Beginning Meditation- Part 1
I doubt there would be a person who has not seen a photograph of a yoga practitioner sitting in the classic Lotus yoga posture, legs folded with the thumb and index finger touching on each hand. For many, the assumption would follow that this posture is a requirement to meditate. Well, the truth is it is not.
There are a lot of myths about what meditation is, and how to meditate. Let's break it down to the very basics, and it's through these basics that the full benefits of meditation will gradually unfold and in time be fully realized.
The first requirement in the beginning as strange as it may seem is to forget about the benefits of meditation. That would be something like dreaming about your new home on the first day of kindergarten.
Step1. The majority of people who attempt to meditate, last for a few weeks at most. They stop as they have not mastered the MOST basic steps, sitting and breathing. Not just any sitting or breathing, but sitting and breathing in a way that assists the mind/body to be still and to witness. Yes, these are the most critical of tasks because if they are done correctly, slowly and patiently the benefits of meditation will be experienced almost immediately. If they are thought to be overly simple, then any budding practice will be very short-lived.
Step 2. To meditate the mind and body must be still and acutely aware (aware is not thinking or distracted). Sit comfortably either in a chair or on a cushion on the floor (no lying down please). If sitting on a chair sit with a straight back and neck, relax your shoulders, place your hands on your lap, both feet flat on the floor directly under your knees. Wear loose, comfortable clothing, if cool dress to be warm if hot dress to be cool.
When sitting on the floor, relax with a straight back and neck, you may need to sit on a folded cushion. It's important that your hips are forward to keep your spine straight (no slouching). Do not sit so your hips roll back, that will cause the lower spine to curve, and the back will slump. There are many yoga cushions available that have a 45-degree angle that roll the hips adjusting the spine to vertical. Relax your shoulders and place hands also on your lap, legs crossed in whichever way you are comfortable and can remain still. As you will either be sitting on a chair or on a mat for 10 mins or so at a time, staying relaxed and comfortable without fidgeting is beneficial.
Step 3. Your breathing needs to be relaxed and in your normal rhythm. You will be breathing through your nose, the mouth remains closed. Each breath needs to be full and deep, so full that your chest will expand until you fill your entire lungs (no shallow breathing). Once the lungs are filled then slowly exhale. At the top and bottom of each breath, please pause for a moment then continue. We can look at this 'gap' between breaths later.
In the first few weeks pay full attention to the sensation of the breath as it passes into the back area of your nose, that's all. Do not worry you will continue to breathe without focusing on what you are doing, your breath is spontaneous.
Step 4. Know that the mind will wander, its normal. When it wanders, bring the focus back to the breath as it enters your nose. Doing this time and time again, you are actually training the mind, a must for later. You need to be very patient when the mind wanders, it will wander off a lot especially in the beginning weeks, if it helps to yourself make a bit of a joke about it.
Step 5. So your practice in the early weeks is just to sit, breathe and witness for 5 or 10 minutes at a time that's all while focusing on your breathe work. Mentally scan the body to observe how it's feeling any aches or pains, or sensations. Witness the mind, while not allowing the mind to wander into distracted thought or planning anything. While focusing on your breath, quietly witness what the mind and body are doing. That is all.
Here's a quick recap video!
About the Author- Pratika Kshemya
Pratika has been studying meditation and spirituality with his Indian meditation master for nearly 25 years, and teaching meditation and lifestyle skills for 20. As a meditator he has held Senior Management positions, and is experienced in integrating meditative practice into spiritual, working and private lives.
Pratika is multitalented, working also as a photo-journalist, recording artist/performer of meditation music, vibrational and light therapist, and holistic mentor.
He has been an organic raw vegetarian, non-drinker, non-smoker for the past 25 years!