When starting our meditation practice there are few things to be aware of:
Your meditation space should be a place where you feel at peace, where you’ll be free from distractions. Ideally you’ll find a space where you are not going to get too hot or too cold. It’s important to be comfortable.
Try to use the same space each time you meditate. Meditating in the same place each time creates a good energy and helps you to establish a routine. If you can, try to establish a little shrine in that area – reminders that life is rich – like flowers, rocks, feathers, reminders that people are good and wise – teachers, pictures of people you admire, reminders that your life is good – pictures of your family, special gifts. This is a great opportunity to be a little bit creative.
You’ll need a timer to make sure there is no temptation to check the time. If you don’t have a timer or some sort of stopwatch, then I would suggest downloading the insight timer app. It is easy to use, has appropriate meditation bell sounds to get you started, and it will let you know when your time is up.
Your meditation posture is important. While the typical cross-legged lotus pose is deemed to be the ideal, it’s tough to achieve. You can start by sitting in a chair, or try sitting cross-legged on the floor. What is most important is that the spine is straight. A straight spine can be achieved with a solid foundation and the pelvis tipped forward. Sitting on a meditation cushion facilitates a forward tilt of the pelvic area.
When I finally managed to get into a solid cross-legged position (it took me a long time and it’s not full lotus), I realized that it really was worth all the effort. The cross-legged position provides a very stable platform for meditating and makes it easier to maintain a state of alertness. However, what is most important to start with, is that you are comfortable, and that you can forget about your body for a while.
Some things to consider:
Your eyes can be open or closed. It is often easier to start meditating with your eyes closed as it feels like there are fewer distractions. However, if you can keep your eyes open, then feel free to try this option. If you keep your eyes open your view should be spacious, not focusing on anything in particular.
To start with take two or three deep breaths. This will help you to relax. Then try to keep your breathing as natural as possible. The breath is a good object to pay attention to, as it is simple and easy to follow. Choose the place where you notice the breath most clearly. It may be the rising and falling of the abdomen, or the air going in and out of the nostrils, or elsewhere.
To begin with you will notice that your mind is easily distracted and that it easily drifts away in thought. Don’t let this bother you, the mind has been a free agent for a long time and it will take some time to train it to focus on one thing. You will find that one thought leads to another and another, so you can easily get distracted for a few minutes before you notice that your attention is no longer on the breath. When you do notice, then take your attention back to the breath. Keep bringing the mind back to the breath again and again as it wanders away. Once you have focused attention on the breath then try to notice the start, middle and end of each breath. And very soon you will notice the gaps between the breaths. These gaps are helpful – they are moments of spaciousness.
I like to think of thoughts as similar to clouds in the sky, and your mind is the sky. The clouds are there, but they come and they go. In meditation you will notice the thoughts (clouds) drifting across your mind, just watch them and they will drift away. Don’t try to hold onto them and don’t try to push them away, this is impossible, just as it would be to try to shift the clouds in the sky.
And finally, it is important to practice non-judgment. Meditation is about accepting everything as it is. Nothing is good, and nothing is bad. Don’t judge your thoughts. They are not you, they are just thoughts. One of the teachers I follow, Adyashanti, recommends asking throughout the meditation, ‘Am I allowing everything to be as it is?’ Remember, anything you resist persists. So allow everything to just ‘be’.