I first learned to meditate at my local Buddhist Monastery and have never looked back. I tend to be a bit of a stress-head and meditation helps me to calm my mind. With practice, it brings about a lasting sense of inner peace. Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it, but there are plenty of rock-solid scientific studies that substantiate these claims.
For those who want to give meditation a go, the first step is to gain the know-how. This post provides you with a quick overview of the: what, how and when of meditation.
I’m too busy. No, you’re not.
In terms of time, you don’t need a lot. A typical meditation takes from 10 to 15 minutes. Less time than you thought? Me too! Even you can find 15 minutes in your day for happiness, can’t you?
I’ve focused on a simple yet powerful type of meditation known as Breathing Meditation. This is the best place to begin because Breathing Meditation underpins every other form, even complex meditations that monks spend years attempting to master.
The 5 steps
- Remove distractions
- Get comfortable
- Be purposeful
- Relax your body
- Focus on your breath.
I’ve detailed each of the steps below. It may look like a fair bit of info but that’s because I’ve included several tips to get you off to a good start. None of this is rocket science and after you’ve meditated a few times the steps will be automatic.
Step 1: Remove distractions
- Choose a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. I have a special spot set up for meditation at home, but you might use your bedroom.
- I find evenings work best for me because it’s the quietest time in my day. Others prefer early mornings. Anytime is fine, but it’s wise not to try to meditate when you are tired, hungry or when the kids are on a rampage.
- Turn off all gadgets. No mobile phones or TV and no music, no matter how chillaxed it is.
- Some like to dim the lights or you can use candles if you really want to set the scene. Neither are mandatory.
- Don’t overheat the room or you run the risk of nodding off.
- Close the door and/or windows if there is likely to be noise. We can never achieve total silence but the fewer distractions the better, especially when starting out.
- Let others know you’d appreciate some private time and don’t want to be disturbed.
Step 2: Get comfortable
- You can sit in the traditional cross-legged posture or in any other position that’s comfortable for you. If sitting in a chair choose one that’s straight-backed rather than layback.
- Rest your hands gently in your lap and, if in a chair, have both feet on the floor.
- Keep your back straight to prevent your mind from becoming sluggish.
- Close your eyes. If you feel you might become drowsy, partially close them to allow some light through your lashes.
Step 3: Be purposeful
- If you’re one of those people that rarely give yourself permission to take any real time for yourself – now’s your chance! To help you remain focused while meditating, think deliberately but briefly about what you’re about to do and why. Make a commitment.
- The benefits of meditation are infinite; just pick one or two of your faves.
- For example, you might tell yourself: “This meditation will help me relax and become calmer and happier. That will be good for me and those around me. So for the next 10
minutesI’ll focus on this meditation alone. Everything else can wait.”
Step 4: Relax your body
- Slowly relax each part of your body in turn, from head to toe.
- Feel the tension release and muscles relax in your face, neck and shoulders, hands, arms, upper body, lower body, legs and feet.
- When relaxed, try to remain completely motionless and silent throughout the meditation.
Step 5: Focus on your breath
- Breathe naturally, preferably through your nostrils.
- Don’t force or control your breath. It shouldn’t be any louder, deeper or faster than usual. If anything, it might be a little slower.
- Position the tip of your tongue lightly against the back of your front teeth to reduce the amount of saliva you produce.
- Become aware of the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils. As you breathe in you’ll notice a cool sensation at the edge of your nostrils or on your upper lip, and as you breathe out you’ll notice the reverse.
- The only goal is to concentrate on the sensation of your breath entering and leaving your nostrils – to the exclusion of everything else. Yep, that’s all there is to it except…
- Your mind will be very active at first and you may even feel that the meditation is making your thoughts race. In reality, you are just becoming aware of how busy your mind (your inner voice) always is. Sounds might also break your concentration, even bird song.
- There will be a great temptation to follow these thoughts as they arise, but you should resist this and remain focused single-pointedly on the sensation of your breath.
- If you discover that your mind has wandered away from your breath (and it will), gently but firmly refocus on the breath.
- Repeat this as many times as necessary until the mind settles on the breath alone.
- After 5 or 10 minutes end the meditation session by slowly opening your eyes.
- Sit quietly for short time before resuming your daily life.
Hints and tips
- It doesn’t matter how many times you have to bring your attention back to the breath. As long as you are doing that, rather than following other thoughts, you are training in mindfulness and concentration. In short, you are meditating.
- Even though thoughts and distractions may seem to interrupt you non-stop, don’t worry. It’s only because you are not used to focusing on anything single-pointedly for any length of time, so you have little or no control over your mind … yet.
- There’s no pushing in meditation. It doesn’t work. Accept that the mind wanders and bring your attention back to the breath in a timely but relaxed manner. Stay light and calm.
- When starting out you might want to try meditating for 5 minutes and gradually increase to 10 or 15 minutes.
- Don’t grasp at results — we do that enough in the rest of our lives. Meditation is about just being. Relax into the knowledge that meditation naturally leads to positivity, just as water naturally flows downhill. Let things take their course.
What you can
If you follow these steps, you could notice calming results after your very first attempt. That was my experience, even though I expected little because most of my time was spent steering my errant mind back to my breath! However, it’s different for everyone. It took a friend of mine a few sessions to get the hang of things, so be patient and persistent.
And I’m not suggesting you’ll achieve a profound, Nirvana-like state during the meditation or immediately afterwards. Think more along the lines of feeling relaxed and less stressed when you’re done. As if your mind and body have been on a short holiday and have returned refreshed.
Practice makes perfect
With practice, the ability to still your mind through meditation becomes easier and easier and, with that, a growing sense of peace begins to permeate your life.
And although any meditation is good for you, to get the most out of it, regular sessions are best. So try to make meditation part of your daily routine.
Now that you’re now armed with some meditation know-how, I’d love you to give it a try and let me know how you go!