Written by: Johanna Scott
Posted on: May 19, 2016
Posted In: Being
You might feel a draw to meditate, maybe you’re curious about it; or perhaps you’ve had varying degrees of experience meditating, but haven’t quite found a technique that works for you.
Here, I’ll provide a brief background on meditation, and more importantly I’ll guide you in how to meditate.
Let’s start with some context
There are many methods of meditation:
- Shamatha, or calming of the mind meditation, which is the Buddhist tradition
- Mindfulness, which has drawn on the teachings of Shamatha to create a simple to follow framework. It tends to focus on the scientific rigour and research which makes it more accessible to some people. You may have heard of scientist Jon Kabat-Zinn and Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, both of whom have been hugely influential in bringing mindfulness and shamatha to the world.
- Vedic meditation, which involves the use of a mantra or sound as focal point for the meditation. And this was adapted into Transcendental meditation, which the Beatles made famous in the 60s.
- But there are many other ways to come into meditation – 112, according to the Yoga Sutras. Maybe for you that’s painting, surfing, swimming, music …
My goal is to help you find the one or two ways that work for you.
Some examples include using the breath, using sound, gazing at the flame of a candle (known as Trataca), movement meditation and simply being awake to what’s going on in the present moment (shout out to Eckhardt Tolle here).
If you take anything away from this post – listen up now – no one owns meditation. You don’t need to be enlightened, religious, vegan or serious to meditate. It’s a tool for all of us.
It’s a natural state of the human mind and body, in the same way that the stress response, is a natural state of the human mind and body. Both stress and relaxation have an evolutionary purpose.
The reason people find such a need for meditation, is that the balance in modern life has tipped to far in the realm of stress. And this has huge implications for people’s mental health, the flow of their lives, their relationships and their body’s ability to heal and fight off disease.
All we’re doing with meditation, is balancing an overload of stress – and it just happens to be a very efficient way of doing that.
Once you establish your practice, you will come to love the process of meditation – particularly if you pay attention to what works for you. That’s the only way you’ll keep coming back.
How to meditate
- Intention – no one comes to meditation for the process. They are seeking something. What is it for you?
- The practice: is simply tuning in to the body, breath, and the mind. I’ll go into this in detail in a moment.
- Bring your attention to your other senses. The thinking mind is just one of the senses at your disposal.
- Effortlessness: Hold the mind not too tight, and not too loose. We are not seeking a deadened, empty mind, in meditation – but letting go to allow everything to flow more easily and seamlessly.
- Acceptance: Work with your thoughts and emotions. It’s not about controlling or blocking out thoughts and emotions – but simply allowing whatever’s there to flow and move and being present with those sensations.
- Be consistent: Show up everyday to meditate. It’s the only way you will truly understand the power of meditation, and the best way to experience its incredible benefits.
What’s involved in a daily practice?
- You don’t need a routine, but a routine is useful.
- Check in with your intention – why are you meditating today?
- Set your timer – try 6 or 12 minutes, then increase this if and when it feels right.
- Take a good seat.
The Posture of Meditation
- The spine is upright, with a natural curve.
- You can be sitting cross legged on a cushion. In a chair, or even leaning against a wall with your legs stretched out in front of you. The key here is feeling comfortable and supported.
- Rest the hands on the thighs.
- Relax the arms and shoulders.
- Tuck the chin gently into the chest.
- Soften the gaze, and when you feel ready gently close the eyes.
- The face and jaw are natural and relaxed.
- Scan the body for anywhere you might be holding on – and give yourself permission to release.
- Begin the meditation.
I have recorded a series of guided meditations, to help you discover the process that works best for you.
You can find the series online in the Make Do Co. shop.