Welcome back Hypnolings,
This is the second in a two-part series on meditation and to paraphrase the movie “Witness”, “Today we build a mental sanctuary, John Book.”
In this morning’s installment, I’m going to teach you how to meditate. Now, please understand that what I’m going to teach you is only one type/technique of meditation. There are more others than I care to count. So if you know of or learn a different technique that appeals to you more, great! As long as you meditate.
The method we are going to learn is by far the easiest and, at least for Westerners, the most popular meditation method. However, once again, before we begin there are a few things I think you will find helpful going forward.
First, you simply cannot do meditation wrong. As long as you are intentionally tuning in to what’s going on inside of you instead of intentionally tuning out the rest of reality, you’re doing just fine. What you really need to understand is that you and your meditation practice are perfect just the way they are right now. Some days you’re going to feel so serene and connected you are going to consider going into the guru business. The next day you may feel completely mind-scattered and feel as if you are, as Woody Allen used to claim, “At two with the Universe.” It doesn’t matter as long as you are making the effort.
Another point to keep in mind (no pun intended) is that your mind will never be completely empty or still and you will have a stream of thoughts running through your mind the whole time. This is normal. In fact, the only people who have reached the place of no thought are the dead. No thanks; I’ll think I’ll think thank you.
Choosing Your Setting
Meditation can take place anywhere at any time. There is no special place, posture or ritual you need to perform. However, If possible, I recommend your meditation place be a special, private location. The reason for this is that the more you meditate in one place and begin to associate your profoundly calmer and more centered state with that location. This will become invaluable in the future when you begin to feel yourself slipping into strong irrational thoughts and emotions, you can just take a deep breath and flash an image of your place across your mind and you will feel yourself become calm and clear minded. It really works, trust me.
How to Sit
Traditionally, meditation is practiced sitting on the floor with the legs in a full lotus (ankles on the thighs of the opposite leg, soles of the feet pointed up), a half lotus (one foot on the opposite thigh and the other under the remaining thigh), in what is called “Seiza” (knees together, back straight and buttocks resting on ankles).
You can choose one of these or do what I do. Sit in a chair, and keep your feet flat on the floor. If you do use a chair, sit up straight and don’t rest your back against the backrest. Keep your spine as straight as possible, head lifted, lower back tucked in. You should look and feel as if you are ready to jump up to your feet at a moments’ notice. Slouching makes it harder for you to breath, and it’s also harder on your back and joints.
Pretty much anything is acceptable, but DON’T SLOUCH!!
What to do with Your Hands
When people think of meditation, most picture someone seated in a full lotus position with their hands resting, palms up, on their knees with the tips of the thumb and forefinger touching. Another common position is the “cosmic mudra” or the dominant hand (your right if you’re right-handed) resting on your lap with your non-dominant hand resting on top of the other.
Once again, the fact is that you can put your hands anywhere you please in whatever position suits you. Just keep them to yourself.
Follow the Breath
So, you’re finally ready to meditate. You are seated in your special place with your spine straight and your head up and your hand are in your favorite pose. Now what?
Begin by watching yourself breathe. Don’t do anything to it. Don’t count how long you inhale or exhale. Don’t try to make your breathing deeper or shallow. Just breathe. Just pay attention to what your breath is doing and how your body chooses to breathe. Feel when your body makes you want to inhale. Feel the cool air entering your nose and going down the back of your throat. Then feel when your body wants to exhale; how the warm moist air rushes upward and out of your nose. Feel your lungs deflate and your chest fall. Then do it all over again.
Continue to watch yourself breathe. If you’re thinking, “Am I doing this right?” or “Do I feel the way I’m supposed to feel?” or “I wonder what’s for lunch.” You’re working too hard. Just relax and observe yourself breathing.
I guarantee your mind is going to start out, “Oh man, I’m going to blow the doors off this meditation wagon. I’ll be enlightened by morning.” Then, probably before you’ve taken your third breath, your mind is going to start jumping from thought to thought like a crazy monkey. In fact, across disciplines and languages, the name for this phenomenon is the same; we call it, “Monkey Mind.”
It’s OK. You are not failing. Your mind is doing what minds do; it is thinking. So, since it’s natural to think, you can take one of two forks in the road. You can stay with strictly observing your breathing, or you can allow your stream of thought to continue to flow, with you acting as an impartial third party observer. I will discuss both options.
Now, begin to count your breaths. Start by inhaling and counting “one”, and then when you go to exhale, count “two.” The next inhale is “three” the next exhale “four”. Try to work your way up to 10 and then start over. Every time you catch yourself thinking or your attention begins to wander, simply realize it and begin inhaling at ‘one’ again.
Set a Timer
Another thing I recommend to all meditators, but especially people just starting out, is to set a timer. If you have a smartphone you can download dozens of meditation timer apps for free. If not, the alarm on your watch or even an old fashion alarm clock will do.
Put it All Together
I sincerely hope that you’ll take the time and at least give meditating a try. I am very sure that after just one week you will begin to notice a difference in your mood and in your thinking itself.
But, meditate or not,
The Choice is Always Yours