds to amplify the pain for the sufferer.

The study shows that it is as important to treat the mind, as it is to treat the area of the body that is in pain. As part of the research, clinical trials were conducted to see the effect that mindfulness meditation for pain relief had in relieving pain symptoms. The results were extraordinary and showed that meditation for pain relief reduced chronic pain by 57 percent amongst participants. This number rose to a staggering 90% amongst more experienced meditators.

Meditation soothes the brain patterns that are associated with pain.

By meditating a person is altering the structure of the brain itself so that a patient no longer feels the pain with the same intensity. Some patients also remarked that they hardly felt the pain at all.

While meditating, the patients concentrated on steadying their breathing and focused on different areas of their bodies, observing the pain in an objective manner. Simply, this allowed them to observe the pain as it arose and strengthened and let go of struggling with them. The patients remarked that when they did this the pain significantly lessened.

Brain scans confirmed that meditation soothed the circuits that were amplifying secondary pain. In essence, mindfulness meditation allowed the brain to turn down the volume of pain a patient was experiencing. With the pain lessened and also feelings of stress, anxiety and depression, the body entered into a more relaxed state and was allowed to heal itself unimpeded.

Patients also reported that the practice of meditation really helped with the symptoms of exhaustion, irritability and overall anxiety associated with waiting for the pain to appear.

The Art of Breathing

Meditation centres around our breathing and one of the main points to learn when starting meditation is how to control your breathing. The art of breathing is known as Pranayama and is central to Meditation and Yoga.

Ancient Indian Sages realised that they could enhance the quality and levels of Prana by practicing breathing techniques, referred to as Pranayama. Common pranayamas include Bhastrika, Kapalabhati and Nadi Shodan.

With regular practice, a person can increase the quality and quantity of prank, clearing nadis and chakras in the process. This leaves the practitioner feeling energetic and positive. When taught correctly, under supervision, pranayamas bring harmony to the body, mind and spirit. But what exactly is Prana, Chakras or Nadi?

Prana’ is the universal life force and ‘ayama’ means to regulate or lengthen. Prana is the vital energy needed by our physical and subtle layers, without which the body would perish. It is what keeps us alive. It flows through thousands of subtle energy channels referred to as ‘nadis’ and energy centers called ‘chakras’.

The quantity quality of prana and the way it flows through the nadis and chakras determines the state of one’s mind. If the Prana level is high and its flow is continuous, then the mind stays in a calm, positive and enthusiastic state. Alternatively, if the Prana level is low, this leads to the nadis and chakras being partially or fully blocked leading to a and broken flow. This leads to increased worries, fear, uncertainty, tensions, conflict and other negative qualities.

Pranayama’s for beginners are designed to teach a person breathing control. As previously mentioned, these should be first learnt under the supervision of a Yoga or Meditation Teacher to make sure you are carrying them out correctly. Some techniques beginners will come across, include the following:

Samavrtti – Same Breathing

Begin by observing your breathing and its irregularities, transitioning each breath to being slower and more even. To achieve Samavrtti, inhale for four counts and exhale for four counts. This breathing technique calms the mind and creates a sense of balance and clarity.

Ujjayi – The Victorious Breath

Often referred to as the ‘Ocean Breath’ due to the noise the air makes as it passes through, this technique involves maintaining the same rhythm as Samavrtti. Constrict your epiglottis (The flap of cartilage that switches to allow you to breath or swallow) to the back of your throat, while keeping your mouth closed. Listen for the hiss in the back of your throat to know when you have achieved this. Ujjayi tone’s internal organs, increases body heat, improves concentration and calms the mind and body.

Kumbhaka – Retaining the Breath

This is the practice of holding your breath. Start by practicing either the Samavrtti or Ujjayi. Once you have settled into this, after every four successive breaths, hold your breath in Kumbhgka for four to eight counts. Exhalations should last longer than Inhalations. When you first start your Kumbhgka will be shorter than your other breaths, but you will gradually reduce the number of breaths between Kumbhaka, until you have built your exhalation to twice as long as your inhalation, and your Kumbhgka breath three times as long. Kumbhaka strengthens the diaphragm, resorts energy and cleanses the respiratory system.

The Complete Beginners Guide to Meditation

Steps for Starting Meditation

Choose a Time that Suits You

Meditation is in essence, a time to relax and gain energy and can be performed at any time throughout the day. There is no perfect time, or hour that is better than another. You can choose a time that suits you and your needs.

Some people find it more enjoyable to engage in a deep meditation early in the morning, before they go to work or embark on the hectic day that lays ahead of them. Others feel that before bed allows them to calm their mind and enables them to enter a deeper sleep. Once you’re free from external disturbances and able to enter a deep state of relaxation, you will benefit immensely regardless of the chosen time.

