When first sitting it is advisable to be in a quiet place
which is free from overt disturbance such as people coming and going, phones
ringing etc. Background noise such as traffic or machinery may have to be
accepted and indeed can form part of meditation but when first practicing it is
advisable to be in a quiet and undisturbed place
This is by no means a rule, as sitting in the garden or park
can be a wonderful environment in which to meditate once meditation has become
part of every day life.
Many people create a small special space in there home perhaps
with an image of Buddha, one of the deities or an image of someone special in
burning incense nearby can also help to create a relaxing and
consistent atmosphere in which to meditate. Equally essential oils can be
beneficial but as with incense maintain a consistency of smell. (Or no smell at
If possible one can sit with the knees below the hips, i.e.
cross legged on a cushion or special meditation stool. This said one can sit on a chair
or stool if sitting cross legged is too uncomfortable.
As with the special meditation stools, special
round cushions have been created to make sitting more comfortable and are known
Which ever method is adopted it can be changed, so if you are
new to meditation try sitting cross legged on a cushion first, and then, if
perseverance this is not possible try a stool or chair.
It is important to keep your back straight, not ridged but
upright and defiantly not slouching - this may cause serious physical
problems and make you fall asleep! If you suffer more than a little initial discomfort
consult your medical practitioner or seek other professional advice about
The head is tilted forward very slightly and resting
comfortably on the spine, (no chins resting on
chests!) Some people meditate with the eyes open and others with eyes closed, If you
choose to keep your eyes open then your gaze should not shift around or be focused
on any particular object. In effect if the eyes are open they should be almost
out of focus - a soft gaze at a point around 5 feet away can be helpful.
Some people light a candle and have this as a point of focus (even if this is
not really focused on).
Equally if the eyes are closed they are softly closed rather
than clamped shut! - the eyes behind the lids can remain relaxed and looking
slightly downwards. (Even though the lids are closed!)
As above so below, whilst starting out on the path of
meditation it is perhaps important to start of on the right footing!
There is nothing ridged about most forms of meditation but the
points above tend to be universal.
The basics of sitting are to be sitting upright with the knees
below the hips, so if you find one cushion still leaves your knees above the
line of your hips find an extra cushion to raise you up a little. Get as
comfortable as you can, meditation is not about suffering.
I can recall my first start as being very uncomfortable and my
dogged determination to sit rigidly almost forcing myself in to a near lotus
position, with my back rigidly straight and my eyes clamped tightly shut - Good
practice for getting the body attuned to sitting but of little use in
meditation. So be kind to your self, build some comfort into your practice and
the actual process might provide early benefits.
People often say that they have trouble staying awake,
conversely others talk of going to wonderful places and seeing wonderful
insights, meeting people etc etc.
Whilst we need sleep, dreams, and visions, and even euphoric
states which are very powerful, they are not really meditation.
So what is meditation I hear some of you ask? Well it is an
opportunity to be as you are for half and hour or more once or twice a day, it
is an opportunity to let go of the pressure of daily life, let go of thoughts
all together, not to switch off the mind but equally not to get caught up
Nor is meditation an opportunity to rest in the sense of
sleeping or sitting on the sofa gazing into space, although this is probably
closer to the meditation process that we generally realise in the west.
Meditation is about being where we are without thinking
Most of us struggle to let go of thoughts - what will I do
about... Oh I know, I could, or maybe someone else can. Then I could... life
would be great if they could understand... Perhaps I'll try...
This is how the mind works, it has the unceasing capacity to
think - good thing too otherwise there would not be any works here to read!
So while first sitting it is sometimes useful to find
something to occupy the mind repetitively, many people focus on the breath -
noticing inhale / exhale. Some also try counting breaths form 0 - 10 and then
start again (otherwise we get caught up in was that 27 or 28 etc), personally I
prefer simply noticing the breath. It's amazing how the mind will try and stop
you doing this, if this happens to you don't worry, don't even think about what
you were thinking or for how long you were thinking, just return to noticing
inhale-exhale. In doing this the mind will not switch off but will have the
chance to rest with the thoughts, troubles and whatever else it has in mind
without taking over every part of you.
The other major distraction to meditation is the process of
sitting - am I doing it right, the itch on the end of my nose etc. Dealing with
this is a balance between real discomfort and distracting yourself. If you are
really uncomfortable then consider what is required to rectify it before moving
- move with the purpose of dealing with the discomfort and return to sitting -
return to the breath.
If the mind wonders return to sitting, return to the present
moment. DO NOT judge the quality of your sitting, leave this for another time.
When first trying meditation, try sitting without even
attempting to meditate, create your space, find a cushion or pillow that meets
your needs, get to know how it feels to sit still, get a sense of your backside
resting, get a feel for your back being straight (not ridged!), your head tilted
forward and your eyes resting, mouth either slightly open or closed. Remember
you are not meditating yet, just getting to know how it is to sit quietly with
meditation in mind... rest in your body, get a sense of the support beneath you.
If you are new to meditation try starting of with 5 - 10 minutes
every day or less, if you can, try to extend this to 15 - 20 or even 30 - 45 minutes over time.
If you slip up or do not feel any benefit, persevere, meditation does work and
it is one of the most wonderful ways of finding inner quiet and a sense of peace within mind
and body...and it's free!
If you simply cannot get to grips with meditation it can be
really helpful to attend a retreat centre for an evening, a weekend, or a longer
period with others in shared meditation. Sitting with
others is a real help and support for all sorts or reasons. There is probably a
group who meditate regularly in your area.
Try contacting one of the many retreat centres listed here at Metta
to attend a meditation evening or retreat, many have contact details for local
open groups that meet once or twice a week which newcomers are welcome try.
If all this seems to much you might like to try
pausing a few times a day, the benefits of pausing can
be substantial and often help to get people started in meditation.
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