My 7-day guided meditation series—for complete beginners (and beyond)

Michael CalozBlog: Synthesizing & Simplifying Complexity, Self-ImprovementLeave a Comment

Meditation is the single most powerful tool I’ve encountered in my life.

If you’re a novice, this might feel hard to believe.

When I first got started, I remember that sitting still with my eyes closed for even 5 minutes felt extremely difficult. I used to open my eyes midway through to check how much time was left.

So I get it—this feels really difficult in the beginning.

But I kept practicing. And now, I can meditate for 60 minutes straight without too much trouble (most days, at least!).

I truly consider my morning meditation to be the most important part of my day.

Meditation has helped me…

  • Make difficult decisions far more easily;
  • Ground myself through challenging emotions instead of letting them control me;
  • Increase my self-control and resilience—to adopt new habits and finish commitments (e.g., I can do things like become vegetarian, or commit to publishing a blog post every single day—and stick to it without fail);
  • Deepen my self-awareness at a far more intricate, nuanced level than I’d ever known before (like taking the case off a clock and observing the gears moving directly);
  • Transform my existential foundation and priorities (e.g., reduce my fear of death and far more strongly orient around my meaning of life).

This is the #1 thing I recommend to my clients. But learning how to meditate can be overwhelming.

There are so many different apps, videos, teachers, and styles.

Where should you begin?

That’s exactly why I recorded this simple series to walk you through the very basics—techniques that apply to many of the common styles of meditation.

We’ll start with just 1 minute a day—and you don’t need any equipment, fancy poses, or physical discomfort. Just a comfortable place to sit where you won’t be disturbed for a few minutes.

(If you can, try meditating in the same place and at the same time every day to build the habit.)

What kind of meditation will we be doing? This series might be categorized as “mindfulness meditation,” which is a simplified version of Buddhist vipassana (“insight”) meditation.

Curious about my qualifications for leading these meditations?

I certainly won’t claim to be an accredited meditation teacher in any lineage. But, I do have some relevant experience that makes me feel confident in at least teaching the basics:

  • 13 years of meditating using a variety of techniques, and currently meditating for 1-2 hours a day
  • 3 years of professional training in Hakomi, a psychotherapy modality grounded in somatic mindfulness
  • Study of Vipassana Buddhism through the Satya Narayana Goenka lineage, including completing a 10-day silent meditation retreat (which included over 120 hours of meditation)
  • In-depth study of Sōtō Zen Buddhism through the Taizan Maezumi lineage, including regularly attending day-long (9-hour) retreats and service at my local temple multiple times a week
  • Sampling other techniques such as the Dhammakaya tradition, Thai walking meditation, and all the major apps (Waking Up, Calm, Insight Timer, and completing the entire library of Headspace as of several years ago)

P.S. If you’re not into Buddhism, no worries. Although my meditation style is influenced by what I’ve learned through Buddhism (and, indeed, the majority of popular meditation apps and frameworks out there today are also derived from Buddhism), this series will be completely secular. Whether you’re interested in working toward existential fulfillment or simply wanting to improve your focus, productivity, and self-awareness, this is for you.

Let’s dive in.

Introducing the series
(3 minutes)

Session #1: Staying present
(1 minute)

Session #2: Using an anchor
(2 minutes)

Session #3: The breath is special
(3 minutes)

Session #4: Counting to avoid drifting
(4 minutes)

Session #5: Gently dealing with distractions
(5 minutes)

Session #6: The observer, and naming thoughts
(6 minutes)

Session #7: Turning down the volume on mental chatter
(6 minutes)

Continuing your practice:

Those first seven were designed to teach you the fundamental skills, step by step.

Once you’ve gotten through all of them, here’s a more generic one that I’ll humbly suggest could be your go-to “everyday” meditation to regularly use moving forward.

It’s 7 minutes long, which I personally found to be the ideal length for me for many years—balancing the limited time I had in the morning before work with wanting to meditate long enough to feel a tangible benefit.

Since quitting my corporate job and starting my own business, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to dedicate an hour in the morning to meditating, but 7 minutes/day served me well for over five years.

Bonus Session: Everyday meditation
(7 minutes)

Keep using that as long as you need to, and then you might begin exploring other teachers and traditions.

Also, I see guided meditations in general as “training wheels.” Once you’ve gotten the hang of a certain meditation technique, you might try just setting a timer and trying it out on your own—in silence, without a voice in your ear.

Remember: The fundamental attitude of true meditation is curiosity.

What is this present-moment experience like?

When you’re first forming a meditation habit, it might feel like you’re just doing it to get it over with—to check it off your todo list.

