My 7-day guided meditation series—for complete beginners (and intermediates too), Part 1

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.

On the surface, one might say that all you’re doing is sitting with your eyes closed and trying to stay focused on your breath. But that’s like saying that all you’re doing with computer programming is tapping keys on a keyboard.

Meditation is not just a skill to practice—it’s a gateway to a whole part of your mindscape that you most likely never visit otherwise.

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).

Still not convinced? Think meditation is just woo-woo or placebo?

Here are 5 highly rational, scientifically-backed reasons to prioritize meditation:

  1. Neuroplasticity: MRI scans have shown that consistent meditation practice literally changes the structure of the brain. There is a measurable increase in grey matter density in the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory. And there are positive changes in areas associated with self-awareness, empathy, and compassion as well. (Sources: One, two, three, four, five)
  2. Emotional Resilience: Studies have shown that, for many people, meditation can be just as powerful as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication, but without the side effects. Regular practice can strengthen the prefrontal cortex (responsible for emotional regulation), and help you better identify, process, and express a fuller range of your emotions. (Sources: One, two, three)
  3. Cognitive Boost: Studies have shown that regular meditation practice can improve decision-making, creativity, and the ability to focus attention, even during high-stress situations. Meditating is like working out at the gym, but for your mind. Just as weight lifting enables you to lift heavier objects in everyday life, so too does meditation help you successfully overcome heavier cognitive and emotional challenges. (Sources: One, two, three)
  4. Physical Health: Meditation practice has been linked to reduced risk of heart disease—the #1 leading cause of death in the United States—as well as lower blood pressure, improved immune response, and better sleep. There’s emerging evidence that meditation can influence a range of biological processes from cellular aging, to inflammation, to energy metabolism. (Sources: One, two, three)
  5. Enhanced Wellbeing: Meditation is associated with greater overall life satisfaction, reduced anxiety, increased self-compassion, and more stable positive emotional states. Meditation can reduce levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) by up to 50%, offering major long-term benefits to mental and physical health, and substantially reducing anxiety and helping you successfully manage pain and stress. (Sources: One, two, three, four, five)

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:

  • 14 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 completing a 7-day silent meditation retreat and regularly attending day-long (10-hour) retreats, as well as service at my local Zen center 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.

Since these guided meditations are short and I wanted to pack in teachings detailed enough to be genuinely useful, they don’t include a lot of empty space for you to practice.

So, if you’re willing, I encourage you to set a timer after each one for another minute (or, ideally, several minutes) for you to practice what I taught that day on your own in silence.

Ok, here we go!

(These are also available in the most popular meditation app, Insight Timer. You can find my instructor page here.)

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.

Finally, your meditation practice can get a huge boost by receiving one-on-one support. As a transformation coach and existential counselor, my work with people is not specifically focused on meditation. However, meditation and mindfulness end up coming up a lot as I work with most people, and I might be able to help you get over many of the common roadblocks to moving forward with a regular practice.

Here are two more special audio clips to get inside my head.

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 hard to understand what that actually means in practice.

Also, when you hear the calm voice of a meditation teacher, I know how easy it can be to imagine that their mind must be totally clear and free of noise when they meditate. How nice that must be!

Not quite 🙂 And that’s why I still practice every single day.

So, I’m offering these special tracks to give you a glimpse into what my mind is like when I meditate.

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 (when you hear something in only one ear, it represents the whispers in your head that get you sidetracked).

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

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

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

This second one is meant to inspire you with what’s possible. It simulates 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?

In part 2, I discuss how long you should meditate for (the specific benefits of different lengths of time), different anchors to try, and more. Plus, I’ll offer a more advanced guided meditation on the fundamental nature of thought.

Read Part 2

Thanks for listening, and I hope you have a nourishing day. If you found this page valuable, I invite you to sign up for my mailing list below.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments