Set aside a time.
This first step may seem obvious, but have a specific time of day when you know you will be alone and in relative quiet. Make a commitment to yourself to develop your inner peace and don’t let anyone disturb you. Decide the length of time you are going to meditate, and stick with that. Use a timer or alarm so that you do not have to be concerned about the time. It is good to start gently, so choose a time – maybe around ten minutes – that you can practice easily with.
Short periods done consistently are much better than bursts of meditation from time to time.
Create a space.
Have a place that you can go where you will not be interrupted. It doesn’t have to be a huge area, just somewhere that you can relax. You might like to put some things in this space that help you to be calm, such as candles, incense or even just a picture. Try and keep the space uncluttered so that it supports your meditation time by being some place you can drop out of “Doing Mode” into “Being Mode”
“Sitting in meditation is essentially simplifying space. Our daily lives are in constant movement: lots of things going on, lots of people talking, lots of events taking place. In the middle of that, it’s very difficult to sense what we are in our life.
When we simplify the situation, when we take away the externals and remove ourselves from the ringing phone, the television,the people who visit us, the dog who needs a walk, we get a chance to face ourselves…”
Charlotte Joko Beck
Relax your Posture
The purpose of meditation is not primarily to relax or take time out, but to get to know the mind. The posture we choose, therefore, should support this. It should be comfortable, so that our attention is not being continually drawn to aches and pains, but not so comfortable that we slouch or fall asleep.
Sit on a straight-backed chair or on a cushion or meditation bench on the floor. The bottom of the spine should be slightly raised so that the angle allows your back to be relatively straight, but also relaxed. The spinal cord should be straight but not rigid. If sitting in a chair put your feet flat on the floor.
Rest your hands on your knees or cross them on your lap so that they are supported and there is no strain in your shoulders or between the shoulder-blades. The shoulders should be relaxed, supporting the head which should be upright, as if pulled upwards by a string.
Let go of all tension in the body. Let your elbows and wrists be loose. Relax each of the fingers. Soften the lower back and the muscles in your face and around the eyes. Relax the jaw. Close the eyes if that feels comfortable.
So we are relaxing the body in order to relax the mind. Imagine the mind to be like a jar of muddy water, which after being shaken is beginning to settle. The water settles, the mud drifts to the bottom of the jar and the water becomes clear. Allow the mind to settle in the same way.
Pick a Point to Focus on : Using the breath as an anchor
Gently bring your attention to the sensations of your breath moving in your body, almost as if you are like a doorman, simply observing who comes in and out of a building.
Pick the spot where it is easiest for you to actually feel your breath coming in and out and rest your attention there : The nostrils or the abdomen or belly rising or falling are commonly the places to focus, but some people are more aware of their chest or their mouth. Just pick one and that will be the area you will focus on.
This is not a breath exercise; we are not trying to change the breath in any way, we are just becoming aware of something that happens thousands of times each day, every moment and we normally just do not have any reason to notice it.
So if your breath is shallow or deep, long or short, hot or cold…..whatever you feel is exactly right, no need to judge yourself in any way, breath after breath.
We are using the breath as an anchor to centre ourselves. So you may find that your attention wanders quickly at the start, but that’s fine, and is very normal. You will find yourself thinking or distracted. You have not made a mistake or done something wrong. You don’t need to say to yourself I am not good at this or give up. Just simply notice that you have gone away from the sensation of breathing, and gently come back to the next breath.
You do not have to struggle with being present for a number of breaths, just focus on connecting with THIS breath, this inhalation, this exhalation. Indeed as you get used to this practice this is the quickest way to developing mindfulness …just come back to this one breath. Be present for this one breath is enough and this one…
Be gentle and non-judgmental
Don’t worry about how well you’re doing. As thoughts intrude during your relaxation session, don’t fight them. Instead, simply and gently turn your attention back to your point of focus. Starting over and over again, even a hundred times in the ten minutes, is the practice.