In this introduction, I will answer the question ‘how do I meditate?’ I will give you a brief overview of the vast topic of meditation and will hopefully equip you with some practical techniques to begin your meditation journey.
We will talk about :
What meditation is, the benefits of meditation, good posture, seven different meditation techniques and implementing meditation in daily life.
So… What is meditation ?
Meditation is the art of being relaxed and alert – body asleep, mind awake – a calm and alert state of mind.
Meditation is simply being present. Being aware of the sensations of the moment. It isn’t about shutting down your brain – it is about calming the mind, maintaining focus and relaxing the body.
Everyone meditates without ‘knowingly’ doing so – an example that I’m sure we can all relate to is when you are out walking and you come across a breathtaking view. That moment where you are calm, your mind is focused and you are taking in the beauty of the scene – that is meditation. You are not thinking about what your boss said to you yesterday or what you are going to cook for dinner later that evening – you are, simply, present.
What are the benefits of meditation ?
Practising meditation will improve every aspect of your life – you will have more energy, be healthier, happier and more efficient!
Here are just a few of the benefits of meditation :
Bringing calm into your life
Happiness and quality of life
Effectiveness in work and in your own endeavours
These are just a few and the list could go on – but there is no point in dwelling on how meditation can affect your life, it is best to learn through experience.
So – let’s move on to the practical part…
What is a good meditation posture ?
Don’t think that you have to sit like a perfectly straight-backed Buddhist monk in lotus position on a mountain top… You can meditate in any posture – sitting, standing, walking, lying down – any way you like!
It is key to have a posture that allows your breath and life energy to flow easily. You need to be comfortable but if you are too comfortable you may fall asleep. Try different postures and see what works best for you. A calm, quiet place to meditate in your home, a good meditation cushion and a lot of patience and determination is a great start.
What meditation techniques are there ?
The basics of meditation are :
- Have one focus
- When the mind wanders (and it will) bring yourself back to that focus
- Let everything be.
The key is to be ‘the witness’. To watch your thoughts flow in and out of your mind and to not judge them or react to them. Simply witness them enter, watch them and allow them to disappear. Always bring your mind back to your focus and try to not wander off with your thoughts – but if you do, then bring yourself back and try not to get annoyed.
Let’s very briefly run through a few different meditation techniques – with all of these techniques it is best to first spend a couple of minutes inwardly scanning your body releasing the subtle tension that you will be holding :
• Do not try to control your breath. Breathe naturally and let it be spontaneous. Observe your breath, feel it and focus on all the fine sensations. Is it deep or shallow? Down in your belly or up in your chest? Explore the movement of your breath and allow your body to relax.
• Start with one deep breath in… and out… then begin to count your breaths.
• You can count up to ten on each out breath or you can double count on each in and out breath.
• Your mind will wander and when it does just bring it back to your breath and try not to get annoyed or disheartened.
• Allow your body to relax and have a background awareness of the sensations occurring all over.
2. Body Scan
• This is a meditation on posture and breathing and it involves scanning from top to bottom, bottom to top or both.
• Divide your body into different sections, eg – scalp and forehead, face, neck throat shoulders, arms and hands, front and back, hips, legs and feet.
• With normal and regular breath take your focus over each different section. Observe all the different sensations that you might be feeling – heaviness / lightness, hot / cold, tingling, itching, pain, vibration, pulsation, expansion and even the feel of your t-shirt against your skin.
• Observe all of the sensations, remain equanimous and try to not react to them, simply observe them.
• After five to ten breaths move on to the next section of your body or alternatively you can move through your body at a regular pace – whatever helps you to maintain focus.
• In Sanskrit ‘japa’ means meditative mantra, so we love mantras here at Japa!
• You can repeat a mantra whilst doing any activity – select a mantra that resonates with you and repeat it silently. It could be something like ‘OM’ or ‘Om Namah Shivaya’.
• You can also synchronise the mantra with the rhythm of your heartbeat or breathing.
• Feel the flow of the mantra and sharpen your focus when your mind starts to wander.
• Much like a mantra you need to choose an affirmation that resonates with you. It could be something like ‘love happiness’ or ‘be here’.
• Once you have relaxed begin to repeat your affirmation and synchronise it with your breath – you could say ‘love’ on the in breath and ‘happiness’ on the out breath.
• You can visualise anything (objects of the five senses, the elements, the intricate pattern of a leaf…) but a nice one to begin with is colours – the colours of the rainbow.
• Relax and begin to repeat a colour on each breath ‘blue’ for example. Wait for an image of shades of blue or memories of blue to appear in your mind.
• Focus on those images, go deeper into them and after a minute or so move through the spectrum to a new colour.
• Ensure that your body doesn’t tense up as you focus and move through the colours. If a particular colour is working well to keep your focus then stay with that one longer.
• Music that makes you drift away or space out will only allow you to relax rather than focus and meditate.
• Choose music that is appropriate for you and that has no vocals. Play the music and hone in your focus taking in all its different elements, listening to the detail.
• If it evokes any emotions or if any images arise then observe them and allow them to deepen your meditation.
• Occasionally check that you are still present with the music and bring yourself back if not.
• Whilst doing any regular meditation, such as focusing on your breath, you can name the thoughts that appear when your mind begins to wander.
• For example, when thinking about something that happened yesterday you could say ‘past, past’ or you could name thoughts about an ache in your knee as ‘pain, pain’.
• Try not to get caught up in the thought – witness it, name it and allow it to pass.
Spend 15 minutes a day over the next seven days and try one technique a day to see what works best with you. Everyone is different, you may not get on with some techniques at all and others may really resonate with you.
How to integrate meditation into daily life ?
The benefit of sitting to meditate on a regular basis is undeniable but the joys of meditation are really experienced when you integrate it throughout your whole day.
You can meditate during every aspect of your daily life, you just need to take the time to train your focus. Great ways to begin doing this are through becoming deeply aware of sensations such as the heat of water over your body when showering, the feeling in your mouth when you brush your teeth or the impact of your feet on the ground when walking.
If you start to become more aware and bring more presence into your daily life then your world will begin to transform.
Any advice ?
Never be hard on yourself – there is no such thing as a ‘bad meditation’ sitting. Some days can be testing and frustrating but it is good and necessary progress – all you can do is try to develop your patience.
Be determined! It is not easy to develop a regular routine and life will always manage to get in the way. Maintaining your motivation can sometimes be hard but it is worth it – try practicing every day for a month and it will become a thing of habit and much easier to keep up your practice.
The best time to start is always now. Don’t put it off till ‘tomorrow’ – you mind is cunning and will always try to make up excuses as to why you cannot practice now, try not to let it get the better of you.
Enjoy yourself! Try to not see meditation as a chore, you will feel the benefits and experience the joy – so go into it with a smile and enjoy the stillness of the present moment.
If you have any questions then please do not hesitate to send me an email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Why don’t you also check out Japa’s top 5 books for mindfulness and meditation
I hope that this overview will in some way help you to begin your wonderful journey!