How to Meditate

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How to Meditate

Mindfulness is awareness of what is happening in the present moment within and around us.  We already experience this awareness to some degree.  Mindfulness practices allow us to intentionally cultivate this capacity.  As we learn how to meditate, our ability to focus concentration can increase.  We can then bring this focus to anything that is important to us.  We may begin to see things more clearly and develop more accurate insights about our minds, other people, and the world around us.  This can help us make better choices leading to better living.

Awareness of the breath is a common first practice.  You may have tried this before and found it difficult.  It helps to remember that in doing this practice, it helps to bring an attitude of “nothing to change, nothing to gain”.   We are cultivating the “being” state of mind.  We want bring our awareness to what is already here.  Anytime we are seeking to change things during our practice, we have entered the doing state.

It  is normal that your mind will wander.  This is what minds do and being aware of this, is itself an insight.   When this happens, do not stay caught in thoughts of judging yourself.  Simply notice the thought, the judging, and return to the sensations of the breath.  Keep it simple!  Even noticing the wandering is part of the meditation.  You are aware that your mind has wandered and then gently bring awareness back to the feelings of the breath.

It is helpful to choose one area of the body where the sensations of the breath can be felt, such as the nostrils, the chest, or the rising and falling of the belly.  Us this area as your anchor to bring your awareness back to the present moment.

Begin by finding a comfortable position that embodies wakefulness. You may close your eyes or keep them partially open with a downward gaze slightly in front of you.  Without attempting to change the breath in any way, begin to notice the sensations of the breath. Notice the sensations of the in-breath, staying with the breath from beginning to the end. Notice the natural space between the breaths as these occur and then stay with the sensations of the out-breath from beginning to end, as best you can. The practice is to feel the breath, just as is, from moment to moment.   Stay with one breath at a time, not hurrying to the next breath or judging the experience of the past breaths.  Every breath is a new start.  There is no need to focus on what has already gone.

Some people find it useful to notice the thought silently “breathing in” with the in-breath and “breathing out” with the out-breath.  You may use these thoughts to point your attention to the feelings of breathing.  This is just an aid for some people so you can do whatever works best for you.

As you begin to tune into these sensations for any length of time, you may notice that your attention is easily carried away from awareness of the breath by thoughts that arise in the mind.  Soon you may notice that your mind has wandered and your attention is no longer on the experience of the breath.  When this happens, simply bring your attention back to the breath.  Thoughts will arise and this is not a problem. As soon as you are aware that you are following your thinking, notice this and return your awareness to the sensations of the breath. Returning again and again becomes the practice of cultivating awareness.  Be gentle with yourself in this process and notice the tendency to strive or to need to meditate well, then simply return to the breath.  Everything can be brought back to the awareness of the breath. This allows space for whatever arises as you return again and again.

Some people find it helpful to use a timer and commit to sit with the breath for a set time each day. You may want to sit for a shorter time period in the beginning. You might try five minutes and gradually add time as you feel comfortable with this. Your motivation to practice is also very important.  There are many videos and articles on this website that you may find helpful with this. You may also consider viewing a video such as the one below, the first time or two that you practice.

I hope this has been helpful. You may also want to follow us on facebook to view new videos to help you learn more.  You may also want to earn more about our full 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course (here)

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