Getting started with meditation is simple once you understand how to tap into your inner silence. That may sound ambiguous, but it begins with finding a quiet place on the outside. If you’re ready to start finding your hidden potentials, here is a straightforward guide to learning mindfulness meditation.

Step 1: Find a Quiet Place to Relax

The point of meditation is to let go of all the distractions around you. To make this process easier, find a quiet place with relatively few things going on around you. It doesn’t have to be completely silent, but it is especially important for beginners to control their environment as much as possible. The setting should be comfortable for you, most likely a familiar place. Well-lit settings are best for staying alert but relaxed. Take note of the time before you begin your meditation and avoid eating a heavy meal beforehand.

You can assume almost any position to begin meditating, but it is not recommended to lie down. Lying down can suggest to your mind that it is time to sleep. You can choose to sit in a chair or on the floor with your legs crossed. Traditional yogis like to sit in the lotus position, with their legs crossed over each other, but this can be uncomfortable and actually cut off vital circulation for some people. Keep your back straight and your head upright, but relax your shoulders, arms, legs as much as possible. You do not have to close your eyes, but it can help to keep you from fixating on your surroundings.

Step 2: Breathing Techniques

The popular conception of meditation is “emptying your mind” but this is actually an incredibly difficult thing to accomplish without strategy. Breathing techniques are one of the simplest ways to slow your mental narrative and stay focused on almost nothing. Other strategies involve mantras (a single phrase that is repeated over and over) or visualization of a soothing environment, but these can be more distracting than counting.

Breathe in through your nose and fill your lungs as much as possible. You should feel your diaphragm pulling down into your stomach. As you inhale, begin a slow count up to 8 seconds. Focus on the physical feelings of your breathing and the count in your mind. Let the air out slowly through your mouth, beginning another count to 8. Try to time it so that you use the entire 8 seconds for the release; don’t burst like a balloon.

Step 3: Maintain your State for 15-20 Minutes

Continue your breathing cycle. You should not be concerned with keeping track of the time. Focusing on the count and the feeling of inhaling/exhaling will help clear your mind. Thoughts will still arrive in the background. That does not mean you are failing, so don’t get frustrated if you’re still thinking thoughts – that’s what the mind is for! If there is one thought or several thoughts that will not go away, pay attention to them. This most likely means that they are the most pressing issues in your conscious or subconscious. Meditation is a great method for problem solving, so don’t ignore anything that arrives.

If your thoughts are too distracting, pay attention to the sensations throughout your body instead. Just like your breath, there will be a number of things to focus on as you get deeper and deeper into a relaxed state. Listen to your heart beat; feel your blood circulating in your head and limbs; notice the tension leaving the muscles in your shoulders and neck; feel the temperature of the air around you.

The key to a rewarding session of meditation is not to force anything. 20 minutes is just a recommendation. For beginners, 10 or 15 minutes may be the limit of your patience. Ideally, the experience will seem timeless. If you begin to get bored or frustrated, stick with it for a minimum of 10 minutes before you give up. It will not be a constructive or rewarding experience if you are forcing yourself to sit in place and pretending to relax. No one masters the practice of meditation on their first try, so stick with it.