Do you meditate? It has become widely accepted that meditation is a great way to reduce stress, improve focus and restore internal balance. I know that lots of people would like to be able to meditate, but find it hard to begin. Our minds wander, we get fidgety, and we don’t know what to do with ourselves.
In this age of digital-everything, it’s just harder because our brains act differently now. We spend less time staring into space, watching clouds go by, slowing down, and just being present. I have a simple meditation technique for beginners that I think will be really helpful for you. It has helped me get back into a meditation practice recently, as I had gotten a bit rusty, too. I find that using visualization really helps me.
A Simple Meditation Technique for Beginners
1. Find a quiet place, and lie down on your back. With your feet on the floor, bend your knees and let them lean in together comfortably.
2. Set a timer for the amount of time that you will meditate. I recommend starting with just 2 minutes at first, then increasing as you become more comfortable and your ability to focus grows. I usually do 10 minute sessions, and am working up to 15– but it’s not a race. Take your time, and just choose what seems the most doable for you.
3. Place your hands on your belly, relax your body, and listen to your breath. Don’t do anything to try to control your breath– simply observe.
4. Now, bring in some visualization. As you exhale, picture an ocean wave breaking on the sand. As you inhale, see it rolling back into the sea. With every inhale and exhale, watch the waves go in and out– the sound of your breath is the soundtrack to these waves going in and out, and will set the pace.
5. If your mind wanders, bring yourself back to the sound of your breathing and the images of the waves. Again, do not try to change your breathing in any way– simply match the motion of the waves to the sound of your breath.
You may find that the shapes of the waves change throughout your meditation session. I often begin with more powerful waves crashing on the beach (breathing harder) and end with something more like the waves of a lake barely lapping the shore, as my breathing calms and I become more relaxed. This is not a goal, just something to observe.
When I feel like I’m struggling to stay with the exercise, I take a moment to picture the beach– the color of the sand, whether there are any plants or trees on it, what the sun and clouds look like, and how the sun would feel on my skin. I hear the waves again as I breathe, and am drawn back into them.
To take things a step further, you can use this visualization to incorporate the thoughts that come to mind and to let them go. When I think of something negative, I allow it to transform in my mind’s eye into something for a wave to spit up onto the shore– getting rid of it. For whatever reason, I often find myself leaving old worn out hiking boots and rusty tin cans on the sand as I seek to expel a burden that comes to mind. A pain in my neck may turn up as a piece of old rebar, and the pain eases as I let it go.
Likewise, when I think of a desire or hope or positive thought crosses my mind, I give it an image, something for the wave to sweep up from the sand as it retreats into the vast sea. When I give these thoughts an image and an action, it’s a way to acknowledge them, acknowledge whether I want them in my life or not, and move on.
Another way to use the waves and breath for meditation is to imagine yourself as a piece of seaweed or a leaf, riding the waves– both going in and out with your breath. Seeing myself moving with the flow helps me to further relax my whole body as I imagine the sensations of “going with the flow” as I listen to my breath. It is deeply relaxing.
Feel free to experiment with what works for your visualizations, making the exercise your own. When your timer goes off, take your time, and don’t stand up too quickly. See if you can add another minute to your next session.