Choose a Quiet Place

When you first begin meditating it is advisable to find somewhere that you can really relax. Somewhere that is quiet and peaceful. Where you will be free from any disturbances. Having a place where we can be free from distractions will help as we try to quite the mind and focus on our breathing. Many people find that having candles in the room can aid the relaxation even more and helps ease them into a meditating state. Overall, make sure you have the correct energy within the room.

Do a Warm Up

Don’t worry we don’t mean jog a few laps here, we simply mean doing a few stretches first. Stretching will help you loosen your muscles and tendons, allowing you to ease into your meditation position more comfortably.

Additionally, stretching starts the process of “going inward” and brings added attention to the body.

Lie Down or Sit Up?

Choosing a position that suits us can help make meditation easier. Sitting up or lying down, pick what feels most comfortable to you. The most common position is sitting. I think we have all seen an image somewhere of people sitting on cushion on the floor with their legs crossed meditating, but you can also meditate perfectly in a chair or even on a stool.

Some people like to meditate with their eyes open and others with their eyes closed. The most important thing is that you are comfortable which ever position you choose.

Get the right posture

Posture is one of the most important parts of meditation. You must always choose a posture that will enable you to experience a steady, comfortable and relaxed state. If sitting it can be helpful to imagine a piece of string pulling your head, neck and back straight up towards your ceiling. Most of the people consider the Padmasana or the lotus position for meditation.

Practice Patience

When we first begin meditating it is possible to become liable to frustration. Our mind, with its ability to think about many thoughts at one time, can be somewhat difficult to quieten. We must be patient at this stage and know that with time we will succeed.

Focusing on our body parts as we breathe can be helpful. Perhaps moving from our feet up to our head. Taking notice of the way each part of us feel as we breathe in and out deeply and slowly. If and when our mind becomes distracted, we must simply call it back to focus on a single thing. Some people have found that focusing their attention on a candle can be extremely beneficial in making the process of meditation much easier.

Try meditation on an empty stomach

The best time to mediate is when you have an empty stomach. It is the nature of human beings to feel drowsy after having a meal. In case you are feeling hungry, make sure to have a light meal and meditate two to three hours later.

Meditation on the go

You can meditate anytime, anywhere. Even on your way to work every morning. Meditating for as little as one minute a day can add tremendous benefits to your life. Simply focusing on your breathing for one minute is meditation. Focus on breathing, in for five seconds, hold for a further five seconds and then release again for five seconds, repeating for a minute.

This is a simple form of meditation that can be done anywhere. Well perhaps not while driving! Any form of detachment from the stresses of your daily life is meditation. Even if you are out for a walk you can meditate. Many people find it easier to mediate as they walk because they feel more grounded.

The Complete Beginners Guide to Meditation

Types of Meditation: Vipassana Meditation

There are many types of meditation and once you’ve got a old of the steps above, it’s time to understand how exactly to go through the process of meditation. You may want to try several out to see what ‘fits’ best with you. One of the main types of meditation is Vipassana.

Vipassana meditation is one of India’s most ancient meditation techniques. At one stage it was thought to have been a lost art but was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha over 2500 years ago. Vipassana means ‘seeing things as they really are’ and is a process of purifying the body by observation & reflection. We will look at a step-by-step guide to Vipassana meditation techniques later on in this article.

As an overview, a person begins Vipassana meditation by observing their natural breathing rhythm and concentrating the mind. When the mind has focussed, the person uses this heightened sense of awareness to observe the changing nature of the body. They experience the universal truths of Egolessness, suffering and impermanence. Realising these truths leads to purification of the body and mind. 

This is a meditation practice that has nothing to do with any organised religion. Because of this, it is free to be practiced by anyone and everyone, in any place. All people that practice vipassana meditation are equal. It is also recommended in enhancing mindfulness abilities and techniques.

What is Vipassana Meditation?

  • A meditation technique designed to eradicate suffering.
  • A method of mental purification which allows a person to face life’s challenges in a calm and balanced way.
  • An art of living that is based upon making positive contributions to society.
  • It is not a rite based on blind faith.
  • It is not an intellectual nor a philosophical entertainment.
  • It is not a rest cure or socialising opportunity.
  • It is not a form of escapism.

Vipassana meditation enables a person to achieve the highest spiritual goals, of liberation and enlightenment. On top of this, the method of mental purification often aids and heals many psychosomatic diseases. Vipassana meditation eliminates the three main causes of all unhappiness:

Craving, aversion, and ignorance. 

