I began meditating when I was 19, and I wish I’d started sooner. Meditation has since become one of the most integral habits in my life. I believe the benefits of meditation are enormous, and that they can carry over into every area of life. Here you’ll find some recommendations for learning how to meditate and continuing your practice.
The Mind Illuminated
The Mind Illuminated is the single best resource I have found on meditation. It is comprehensive, clearly written, and describes the subjective experience of meditating better than anywhere else I’ve seen. The book is authored by Culadasa (John Yates, PhD), a former physiology and neuroscience professor and meditation master with over 40 years of experience in Buddhist traditions.
This book includes everything you need to start a meditation practice and continue it all the way to mastery. The Mind Illuminated even has its own subreddit where thousands of people who follow the method share and discuss their experiences.
I recommend this book very highly. I would recommend getting a paper copy, because it is full of useful illustrations and diagrams that are harder to see and understand with a Kindle or audiobook version. You can find The Mind Illuminated on Amazon.
Headspace is among the most popular meditation programs in the world, with guided audio meditations of various themes and lengths. It’s available through the web and the Headspace app. You can sign up for free and begin meditating for 10 minutes per day – this is a great way to learn if you’ve never meditated before.
Headspace was founded by a man named Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk. I used Headspace extensively when I first began meditating and it’s an excellent tool for beginners to learn the basics. You can try Headspace for free for two weeks, and after that it costs around $5-$10 per month.
Fragrant Heart is a website that offers free guided audio meditations narrated by a woman from New Zealand named Elizabeth Blaikie. Elizabeth has a very calming voice and is wonderful to listen to.
All of the meditations on Fragrant Heart are completely free, and the “Learn to Meditate in 5 Days” course is how I originally learned to meditate. You’ll find dozens of guided audio meditations for relaxation, stress relief, self- esteem, spiritual awareness, love, empathy, and more. Two of my favourites are “The Tree – A Grounding Meditation” and “Meeting Your Guardian Angel Meditation”.
Waking Up with Sam Harris
Waking Up is a meditation app created by author, neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris. The Waking Up app is interesting because Sam doesn’t really believe in “easing in” to the core of meditation – he goes straight to the insight of no-self. He uses techniques inspired by the Dzogchen tradition, among others, as well as the “imagine that you have no head” technique for collapsing the subject-object distinction and experiencing nonduality.
That’s not to say you can’t start out with Waking Up if you’ve never meditated before. The guided meditations for beginners are just 10 minutes long, and Sam is an excellent teacher. More advanced topics include free will, the nature of suffering, and the self. Sam provides clear guidance towards understanding these ideas, both conceptually and experientially.
You can try Waking Up for free, and a subscription costs about $8 per month, or $99 per year. If you can’t afford it, you can also get Waking Up for free simply by requesting a free account. You can do this on the Waking Up website.
I hope this has been helpful in getting you started (or continuing) on the contemplative path. Good luck!