Beginners Guide to Meditation

By Amalia Sirica, LCSW

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, an ancient yogic text accepted by traditional Vedic schools as the authoritative source on yoga, defines meditation as “… the control of fluctuations of the mind that aim to still the fluctuations (patterning) of the mind. When the fluctuations of the mind are controlled, the yogi achieves concentration, i.e., meditation (samadhi or Nirvana).”

Meditation offers many mental health benefits, and understanding how meditation works can help you make that practice a regular part of your life.

Article at a Glance

  • Meditation is defined as the practice of learning to control the fluctuations of the mind.
  • Research has shown that meditation has hugely positive effects on the mind, body and spirit.
  • Getting started with a meditation practice can feel intimidating, but many resources are available.
  • It is important to remember that each individual’s meditative practices might look different.

Meditation for Beginners

Getting started with meditation can feel intimidating. Often, there is fear of getting it “wrong” or  uncertainty of where to start. Another common thought among beginning meditators is that they will not be “good” at meditating because their minds are too busy and active. This is a normal and understandable concern. It is important to note that meditative practices might vary from person to person, as each of us has unique needs.

Another common misconception is that to be good at meditating, you must succeed at making your mind completely blank. This is a challenge for even the most seasoned meditator. It is more than likely that your mind will be quite chatty and busy in your early meditative practices. The goal of meditation is not to have no thoughts in your mind but rather to not attach meaning to those thoughts.

As mentioned, there aren’t “mistakes” in meditation because everyone’s meditation practice will be unique. And in reality, most of us have never experienced a blank mind. A better way to think about it is that meditation is a practice that can help the practitioner choose between useful thoughts and not so useful thoughts.

Other common misconceptions about meditation involve the belief that it needs to be done completely seated or still. It is possible to find meditative moments in movement, in listening to music, or utilizing guided meditation practices and spending time in nature.


When is the best time to meditate?
This is another question that depends on the practitioner. Taking the time to experiment with what works best for them is essential. There is no right or wrong time to meditate. Many people find meditating first thing in the morning to be beneficial before the busyness of the day begins. Meditating first provides an opportunity to still the mind before it is introduced to stimulation. Meditation can also be useful throughout the day when you’re feeling irritable or anxious. Additionally, meditation before sleeping is an excellent way to calm the mind before bed.

Why should I meditate?
Research has shown that meditation has hugely positive effects on the mind, body and spirit. Meditation has been shown to deactivate the sympathetic nervous system, effectively calming the fight or flight response that sometimes results from stressful situations. Soothing the sympathetic nervous system can help reduce pain and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Other research shows that there may be a link between meditation and increased immune system function. In addition, meditation can improve our ability to focus and improve memory and attention span.

How long should I meditate?
This also depends on the practitioner and where they are in their meditation journey. Initially, starting small and building up to a longer practice may make sense. Even starting with 35-minute, guided meditations can have profound effects and can help you get comfortable with the practice. From here, the practitioner can work up to longer meditative practices and eventually meditate in silence.

Try this Free Meditation Routine

How To Meditate Properly

It is important to remember that meditative practices might look different for each individual. But, here are some general steps and tips for what building a meditation practice could look like in the traditional sense.

  • Try to create structure and routine, setting aside designated time every day for your meditation practice.
  • You do not need to meditate at the same time every day, but it helps with getting into a flow and building a routine.
  • Ideally, you will do your meditative practices in a safe and quiet space. A comfortable pillow or seat can help with staying present.
  • Do not worry about doing meditation “perfectly,” as there is no perfect way to meditate, and your practice will be unique to you.
  • Consider exploring guided meditation practices if it initially feels intimidating to sit in silence and stillness.

Common Challenges to First Time Meditation

There are many obstacles to meditation. Many of the same obstacles in meditation are ones we encounter with any form of self-care, the primary block being to find time. We also live in a day and age where distractions are everywhere. It is easy to find something else to do to avoid self-care or meditating. That’s why meditating first thing in the morning can be the best option.

Other obstacles may be common misconceptions about meditation. As mentioned above, we might think that we have to be “good” at meditating before we can meditate. Being good at meditating may seem like we have to achieve a perfectly still mind when in reality, that is almost impossible for most of us. These misconceptions may prevent us from trying in the first place. This is why guided meditations can be useful at the beginning or even attending a yoga class that includes meditation as part of the class.

Meditation with Nobu

Overall, starting a meditation practice comes with many benefits, but there can certainly be obstacles in the way of getting started. If you are thinking of starting a meditation practice but feel a bit overwhelmed, know that many resources are available. The Nobu app is a great place to start; it provides many resources for meditation, yoga and breathing practices.

abby doty headshot

Edited by – Abby Doty

Abby Doty graduated from Hamline University in 2021 with a Bachelor’s in English and Psychology. She has written and edited creative and literary work as well as academic pieces focused primarily on psychology and mental health. Read more.

Amalia Sirica

Written by – Amalia Sirica, LCSW

Amalia Sirica is New York State Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a writer. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Duke University and her master’s degree in Social Work from New York University… Read more.

dr angela phillips

Medically Reviewed by – Dr. Angela Phillips

Angela is a licensed therapist and clinical researcher, and has worked in public, private, government, and not-for-profit organizations, across clinical and research-oriented roles. Angela’s clinical and research experience has included suicide prevention, cognitive behavioral… Read more.