If you continue to practice vipassana meditation, it will continually release tensions developed in every day life in a healthy way. It removes the need for short term escapism or coping methods that many of us reach for after unpleasant situations.

Although Vipassana was developed as a technique by the Buddha, its practice is not limited to Buddhists and there is no question of conversion. This Meditation is based on the fact that all people share similar problems and the Vipassana meditation techniques are designed to eradicate these on a universal basis. People from all works of life and religious denominations have experienced the benefits of Vipassana meditation and have found no conflict with their profession of faith.

Vipassana Meditation Techniques

The techniques we will be looking at are focussed around breathing meditation, or Pranayama. It is a common basis in vipassana meditation and is hugely beneficial to the body. When we are focussed on breathing deeply, we are not only concentrating on drawing air in and out of lungs, but the feeling of energy coursing through our bodies.

In breathing meditation, we learn to be sensitive to these feelings and let the energy flow unobstructed. This has the benefit of allowing the body to function at a higher rate, and can also be a method for pain management, as above.

So, first things first. Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight and balanced. Try to centre your body, neither leaning forward nor back. Close your eyes and begin the session by softly saying to yourself

“May I be truly happy and free from suffering.”

This reminds us that it is ok for us to truly be happy, and the only real way of helping others to achieve happiness is by ensuring we have found that emotion in ourselves.

Vipassana is a form of meditation, so it is important to reflect on what true happiness is and how to find it. Happiness is in the now, the past is gone and cannot be brought back. The future is full of uncertainties, and fear of what is to come. The only place we can truly find real happiness is right here, right now, in the present moment.

This source of happiness is a constant, it is not based on changing things, such as sights, sounds, and other people. It is a reservoir buried deep within, and we need to discover how to get straight to the source of this happiness within ourselves. A clever analogy is that Vipassana Meditation can often be like a treasure hunt. You are spending time trying to locate a priceless treasure, which can only be located by constant searching.

To locate this well of happiness we need to, first of all, develop a strong basis of good-will towards ourselves. Once that is established in ourselves, we then need to spread this good will amongst other people.

Remember All living beings are equal, you must approach this task in a non-judgemental fashion. No matter who someone is, or what they have done; they too deserve to find happiness. This will be hard initially, we as a society, can be quite judgemental. However, we must remind ourselves that it is not up to us to judge someone. Instead, we cultivate this energy of good will, unbiased and non-judgemental.

Once your mind has cleared using the above techniques, you will now be ready to focus on your breathing. Gently bring your focus onto this act. Draw in deep breath’s and exhale slowly. Focus on different areas of the body and how they feel during this process. Your mind will gradually move into a more relaxed state. Focus on a part of your body that feels different to the rest. This could be your chest for example. 

Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better, it’s about befriending who we are. – Ani Pema Chodron

Concentrate on how good that area feels as your draw fresh air in and out of your lungs. Don’t force the actions, let them come naturally. Other thoughts will flicker across your conscious, do not dismiss these angrily, instead gently draw your attention back to the part of your body you are focussing on. Your mind may wander a thousand times. So what?

Simply bring it back gently, each time it starts to wander.

Adapt your breathing rhythm to that which feels most natural. If you are breathing too deeply, then shorten it a little. Experiment with different breathing patterns and find the one that feels most natural and least forced to you.

Now you have found your most comfortable style of breathing in a comfortable position, move your attention to how other parts of your body are feeling. If you feel nothing, be aware of that. Slowly move through your body analysing all the different areas. When you come across an area, simply notice the feeling and pause a while.

Is the breathing easier or slightly harder? If harder, does it feel as if there’s a tension or tightness?

If so, you will need to concentrate on easing and soothing this tension. Imagine a smoothing motion, you are moving across this area, pushing the tension from your core and down into your limbs. From your limbs, you are smoothing this tension down to your toes or finger-tips, before gradually releasing it from your body completely. Repeat this with all areas of you body, Some people find visualising helps. Moving the tension with a white light or other visual energy can be very helpful. 

Spend several minutes on each area you feel tension. Begin from the top of your head down through your body, paying particular attention to your Chakra’s. You will know you have got rid of this tension as you feel your breathing in that area return to normal again.

When you have moved through your body and are happy you have released all tension, go back to focussing on the last spot you’ve eased. Let your attention settle there and slowly grow your conscious so that awareness begins to spread across your body. From the head, down to the toes. Feel the awareness move through your entire body. Stay in this level of awareness for several moments while you breathe. 

Then gently come out of your meditative state. You will feel completely relaxed and might not want to move for a minute or two. That is completely ok and normal after completing your Vipassana Meditation.

