Approaching Meditation

Ansel Adams, Cloud, Sierra Nevada, 1936
Ansel Adams, Cloud, Sierra Nevada, 1936

People who meditate have long known that this practice is beneficial for maintaining health and calmness of mind.

Research confirms that meditation lowers blood pressure, enhances the immune system, promotes a deeper more restful sleep and can slow down cell damage and the ageing process.

On a deeper level, meditation can also improve the quality of your life by teaching you to be fully alert, aware and alive. In meditation we do not strive for results. We simply let go of everything our minds hold on to – our thoughts, opinions and positions to uncover who we are in the present moment.

Here is an introductory technique for the practice of mindful meditation:

1. Find a place that is quiet and comfortable where you will be undisturbed. Traditionally the morning is considered to be the best time to meditate because one is less likely to be distracted by the demands of the day. It is also a good idea to meditate at the same time everyday to establish consistency in your practice.

2. Find a posture that works for you. You can sit either on a chair or cross-legged on the floor. It is important that the spine is upright and that your body is relaxed. You can try sitting on a cushion or a rolled up blanket to elevate yourself slightly to allow your knees to rest on the floor. Rest your hands comfortably on your lap or thighs with the palms facing upwards or downwards.

3. To minimize outward distractions it is good to close your eyes but do not allow yourself to fall asleep. Become aware of your breathing by focusing on the movement of air in and out of your body.

4. Be aware of the thoughts that come up in your mind. Do not try to ignore or suppress them. Just observe them while remaining calm and anchored to your breath. Do not let your frequent wanderings discourage you. When you realize you have been taken away from your path simply make a gentle return of your focus to your breathing.

5. When you are grounded try to observe sensations that are taking place in the body such as the temperature or muscular tensions. Try to have a sense of the whole weight of your body on the floor or chair. Do not try to change anything. Simply observe what is taking place in yourself as though you were an interesting stranger. Remember to always come back to the breath if you fall into distraction.

6. After 15 minutes continue to be aware of your breath and slowly open your eyes. Take a few minutes to allow yourself to come back to where you are. When you are ready gently lift yourself up to a standing position. Continue this practice daily. You will notice that the inner experience of meditation will affect your outer life in many miraculous ways.

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