Meditation: Advice for Beginners Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Meditation: Advice for Beginners

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A sculpture of Buddha.

Starting out on meditation can be a little daunting at first. There are many reasons for this. The mind does not like to stop thinking, many people find it difficult to sit still for long periods, and doubts come up regarding whether meditation is being practised 'the right way.' In this article some advice will given about how to approach meditation and deal with these problems.

The Power of Thought

Many people, on meditating for the first time, are surprised by how busy their mind really is. Scientists estimate that 80,000 thoughts go through the mind each day. That is a lot of stuff to process in the brain. In fact this is one of the primary reasons why people often feel so isolated and separate from one another - their heads are full of thought. Thought itself is division, as it divides everything and seeks to find satisfaction through its constant movement from one object to another. When a person sits on a cushion and closes their eyes, it opens their mind to the full force of thought and its hold on them.

Generally, when someone starts a meditation practice, the thought is there that it is difficult to concentrate and very hard to meditate. The feeling can also arise that it is not easy to stay still, as the body is not used to being still in daily life for any length of time. This is quite normal. Everyone feels pains in the body, and everybody sees doubts arise in their mind. The key is to not let these thoughts take hold and push you away from intrinsic stillness and inner peace.

Being Still

The fact is that, below the churning of the mind, there is a real, profound stillness that everyone can engage. This is buddha-nature, or pure consciousness; labels do not matter as much as the experience itself. Even a person starting out can have an awareness of this, even though it might be weak at first because of the mental obstructions and constant movements of the mind. As an individual begins to tune into the breath, they will feel energised by the connection to their fundamental nature. This brings peace of mind, slows the bodily cravings, and allows the possibility of feeling at one with the self and the world.

The practice, then, is to let doubt fall away, and to connect with the breath. If there is no reaction to negative thought, but rather the individual stays centred and aware of the breath, then positive energy will increase within and the meditation practice can begin to flower.

Positive Energy

This positivity is further increased by having a good teacher. A good teacher can help with practical things like posture, and offer good advice on getting your own practice started. The feeling of meditating with others can also be very uplifting, and everyone can share experiences in a supportive environment. This is extremely helpful for beginners as it allows them to feel less isolated and more connected to like-minded people, and to their own practice. All these factors; establishing the practice, tuning into the breath, having a good teacher and being with like-minded people, are like good seeds for the flower.

By engaging with the good seeds it's possible to nourish the flower and let it grow - the bad seeds will fade away as the individual gains in calmness, confidence and beauty.

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