How to start meditating

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Meditation is about returning to a natural state of being and a peaceful state of mind. It’s about being yourself, essentially. It’s a very simple thing too, with incredible power when practiced consistently. It’s about choosing attention and being aware, and the simple practice centers you in your true self so that you don’t get lost in habitual mind-chatter and identification with thoughts.

There’s lots of different methods for meditation but the one I recommend is to “listen.”

How to do it

All you do is listen intensely for the next thought to pop, that’s all. Try it now for 10 seconds and you’ll see that with enough intensity of focus, thoughts stop.

The reason this is the best is…

  • It’s utterly simple.
  • You can do it anytime, anywhere, as a sit-down practice or using all the in-between moments.
  • It works, even when the mind is very stormy or anxious.
  • It’s a tiny shift from “listening,” which is something you do, to “being,” what you are.

So that’s all you need to do. The more you do it, the better you get and the more rooted in your center. If you can find 30 minutes a day to sit and be quiet and “listen,” that’s optimal.

But you can do it anytime, anyplace and anywhere, using all those in-between moments to come back to your center by listening. And soon enough, it becomes your natural state again — simple awareness is your natural state but we can lose it by too much thinking, and by calling all these thoughts “me” when they are not!

Feedback from someone who’s been practicing listening for only a few days…

Hi Michael, because I’m new to meditation, right now it’s like I have to make a conscious effort to listen and focus on listening. But I’ve noticed that when doing so, random thoughts (including my unwanted ones) just disappear after a while, and it all happens naturally. It feels wonderful, indeed. And then when I try to focus on a desired thought, I can enjoy it without being hindered by any unwanted thoughts.

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Michael Kinnaird is the author of Happy Guide, the result of a 20 year exploration into what works for health and happiness.

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14 thoughts on “How to start meditating

  1. Michael.. I have your book and I read all your posts every day. I seem to battle health anxiety and a form of OCD. I try meditation,i read and I try so hard to correct my thoughts. It seem I also find a health problem to worry about. I do thank you as you are a comfort to me.


    1. Hi Barry, I’m James, Mike’s brother. Thanks for your kind words about Happy Guide. All you really need is the book, it’s very much a standalone system. It might be that you’re trying too hard to correct your thoughts. If there’s any kind of frustration that they are still there, this will have the opposite to the desired effect. From the book:

      Let thoughts come and go without following, without judgment. And let everything settle down until all there is left is pure, simple awareness.

      This is a relaxed state, a non-judgmental “don’t care” kind of state. This attitude is what communicates to your subconscious that the thoughts are no longer meaningful or relevant, and so they can stop being “popped up” for your attention.

      By the way, when you first start meditating, the mind can seem extremely stormy — not because things have gotten worse, but because you are now aware, sensitive to movement in the mind. So again, just let it all come and go, without judgment and without caring about the content of thoughts.

      And of course don’t forget the other five lifestyle elements. They all matter. Every problem has many causes, and everything affects everything else. And so the solution is always to correct all causes, which are all factors in the way we live and think.

      Best wishes,


  2. Right now, I’m trying to make meditation my natural state. It’s very challenging, because for nearly my whole life, I’ve had random thoughts that pop up frequently. My HOCD is gone, in the sense that I no longer question my sexuality. I’m a straight man, always have been, and always will be. Even now, my mind is still trying to trick me and play games. But it’s all rubbish I just laugh at and ignore. It’s the unwanted thoughts that are still lingering, because of their strong associativity to certain desired thoughts that I have (the deep mental grooves contribute to this, but they are diminishing). It takes a lot of discipline to commit fully to just “listening”. But I’ll get the hang of it. It’s just a matter of time before my unwanted thoughts completely vanish.


    1. Yes, you will get the hang of it, the great thing is that you are fully committed to it, now it’s just a matter of time… just as the HOCD thoughts disappeared, or seem funny now, the same will happen to the rest. The key is to stay aware, in the listening state, it’s a natural state.


  3. Mr.Michael Kinnaird-Hello-As you said it is hard work of doing,let me provide more methods and techniques on most important exercise of MEDITATION.please once more be defined thoroughly each steps so that i could work sensibly.
    Very Best Wishes,
    Imtiyaz Khan


  4. I would like to Meditate but when I begin, I get impatient, start thinking of other things, and cannot stay put. What to do?


    1. Hi George,

      The more disturbed your mind is, the more you need meditation. What to do? Persist, keep on doing it. When you’re training a dog to heel, it runs off and gets distracted a thousand times. A thousand times, you correct it. It’s the same with the mind. It’s important, because otherwise your attention is not your own choice, your attention is the result of conditioned reactions, thoughts etc. and you are powerless against these forces.

      Decide that all you are doing is noticing every thought that pops. That is your task, your attention. Do it as often as you possibly can — in meditation, in the in-between moments, every opportunity until you are doing it ALL the time. THIS is your NATURAL state of being.


      1. Hi Mike
        “noticing every thought that pops”…well, when a bad memory pops in, I begin to feel bad….and then begins a chain of thoughts like how it happened, what mistakes I made, what was not fair…etc….and that doesn’t seem to stop. Its the emotions that surge very deeply during meditation that makes me wanna get up and go.


      2. This will happen when you first start meditating, because there isn’t enough awareness, and you get sucked into a thought stream, a chain of thoughts. With practice, there is pure awareness and a single thought is held in the full light of awareness. This doesn’t cause chain reactions. Also, fully noticing what bubbles up from the unconscious mind releases it for good. Your job is to keep the LIGHT on BRIGHT, so you don’t get sucked in, but if you do, then you reset, start again with your full intention to notice what pops.

        When I first started meditating, on day one, I had 30 minutes planned. I began… and then 20 minutes later I remembered I was supposed to meditating. 20 minutes!! For that 20 minutes I was following a chain, LOST in thought, my attention, was lost, unaware.

        Whatever arrives, you are to notice dispassionately, thoughts, emotions. Observe for as long as feels right, and then return to pure awareness and wait for the next thought.

        After practicing for some time, you will be able to be in a state of pure awareness effortlessly and all old stuff will be cleared. Now you can sink deeper into consciousness and you will find that, over time, your sense of self dramatically shifts from ego, identification with all those chains of thoughts and emotions, to your true self, your true nature which is love. Unconditional love is underneath everything.


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