Questions about meditation

Curious about meditation? New to it? Rick Heller of the Humanist Mindfulness group, answers questions about meditation for beginners.


  • Where's the best place to meditate (Outside? Inside? In a chair? On the floor?) 
  • Should it be dark? Light? 
  • How do you stop thinking about things that are stressing you out? 
  • How should you best position your body, and why? 
  • How long should you meditate for in the beginning? 
  • Is there a time of day that's best meditation for some reason? 
  • Any other tips you can give about where, how and why we should meditate.


For a beginner who is not participating in a group, the best place to start may be:

1. In a quiet room, especially one where they will not overhear conversations. More advanced meditators can meditate in a noisy environment, but it’s always hard to meditate when someone is having a loud conversation nearby.

2. For a beginner, a chair is probably easier than a mat on the floor. If a chair, it should not be a “comfy” chair that you sink in to. Better is a chair or bench with perhaps a little padding that lets you sit up fairly straight. You do want to sit up straight, but not in so rigid a manner that it makes you tense. Ideally, you want to feel relaxed and energetic.

3. In our group, we often dim the lights before meditating.

4. You don’t actively try to stop thinking. Rather, you focus on something like the breath, and by paying attention to the breath coming in and out of your nostrils, you naturally pay less attention to your thoughts. 

5. For a beginner, we find that 20 minutes works well, but longer leads to restlessness and can be counterproductive.

6. Many people meditate shorting after getting up in the morning and before going to bed. It’s fine to meditate in the middle of the day, but if often does not fit into people’s schedules.

7. After you’ve done a bit of meditation, you learn that you can keep some of the calm meditative mindset with you as you go about your day—while walking, shopping at the supermarket, raking leaves, etc. 

Hope that helps

Rick Heller
Humanist Mindfulness Group
Humanist Community at Harvard

To learn more about the Humanist meditation - check out this course at:

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