Thursday, January 22, 2009

Meditation 101

Sit or lie in a way that is comfortable but that doesn’t require much muscle tension. For instance, you can sit without any back support, with your spinal vertebrae stacked like bricks so you’re balancing, not using your muscles to hold you up. Spend a moment making sure that your vertebrae are all balanced, one on top of the other. You may cross your legs or rest your hands on your knees, but you certainly don’t have to. Just make sure that your body is reasonably symmetrical and that no part of you will fall to the ground once your muscles are relaxed, shocking you out of your meditation.

After you are physically settled but while your mind is still busy, set a firm but non-aggressive intention that this will be an easy and effective meditation and that you’ll find no trouble sinking into a meditative state of mind. Hear this intention ring like a gong in your mind. Also set an intention that you will not fall asleep, but remain perfectly awake, although very relaxed.

Bring your attention to your breath. Breathe through your nose and feel the coolness and the gentle brushing sensation of the air in your nostrils. Feel it travel down your throat and into your lungs, filling them from the bottom to the top, as your belly, sides and chest move outward and inward to accommodate the expansion of your lungs.

Start to let the thoughts in your head settle, as muddy water will settle and separate after it is stirred. Feel the clarity of your mind rise to the level of your everyday awareness as the water on top would become clear. Count with your breaths - count to four slowly on the in-breath, pause for a one or two second beat, and do the same for the out-breath - the count and the pause. As you feel the function of your lungs start to improve and your body start to notice its higher-than-normal oxygen level, lengthen the count until you are counting to five, or even eight, on each breath.

Thoughts will flutter and slide through your mind as you’re doing this. Don’t be surprised or dismayed, it is completely normal to have intrusive thoughts throughout all the years that you meditate, but especially (and seemingly endlessly) at first. When a thought occurs to you, gently notice it, do not let it hook you and take you away from what you’re doing but simply notice it, and let it move away, as a lone cloud in the sky would as you are gazing up at it.

Come back to counting your breath.

Relax your body as best you can. Try to get to the point that you feel numb with relaxation. Resist the urge to wiggle your fingers and toes to see where they are - enjoy the floating feeling of your mind once it is freed from the physical sensations of your body.

Feeling your breath and being aware of the relaxation of your body, enjoy the freedom that your mind has. Do not hang on to any of the random thoughts that will present themselves, but let yourself drift from thought to thought without attachment to any.

After a few moments of this, when you feel as if it is time to return, sink back into your body, sit for a moment as you become aware of the sounds in the room and the physical sensations you have (temperature, feel of your clothing, the surface you are seated or lying on), and open your eyes.

Remember to document anything interesting that occurred to you or happened during your meditation. These memories will be priceless once you are a seasoned meditator, especially if you are trying to teach another beginner from

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