HOW TO MEDITATE

 
 
 

What is meditation? 

What comes to mind when you think of meditation? Do you imagine someone sitting in full lotus in an Indian ashram, experiencing insights and visions while chanting Om? Or do you see someone sitting quietly and immobile at a monastery, surrounded by austerity and men in robes? Maybe you imagine lying down comfortably, relaxing and moving thoughts to the beat of nature. All are possible scenarios, since there are many different types of meditation.

Meditation is essentially focusing on something. 

It is a mindfulness practice, which teaches us how to be present in each experience by focusing on the present moment. It is important to approach this moment, this experience, with kindness, acceptance, and awareness of sensory impressions.

What does it mean to be present? 

It means paying attention to whatever arises in any given moment, whether a positive, neutral or painful thought, emotion or experience. It is about embracing and attending to the entirety of life.

 


Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.
— Pema Chödrön, The Wisdom of No Escape

Why meditate?

Meditation is a fantastic and powerful tool that gives us strength and inner calm. It improves our mental well-being as well as physical health. Meditation…

  • Provides relief from stress and anxiety
  • Improves focus and creativity
  • Increased happiness
  • Boosts compassion
  • Helps you sleep better
  • Calms the mind
  • Slows the ageing process
  • Reduces blood pressure

It is useful to have a clear intention on why you are meditating, instead of adding another 'should' to your everyday, busy life. A calm mind feels good.

Practice

Think about why would you like to meditate. What is most important to you?

  • Beneficial effects on overall health
  • Reduce stress levels
  • Curiosity - What is this? What can it do for me?
  • Deeper awareness of body, emotions, and the mind
  • Being alive and present 
  • Manage and positively deal with difficult emotions
  • Deepen interpersonal relationships and compassion
  • Enlightenment and spirituality

Or a reason not mentioned in this list (I’d love to hear it)? It is worth remembering and writing down your intention for meditation, and return to it every time you practice or when you doubt or skip meditation practice. 


The most important thing is remembering the most important thing.
— Zen teaching

When to meditate?

Spending 10-30 minutes a day meditating doesn't seem like a lot. It is the same amount of time that gets sucked into Instagram or Facebook feeds. Yet, it seems, and well may be, difficult to create the time and space for the practice of mindfulness. 

Here are a few tips to keep you practicing:

  • Build the mindfulness practice into your daily schedule 
  • Practice regularly at the same time each day
  • Create reminders, for example post-its on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge or on the computer screen or simply create an alarm on your phone.

Where to meditate?

You can meditate everywhere and anywhere. At home, in a park, and even at the office.

Our environment effects our state of our mind, so generally it is easier to meditate in a quiet and tidy space. What if a neighbor is practicing the trumpet or police sirens scream outside? Well, that is okay too. Try to stay with it. Noise and disruption can teach us how to be present and attend to what is happening outside with a gentle and caring attitude.


You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes everyday - unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.
— An old Zen saying

What is needed to meditate?

A place to sit. You could sit on the chair, on the coach or bed, on the floor, on pillows, or on meditation cushion. It doesn’t really matter, as long as you are comfortable, and not straining your body. There is no ‘best’ or required way to sit. 

A timekeeper. Something to measure time, such as a smartphone’s stopwatch, a guided meditation recording, or an app like Insight Timer, a free and simple meditation app. 


Meditation position

Sitting, standing, walking.

As meditation is the practice of mind, we may think it is okay to lay down and meditate. And that may be the case, if a physical condition or injury prevents someone from sitting. Otherwise, the optimal positions for meditation are sitting, standing or walking. When lying down, the mind puts itself into rest mode, and most often, we will fall asleep.  

An upright sitting or standing posture helps us stay alert and awake. The body effects the mind (and vice versa), and meditation is about connecting the body and the mind. An upright, but relaxed attitude means we have more contact with reality and what is happening. It is also easier to breathe in an upright position.

Practice

  • it on a chair, bed, or cushion as upright, tall and balanced as possible.
  • Lower your arms along the body and loosen them for a moment.
  • Put your hands on your thighs, knees, or lap in a natural position. 
  • Relax the head, facial muscles, and jaw and let the rest of your muscles hang freely.
  • Close the eyes, or if you prefer, leave the eyes open, with a  soft and receptive gaze.

 

We practice meditation by attending to the full experience with mindful attention. The experience includes breath and sensations; pleasant, painful or neutral feelings, thoughts and emotions.

 


 A Meditation Guide 

Being present with THE BREATH

We sit and we try to be present. However, when we sit and just be, we notice how busy the mind is - that little monkey swings from thought to thought. Impatience, boredom, joy, to-do items, and memories start appearing. In the midst of this mental noise, we need a point of reference, an anchor to focus our attention. 

Breath is a fantastic anchor, as it is always available. 

We pay attention to our breath, moment by moment. 

We don't manipulate it. 

We sense the breath - the rising and falling of the chest and belly. We notice the air moving in and out of our nostrils. 

 


Practicing meditation is just like breathing. While working we breathe, while sleeping we breathe, while sitting down we breathe... Why do we have time to breathe? Because we see the importance of the breath, we can always find time to breathe. In the same way, if we see the importance of meditation practice we will find the time to practice.
— Ajahn Chah

There is no good or bad way meditate. No, you are not doing it wrong.

Sometimes, you can feel relatively calm and relaxed, and sometimes thoughts and feelings will be so intense that you can only observe them and your breath in moments in between thoughts.

We learn to accept what it is. We come to terms with reality, immerse ourselves in its flow, instead of resisting it. Only then can we can transfer this openness into everyday life, and feel the richness and possibility available in every consciously lived moment.