Meditation is a simple and effective tool for combating the stresses of modern life and it is surprisingly easy to get started.
Learning to meditate can be an extremely effective self-help tool, enabling us to confront stress in a positive way, bringing light to a troubled mind. When we begin to meditate regularly, we embark on an incredible journey of discovery. A journey into the biggest mystery of all; the mind.
How to Meditate in 3 Easy Steps
You can learn to meditate easily using the following 3 simple steps:
- Sit Comfortably
Sit however is comfortable for you. Either on a meditation cushion on the floor or on a straight-backed chair. Traditional meditation postures allow the spine to maintain its natural curve which makes it easier to stay focused and alert. However, if you are not comfortable on the floor, you can meditate perfectly well sitting on a chair!
Forcing yourself into an uncomfortable, unnatural position will cause great distraction and discomfort so it is far better to be easy on yourself when starting out and do what works best for you. If you feel that you want to work towards a more traditional posture then regular yoga practice can help you to gain flexibility while simultaneously bringing inner stillness and clarity.
If using a chair sit towards the front keeping the spine straight, chin tucked in at right angles to the body.
Your hands can be placed on your lap, one cradled in the other, or on your thighs. Do whatever you feel is most comfortable. You may wish to wrap yourself in a shawl or blanket as your body temperature may drop during prolonged periods of stillness.
However you choose to sit, let yourself be comfortable, close your eyes and begin to let go of any tensions and stresses that may have accumulated in your body. Just breathe them away as you exhale.
To begin with, your mind may be racing here, there, and everywhere. Using a concentration technique such as counting the breath will allow the mind to calm and slow down, bringing you back to your natural state of inner stillness.
Start by just noticing your breath. Allow the breathing to be just as it is, not trying to change it in any way. Follow the inhalation and exhalation noticing any natural pause in between.
Some people find it helpful to count the breath as this can help the mind to focus. Count the exhalations 1 to 10, then start from 1 again after completing 10 breaths.
When the mind wanders off, just gently notice what is happening and bring the mind back to the breath. The mind is used to being allowed to run with thoughts, and that is ok and perfectly natural. We can just acknowledge each thought as it arises and the return to the contemplation of breath without judgment or frustration. Just sitting and being.
As you settle into the meditation, continually bringing your focus back to the breath, your mind may become increasingly calm and clear. When you reach this stage you may like to move on to practice awareness meditation, also known as vipassana or insight meditation.
In vipassana, you observe, acknowledge and label whatever arises. Rather than continually bringing your mind back to the breath, you now just watch the mind – witnessing each and every thought, sensation, memory or emotion as it occurs. Your aim is to experience everything with an open, unbiased attitude.
Whatever is present, you should accept it, rejecting nothing, grasping at nothing. Watch as each thought arises and passes away. By taking a step back and watching our mind from a distance we become aware of the transient nature of all things. Each item of experience lasts only a few moments before disappearing. Something else soon replaces it – a physical sensation perhaps, or a thought about something you have to do later, or a feeling or emotion.
With regular meditation practice, gradually the gap between thoughts will become wider as your mind settles into stillness and clarity. With regular practice, you can develop an impartial, all-embracing acceptance of your thoughts and feelings. With increased understanding of the true nature of things, you can obtain ever greater clarity and freedom to live the life you want and to help others to do the same.
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