The Basics of a Meditation Practice; Intention to Result
After you have read and have an understanding of these instructions you will be closing your eyes and thinking in terms of creating an inner and outer stillness of mind and body. The idea is to first know what you are going to be doing within the meditation and the time that you have set aside before you even start your meditation practice. So it is best to know before-hand these basic meditation instructions.
1) The Place and the Tools
Find a comfortable quiet place where you will be free from disturbances. You should create a place in or out side of your home. If not in your home look out side as well. You might try using your non-moving vehicle.
Use any tools necessary to provide comfort in your sitting experience such as:
A firm meditation cushion, bench or folded blanket or if you prefer a comfortable chair
Shawl or wrap
Sit comfortably with a straight back. (One can sit upon a cushion on the floor or in a chair with feet flat on the floor and the back fairly straight) It is generally best not to lean back against a wall or to use any furniture to lean back on in order to keep the energy flowing through the body and mind and to prevent any drowsiness. If one is new to meditation closing the eyes for a long period of time gives the body and mind a signal that it is time for sleeping or rest. Meditation is not sleeping or resting and it does require energy.
You should begin every meditation by inwardly giving your self permission to go on a temporary mental vacation by setting aside any unnecessary thoughts.
With closed eyes, mentally scan your body in order to relax and consciously remove any unnecessary muscle tension. Visualize each area of the body softening and relaxing, breathing relaxation through each area of the body starting from the head moving slowly downward to the feet, spend as much time as you like doing this exercise. This is a legitimate meditation practice in of its self. Notice the mental and physical feelings that occur during this practice of scanning. You can also do what is called sweeping; sweeping the entire body with each relaxing exhalation of the breath.
3) The Meditation Object
The meditation object is the area that you will be placing your concentration or focused attention upon. We will be using the breath and an area on or within the body that you feel the breath to be the most prominent. Many like to use the area between the tip of the nose and the upper lip.
Notice every detail of the breath, for example, examine the length of each breath, notice if it is long or if it is short, deep , shallow, smooth, or soft. Now relax and notice the beginning and end of each in and out breath. After feeling comfortable with these two areas of the breath try strengthening your focus even more by including the middle of each in and out breath. Notice the length of time that you can stay with this practice, be very careful not to manipulate or change the breath in anyway, just breathe normally and stay relaxed.
4) The Wandering Mind
As the mind wanders off of your meditation object; know that this naturally happens and gently bring it back. Pretend it’s a game; you get a point each time you notice that your mind has wandered off your meditation object. If you feel excessively distracted it may help to count the breaths. Try counting up to ten and repeat. Some meditators enjoy counting up to 100 as counting the breaths adds an extra element to help concentration by broadening the field of focus. As you practice meditation, you will realize that in actuality, what you are doing is working on improving your ability to concentrate on your meditation object, the breath or some part of the breath.
In time, you will notice that the job of concentrating on the meditation object, the breath, will become easier and more enjoyable. This controlled concentration will enable you to meditate for longer periods of time and with less discomfort. Eventually you will likely feel very centered or have a feeling of presence (see below) and it will seem as if the thinking process has moved into the background of the mind. This stillness of thought is generally followed by joy and happiness, which is then followed by an even more controlled, uninterrupted or single pointed concentration.
Eventually one may notice insight - a type of wisdom or clarity of mind that can become a byproduct of the practice. This is a clear understanding that comes to the meditator without intentional thought. Examples of this might be clarity in the understanding of what might feel like the truth. It maybe an “aha” moment or it may be clarity in any area of life. With practice, these truths will reveal themselves. It often starts with seeing the ever changing quality in each breath as you breathe and then expands in meaning as one practices. With a daily practice in meditation the mind will become more easily manageable. We may likely realize that our thoughts are more direct and understandable, fewer in number and more meaningful. This allows us to manage our thoughts by first noticing them, and then realizing that we do not have to personally identify with them; just let them flow on their own.
Mindfulness is a mental state that is free of judgment or decision. It is you, watching the process of the mind, as opposed to dealing with the content of what is already in there. Mindfulness is non-conceptual, and it can be used while in or out of formal sitting meditation. We can learn to practice this nonjudgmental way of seeing things while in the stillness of meditation and then take it out into the world with us. The thoughts that come up in meditation are a normal part of who we are; it is the mind being the mind and this is what we want to notice and acknowledge when we are practicing mindfulness and meditation.
When we allow our thoughts to take us away in the form of a story or when we think of the past or make plans for the future, by definition, we are no longer meditating but are simply thinking. Thinking is something that we do all day long and is not meditation. To clarify, mindfulness is an observation of the mental activity without judgment.
8) Presence ( the present moment)
As mentioned, when we practice meditation there are thoughts and mental activities that seem to pull us away from our object of concentration and into areas that our mind wanders toward. These are the things that hinder our concentration in our meditation practice. These are the things that pull us away from our meditation object.
When we are thinking about the past or the future we are likely not meditating. The only exception of this is when we know for certain that we are thinking about the past or future. What else is there? The present moment!
9) Putting away resentment, fear and worry.
When are there no problems in life? no fear of what is to come? nothing to fix? and no worries? When we are present, and when we are clear minded.
When we are present, and when we are clear minded, we are other concentrated or are simply being very present with a task. When in this place of presence we do not have any worry or difficulties. We are living our true nature and simply being who we are beyond the mind and what it is attempting to do.
In the past we find all anger and resentment. It also contains the valuable lessons we have learned in our past. We can not be angry in the present moment (presence). In the future we find fear. We can not have fear of something that has happened, nor can we find fear in the present moment.
The best way to work with our meditation and mindfulness practice is to know what we are doing and when we are distracted by thoughts of the past and future without realizing it is happening. So when a disturbance occurs we should know without any hesitation what it is and in this way we can get back to the task of practicing concentrated meditation. The easiest way to be present in your meditation practice is simply to place your attention on the breath and as soon as you realize that your mind has wandered, notice were it has wondered off to and then bring your attention back to the breath. With practice this can be done at all hours of the day and will quickly increase our overall mindfulness providing a flow and easiness in our lives. It takes consistent and daily practice to see results from a meditation practice; the results are a controlled and happy mind and these results are well worth the effort.
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