Or it might be you’ve heard about some of the additional benefits of meditation such as stress-proofing yourself, feeling happier, addressing negative behaviour patterns, getting in touch with your inner self, feeling more connected to yourself and others, raising your immunity, being able to relax deeply and sleep well… the list goes on.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to learn how to meditate the good news is that it really can help you to reach a state of deep peace, clarity and relaxation. The key is to find a meditation technique that fits you best.
The following meditation technique is a simple breathing meditation; it’s a mindfulness practice. It’s well-suited to beginners and seasoned meditators alike, is very easy to learn and can give quick results.
Remember though, the benefits of meditation are greatest when practiced daily. You should aim to do a short session of 10-20 minutes when starting out for at least a week before you decide if you are seeing any benefits or not.
Follow these three simple steps to see if the Following the Breath meditation is right for you.
1. Find a comfortable place to sit.
It’s best to find a quiet location where you won't be disturbed. There is no need to sit cross-legged on the floor unless that is comfortable for you but if you do choose to sit on the floor by all means use a cushion of zafu to raise your pelvis above your knees and take the pressure off your lower back. You can sit on a chair or on the floor with your back against a wall if you prefer. You may support yourself with cushions, pillows, or blankets. The goal is to sit as upright as possible while still remaining comfortable. If you struggle to hold yourself in a good upright posture at first, don’t be too concerned. In the West we are conditioned to sit slouched in soft chairs but the various muscles in your back will wake up and start to support you within just a few weeks of practice. You can actually meditate while standing, walking or even lying down but lying down is usually not recommended simply because most people tend to fall asleep in this position. Sitting is the preferred option – particularly when first starting out.
2. Spend a few moments settling yourself down.
Close your eyes and try taking a few slow deep breaths - inhaling slowly through your nose and then exhaling out your mouth. As you breathe out allow yourself to ‘let go’ of any tension in your body. Then bring your attention to your head and face and notice if you are holding any tension there. Just allow these areas to soften and relax and then let this feeling of ‘letting go’ spread down through your neck, shoulders and down through the rest of your body.
3. Once you’re feeling a bit more settled and centred, continue to breathe at a normal relaxed pace.
Breathe through your nose with your lips gently closed, your tongue resting on the roof of your mouth. Without trying to change or control your breath in any way, just bring your attention to the ‘in-out’ movement of your belly with each in-breath and out-breath. Just allow your breath to settle into its own natural rate and rhythm. The idea is to just ‘notice’ your breath. Be aware of it with a sense of curiosity. And here’s the key… whenever you notice that your mind has wandered off or got caught up in examining random thoughts, feelings, memories, sounds or physical sensations… just gently bring your mind back to noticing your breath.
This meditation is a continual process of ‘getting lost in distractions’ and then ‘coming back to your breath’ and should feel effortless. The aim is not to ‘make’ your mind quiet by trying to stop thoughts and distractions – which is more or less impossible by the way – rather, it is simply to ‘allow’ whatever happens to happen and to be ok with that. You are basically training your mind to let go of distractions and random thoughts rather than being continually caught in them. In this way we begin to see separation between our thoughts and feelings and our true selves and can start to move from unconscious to conscious living.
4. Continue to practice for 10-20 minutes and then spend a few minutes relaxing
Keep your eyes closed before resuming activity. You may use a timer or meditation app on your mobile ‘phone to keep track of time.