“Meditation will not carry you to another world, but it will reveal the most profound and awesome dimensions of the world in which you already live. Calmly contemplating these dimensions and bringing them into the service of compassion and kindness is the right way to make rapid gains in meditation as well as in life.”– Zen Master Hsing Yun
It is ‘World Meditation Day’ on the 21st of May, so what better time to remind everyone what the very foundation of meditation is all about.
Meditation and mindfulness practices can sometimes seem complex, especially if you are well-practiced in the regular inclusion of meditation in your everyday life. But meditation, in its purest form, is really quite simple. It is an opportunity to remove yourself from whatever stresses and pressures are on you at any given time, and to give your body and mind a moment of rest, release, and clarity. An opportunity to simply live in, and reflect on the present moment.
If you are new to meditation, know that it is not abstract or pretentious. Many of us suffer anxiety, stress, and mental fatigue on a daily basis. Putting[ct1] aside a small amount of time to release pressure and connect with your body and emotions, even for just a few minutes, is hugely beneficial, and can change your entire outlook and capacity for positive energy indefinitely.
So, whether you are a seasoned meditator or a newbie, support your wellbeing this week by getting into the basics of meditation…
1. Start Small
I would not advise leaping into huge, 60-minute-long meditations or anything. Start small. When I say small, I mean between 3 and 5 minutes every day. You’d be surprised, as when you start out with meditation, even three minutes can seem like quite a long time. Often, when people decide that they are going to ‘get into meditation’ and leap into a long and complex practice right off the bat, they don’t find it useful or enjoyable and tend to give up on it quite quickly. Beginning meditation is the same as beginning any other new habit. You wouldn’t start your first running session by running a marathon, would you? Start with just a few minutes, and build up when as and when you feel ready to do so.
2. A Distraction-Free Space
Before you begin to practice, ensure that the space you are intending to use is free of distraction. Distractions come in many forms. Of course, the most prominent of these is the mobile phone. If I have mine anywhere near me, I pick it up without even realising I have decided to do so. I put my phone on charge in a different room. Turn off your TV and your radio. Try and get a space free of pets, kids, or spouses if you can. It might also help to pull your blinds halfway down, or to swap your main light for a few lamps, just to let down the atmosphere, creating a soft and calm space.
3. Always Begin with the Breath
The simplest meditation practice begins with the breath, and every meditation practice works in harmony with the breath. Once you have prepared your space and settled down in a comfortable position (preferably cross-legged on the floor, with a straight back, relaxed shoulders, and your hands on your knees, or, alternatively, in semi-supine), close your eyes and simply notice your breathing. Don’t attempt to force your breathing in any way, just pay attention to what it is doing. This helps to relax and steady the breath, but also to divert your mind away from the worries of the day, and onto yourself and the present moment. Even three to five minutes of this activity constitutes a meaningful and effective practice.
It may be hard to find a space that is totally silent, but your meditation space should be quiet enough that it is not distracting. However, if silence is not possible, I recommend a calming soundtrack or some white noise. These sounds are calming and unobtrusive. Here are some of my recommended playlists:
Whatever position you are in, the most important thing is that it is comfortable enough that you can remain still within it for the duration of your meditation, as the discomfort can become an irritating distraction.
By Chris Thomson
If you are out in the world and need to find a quiet place for some brain space, why not try one of these… 6 Everyday Places to Seek out A Moments Peace
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