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Practice your Concentration

This practice requires a conscious effort to refocus the attention whenever the mind has wandered. It is not unusual for beginners to become frustrated by the process, assuming that everybody has amenable, cooperative minds which are willing to be silent upon request. For the sake of accuracy, some teachers refer to meditation as "sitting" in the sense of "I sit for an hour each day". Saying "I sit" instead of "I meditate" may relieve expectations of accomplishment which could interfere with the process. Regular practice acts to reinforce the goal and helps bring about a readiness for stillness, which is the fertile soil for the state of meditation.

History of Meditation

The history of meditation coincides with the development of mentation in human evolution. The awareness of consciousness allowed human beings to learn how to control thoughts, breath and the physical body - to experience unalloyed Truth, know the Clear Light, what IS, etc.

Meditation is natural, easy to learn and safe. Its benefits are chronicled in all of world's great spiritual traditions, and examples of meditation techniques can be found cross-culturally. In the literature of the yoga tradition, much detail is provided for instruction and inspiration in meditation. Varities of meditative practices exist in Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and Islam.

Engaging the Senses

Sometimes it is helpful to engage one of the senses in the meditation process. For a person who is visually oriented, holding a picture in your mind of someone or something which evokes positive feelings may be the best focusing tool. The picture should be seen as a single unit and not as a sense. This is because the mind could take the scene and use it to wander into imagination and fantasy.

Visual imagers could focus on an object such as a light, a candle, a specific design, the face of someone clearly esteemed, or some image from nature such as a flower, a stone, the sky or the ocean. One common focus for meditation is to simply watch the natural flow of one's own breath.

Mantras

People who are more audiotorially oriented could choose a sound for a focus, such as sounds from nature - the wind in the trees or the lapping of the ocean waves. In Sancscrit, the word mantra means "sound vibration". Many mediators recite mantras to generate vibratory frequencies. Common mantras include: Om, hari om, om shanti, ram, hari ram, om namah shivaya. Many people prefer to use words from their own language such as "Peace", "Love" or "Joy". Even a meaningless syllable may be a useful mediation tool if it helps to focus the mind. People who are kinesthetically oriented may prefer to focus their attention on a sensation such as the touch of the wind against the skin, the feeling of motion as the breath flows in and out, or the sense of height one feels from being on the summit of a mountain.

Simple Meditation Experience

This meditation experience can focus and calm the mind.

  • Getting Ready: By putting aside a few moments for preparation, your meditation practice will be more comfortable and you will gradually find that the length of time you sit will increase, along with your ability to concentrate
  • To Begin: Allow yourself about 20 minutes of undisturbed time. Turn off the telephone, put your pets in another room and open a window for ventilation. Go to the bathroom and empty the bladder and bowel. Wash the hands and face. Check your clothing to loosen any constrictions. Sit on a firm chair with your feet flat on the floor. Alternatively, you can sit on the floor in a more traditional position as long as your body is comfortable. Allow yourself to relax completely
  • The Process: Sit your head, neck and spine straight. Relax your shoulders. Allow your arms to rest on your lap with your hands still. Bring the awareness to the "place" your body occupies. Note the environment, consider where you are, and close your eyes
  • Concentrate on the Flow of Breath: Concentrate the mind on the observation of the flow of breath. Feel the touch of air in the nose, the gentle out and in of the flow of exhalation and inhalation, and keep the awareness on the experience of the breath
  • Internal SilenceIncreasingly, you will realise that the body is calm, the mind focused and a feeling of peaceful alterness remains. There will be an internal silence as the process of meditation becomes more familiar

Meditation Poses

There are many poisitions that you can adopt for meditation. They range from the yogic lotus position to the shavasana position. You can use almost any comfortable position in which you can still your body and your mind. Two of the most commonly used postures are the half lotus and shavasana.

  • Half Lotus This is a simple cross-legged position affording balance and stability, which you can use for meditating.
    1. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and the soles of your feet together. Gently press your knees toward the floor and then release them
    2. Holding your ankles, press forward, trying to get your face as close to your feet as possible. Return to the upright sitting position
    3. Now go into the half lotus itself. Sit on the floor with both legs out-stretched. Bend the left leg, bringing the left foot beneath the right thigh. Both knees should be touching the floor and your back should be straight
  • Shavasana
    1. Lie flat on the floor with your legs apart and relaxed, and your arms relaxed at the sides of your body
    2. Keep your body relaxed and still without becoming rigid with tension. If you start feeling tense, stop immediately and try again later. Start off by trying to stay still for three minutes, and then gradually extend the time as you improve with practice

Breath Awareness Meditation

These techniques will serve as an introduction to breath awareness meditation.

Exercise 1: Sit comfortably in your chosen position, eyelids lowered or eyes closed. Breathe naturally, counting your breaths either on the inhalation or exhalation, from one to ten. Concentrate on the numbers and don't let your thoughts drift. Just keep focusing on the numbers and your breathing. This helps you to concentrate and stay alert.

Exercise 2: Sitting in the same position, breathe naturally. Focus your attention on the tips of your nostrils where the breath flows in and out of the body. Feel the sensation and focus on this. Don't let your attention wander.

Exercise 3: Sitting as before and breathing naturally, focus on the space between breaths - the space outside the body where the exhalation ends. Notice the stillness of the breath. Keep practising this breath awareness meditation and eventually it will help still the mind. You will find that the space between breaths increases with practice.