That’s normal in the beginning. But as soon as you’re able to, I urge you to try to reframe it for yourself. Meditation should be about approaching each practice session with a beginner’s mind:

What will I find here today? Who will I be this time?

How is it to be in this moment? And in this one?

Therefore, I encourage you to experiment. What might it be like to focus an entire meditation session on just listening to the sounds around you? Or an entire session focusing just on the breath moving in and out of your left nostril specifically?

As you progress, try experimenting with various approaches and anchors. Many people like using the breath. But others find that a different anchor works better for them.

You can also switch it up regularly (but be careful: if you’re always jumping back and forth between anchors too quickly, you’ll miss out on the deeper insights that are only possible by sticking with one approach for a certain length of time).

Some anchors to try:

  • Focus on sounds around you (all sounds work, but catch yourself if you focus too much on what a sound means, where it’s coming from, when it might stop, etc.; try to just hear it or label it “sound”)
  • Focus on body sensations (imagine a flashlight slowly moving down your body, and allow your awareness to move along with it, examining the sensations in each body part)
  • Focus on fingers pressed together (place your hands in your lap or on a cushion, and focus on the physical pressure sensation of two fingers or your thumbs gently pressing together)
  • Focus on a mantra (silently repeat the same word/words over and over again—”calm,” “focus,” “breathe,” “let go,” “I am enough,” or whatever feels significant to you and helps you focus)
  • Focus on a mental image (visualize a candle flame, a serene nature scene, a geometric pattern, or even a spiritual figure you admire)
  • Focus on a point in front of you (meditate with your eyes open, but keep your gaze soft; let your head naturally bend forward, and focus your gaze on a point on the ground 2-3 feet away)

I personally used the breath for many years, and today I mostly use a combination of body scans, sounds, and pressing thumbs together.

Finally, here are two more special audio clips.

These are not so much guided meditations, as experiential meditation lessons.

In guided meditations, it’s common to hear instructions like, “When you get distracted, come back to the breath.” But, it can be much harder to understand what that actually means in practice.

It’s also easy to hear a meditation teacher so calmly giving you instructions during a guided meditation and imagine that their mind must be totally clear and free of noise.

That’s why I’m offering these final tracks: to give you a glimpse into what my mind is like when I meditate.

This first one simulates a typical 10-minute unguided meditation (i.e., when I just sit in silence).

I suggest you listen while sitting in your usual meditation posture with eyes closed. And I recommend headphones since I make use of stereo effects (things you’ll hear off to the side in only one ear represent the whispers in your head that get you sidetracked).

I hope you’ll find this both entertaining and instructive:

Inside my head for a 10-minute meditation
(14 minutes)

This final clip is similar to that last one—a peek inside my head while I meditate.

But this one is more to inspire you with what’s possible. It’s meant to simulate what the end of a longer meditation session (e.g., an hour) feels like for me.

Please slow down and take a breath before you listen. It’s jarring to suddenly jump into a profound experience, so please recognize that this is a sincere place I was able to reach after nearly an hour of deep meditation. This feels vulnerable and precious to share, but also important.

Inside my head for the end of a long session
(5 minutes)

And now, my challenge to you:

Compare the first “inside my head” clip to the second one.

What changes do you notice?

Especially if you’re new to meditation, does the difference help you understand how this practice trains the mind to be more quiet, focused, and present?

Would you rather live inside the mind from the first clip or the second one?

Notice how few of the random thoughts that popped into my mind in the first clip were actually useful, important, or relevant.

Which of those mind states would you rather be in when you’re trying to stay focused on something that’s important to you?

This is a lifelong practice, but it’s very much possible to shift your experience with daily practice.

Ready for more?

Read my deeper dive series on meditation

Intrigued by the existential/spiritual angle?

Read my top posts on Buddhism (and existential purpose, etc.)

Please feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions 🙂

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one more thing:

Practicing meditation on your own is awesome (that’s how I did it for most of my life), but something even more special is possible when you do it alongside other people.

So, by all means, practice on your own for a while. And at some point, I encourage you to find a local/online meditation group or Buddhist temple where you can learn from amazing teachers who have devoted their lives to this practice.

Physically going to a sacred place to meditate in a specific meditation tradition is what can elevate your practice from just being about improving your focus and self-discipline, to being about exploring the furthest depths of self-awareness and existential purpose.

Personally, my meditation practice began feeling substantially more profound and crucial to me once I began attending service at my local Buddhist temple twice a week.

(And don’t worry: If you find the right temple, the service will probably feel less serious and intimidating than you might be imagining. At my temple at least, the teachers are regular people who make jokes and have fun too 🙂)

Thanks for listening, and I hope you have a nourishing day.

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