How to Meditate
In Benefits of Meditation,
I showed you some of the reasons WHY you might choose to meditate. Now, as promised, I am going to show you HOW.
I want to acknowledge that what I will be teaching you is ONE way to meditate, not THE way. Meditation is part of most great religious and spiritual traditions, and it is also embraced by people with no such affiliation because of its sheer USEFULNESS in improving health and the quality of life. As you might expect when its practitioners come from such a diverse set of traditions and beliefs, it can assume a wide variety of forms.
The one I am going to teach you is both very easy to do and very profound in results. The best part, for a recovering perfectionist like me, is that you cannot do it wrong. It is foolproof.
For me, that made all the difference.
Let’s start out with a brief overview.
Meditation for Smarties
For your pleasure and well-being, here are the four simple steps of Meditation for Smarties.
- Sit in a quiet spot.
- Close your eyes.
- Focus your attention on your breathing.
- When your attention wanders, gently bring it back to your breathing.
Tha...tha...tha...that’s all folks!
Well, that’s because it is!
Now let’s go back and fill in some of the details.
How to Meditate Details
- Choose a quiet space.
Turn the ringer off on your phone, put the cat out of the room, and let anyone in the house know that barring a natural disaster, you do not wish to be disturbed.
- Get into a comfortable seated position, with your head, neck and trunk in alignment. You can sit cross legged on any comfortable surface or sit in a firm chair with your legs down and feet resting on the floor.
- Rest your hands comfortably on your legs, palms up or palms down. You can choose to have your thumb and forefinger in a lock position, which is featured in many Asian forms of meditation.
- Close your eyes and gently bring your attention to the breath--either at the bridge of your nose or at the nostrils. Continue to breathe normally and regularly. You’ll notice that your breath feels cooler on inhalation and warmer on exhalation.
- Continue following the breath for whatever period of time you choose to meditate.
How Long Should I Meditate?
- If you are antsy like me, start with 5 minutes.
- If you are not so fidgety, start with a longer period.
- In either case, add time in 5-minute increments until you build up to 20 – 30 minutes at a sitting.
When finished, take a couple minutes to slowly open your eyes and return to normal consciousness. Wiggle your fingers and toes, stretch a bit. Don’t just rush back into activity.
The Monkeys in the Mind Phenomenon
Here's What to Expect:
While focusing on your breath you will notice that your attention starts to wander…BIG TIME. Extraneous thoughts, images, and feelings seem to bombard your consciousness. The Yogis describe this phenomenon as similar to having a troop of monkeys loose in a room full of toys. The room is your mind and your mind is surprisingly active!
I know when I first sat down to meditate, I could not maintain my focus for more than nanoseconds at a time. This was shocking to me.
First, I felt amused and then I felt inept. Clearly, I was either meditating wrong or not really meditating at all. It took the tutelage of a master of meditation, Dr. Michael Mamas, to really clarify for me that the monkeys in the mind experience was, in fact, part of meditating!
One of the main reasons to, and benefits of, meditating, is that it clears your mental clutter.
Meditation provides a way for your thoughts, emotions, and sensations to bubble up to the surface and be released. In releasing these thoughts, you strengthen your capacity to focus.
The difference between a scattered mind and a focused one, is the difference between a light bulb and a laser beam. Both are sources of light, but with the bulb, its power is general and diffuse, while with the laser it is precise, targeted. It becomes a tool--one powerful enough to cut through steel and refined enough to reshape a cornea.
A focused mind is infinitely more clear and productive than a scattered one.
So, when you find your attention drifting, simply remind yourself that is to be expected, and then bring your focus back to the breath. Do not judge, edit, analyze, catastrophize, or critique yourself. Just observe as a neutral, objective, witness whatever passes by on the screen of your mind.
A huge benefit of developing the capacity to observe yourself in this dispassionate way, charge neutral, if you will, is that it builds both self-understanding and emotional control, which will serve you well in EVERY arena of your life.
You Are Getting Sleepy...Sleepy...
A separate issue that comes up for many people is that they start out to meditate, only to find themselves taking a nap. No problem! It is just part of your body/mind unwinding as it needs to do in the moment. In fact, part of the reason that most meditative practices have you sitting upright is to help you maintain consciousness! However, if you find yourself nodding off on a regular basis, it is also a message that you need to get more shut eye.
In explaining that these things are not OBSTACLES to meditation, but rather a part of the NATURE of meditation, my teacher really freed me to enjoy the process.
So what I want to underscore for YOU is that as long as you show up, sit down and spend the allotted time, whatever happens is just as it should be.
As with any other skill, you will find that practice will lead you to the promised land. Repetition is the mother of mastery. As you continue to meditate, you will see that the space between your thoughts gets longer, your capacity to focus grows stronger, your sense of calm and balance increases, your ability to maintain tranquility in the face of adversity is enhanced and all the many benefits of meditation will become more apparent, more often, in your every day life.
In Benefits of Meditation,
I talked about the very real option of growing younger. Studies have shown that long-term meditators have, on average, a BIOLOGICAL age that is 12 years younger than their chronological age! So if vibrant youthfulness is your destination, meditation is your vehicle.
Now I know that meditation is a large subject. If you are unclear about the process, I invite you to give me a call. I will be delighted to answer any questions you have.
What's YOUR Experience with Meditation?
As I said in the beginning of this page, there are LOTS of ways to meditate! Do you use a mantra? A yantra? Do walking meditation? Here's your opportunity to share YOUR experience, by responding to any of these questions:
What's your favorite way to meditate? Why?
What results have you noticed from practicing meditation?
What's been your most interesting meditation experience?
Have any tips or techniques that work for you?
Join in! Your know-how will help other readers!
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