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Meditation for Real People
Part 3: A Basic Meditation Technique - Do It Now!

(Article continued below.)

  1. Sit comfortably. This is perhaps the most important part of practicing meditation. If you do not find a comfortable sitting position, there is no way your body will let you meditate - it will fidget with distracting aches and pains. The key is keeping your back straight. Here is where your Yoga practice gives you an advantage - your posture is already better than most, and you back is stronger and straighter than it would be otherwise. Help your back by finding something comfortable to sit on. A meditation cushion or bench is good, but you should try them out before you buy one - your body may have different needs from someone else's. Or you can just sit in a chair, as long as the soles of your feet (which are preferably shoeless) can rest easily on the ground. Don't sit near the back rest of the chair - sit close to the edge, with your back straight. This is really more comfortable in the long run than sitting all the way back, and it will also keep you from falling asleep. Pretend that a string from far above is attached to your head and pulling you up straight. You can do anything you want with your hands as long as it does not distract you - rest them in your lap, on your thighs or form a mudra, such as resting your hands on the back of your knees and touching your thumb and index finger to form a small 'o.'

    If you choose to sit on the floor, put a folded up blanket under your hips - don't try to be a hero and go without. You will start aching very quickly. Of course, if you're a more advanced Yogi, you can always sit in the classic Lotus posture - but don't even attempt this unless it is an easy pose for you. This is about meditating right now, not about perfecting your Asana.

  2. Shut your eyes and scan your body from head to toe for any tense areas. Relax any tension, and pay particular attention to your shoulders, your jaw, the muscles around your mouth and your forehead. Once you have relaxed every part of your body, do one more quick scan to see if any muscles have tensed up while you were relaxing another part of your body.
  3. Focus on your breath - not your whole breath coming into your nose and expanding your lungs, just where the air enters and exits your nostrils. Notice the sensations - hot, cold, if your nostrils expand. Just breathe naturally - this is not an exercise in Pranayama (although there are meditation techniques that involve certain kinds of breath work). Count your exhalations, from one to ten, at the end of each exhalation. Your attention should primarily be on your breath; the counting should take up very little of your attention. If you miss a number, it's no big deal, just start from one all over again. Do this over and over.
  4. If this is the first time you are attempting meditation, this may be as far as you get. If you are new, don't push it if you are restless or bored. It's better to consistently take little steps. If you make a big production number out of this, you probably won't want to do it every day. And you should practice a little bit every day for optimum results. Even getting this far and doing it every day will benefit you to a certain extent. As you progress, you will get to a point where counting the breath becomes truly tiresome - you can do it with no problem, but you no longer need it to keep your attention. At that point stop counting and just focus on the breath. Concentrate on each breath as if it is something new (because each breath is new!). Your awareness should be completely on your breath. Outside noises should fade into the background and not bother you.
  5. When focusing on the breath becomes unnecessary, stop that and focus on your thoughts. People often mistakenly believe that they are the mind and they are their thoughts. You are not your thoughts, and you will discover this by observing them. Do not become involved in your thought processes or identify with any thoughts or images - take a step back and watch them come and go. And they will come and go on their own if you leave them alone. They only stick around if you entertain them. Detach. Eventually the thoughts will slow and there will be less of them. You will also be going deeper into a meditative state.
  6. Ideally your body will become drowsy but you will still remain alert. You will achieve a very deep state of relaxation but you will retain your focus. While you're in this state you can concentrate on anything you want, from a religious icon, a mantra, a chakra, something from nature, or a problem that has been bothering you. If you are doing the latter, examine it as acutely as you have been examining everything else up to this point - and don't expect an answer right away. It may not come during your meditation session - it may come at a later time or the next day. When your mind is quiet and free of distracting thoughts, it is an ideal time to focus on anything profound. What that is is your choice.
  7. If you go deeply enough into meditation, you can achieve a state of Samadhi, in which you feel at one with all the universe. It cannot be described. If you get there you will know. Samadhi is a rare and special occurrence. Many people meditate their whole lives without achieving it. Whether you get there or not is immaterial. The practice, the path, is important, not some distant goal.

Obviously, following all these steps can take you quite a while - anywhere from half an hour to an hour or more. But you don't have to do all this every time - when you are starting out, five minutes a couple times a day is sufficient rest for your mind. As it gets used to meditation, you will be able to go for longer periods of time and you will get through the first 4 or 5 steps a lot more quickly. What's important is that you give your mind a break at some point every day. If you are on any sort of spiritual quest, you will probably want to devote a significant amount of time to meditation. But even if you aren't, a little bit of meditation every day will give you a mental clarity that will help you in every aspect of your life.

Back to Start >> Meditation Is for Everyone >> Page 1, 2, 3

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