The Complete Beginners Guide to Meditation

Free Guided Meditation Resources

When we’re starting out, guided meditations can be really useful. This is because all we have the help of a meditation expert, guiding us throughout each stage of the process. When you’re getting used to learning your mind, staying comfortable and controlling your breathing, these guided meditations can be excellent teachers.

Below are 10 excellent and free guided meditation resources as well as some of our favourite videos.

Calm

Calm is a mindfulness meditation app that allows you to choose between different guided meditations or simply just meditation music. It works online and on iOS & Android.

Headspace

When you download the Headspace app, you can take 10 programs for free. Developed by an ex-monk, Headspace has been making headlines around the world for bringing meditation into the digital age.

Chopra Centred Lifestyle

On Deepak Chopra’s own website, he offers a number of guided meditations that each have their own different theme. They range from 5 minutes in length to 1 hour and are all completely free.

UCLA Free Guided Meditation Site

UCLA have a number of guided meditations tangent from 5 – 15 minutes in length. They’re also available to download for free from iTunes so you can bring them wherever you go.

Tara Brach

Tara Brach has a huge library of guided meditations, reflections and more. They cover every mood you’re trying to experience and are available for free.

The Free Mindfulness Project

The free mindfulness project is a collaborative effort to bring mindfulness meditation to the masses. They have a large range of guided meditations all available to download for free.

Audio Dharma

Again, Audio Dharma offers lots of guided meditations, each focussing on specific areas. They range in length from 5 – 45 minutes and are available for you to download or stream.

Meditation Oasis

This podcast features guided meditations, instructions for meditation, and music for meditation. Listen via iTunes for free.

The Meditation Podcast

The guided meditations here are a little different as they mix binaural beats in the audio that actually affect the brain waves, inducing a deep state of relaxation, and a brain pattern similar to REM sleep.

Fragrant Heart

Fragrant Heart is updated regularly with new meditations and you’ll be able to find anything you’re looking for in their huge archives including meditations designed for specific groups of people.

Youtube

Youtube is an excellent source of guided meditations and what’s even better is that a lot of these videos come with beautiful visuals.

Guided Meditation – Blissful Deep Relaxation – by TheHonestGuys

15 minute Guided Meditation Abundance, Balance & Freedom

15 Excellent Books on Mindfulness Meditation

Another great way to deepen your understanding of meditation and learn new techniques is by reading books written by experts in the field. But where to start? There are thousands of books written on the subject, here are our favourite 15.

41qStDUPjRL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_1. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind – by Shunryu Suzuki

In the forty years since its original publication, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind has become one of the great modern spiritual classics, much beloved, much reread, and much recommended as the best first book to read on Zen. Suzuki Roshi presents the basics—from the details of posture and breathing in zazen to the perception of nonduality—in a way that is not only remarkably clear, but that also resonates with the joy of insight from the first to the last page.

51WYeauis-L._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_2. Loving-Kindness – by Sharon Salzberg

Throughout our lives, we long to love ourselves more deeply and find a greater sense of connection with others. Our fear of intimacy—both with others and with ourselves—creates feelings of pain and longing. But these feelings can also awaken in us the desire for freedom and the willingness to take up the spiritual path.

In this inspiring book, Sharon Salzberg, one of America’s leading spiritual teachers, shows us how the Buddhist path of lovingkindness can help us discover the radiant, joyful heart within each of us.

41cQMmBCiKL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_3. Not Always So – by Shunryu Suzuki

Not Always So is based on Shunryu Suzuki’s lectures and is framed in his own inimitable, allusive, paradoxical style, rich with unexpected and off–centre insights. Suzuki knew he was dying at the time of the lectures, which gives his thoughts an urgency and focus even sharper than in the earlier book.

In Not Always So Suzuki once again voices Zen in everyday language with the vigour, sensitivity, and buoyancy of a true friend.

414E3STwV7L._SX313_BO1,204,203,200_4. The Miracle of Mindfulness – by Thich Nhat Hanh

In this beautiful and lucid guide, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh offers gentle anecdotes and practical exercise as a means of learning the skills of mindfulness–being awake and fully aware.

From washing the dishes to answering the phone to peeling an orange, he reminds us that each moment holds within it an opportunity to work toward greater self-understanding and peacefulness.

41L3nJkRv3L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_5. Zen Meditation In Plain English – by John Daishin Buksbazen

An excellent, practical introduction to Zen meditation. Written in a warm and easily accessible style, this book appeals to anyone with an interest in meditation, Zen, or, as is often the case today, a combination of the two.

