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Guide To Meditation

Guide To Meditation

Basic Tips and Exercises

Two Basic Tips for Practicing Meditation

1. Breathing
Breathing is an activity that we have been doing since the moment we were born. As we go about our busy lives, we take our breathing for granted. What we don’t realize is that as we become more and more consumed by our busy lifestyles, we have lost our ability to breathe consciously — taking slow and long breaths from the diaphragm. With each inhalation, we bring in fresh energy into our body. With each exhalation, we release tension from our body.

Breathing consciously is an effective way to enable us to maintain mindfulness. It is an essential component of meditation — center yourself by focusing on your breath.

(Source: Gay Hendricks, Conscious Breathing: Breathwork for Health, Stress Release, and Personal Mastery, 1995, New York: Bantam Books, ISBN 0-553-37443-5.)

How to do Conscious Breathing

When you inhale deeply, your belly should inflate like a balloon.
When you exhale, your belly should deflate/collapse.

  • Breathe deeply and slowly: You can measure the length of your inhalation and exhalation by counting slowly in your mind “1, 2, 3, 4, 5,…” You can then try to prolong your breath by counting up to 6 or 7. But don’t push yourself too hard. Cultivate your ability to breathe deeply and slowly over time.

  • Relax every part of your body: It is not possible for you to breathe deeply and slowly if your body is tense and rigid, particularly the shoulders.

  • Breathe lying down or sitting up: Doing conscious breathing, while lying down, can be particularly helpful for beginners — it is easier to experience the up-and-down movements of the belly. In this position, when you inhale, your back will arch away from the ground; when you exhale, your back will be pressed against the ground.

  • Reap the most benefit when you breathe like this at all times: As with the practice of mindfulness, conscious breathing can and should be something that you do in all your waking moments.

2. Your Thoughts

  • As you meditate, various thoughts and feelings will surface, even as you are concentrating on breathing. Know that you don’t have to judge your thoughts and feelings, or chase them away, because you deem them to be disruptive.

  • Just acknowledge the existence of each thought or feeling as it arises — this is how you become mindful of your thoughts and feelings.

    For instance, if you experience a feeling of anger, recognize it simply by noting: “My neighbors are making a lot of noise at this late hour. I feel annoyed.”
  • Then, allow the thought and feeling to leave naturally from your mind.

 

(Source: Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation, Boston: Beacon Press, 1976, ISBN 0-8070-1201-7)

Menu of Meditation Exercises/Activities

1. Half-Smile and Breathe throughout your day.

  • Waking up: [Preparation: Stick a reminder photo or a sign on the wall to remind you to SMILE when you wake up in the morning].When you wake up and open your eyes, inhale and exhale 3 breaths, while holding a half-smile.
  • Free moments: Focus on an object in your room (preferably something pleasant/inspiring), inhale and exhale 3 breaths, while holding a half-smile.
  • Experiencing negative feelings: When you are feeling annoyed or irritated, half-smile immediately. Then inhale and exhale 3 breaths, while holding a half-smile.

2. Sitting Meditation

Try any of the various sitting poses you can manage comfortably:

  • Full lotus or half lotus: left foot placed on right thigh & right foot placed on the left thigh.
  • Sit with knees bent and resting on your legs; place a pillow under your feet.
  • Cross-legged.
  • Maintain an upright posture with a very straight back. Focus your attention 100–200m in front of you, while holding a half-smile.
  • Concentrate on breathing and relaxing every part of your body from the facial muscles down to your hands, fingers, arms, and legs.
  • Beginners should sit for no more than 20–30 minutes.

Variation 1: Pebble Meditation (about 30 minutes)
Imagine that you are a pebble that is sinking gradually in a stream.

  • Imagine that you are a pebble that is sinking gradually in a stream.
  • Allow yourself to fall till your reach the sandbed of the stream.
  • Focus your attention on the pebble, while breathing, until your mind and body are at rest, like the pebble.

Variation 2: Institute a sitting meditation time and let others know about it. Your friends or relatives can come and join you in a sitting meditation.

3. Listening to Music Meditation

  • Pay close attention to a piece of music — the movement and the sentiment conveyed.
  • At the same time, breathe slowly, deeply, and steadily.

4. Household Chores Meditation

  • Make it a weekly ritual: institute a time period for performing a household chore in a state of mindfulness.
  • Whether you are washing dishes or clothes, or cleaning up the house, do your chore in the following fashion:
    • Breathe slowly and deeply.
    • Pay close attention to the movements of your body as you perform the task.
    • Handle any item with care and take a good look at it.
    • Do not rush through the activity in anticipation of what follows.
    • Focus on your breath, if you find that you are distracted.

 

5. Bathing in slow-motion

  • Do this meditation in the shower, or ideally, in a bath — give yourself 30–45 minutes.
  • From the moment you begin your bathing preparations till you have put on your clothes again, move lightly and slowly, while breathing slowly and deeply.
  • Pay close attention to every part of your body, as you clean it, and the sensations of the water and the soap.
  • You should feel clean, at peace, and rested, when you are done.

(Source: Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation, Boston: Beacon Press, 1976, ISBN 0-8070-1201-7)

When you are ready try out more advanced meditation exercises in Self-Transformation (under Wellness).