Meditation does not have to be a complicated, frustrating experience if you learn to apply some fundamental concepts to your daily efforts. The purpose of this article is to provide you with key skills which we hope will not only benefit seasoned practitioners, but also those of you just journeying forth in your paths to enlightenment!
Create A Space
Create a special space for your meditation practice. It can be either a room or corner, and use it only for your meditation or contemplation. Put there only those things that help you meditate and keep the space clean and clear. Always enter your meditation space with respect and become refreshed by its peace and beauty. You should not be in a situation where your mind could be easily provoked into anger or other emotions. When you create the right environment, it’s easier to practice and you’ll receive greater benefit from your time invested.
The mind and body are connected, and the energy flows better when the body is erect (spine not stooped); when the body is bent, the flow is changed and that directly affects your thought process.
A comfortable but alert sitting position is essential for regular meditation practice. Meditation chairs are designed to help people with limited flexibility of their back. You should sit upright with the feet touching the ground. The meditation chair provides more comfort than sitting on the floor or on a regular chair. Good meditation chairs should have a slight forward-leaning angle to prevent you from bending during meditation. They should not tilt more than a few inches; a steeply angled meditation chair causes overarching.
If you are looking not to spend too much, a meditation cushion may be a good choice. Meditation cushions are easily portable. Meditation cushions have a wedge profile that tilts your pelvis slightly forward, helping you maintain the proper spinal alignment. The Zafu makes sitting meditation easier on the knees, ankles and back. Other pillows also raise you off of the floor while supporting an aligned posture.
When using a meditation cushion find a comfortable position with legs crossed and hands resting palm-down on your thighs. The hips are neither rotated forward too much, which creates tension, nor tilted back so you start slouching. You have to find a feeling of stability and strength.
The Buddhist meditation bench is a small short bench that lifts you off the floor while helping you maintain a straight-backed posture when sitting. The sloped seat encourages and promotes good posture.
For sitting meditation the seat is a matter of style and preference, the basic principle is to keep an upright, erect posture with your shoulders and hips level. During meditation, you have to be awake even though you are calm. If you find yourself falling asleep, check your posture.
Before You Begin
You will find it helpful to do some Yoga, t’ai chi, or other mindful stretching and gentle exercise. This will help you to build energy and focus your attention before quiet sitting meditation. Sometimes, if you find that your mind is too agitated to start, try walking meditation or mindful walking.
As you begin to relax, it is common to experience release phenomena, which may include various physical sensations. These sensations range from quivering as if you are falling asleep, gurgling in the stomach, to mental images and inner sounds. This shows that your practice has started dissolving accumulated and rooted physical, mental and emotional patterns. The best way to deal with them is simply let them take place without distracting your attention.
As you practice, you will become aware of subtle physical, mental and emotional changes. Eventually, your source of stored stress will be exhausted, and you will feel lighter, clearer and better equipped to deal with the challenges of modern life.
Relaxation And Awareness
The majority of us experience relaxation as a dreamlike state that lacks awareness, and when we are alert, we are tense and mentally agitated. Both of those conditions are far from the alert but relaxed state of meditation.
At the beginning, most of the practice may be spent returning the mind from distraction or sleepiness and finding this balance of relaxed alertness. Eventually, you will be able to become deeply relaxed and lucid during your meditation, and in your daily life you will find that your understanding of the way things are will become more clear and unconditioned.
By practicing meditation, we can realize our full potential. This is why we should work with our minds. The long-term result of meditation is a much more joyful, intense and complete state of being.
Life is impermanent, and we don’t know how much time we have to realize our true self. What we experience today is mostly the result of our choices in the past; what we do and think today will become our future. Remember, that not only what you do but how and why you do something matters.
You start your meditation with steadying your attention by practicing concentration for a few moments. Then you apply your mind to the meditation method you choose. During your session, observe the quality of the focus of your attention. Watch when your attention fades. If you find that it is too difficult to maintain your focus because of distraction or dullness, find balance again in concentration meditation by watching your breath, then return to your main meditation.
Meditation practice can help you develop many dormant qualities. You can use the period of your meditation to develop clarity, understanding, kindness and vitality within, and then try to bring these qualities into your daily life.
Throughout the day, recall your feelings. When you begin to rush, pause within yourself, center and move towards the sense of balance you experienced in your meditation. Brief periods of meditation are opportunities for you to get in touch with qualities that will guide your busiest, most stressful activities.
With time, you will find that any activity can be an opportunity to train your mind and practice concentration, awareness, patience and understanding.
Intention: Before you begin, make your intention clear to your conscious and subconscious mind and offer a short prayer or a call for inspiration. Call upon the sources of inspiration in your life. Remember, you don’t practice “alone;” recall those who share your life. Practice to help bring wholeness in the world.
Concentration: Use concentration meditation (we will be including this in a future post!) to focus, use mindful breathing.
Meditation: Continue with a longer period of quiet meditation using the technique of your choice.
Dedication: End the session with a brief dedication, using the accumulated potency of your meditation and sending it with your heart to all beings.
Application: After you finish your formal meditation practice, make a smooth transition to your daily life with the intention to carry mindful presence into your normal activities. During the day, pause from time to time to renew your connection to mindful presence, continue to fill your life with insight, creativity and compassion that arise from your formal meditation practice.