Last week I talked about the benefits of meditation and the roadblocks that keep many people from getting started. In a nutshell, it’s a wonderful way to find freedom from anxieties, negativity and certain ailments. So you might be motivated to get it going. But how?
I’ll walk you step-by step through a first-time meditation sequence. The type of meditation I’m going to outline is called mindfulness meditation; it’s a simple technique and a great place to start. It will help you be more mindful (duh) of your feelings and desires, and allow you to cultivate or work through them more easily than you would if you were not practicing mindfulness.
Your first time meditating should be short and sweet – enough to at least immerse yourself a little, but not so long that you get bored and discouraged. I recommend allotting about ten minutes to begin, but even this can be intimidating if you have no idea what you’re doing or a short attention span, so five minutes is ok, too. And just follow along!
1. Find somewhere comfortable and where you won’t be interrupted.
I like to sit on the edge of my bed with my feet on the floor and hands in my lap. Find somewhere you can sit this way, where people aren’t likely to bother you. Background noise, even if it’s loud, is ok; being jarred out of your thoughts by sudden disruptions is not!
2. Sit with feet on the floor and hands in your lap or on your thighs.
Find a happy medium between rigid and lounging; keep your back straight and shoulders back, but don’t freak out about having perfect posture. To keep you straight and still you can try imagining your head aligning with a point in the sky.
3. Breathe, imagine a sense of calm.
Before closing your eyes, think about yourself in a peaceful place and state of mind. Take a few deep breaths.
4. Close your eyes when you’re ready, and take a few more deep breaths.
Focus on the up and down of your breathing, wherever that is in your body. Imagine inhaling calm and exhaling stress or negativity. Once you’ve taken several deep breaths, return to your normal breathing pattern, in your nose and out your mouth.
5. Body scan.
Do a mental scan of your body; I like to start at my head and move downward, but feel free to start at your feet, stomach, wherever. As you move down, up or out, focus on the way each body part feels. Are some areas tense? Are some relaxed? Just notice, don’t try to fix it. Take as long as you need for this; it may take several minutes.
6. Emotional scan.
As you do the body scan, you will begin to notice the underlying emotions you’re feeling. It may be obvious or you may have to look for it. Are you anxious? Sad? Happy, free, peaceful? Again, just notice. Don’t judge or try to change it.
7. Return focus to breath.
Sit for several minutes (I’d say up three to five) with yourself. Don’t force your mind to be blank. Instead, if you realize your mind has wandered off, gently label it as ‘thinking’ and bring the focus back to your breathing. You can count your breaths if it helps.
8. Let your mind go.
For about 15-30 seconds (but don’t strictly time this, just approximate) let your mind wander free. This feels longer than it sounds. Let your mind think or sing or be blank, whatever it wants. No effort. You may get frustrated by this at first; don’t worry. It’ll get easier and easier to let go the more you practice.
9. Bring it back to breathing.
Bring it back again to your breath and physical body. Just allow yourself to re-acclimate to your physical surroundings. How do you feel?
10. Open eyes when ready.
Take your time breathing before doing this if you need. There have been times I’ve needed to keep my eyes closed and remain focused on my breathing for another 15 minutes, and times I’ve been immediately ready to return to my physical environment.
That’s it. Nothing super difficult, nothing ridiculous. Just sitting with yourself.
You may be confused at first or unsure whether you even feel any different. You may be sure you don’t feel different. Just keep at it. As you continue meditating, you’ll begin to understand your feelings, become able to sense them more effortlessly and manage them with ease.
I hope mindfulness meditation helps you in your journey, whatever it may be, and that you are able to more fully live and discover yourself through it! Most of all, I hope it helps you find freedom from anxieties and health issues.
Any meditators out there have other advice or suggestions for getting the most out of meditation?
Image: Jesus Solana, Flickr