Simple Meditation for the Meditative-challanged

476px-stage1.gifThe first step to starting a meditation practice is setting a time aside where you won’t be disturbed by others. It’s helpful to meditate at the same time every day. But this is not always possible. I recommend being gentle with yourself and starting out with a daily practice of around ten minutes. The shorter the time period the least likely you are to come up with excuses not to practice. Also it’s less stressful. If you find that the practice is a struggle and your mind is all over the place… well, you can tell yourself, “ it’s only ten minutes, I can pull through”. After a while ,the practice will become a part of your routine and you can build up to twenty, thirty or even an hour. But remember you can return to short sessions whenever necessary.
After you have decided on a time, your next challenge is finding your seat. Meditation can be done either by sitting, walking or even lying down. Seated meditation is sometimes portrayed as being superior to lying down. But the only problem with lying down is whether you think you will fall asleep or not. It is probably easier for most people to stay focused in a seated posture. This can be anything from cross-legged position or sitting against a wall or in a chair. Don’t obsess over accomplishing the lotus position. If you do it fine.. if not, so be it To be honest, I can’t do the lotus position to save my life. In fact, it took me a few months before I was able to sit cross-legged for a long meditation period( I hope my failures bring you some peace of mind). If you decide that a cross legged practice works for you, then you will need to place a cushion underneath you. You have to experiment with your cushion and your position until you are comfortable. Your back should be upright, sitting bones grounded and knees lower than hips. Roll your head around, curve and straighten you back, stretch your arms… relaxing your body before you begin. Then return to the upright position with hands upright on thighs in Om position ( thumb and index fingers touching).
The next choice is closing the eyes or leaving them open. Every tradition has it’s own rhythm and reason for why you should keep your eyes open or close. I say if you are easy distracted by the external world then close them. On the other hand, if you are like me and you are more susceptible to internal thoughts and emotions then keep them open. Your best bet is to try both during different meditation sessions to see which works best for you. If you keep your eyes open then focus them on one spot but keep them relaxed . Now, you begin the meditation:
For a few moments just watch your thoughts. Don’t try to control them or change them. Just be aware of them…. Noticing how they come and then go. Pop in and out of existence. Don’t attach to any of the thoughts. Just notice… Notice how they are changing… Constantly changing…
Now bring your awareness to you breath. Make it your main focus. Feel the breath moving in and out your nose…
Don’t try to change the breath. Just feel it…
Feel your stomach rise and fall with the breath….
Notice how the breath moves your stomach like the waves in the ocean…
Feel the air passing through your nose and the movements of your belly all at once…
Now for ten minutes watch and feel your breath… putting a slight emphasis on the exhale.
You will still have thoughts.. That’s ok. They will come and go. If you find your thought carrying you away from the present moment.. Then you say thoughts come and go and then return to the breath…
Always return to the breath…

So you think you can’t meditate?

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When I mention to people that I meditate I usually hear one of two comments. ” Oh, that’s wonderful… I wish I could do that”. or ” I tried to meditate but I just can’t do it”. In my experience the biggest obstacle people have towards meditation is that they believe that their mind is to cluttered for the practice. They say ” I just can’t stop thinking so much” or ” I can’t sit still for that long”. Here’s a little news flash to help take off some of the pressure of maintaining a meditation practice: It doesn’t matter how crazy or F***ed up your mind is, you Can meditate. Saying that you can’t meditate because you have a distracted and cluttered mind is like saying you can’t do yoga because you are not flexible. Or you can’t go to the doctor because you are sick. Yoga builds flexibility, doctors heal the sick and meditation ( among other things) heals and creates a more flexible and less cluttered mind. Those of us who are always in our mind and always stressed out can benefit the most from meditation practice.

I use to beat myself up when I couldn’t clear my mind during meditation. Then one day I was having a horrible meditation session where I just can’t stay focus on my breath. I fought with myself, struggled and thought to myself, ” this a waste of time….grrr.. you aren’t accomplishing anything here”. Then, after my meditation period was up, I opened my eyes and I was calmer and more clear then before my practice. I realized that even my so-called worst practices had wonderful and important benefits. Sometimes, they are obvious and sometimes not so much.

What is important in building a meditation practice is letting go of the need to accomplish. Remember, this is not a project, job or an assignment- it’s a practice. There are no goals other than to practice consistently. Be gentle with yourself. So if you can’t do thirty minutes.. do ten minutes or even five. Don’t evaluate your meditation by what happens during the practice… wait a few weeks or even a few months and see the effects it’s having on your actual life. Don’t try to control or stop thoughts – Don’t even expect that you will cure yourself of thinking ( don’t expect anything, if that’s possible). Watch thoughts —See how they come and go instead of fighting with them. Soon you see how your thoughts are always changing, are fleeting and are nothing to worry about. And maybe in time you will notice a little space between those thoughts. Your mind may still be racing but in time it won’t be so fast.

I’m going to stop here but I will try to write an example of a simple meditation in the next post…