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you sit on a chair or cross-legged on the floor, make sure that your
spine is upright with head up. If you are slumped your mind will drift.
Mind and body are intertwined. If your body is well-balanced, your mind
will also be in balance. To straighten up, imagine that your head is
touching the sky.
Try and keep you eyes open. Open
eyes allow you to be more present. Just lower your eyes and let your
gaze be soft. If you close your eyes you will be more likely to drift
away on thoughts and stories. However, it’s important to do what is
comfortable for you. Some people find closing their eyes much more
effective. It’s good to experiment and see what feels best for you.
ordinary consciousness we are hardly ever present. For example,
sometimes we drive the car on autopilot while being preoccupied with
thoughts. Suddenly we arrive at our destination and don’t remember
anything about the drive!
So, meditation is a wonderful way of
waking up to our life. Otherwise we miss most of our experiences because
we are somewhere else in our mind! Let’s take a look at what focus is.
In ordinary life, we tend to equate focus with concentration. That’s
like using the mind like a concentrated beam of light. But in
meditation, that kind of mind isn’t helpful. It’s too sharp and edgy. To
focus in meditation means to pay soft attention to whatever you place
in the centre of awareness. I suggest using the breath as a focus. It’s
like a natural door that connects ‘inside’ and ‘outside’. Zen Master
Toni Packer says:
Attention comes from nowhere. It has no cause. It belongs to no one
3. The breath
Paying attention to the breath is a great way to anchor yourself in the present moment.
Notice your breath streaming in and out. There’s no need to regulate the breath – just let it be natural.
4. Counting you breath
you are having difficulties settling, you can try counting the breath –
which is an ancient meditation practice. On your outbreath, silently
count “one”, then “two”, and up to “four”. Then return to “one”.
Whenever you notice your thoughts have strayed far away or you find
yourself counting “thirty-three”, simply return to “one”. In this way,
“one” is like coming home to the present moment. It’s good to return
without a backward glance.
When you notice
thoughts, gently let them go by returning yous focus to the breath.
Don’t try to stop thoughts; this will just make you feel agitated.
Imagine that they are unwelcome visitors at your door: acknowledge their
presence and politely ask them to leave. Then shine the soft light of
your attention on your breath.
to settle into meditation if you are struggling with strong emotions.
This is because some emotions tend to breed stories in the mind.
Especially anger, shame and fear create stories that repeat over and
over in the mind. Anger and shame make us keep looking at past events of
the past. Fear looks at the future with stories that start with, “What
The way to deal with strong emotions in meditation is to
focus on the body feelings that accompany the emotion. For example, this
could be the tight band of fear around the chest or the hot roiling of
anger in the belly. Let go of the stories and refocus on your body. In
this way you are honouring your emotions but not becoming entangled in
Silence is healing. I know that there
are is a lot of ‘meditation music’ around, but nothing beats simple
silence. Otherwise the music or sounds on the tape just drown out the
chatter in your mind. When we sit in silence we actually get to
experience what our mind is doing. There is steadiness and calmness that
comes from sitting in silence. In time outer and inner silence meet and
you come to rest in the moment.
Start with 10
minutes and only sit longer if you feel the length is too short. Don’t
force yourself to meditate longer if you are not ready to do that. In
time you might like to extend your meditation to 25 minutes. That’s a
length that allows you to settle your mind without causing too much
stress on your body. Most importantly, shrug off any ‘shoulds’. Some
people enjoy sitting for an hour at a time. Others find that they can’t
sit longer than 10 minutes. Do what feels right for you!
lovely to create a special place to sit. You can even make a shrine or
an altar that you can face when you sit in meditation. You might like to
place a candle on your altar and objects that have meaning to you. It’s
lovely to find objects for your altar as you walk. Maybe you find
stones, or seashells, or flowers that speak to you.
of all, it’s important to enjoy meditation. You might like to try
sitting with a hint of a smile. Be kind to yourself. Start sitting just a
little each day.