The book emphasizes the importance of receiving good instruction and of finding groups to practice with, yet it lays out the necessary steps to practice Zen meditation on your own. The book includes easily followed exercises to help the reader along.

41tiThwozLL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_6. 8 Minute Meditation – by Victor Davich

These days everyone is learning mindfulness, from  the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks to stars like Goldie Hawn and Ellen Degeneres. But mindful meditation is not just for celebrities, CEOs, and professional athletes.

Mindful meditation is an incredible tool that anyone can master for a better life.

515JlKOj8AL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_7. Real Happiness – by Sharon Salzberg

Thousands of years prove it, and Western science backs it: Meditation sharpens focus. Meditation lowers blood pressure, relieves chronic pain, reduces stress. Meditation helps us experience greater calm.

Meditation connects us to our inner-most feelings and challenges our habits of self-judgment. Meditation helps protect  the brain against aging and improves our capacity for learning new things.

41IKWtzP1LL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_8. How To Meditate – by Pema Chodron

Pema Chodron is treasured around the world for her unique ability to transmit teachings and practices that bring peace, understanding, and compassion into our lives.

With How to Meditate, the American-born Tibetan nun presents her first book exploring in-depth what she considers the essentials for a lifelong practice.

314jPS-HQcL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_9. Turning The Mind Into An Ally – by Sakyong Mipham & Pema Chodron

Strengthening, calming, and stabilizing the mind is the essential first step in accomplishing nearly any goal. Growing up American with a Tibetan twist, Sakyong Mipham talks to Westerners as no one can: in idiomatic English with stories and wisdom from American culture and the great Buddhist teachers.

Turning the Mind Into an Ally makes it possible for anyone to achieve peace and clarity in their lives.

51VDNiAnKLL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_10. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism – by Chogyam Trungpa

Tibetan meditation master Chögyam Trungpa highlights the commonest pitfall to which every aspirant on the spiritual path falls prey: what he calls  spiritual materialism. The universal tendency, he shows, is to see spirituality as a process of self-improvement—the impulse to develop and refine the ego when the ego is, by nature, essentially empty.

“The problem is that ego can convert anything to its own use,” he said, “even spirituality.”

51mg-EJJZLL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_11. Mindfulness In Plain English – by Bhante Gunaratana

Mindfulness in Plain English is one of the most influential books in the burgeoning field of mindfulness and a timeless classic introduction to meditation.

This is a book that people read, love, and share – a book that people talk about, write about, reflect on, and return to over and over again.

51I6YnU4R9L._SY491_BO1,204,203,200_12. Finding The Still Point – by John Daido Loori

Through Zen meditation, it is possible to find stillness of mind, even amidst our everyday activities—and this practical book-and-CD set reveals how. John Daido Loori, one of America’s leading Zen teachers, offers everything needed to begin a meditation practice. He covers the basics of where to sit (on a cushion, bench, or chair), how to posture the body (complete with instructional photographs), and how to practice Zen meditation to discover the freedom of a peaceful mind.

41323x--EBL._SX439_BO1,204,203,200_13. Quiet Mind – by Multiple Authors

This unique book-and-audio program brings together some of the country’s most beloved meditation teachers. Each contributor presents a short written teaching along with an audio recording of a guided practice. Quiet Mind features:

• Sakyong Mipham on shamatha, the practice of tranquillity
• Larry Rosenberg on vipassana, the practice of clear seeing
• Edward Espe Brown on zazen, the practice of freedom
• Sharon Salzberg on metta, the practice of lovingkindness

51wTFdYSPWL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_14. Meditation For Beginners – by Jack Kornfield

Have you ever thought about trying meditation, but didn’t know how to get started?

With Meditation for Beginners, trusted teacher Jack Kornfield shows you how simple it is to start—and stick with—a daily meditation practice.

41fdlX+m6lL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_15. The Experience Of Insight – by Joseph Goldstein

Here is a modern classic of unusually clear, practical instruction for the practice of Buddhist meditation: sitting and walking meditation, how one relates with the breath, feelings, thought, sense perceptions, consciousness, and everyday activities. Basic Buddhist topics such as the nature of karma, the four noble truths, the factors of enlightenment, dependent origination, and devotion are discussed.

Infographic

Finally, as this is quite a large article, we’ve compiled the following infographic, detailing all the main points you need to know when beginning your meditation journey. Feel free to save it or to share it with someone who might also benefit from this information.

The Complete Beginners Guide to Meditation


Sources:

NCBI: Mindfulness meditation-related pain relief: Evidence for unique brain mechanisms in the regulation of pain

Psychiatry Research: Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density

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