Most of us focus on improving our lives through exercising regularly and eating well but what about our minds?
I’ve discussed the benefits of meditation in a previous post. In case you didn’t catch this meditation has been proven to have a positive impact on memory, anxiety levels, stress levels, energy levels, emotional regulation, attention span and learning ability.
Since I wrote that post people have been asking me about my experience with meditation and how to get started.
I have been meditating regularly for around 4 years now and it has positively impacted all areas of my life. I started with 20 minutes daily of simple calm abiding meditation and recently progressed to Vipassana meditation which changed everything.
You’ve probably heard the saying “the mind is wonderful servant but a terrible master”. Without knowing it many of us are slaves to our minds. Our own mind is our worst enemy. We try to focus, yet our minds wander off and we’re distracted. We find ourselves doing things we don’t intend or want to before we even know it. Meditation can help us overcome these challenges.
There are two types of meditation. Samatha, which is a focusing, pacifying and calming meditation and Vipassana which pacifies the mind and strengthens concentration in order to allow the work of insight. It is said that whilst Samatha can calm the mind only Vipassana can assist with removing disturbances of the mind as a result of the insights which arises through continued practice.
I’m not going to attempt to provide a guide to Vipassana here. It is for people that have mastered basic meditation and integrated it into their daily lives already. If you’re interested in learning the Vipassana technique I suggest you consider a course.
I’m going to help you get started with a simple calm abiding or Samatha meditation. I suggest you practice this for 10 minutes a day in the morning and evening. If the day is chaotic consider taking time out to meditate and be amazed as you emerge from this ready to take on the world!
When most people start to meditate they find it difficult and this isn’t surprising as most of us are used to hurtling through the world where we are constantly thinking and doing. Meditation can be challenging when you first start but with practice it gets easier and over time the benefits start to appear.
Practiced in the morning meditation allows one to commence the day with a sense of calm and a sharpness of mind that will allow you greater concentration and control of sensations that may arise throughout the day. Think of it as preparing your mind!
In the evening meditation is an effective way to halt the thoughts, stress and anxiety generated throughout the day allowing you to sleep peacefully and wake fully rested. Think of it as clearing your mind!
Samtha meditation involves concentrating on a specific object for a period of time. In this case it will be your breath. Samatha is a gentle and effective way to train the mind to focus, develop inner strength and calm a busy mind or the “mad monkey rattling the cage” as it’s referred to.
To get started with simple calm abiding or Samatha meditation:
1. Find a quite space where you won’t be disturbed. Preferably with minimal background noise.
2. If you can sit cross legged on the floor on a cushion otherwise in a comfortable chair. If you’re a beginner I recommend not sitting in a comfortable chair as you will get used to being comfortable here and if you join a group or take a class you will have to get used to sitting on the floor! Sitting on the floor in a proper position also requires discipline and a commitment to the practice of meditation which should be cultivated.
3. After you sit take a moment to organise yourself and get comfortable. Ensure your back is straight, your head slightly forward and your hands either folded in your lap or resting on your legs/knees.
4. After a few moments bring your attention to your breath. Focus on the inflow and outflow. Become aware of all the sensations associated with breathing and simply observe the experience of breathing.
5. Thoughts will come and go in the background. You will feel different sensations in your body. Simply allow these to occur in the background whilst you continue to focus on your breathing.
6. The mind will wander away from the breath. You will inevitably find yourself thinking about something else. Sensations will arise and demand your attention. Before you know it you will be thinking about something when you were trying to focus on your breathing. This happens. When you notice this or lose control of your concentration simply bring your awareness back to your breath again. With practice you will be able to remain focused on your breath for longer periods of time which is the aim of Samatha meditation.
7. I suggest starting with 10 minutes of meditation twice a day. In the morning as soon as you rise and at the end of the day. Once you’re able to maintain concentration for this period of time you can consider extending the time. Typically the feeling of relaxation, peacefulness and bliss that comes from this will be encouragement enough for you to do so!
Meditation will make you feel good and improve the quality of your life. Enjoy.
I will leave you with this:
“This is a very difficult time. The upheavals in the financial world are causing widespread distress, as are fears about climate change, intensified political polarization, and rising aggression.
For a society to be truly harmonious, it cannot be based on greed and anger. Meditate each day for a short time to stabilize your mind and generate compassion. See fear for what it is: a lack of trust in your genuine being, which naturally radiates compassion and kindness. Be generous. This is not a time to close down or hold on, but to offer from the natural well-spring of generosity. ”
– Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
ParallelLiving.net by James Henderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.parallelliving.net.