A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation: Part One

I thought I would post up a little offering to those of you, who like me, find meditation somewhat difficult and a bit confusing. First of all I cannot stress too much how beneficial meditation is; it calms the mind, grounds and centers you, helps decrease stress and worry and allows us to get in touch with our inner self. However, I’m going to stress equally that you do not have to contort yourself into the lotus position, or even the half lotus, meditation is not about reaching some kind of nirvana that helps us escape everyday life, nor is it only for highly spiritual people. Effective meditation can be achieved by each and every one of us IF we take the time to make it a daily practice. Like any new skill we learn we have to practise and practise don’t we? Learning something new just doesn’t happen, and nor will the ability to meditate just happen. However, I can say that if you make the effort to set aside just 5 minutes a day to begin with and follow the steps I give in this article, you will begin to see a difference in yourself, and most probably in your life too. How can I say this? Because I do it myself and have seen the benefits in my own life. Moreover, I know of many people who do the same, or very similar, and they can attest to the difference meditation has made in their lives also.

To begin with meditation is NOT about imagining something peaceful in your mind. No! That is called Visualisation and it’s a complete different kettle of fish. Although the ability to visualise is very important in improving one’s life and one’s spirituality. Here, though, I’m talking about meditation. Of course, the first thing you’re going to ask is ‘How can I meditate when my mind just won’t shut up!’ Yes, that’s always a difficult thing to deal with in the beginning. How do you stop your thoughts from flowing in and out of your consciousness, or what the wise sages of old called ‘monkey mind’…chattering away non-stop.

First of all try to get rid of any expectations you might have about meditation. No, you won’t suddenly reach enlightenment on the first couple of sittings. No, you won’t suddenly sit there with a Buddha-like smile on your face (well, ok you might). forget about zen mind and everything else. Not that Zen is wrong, but sometimes, for a beginner, we can just get bogged down with oversimplification which then becomes downright confusing – well, it did to me anyhow.

So, sit and make yourself comfortable. Sitting is preferable to lying down because there is a tendency to just nod off if you lie down. So sit comfortably…did I say comfortably? Yes, sit comfortably in a chair or on the ground but make sure you feel comfortable. There’s nothing worse than trying to meditate if your left hand has got pins and needles, or your right calf has an excruciating cramp in it.

Don’t play music, and don’t burn any incense, not yet any way. That will come later if you wish it. You want to try to minimise any distractions and yes that does mean turning off your phone too, and giving yourself enough time alone to do this. Your wife, hubby, partner or kids can do without your presence for 5 to 10 minutes can’t they? The world won’t collapse if you don’t give it your attention for a short while.

Ok, so now what? you’re undisturbed and in a comfy position….and now the thoughts come reeling in don’t they. Ha! I knew they would. I bet you might be thinking…oh let’s get this over with I’ve got the shopping to do…blah blah blah. Yes, I know it, I’ve been there and read the book, got the t-shirt.

So, just sit and notice your breathing. Don’t try to do this breathe deeply in for three…hold for 10…and release for 600…no no! Just breathe normally! Notice your breath, how it goes into your nostrils, how it leaves your nostrils (you might need to blow your nose before you begin all this). Just focus on each breath entering you and leaving you.

Ah yes, a though has intruded hasn’t it. Something like…what’s going to happen next…or…the neighbours are going out…or….what shall we have for dinner… Yes, I know, they intrude with me too. So now you do NOT want to force those thoughts away. Just notice them and refocus on your breathing. Each time a though intrudes just notice it and refocus on your breath entering and leaving your body. Keep doing this…it’s all ok…it’s all as it should be!

Keep focusing on your breathing but this time notice where you’re breathing from. Are you breathing from the upper part of your chest? How does it feel? Tight? Anxious? Try breathing from your belly. Allow yourself to take in air though your nose and fill those lungs right into your belly…yeah, let that belly stick out, let it all hang out. Now you know why most statues of the Buddha have big bellies…because they’re breathing correctly. you see you don’t want to be breathing from your upper body; your chest. You need to be breathing from your belly and allowing the air to fill ALL your lungs, not just the upper half. How does your breathing feel now? Are you more relaxed?

So, right now you should be doing two things…breathing in a relaxed way from your belly AND focusing on just your breath…in…out…in…out…

And this is really all you have to do for right now…just belly breath and focus on your breath. When a thought intrudes (and they will), don’t try to force them away…just refocus your attention on your breathing.

You see, thoughts come from the ego and the ego just doesn’t like it when you are still and silent with no-thought. It needs to keep you busy on this and that, what to eat for dinner, what to buy Auntie Maud for her birthday, why didn’t your boyfriend (or girlfriend) ring last night…and ad infinitum. The ego doesn’t like being in the moment. It likes keeping you in the past or in the future but NEVER in the moment. So, it stands to reason that it’s going to kick up a big fuss when you begin to meditate. It’s hoping you’re going to throw your hands up in the air and say…oh this is just too difficult…but the truth is that it isn’t difficult at all. It just requires you to just BE in the present, breathing from your belly and focusing on your breath…in…out…in…out.

Well, that’s enough for now. Over the next few days keep practicing this. Start with 5 to 10 minutes a day at first. Don’t be too ambitious…start small and work gently forwards. After all meditation should actually be enjoyable and enlightening, so why rush it?

 

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