For the beginner
Meditation is not a natural thing for us. If we are stressed the first thing we do is get agitated and move faster to reduce or remove the cause of the stress. Meditation is the thing we can do to calm ourselves down and deal with the stress in a more responsive way than a reactive way. Meditation helps us calm our thoughts, increase our awareness, and control our emotions. There are so many ways of meditating and we find the way that best suits us, much like everything else we do. We find a way. I will describe just one way that works for me. Perhaps it will work for you too.
I typically will find a time in the morning where I have 15 minutes where I can be alone and sit quietly. I find that if I have two stiff pillows, sitting on them will give me enough support that I am sitting up straight and my back does not hurt. If you are a traditionalist you can get a meditation gong/bell and a clock to watch the time. I found that there are now many apps regarding meditation such as Calm, Headspace, Meditopia, Let’s Meditate, and others. I use Insight Timer because I like it simple. I set my starting bell, my ending bell, and how long I want to meditate. That’s it. Then I get into position. I sit cross-legged on my pillows facing East. I suppose it is up to you if you want to face West, North, or South or some other direction. I have to face somewhere and symbolically speaking facing the sun rising is greeting the new day, especially when I meditate in the morning. While I position myself on the pillows I place my hands lightly on my knees with my palms up and my thumbs almost touching my middle and ring fingers. The placement of my hands is relaxed and I do it this way out of habit. You may rest your hands face down on your knees if you like. This loose placement of the hands, palms up, is to allow the energy from the universe to flow through your fingertips. Sometimes I can feel the energy like the gap across the points of a sparkplug but it’s not so dramatic. When I have the hands placed correctly and my shoulders are relaxed, I gaze ahead with my eyes slightly lowered to a spot about ten feet ahead of me, just keeping my eyes open but not focused on anything in particular. I am ready to meditate.
I begin with the bell. By hitting it, it tells me that it’s time to breathe. In through the nose and into the chest, filling up the diaphragm, then slowly letting it out again through the mouth. Imagine a circle inside you where you make your breath flow in, then up and out. Breathing is something we do naturally. We breathe typically 12 to 20 breaths per minute and we never stop breathing, this is why it is so important to come back to the breath because it is life. As you breathe, just let your mind relax. You are now meditating. Thoughts will come into your head. When you first begin meditation, your thoughts may just overwhelm you. You may be asking yourself why you are doing this, you may be thinking about 1000 other things, thought after thought. You may be thinking of how your nose itches, or how thirsty you are, or you might be thinking about work that needs to be done and why are you sitting here doing this instead? Relax, breathe, let the thoughts go by. Pay attention to your body, how you feel, what your emotions are, and what you seem to be thinking about. When you realize that you are thinking, this is the time to let the thought go. You can let it float out into the infinite sky like a balloon and watch it float far away. Bring yourself back to the moment, ask yourself: where am I? (here) What am I doing? (breathing) Then breathe, take deep slow breaths, in and out, and let your mind continue. You will have another thought. Do the same thing. Recognize the thought as a thought, then let it go. Once you get into a regular habit you will begin to notice different things about yourself (awareness). You will notice that your mind often goes to the same places, sometimes it will go to new places. Are those places in the past or the future? What are your feelings? Are you happy, sad, mad, or scared? You may be experiencing many feelings depending on your thoughts. Take this time to reflect on how your thoughts affect your feelings. You do this all day without noticing it until you spend some time with your thoughts. When you spend time with yourself in this way you can begin to heal and become whole. When the ending gong rings, how do you feel? Did the time pass quickly, or slowly? Do you feel more energy? Did you look at something a different way? Meditation does different things for different people. Did it help you clarify your thoughts? Your emotions? Did you discover something new about yourself? Taking time with yourself through meditation is always good. You don’t have to sit to meditate. You can meditate while walking. You can meditate while doing tasks but be mindful. When you are sitting, you are sitting. When you are walking, you are walking. Anything you do, you need to be mindful of what you are doing. This is meditation at work. If you are not paying attention this is your mind on autopilot. We spend too much of our lives on autopilot and not experiencing life to the fullest. Meditation will help you know yourself. Meditation will clarify your thoughts and calm your emotions. Meditation will ease your fears and calm your anger. Take the time to know yourself. It’s time well spent.
Patrick Matthews MS LPC