In a goal oriented world it is often challenging remembering that mediation is not about doing it right or getting to some “higher plain of consciousness”. It is far simpler than that.
It does have many benefits as already discussed however it is not intended to about getting somewhere!
So first let me check in with you. Did I meditate every day? Truthfully, not quite but I did meditate most days. Am I feeling a benefit? Definitely!
I decided to do a measurable test today and so straight after meditating today I took my blood pressure. I was 136/83 which I believe puts me just under the problematic scores. I’m not consistently there yet however here is some evidence that mediation is helping.
That sounded like a goal didn’t it?
Fair enough it did. However during meditation practice we let go of our human desire to achieve anything. The way I was taught there are a number of things meditation is not about:
Trying to do something.
Clearing your mind.
This may seem paradoxical but stay with me as I describe a simple mediation practice.
Step one – your environment
Find somewhere to sit preferably comfortably where you will not be disturbed. Turn off phones and computers but do place a clock or watch somewhere close by that you can see easily.
If you have pets you may need to shut them out during your practice as they often get drawn to the energy people release during meditation.
Step two – posture
Sit comfortably with both feet flat on the floor in a chair that supports you in an upright position. Ideally begin with your spine aligned and straight. Your posture may move during meditation and that is okay.
Step three – begin
Close your eyes and take a deep cleansing breath in. Allow your mind to follow the physical experience of breathing in and then breathing out. This will be your focus. Notice how your breath flows through your body and how your body feels as breathe deeply and naturally.
Some people can maintain their focus on their breathing easily and effortlessly. If that is true for you carry on until about twenty minutes has passed. Trust yourself to know and this is why you have a clock nearby so you can peek at it if you feel you need too. (Just hint here, an alarm is a very unhelpful way to monitor the time as it will startle you and may undo your experience a little).
For most people there is a distraction thinking however. You start focusing on your breath and then suddenly realise you have been thinking about something totally different. Sometimes it is something mundane, sometimes it can be something we are worried about or it might be something we are looking forward to. Sometimes we even think about how we will talk to someone else about our experience of meditating!
The most important thing to know about distraction thinking is that it is normal! If you realise you are doing it here is what you do. Acknowledge the thoughts, notice them and then take your focus back to your breathing. We may sometimes need to re-focus every couple of minutes. This is okay, it is still part of the process and you will still get the benefits.
It is very important that you give yourself permission to be however you end up being in the mediation. Some people get bored, others experience discomfort and of course some people have a lovely time. One experience is not more valuable than another.
If you meditate regularly you are likely to experience the whole range at some point. I certainly know I have. I also know that when I have persisted in practicing daily my experiences tend to be more often positive and relaxing.
I will mention at this point that some people will experience moments of suddenly becoming aware as if they were off somewhere for a few minutes. This is known as the “gap” and is very natural. It is just another aspect of meditation that some people experience regularly and some rarely. Just to be clear it is not the goal either.
At the end of your twenty minutes take a few moments to gently ground yourself. You might want to write for a few minutes in your journal or just gently stretch out your body.
And that is all there is too it. This is a very simple version and there are many others. I do recommend if you have never meditated join a local group or class. There will be one near you somewhere. If you can get a recommendation so much the better.
Instead of focusing on your breath you can learn other techniques or can experiment with eyes open meditations such as gazing at a flower, a candle flame or running water. I love to meditate by my pond and watch the water flow from the waterfall.
More next week.