Have you ever wanted to learn how to meditate but couldn’t figure out where to start? Should you focus on“guided meditation” or “unguided” meditation? It can be confusing and overwhelming with so many different methods, ideas, and beliefs about what meditation is and how you should perform it.
At a meditation class in central Vietnam last summer I asked the guru leading our session “what kind of meditation are we performing today?” and he looked at me funny and gave me an answer that threw me for a loop. I thought I knew a decent amount about meditation at the time, but what he said changed my perspective.
When I was 17 I took a trip across Southeast Asia and that’s when my fascination with meditation began. I bought a book on Zen Buddhism and read it on the plane ride home. Since then meditation was always something that fascinated me, but I never knew exactly how to meditate. I finally started taking a more serious look at how to meditate a few years ago when I saw that Tim Ferriss meditates every morning.
“Mindfulness” and Being Present
I first started out almost by a whim. I randomly decided to search the phrase “zen garden” on Pandora and ended up with a pretty cool radio of relaxation and meditation music. I was just working peacefully and then I got this really strong urge to just sit down and meditate (having no idea how to meditate or what I was doing).
I had no agenda or plan. I just sat in a loose lotus position (similar to the picture at the start of this post), closed my eyes, and tried to be present and practice “mindfulness” for about 15 minutes. When I first read about how to meditate – so much of the information was about things like “mindfulness” and I wasn’t sure what that even meant, let alone how to practice it.
This impromptu meditation got me into the habit of listening to really soothing zen and meditation music (I’ll share some of my absolute favorite meditation music at the end of this post) a few times a week and practicing what I would later learn was “unguided” meditation.
When I was doing this sort of “unguided” meditation – just trying to clear my thoughts and “be present” (that’s another buzz word you hear a lot when trying to learn how to meditate) I did experience a few moments of euphoria and out of body experiences – but mostly my mind just wandered and I would sometimes feel like I was wasting my time.
You’ve probably had the same problem if you’ve tried to learn how to meditate before, but I could never get fully into the habit of meditation. I would go days or weeks without meditating, and sometimes when I did meditate I felt like I wasn’t really accomplishing anything.
So what was I doing wrong? The good news is – as the guru leading my meditation class in Vietnam last summer told me – there is no “right way” to meditate. It’s all about what works best for you.
My path of infrequent meditation lasted for a few years before I discovered how to meditate with a method that – at least for me –finally felt “right.”
The Envisioning Method
While on Mixergy, I stumbled upon an absolutely awesome interview with Vishen Lakihani, the founder of MindValley, about how he launched his business. During the interview he went in depth into his daily meditation practice that he calls the “The Envisioning Method” and how it changed his life.
This method is a bit different than the traditional sort of meditation that you’ve heard about before – its not about “mindfulness” or being present – its a kind of guided meditation and each of its six phases are rooted in the science of positive psychology in order to increase happiness, relieve stress, and leave you more focused and energetic.
Vishen is quick to point out that getting caught up in a debate about the definition of meditation is not important. If you want to learn how to meditate – its all about finding a good starting point. This may not fall under traditional definitions of meditation – but the reality is that this method can have a tremendous positive impact on your life – whether your call it meditation or not.
I won’t go into great detail of how this method works – MindValley put together a really well done 20 minute video explaining the entire process – along with a starter mp3 that will guide you through the process until you are familiar with how to do it yourself – all of which you can get for free on this page (note: you do have to put in your email).
The whole process takes between 10 and 20 minutes. To give you a basic overview – the six phases are the following:
Visualize Your Future
Visualize Your Perfect Day
Honestly every phase has made a huge impact in my life – I think the three most important have been gratitude, forgiveness, and visualizing my future.
If you have never read or heard about gratitude studies in positive psychology –do a few Google searches and research this more on your own.
There is an amazing study that even one week of daily gratitude practice can raise your “happiness set point” 10% up to six months in the future. Even if you don’t use this meditation method – I highly recommend starting some sort of daily gratitude practice.
The practice of daily forgiveness has also had a tremendous impact on me by letting me take responsibility for my happiness instead of having it rely on external events.
“The weak cannot forgive, forgiveness is an attribute of the strong” – Ghandi
When you look at people who have literally changed our world – like Ghandi and Nelson Mandela – they are showcases for the true power of forgiveness. But the reality is (and science backs this up) – harboring grudges instead of forgiving is bad for you – both mentally and physically.
The process of visualization opens up your mind (and more importantly – your subconscious) – to seeing new pathways and opportunities that you would never have dreamed of.
Conditioning your subconscious to believe and accept the new possibilities opens them up as a reality and gives you the subconscious permission to make progress on your biggest goals and dreams.
When I meditate, I like to listen to very soothing and chill music to center my mind and help me focus. Getting the right music can really help you when you’re starting to learn how to meditate.
My favorite artists to meditate to are David & Steve Gordon. I absolutely love their albums “Garden of Serenity II,” “Gratitude,” and “Music for Meditation – Inner Stillness.” Sometimes the song names can get a little goofy but the music itself is really peaceful and soothing – and most importantly perfect meditation music.
Most of their songs are available on Spotify (except for my absolute favorite song “Zen Garden, Part 1”… yes I bought their CD just for this track) and I’ve linked a few of them on Myspace and GrooveShark so you can have a listen below.
If you like this kind of meditation music – just search around on Spotify or Pandora and you can find all kinds of great tracks to help you relax and focus your mind.
The meditation music helps you center yourself no matter when or where you decided to meditate. When I’m on the road I just plug some headphones in and meditate on the floor of my hotel (or wherever I am staying) when I get up.
How To Meditate For Beginners
Learning how to meditate can be confusing, but if you are serious about trying meditation out in your life you should give the envisioning method a shot. This meditation method has really made a huge difference for me and I finally feel like I’ve found the “right” method for myself.
At the end of the day – if you want to learn how to meditate – you have to find a meditation method that is right for you too.
Vishen’s “Envisioning Method” is an absolutely great place to start with some simple and impactful guided meditation. You don’t need to do anything other than que up some great music and listen to his guided MP3 a few times until you have the process down. At the start it will take about 20 minutes per day, but once you have the process memorized you can squeeze in a 10 or 15 minute session when are shorter on time.
Like any new habit – I recommend trying this out for 5 days in a row to see if you like it. If you can make it that far, chances are you will stick with it (and reap all the awesome benefits).
Another great tool for keeping yourself accountable on a daily basis is lift.do – there are a number of simple meditation plans you can sign up for and check in daily.
Thanks you for reading this and I hope you discovered how to meditate and what you can do to start meditation today.
If you love meditation and you want to take your mental game to the next level – you should read this post on three things that will shift your reality.