Beginning Meditation

Here are a few simple points on how to get started in beginning meditation. With practice and time, the rest of the process can build upon this basic practice.

We will try to present a balanced explanation of beginning meditation. This isn't easy, for it is possible to skip over the depth of meditation, leaving the beginner stuck at the surface-most levels for years or decades. On the other hand, it can sound so complicated that meditation seems impossible. Your personal journey must begin with an understanding of the foundation of beginning meditation. All these principals also apply to the later, more advanced stages.

BEGINNING MEDITATION:

1.   Stretch the body:
It's very useful to do a few stretches before sitting for meditation. It need not be a lengthy process, but can be longer if you wish. Even a few minutes can help. The main emphasis is on the spine and neck, bending sideways, forward and backward, and twisting both left and right. Even if you don't do a series of stretches, a few simple stretches while sitting on your meditation seat is helpful.

2.   Sit straight:
If you are sitting straight the weight of the body is evenly distributed. Gravity holds the body in place without leaning or falling to the left or right, or to the front or back. This amazingly simple principle is a great aid to meditation. Sitting "straight" means having a natural curve in the spine. It can take some time to develop a good sitting posture. Use the posture that is comfortable for you, such as sitting on a chair if sitting on the floor does not feel right.

3.   Reflect on your day or life:
For the first couple minutes intentionally give your mind the time to chatter about the activities you've been doing in daily life. This is not to get involved in a worry session, but giving the mind time to run on its own will help it to naturally settle down. It's also nice to take a minute to quietly reflect on your spiritual purpose of life, however you might personally think of that.

4.   Be aware of the Body:
Bring your attention to your body. Explore the body as if you are really curious about it. Do it with your eyes closed, using your inner attention. Mostly this involves the cognitive sense of touch, as you "feel" your body. Go through all of the parts: head, arms, trunk and legs. There are many systematic methods you can learn, but the important thing is to actually explore, as if you are an interior researcher.

There's no need to say any words like "relax, relax," as the exploration itself will naturally relax the body. If this feels really comfortable to you, your whole meditation time can focus on this body awareness. Some people like to do this style for months or years even though it is a beginning meditation. While it misses the greater depth of meditation, it can be extremely useful for stress reduction, as you repeatedly bring your attention back to the body when the mind wanders. If it feels comfortable, and if you want, go on to breath meditation after several minutes with the body.

5.   Be aware of the Breath:
Breath awareness is one of the finest focal points for beginning meditation. Interestingly, breath awareness can also be an extremely subtle, advanced meditation if attention is allowed to deepen into and through the subtle energies at the root of breath. With beginning meditation, it is easiest to just feel the air flow at the nostrils. This is the cognitive sense of touch, with which you feel the air come in, and then feel it go out.

It's useful to also eliminate and jerkiness or irregularities, allowing the breath to be smooth. So too, it is useful to allow the breath to be comfortably slow, though not trying too hard at this. Above all, gently eliminate any pause in the transitions between breaths, allowing one to gently flow into the next. It's like a little game of seeing just how smooth and continuous you can make it flow. In beginning meditation, we might say that having different techniques of breathing is most important, but the actual techniques rest on the solid foundation of awareness. Therefore, it is breath awareness itself that is the most important part of beginning meditation. The rest will come in time.

6.   Concentrate the Mind:
Breath awareness alone can be a quite sufficient focal point for the mind. Please know that there is a sort of debate going on between approaches to meditation. Some say you should concentrate the mind, and others say you should not do that, allowing the mind to just wander wherever it wants. For most people, a blending of these two approaches is most useful.

At first, in beginning meditation, you focus on the body, as described above. Then comes concentration on the breath, such as breath awareness at the nostrils. If you feel comfortable with it, you can go on to hold attention in the space between the breasts, the heart chakra, or the space between the eyebrows, the ajna chakra. There are many choices one has about the object of concentration, but the principle is the same. Once again, one of the most straightforward "objects" of meditation is the breath.

7.   Witness the flow of thoughts:
While the mind is focused, you can also let the thoughts in the mind field flow without interruption. It's somewhat like driving a car, where your eyes are on the road, but you awareness is taking in all of the other activities in your periphery vision. We all do this often in our daily lives in this and many other ways. Even in beginning meditation one can cultivate this stance of gently focusing the mind while witnessing the other thoughts flow in the mind. They flow, but are not distracting or disturbing.

This can seem quite difficult, but it really is not. As long as we remember the simplicity, like driving a car and seeing the periphery, we can stay focused and still witness the inner process of mind. Starting this practice even in beginning meditation goes a long way in setting the stage for advanced meditation. Remember to keep the mind focused in that one location or space, one that one object, such as breath, allowing those other thoughts to do as they wish, while you remain a neutral witness.

8.   Reverse the process to end:
When meditation is complete it is useful to end the meditation by reversing the process, coming "out" the same way you came "in." This may take a minute or less. So, for example, if you were meditating in the heart center, you briefly come back to the breath at the nostrils. Then you come back to the whole of the body. Then you gently open your eyes. Then you slowly move your body once again, being mindful to bring the experience of meditation outward with you.


SOME OTHER USEFUL IDEAS

1.   Same Time and Place:
Consistency is very useful to forming a good meditation habit. People often complain of not having "discipline." If meditation is a habit, then no discipline is needed. We go to work, eat meals, and do many other things regularly for the simple reason that we have formed the habit. Understanding that principle is extremely useful in beginning meditation. It's not really so hard to do.

2.   One minute will help:
This is not to try to create some "one minute meditation" method, but far more important than the duration of meditation is that fact that you give yourself a moment just for yourself, for stillness and quiet. There are surely times where you feel "I don't have time," but there is always time to sit for a minute, close the eyes, and remember. It is not duration that develops meditation as a habit, but frequency, and the ideal frequency is every day.

3.   Comfortable place:
Create a comfortable space in your home for meditation. It may be a separate room used only for meditation or a quiet space in a less busy room of the house. Make it a simple place or seat, but allow yourself to customize it, to make it your own private sanctuary. While meditation is an inner process, you may enjoy having close at hand certain objects that help you feel comfortable. All of life will come to revolve around that one special place.

4.   One seat:
Use only one cushion, blanket or chair, using the same one each time. Allow this seat itself to become a "home base" of sorts. Your mind will come to know it as a special place to visit, as you carry this memory with you during the day. It gives a focal point to the 24 hours in the day. Use that cushion or chair only for the purpose of meditation if possible. For example, if it's a chair in a bedroom don't use it as a storage place. That forms a special relationship in the mind that is useful for developing a good beginning meditation habit. Some people like to have a thin cloth put on top of the seat so that this cloth can be taken along when going to some other location, such as when traveling far from home.

5.   Cleaning:
It's great to bathe before meditation, and to use the bathroom as necessary. Even a splash of water on the face or washing your face with a wash cloth can feel good. The idea is to remove physical distractions that can intrude on your meditation.

6.   Time after eating:
Allow some time to pass after eating before meditation. Ideally this should be several hours. However, with beginning meditation people often find that life is not so organized yet. We need to be realistic about meditation. If you feel like sitting quietly after a meal, there's no need to walk around waiting for time to pass. Just go ahead and sit quietly for a few minutes.

7.   Keep it simple:
With beginning meditation one of the most important points is to keep it simple. Even reading through the suggestions on this page can start to make it sound complicated, which it is not. If we make a simple habit of showing up at the same time and place each day, that habit will allow the practices to expand over time.


Namaste


This section is based on the direct knowledge of teachers and Yogis.
We have tried to summarize the information which might omit some minor details.