You’ve heard a lot about meditation. Maybe you even tried it once or twice. But, there is one question that remains in your head: am I doing it right? In the following article, I will try to explain what meditation is and how you can begin to practice it.
What is meditation?
- the action or practice of meditating
- a written or spoken discourse expressing considered thoughts on a subject
We will speak of meditation in the first definition. The act of practising meditation. But, what ís that practice?
It probably sounds kind of abstract, but the goal of meditation is to accept every sensation that comes into your mind. This way, you can accept the way life is, live in the moment and discover how peaceful and wonderful life can be. You can achieve this in various ways and methods. Most of them involve concentration practice and the most popular form of meditation is the Vipassana Meditation. I will explain the basics in the steps below.
Steps to meditation
Step 1: The Position
Choose a position that you can hold comfortably for more than 10 minutes. There are various positions that people have used in the past. The classical lotus meditation position as in the logo of this blog is one of them, but I prefer sitting on a chair with straight legs and your hands resting in your lap or laying down on a bed with arms by your side. Every position has pros and cons. For the lotus position, the pro is that you can easily hold a straight back (and it looks cool), but sitting in that position for too long can hurt your legs and your neck. The chair is easy to maintain and is comfortable but, personally, I find it hard to remain a straight back when sitting in a chair. When lying down, you can rest your body easily and you don’t have to worry about a straight back, but the downside is that you can lose concentration (and fall asleep) quite easily. Just try different positions and choose the one you find most comfortable for your practice.
Step 2: The Timer
Most people who meditate chose to set a timer. You can set a timer, put on inspiring and relaxing music and go to the next step. All that is optional. If you worry that you don’t know how much time you want to spend on meditating, then just start with 10 minutes each day and expand it as time passes by. Dr. Sukhraj Dhillon once said:
”You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes everyday – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
Step 3: The Moment
The second step begins with closing your eyes. Because everything is dark, you can easily ‘find access’ to your body. Feel year breath. Feel the air going in and out. Feel your body move up and down. Feel your belly move in and out. Now, to really be in the moment and feel at peace to start your meditation, I would recommend taking some deep breaths. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 and release your breath in 8 seconds. Repeat for 3-6 times. This 4-7-8 method is scientifically proven to make your body and mind calmer.
Step 4: Body Scan
Now try to scan your body from bottom to top. Feel the tingling in your feet. Feel your bent knees. Feel your pelvis. Relax your stomach with each breath. Do the same with your chest. Feel the tingling in your hands. Relax your back. Relax your jaw, eyes, cheeks, forehead and crone. This way you make sure your body is completely ready for meditation and you will feel peaceful and relaxed already.
Step 5: Meditation
This step involves the most important information. Focus your attention on your breath. Feel your breath in your body, feel the air going in and out. The practice now is to keep your attention to the breath. This is impossible because our minds constantly want our attention, the monkey mind concept. They go from one subject to another and you easily lose control. So, you will fail lots of times in keeping your attention. The goal is to recognize when you have lost your attention and accept the thought or sensation that distracted you. After you’ve recognized this and you have accepted the thought (or sound or feeling), you can start to set your attention to your breath again. Continue this for however long you’d like. You can add endless variations, but I will talk about those in a future blog.
Count each breath if you find it hard to concentrate. Count from 1 to 10 and then start at 1 again. When you practice this often enough you will finally reach a state in which you will automatically accept every incoming sensation. Welcome to the zen life.
Step 6: Finish Your Meditation
When your timer goes off, or you feel like you’ve got enough practice for the day, you can stop your meditation. Detach your attention from the breath. Slowly move your fingers and toes. Then open your eyes. The next step is important! Notice the way you feel. Is it more relaxing than a few minutes ago? Are you at peace? Absorb the feeling and be thankful for it. After that, you can enjoy the rest of your day with a fresh start.
I am aware of the fact that this post is a really simple introduction to mindfulness and meditation. It’s written for the people who would love to try meditation but just don’t quite know how to start. If you find meditation hard, or you worry that you don’t do it right, then guided meditations may help. I found the app Insight Timer extremely helpful and I still use it every day. It’s free, in contrast to Headspace. Although the first ten lessons are free with Headspace, which is an amazing way to learn the basics of meditation for starters!
I hope I’ve helped some people with this post. Please, try it. Meditation changed my life and I’m sure that it can change yours too for the better. Try it every day for a week and see how it has changed your life already. Thank you for reading this post and I wish you all the best!
Ps: When you have problems with stress and anxiety, try this eCourse. It’s currently only available in Dutch.