In this article: Learn the basics of meditation, and why you cannot afford to just jump right in.
When I first began to learn meditation, my mind was abuzz with excitement. Within months of first starting to learn meditation I had already journeyed through Chinese culture, Buddhism, Hinduism, modern spirituality, New Age, and so many other subjects that I felt the very world were a huge smouldering pot of philosophy, science, and spirituality.
One morning after finishing a meditation session I happened to turn on the TV while eating a bowl of fruit salad. The cameraman was zoomed in on a string of brown beads wrapped around someone’s wrist. The camera zoomed out to show that it was a mala, a string of beads that Buddhists and Hindus use to count mantras. The camera zoomed out further to show the old and wise brown eyes, the weathered face, the red robes, and the big childlike grin of the Dalai Lama. Below, a headline read, “Dalai Lama discusses the rise of meditation in England”.
The TV interviewer was enquiring about the benefits of meditation when she happened to ask “And there are absolutely no risks from practicing meditation”?
I scoffed. Silly interviewer. Of course there are no risks of meditation. So I thought, because how could meditation possibly be of any risk? It’s the healthiest thing in the world, isn’t it?
The Dalai Lama’s eyes narrowed and he raised his hand and said “Meditation is very powerful. It must be learnt properly.”
The Dalai Lama continued to explain that when meditation is learnt in the East it is learnt alongside philosophy, history, and other aspects of culture. In the East, meditation isn’t taken as a standalone practice but as one spoke in a wheel (literally, the “Wheel of Dharma”, called DharmaChakra). Only when all spokes move as one can the wheel begin to turn.
< CLICK TO TWEET: “Only when all spokes move as one can the wheel begin to turn.”
But in the West millions are learning meditation as a standalone. The Dalai Lama himself has stated that, “People need to learn more about Eastern tradition rather than proceeding to meditation too quickly. Otherwise mental and physical difficulties will appear”.
Yet millions of people excitedly hurl themselves into meditation like a puppy chasing after a ball, diving in at the deep end then desperately trying to learn how to swim.
For the vast majority of meditation techniques, it is imperative you learn and practice in the right way.
It’s essentially to start by learning the basics of meditation first
I wish I’d had someone to tell me to slow down, to show me the essential basics of meditation, all those years ago when I was starting out, someone who let me know the essential basics of meditation. I literally launched myself into meditation, practicing every single different technique I could get my hands on (and there were hundreds—we’ll discuss them a little later). I was just so excited to be practicing techniques that the old masters used, techniques that have been handed down through history.
It’s hard not to get caught up in excitement once you start to discover all the different meditation techniques and the myriad ways in which they can benefit you in your own life. But only fools rush in. The wise know to go steady.
That’s why I think you and I ought to go over the basics of meditation now, before we start to learn the actual techniques. That way, once we get to the actual meditation techniques we’ll know how to practice them safely and correctly.
- To start with, take a look at this article on the real meaning of meditation. It provides a lot of important background info for beginners. Then proceed with the steps below.
So just what is the “right way”? What are the basics of meditation?
There are many hundreds of meditation techniques, all of which use the mind and body in subtly different ways. However, there are some similarities shared across the spectrum of techniques.
There are basic foundations on which the house is built. These are the essential bricks and mortar out of which any meditation regime should be constructed. These are the all important basics of meditation.
The Basics Of Meditation Practice
Firstly, it is important to set aside a special place for meditation, and it is better that this place be a specially designated spiritual space. You might find it helpful to read my guide to creating a meditation room to get started on this one..
An example of a spiritual space
In the beginning, your meditation practice should be confined to one spiritual space and that spiritual space should be reserved and used for nothing else.
If you have ever visited a nature reserve you will know why it’s important to preserve certain spaces. You can feel the energy of a nature reserve the moment you enter it. It’s pure, wild, natural, a beautiful space that immediately conjures feelings of freedom and tranquility. The same is true for a meditation space. Over a period of time your meditation space will become a sanctuary filled with spiritual energy. You will enter the room and immediately feel purity, tranquility, and warmth, because you have preserved the purity of the space.
So, the first of our basics of meditation: have a dedicated space.
Having a designated spiritual space is also highly reassuring. It’s great to know that if you ever feel stressed you can enter your spiritual space and be free from it all.
Your spiritual space doesn’t have to be a whole room, it could be a corner of a room or a part of your garden, or it could be a public space.
At my home in Oxfordshire there is a brook at the bottom of our field. The brook is always quiet but for the gentle trickling of the water and the occasional rustle of wind in the trees. It is a spiritual space for me, a space where I can sit and feel free, where I can balance and heal. It’s one of my many spiritual spaces.
But there are many more basics of meditation…