Meditation is an instrument for the purification of the mind and its preparation for
communion with the Ultimate. That is, meditation is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Meditation is a practice that helps cultivate positive human qualities. Training your mind is important for refining your attention as well as developing patience, balance, peace, and inner wisdom. Meditation is not about being disconnected from your mind and body, but rather a way to become more awake to your true nature, and therefore, more free.
The health benefits of doing meditation include:
- Reduced stress, muscle tension, headaches, and anxiety.
- Increased production of serotonin, which influences mood and behavior.
- Improved immune function.
- Increased motivation and confidence.
Sitting Meditation (20 – 40 Minutes)It is possible to be a solitary in one’s mind while living in a crowd; and it is possible for those who are solitaries to live in the crowd of their own thoughts.
- Amma Syncletica (Desert Mother)
Sitting meditation is “mind sitting.” It’s choosing a particular posture toward the mind and learning to pay attention to the present moment. You learn to pay attention on purpose without judgment.
- In the beginning start with the breath, feeling it move in and out. Use it as an anchor to tie your attention to the present moment when your thoughts want to carry you away.
- No other agenda exists except to remain fully present.
- Later expand your awareness to notice thoughts, feelings, sensations, and perceptions. See these things and then let them go.
Take Your Seat
- Consciously honor your place and placement of body and mind when you sit down.
- Have no attachment to your location or posture so you can sit anywhere and be in any posture and still be at home in your body.
- You can sit raised, cross-legged on a cushion (or rolled up towel), which will give you the stability of a tripod. Or you can sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. In either position, keep your back straight so your diaphragm can move freely while you breathe in and out.
Sit with Dignity
- Sit in a way that embodies dignity. Do not sit slouched or rigid.
- Relax your face, shoulders, head, neck, and back so they all come into natural alignment.
- Sitting with dignity brings you back to your original sense of worthiness.
Maintain Your Posture
- Sit so your body radiates an attitude of real presence, and you are ready to accept whatever arrives.
- Be like the full moon on a clear night: reflective, empty, receptive, and open.
- Convey an attitude of non-attachment and unwavering stability. This attitude is contained within your posture and determined by the way you sit.
- Imagine sitting like a mountain: massive, majestic, unmoving, and rooted. Invite these qualities into your posture.
Relax Your Hands
- All hand mudras create different energy flow through the body. Experiment to see what works best.
- Hands palms down on your knees is one of self-containment. You are not looking for anything more but digesting what is.
- Turning both hands up and lightly touching your thumb and index finger together in the gyan mudra, you are opening and receiving wisdom from above, uniting with divine energy. This position helps to clear the mind and enhance clarity.
- You can hold your hands in your lap with your dominant hand cradling your non-dominant hand, the thumb tips gently touching as if circling an invisible egg to form what is called the cosmic mudra. If you are sitting cross-legged, your hands rest on the soles of your feet. This position helps bring your attention inward and is useful for increasing self-awareness. The cosmic mudra is a symbol for coming home to the universe.
Relax Your Eyes & Breathe In and Out
- Your eyes are kept lowered with your gaze resting on the ground 2-3 feet in front of you.
- Your eyelids cover most of your eyes.
- Center your inward attention on your hara, a place within your body located two inches below your navel. This is the physical and spiritual center of your body. Place your attention and mind there.
- Your mouth is gently closed with your tongue lightly pressed against your upper palate.
- Breathe through your nose and taste the breath. Each in and out breath should last 4-5 seconds. Breathing is the anchor of your meditation.
- Imagine the breath coming down your throat and organs into your hara and returning from there. Visualize or feel the cycle of your breathing. See the in and out breath as two separate things.
- You can count your breath, counting each inhalation and exhalation beginning with one and counting a cycle of ten. Or you can mentally label each breath “in” and “out.”
- The only agreement you make with yourself is that if your mind wanders and you start to chase your thoughts, look at the thought, acknowledge it, and then deliberately and consciously let it go and start counting again.
- You can silently repeat a word to acknowledge your thought like “thinking,” “hearing,” “seeing,” “talking,” “remembering,” “planning,” “resisting,” “anger,” “pain,” or “itching” until the object disappears from your mind and then go back to the breath.
- Do not use meditation to suppress thoughts that need to arise. Simply watch thoughts appear and release them. Come back to the breath.
- The counting is the feedback mechanism for knowing when you have wandered.
- Each time you return to the breath you empower yourself to put your mind where you want it for as long as you desire. This is called the power of concentration and is very important. It will sharpen your awareness and create true one-pointedness of the mind.
- Eventually you will want to abandon the counting and just be with your breath. This is the beginning of the falling away of your body and mind.
Coming Out of Meditation
- Bring awareness to how you end meditation.
- In front of your heart, press your hands together in prayer and bow in gratitude.
To have me facilitate a workshop or retreat on meditation and mindfulness, visit my Web site by clicking here.
Adapted from Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn.