According to Wikipedia, meditation is usually defined as one or more of the following:
- a state of relaxed concentration on the reality of the present moment
- a state that is experienced when the mind dissolves and is free of all thoughts focusing the mind on a single object (such as a religious statue, or one's breath, or a mantra)
- a mental "opening up" to the divine, invoking the guidance of a higher power
Meditation can be a helpful daily practice. It can help you relax, release stress, and put your day into perspective. It can also be used in place of a power nap, on your lunch hour to refocus on the present and put a lid on the morning. You can do a quick 5 minutes in your car after you drive home and before you see the kids so you can give your loved ones the best version of you and not the drained post-work you.
This guide book will help you with the physical practice of meditation, and is not to be thought of as a spiritual text or even an authoritative list of meditation techniques. It is in no ways complete. As always, feel free to improve this wikibook by editing it or comment on the Talk page.
Setting & PreparationEdit
There are many things you can do before you even start to meditate that might help your experience. First, if at all possible, find a place in your house that you can meditate in that is free of distraction. It can be an entire room, corner of a guest bedroom, or even a pillow. It helps if this space is not used for any other purpose, so that your mind will associate this location with the experience of meditation. You may want to be able to control the level of light and noise in the location you are meditating in. Wear loose fitting comfortable clothing. Take off your shoes.
Similarly, it can help to find a time that you can meditate. Early in the day tends to work better, as you are free of distractions that will come with your work-a-day life. Also if you start your day off with meditation, you may be able to “hold the calm” with you all day increasing the benefit of meditating. Start with just ten or 15 minutes at first, and slowly increase until you find a duration that works for you. During meditation you may not judge time correctly, thinking “it must have been half an hour by now” only to see that it has only been seven minutes. It may help to have an “egg timer” around so you can set your meditation duration as you start and not be distracted. This will stop you from looking at your watch. Some people start off just meditating on days off or weekends, but most seem to work it into a daily habit, like morning coffee.
Finally, remove yourself from your everyday life. Turn off your cell phone. Let loved ones or roommates know what you are trying to do and ask for no interruptions. Do whatever it takes to put your mind at ease and forget about everything outside of your meditation. If that means closing the door or window to that room, do that.
Here are a few ways to meditate. Give them a try and see which is right for you.
Meditation of BreathEdit
Go to your meditation location and sit comfortably on a small pillow or folded towel. Keep your back “straight”, meaning do not slump. Keep your head up and straight. Relax your eyes. If you wish to close them, do so. Try to clear your mind of everything besides yourself sitting, breathing, and relaxing.
Breathe deeply through the nose for a count of four. Feel the air enter your nose, move down to your chest and fill your lungs. Hold your breath for a count of four. Then exhale slowly for a count of four. Feel as the air leaves your lungs and goes through your nose. Some also hold their breath for a count of four at this point. Try it and see if this helps you. Repeat this for the duration of your meditation. You should be thinking about your breath the entire time. Feel the air enter you, filling you with life giving oxygen, and then leave you with waste gases. Contemplate the fact that you breathe every moment of your life and almost never think about it. This is the time to be thinking about it. Feel how your body moves when you breathe.
An important part of this meditation is concentration. As your mind clears, thoughts will come up. As this happens, just note to yourself that you were thinking and bring your mind back to your breath. Don't get upset that you let your mind wander. It's a good sign, a healthy reaction from your personality trying to reclaim your mind. As you let yourself be in control of your mind most of the time, meditation is the time where you let your mind be empty. You may note that the faucet in the next room still drips every so often, or that people drive by with loud radios, but you let your attention to them just be noted and return your thoughts to your breath.
This can be helpful at random times in life when circumstance gets you stressed out. You are still breathing and can divert your mind for just a few moments to your breath and reclaim the calm of meditation.
This practice is similar to the above meditation of breath, but instead of having your mind focused on your breath, it will be focused on an object, such as the flame of a candle or a picture of a spiritual leader.
This technique will help you relax and is a meditation of the body. Be aware that if you are already sleepy, this practice may put you to sleep. If that is not your goal, be mindful of drowsiness.
Lie down on a bed or yoga mat. Get into a comfortable position and relax your body. Then move through a simple procedure of 'stretch and relax' of parts of your body.
- Start with your toes. Slowly curl your toes in tightly while inhaling and then gently stretch your toes, fully extending them while exhaling. Then relax that part of your body fully. Give it a full breath and imagine all tension from that part of the body leaving you with your exhale. If you still feel tension in that area, repeat this entire for that body part.
- Move up your legs and tighten and then stretch your calves. Make sure to synchronize your movements with your breath, tension with inhale, relaxation & stretching with exhale.
Continue with the rest of the body moving up
- Lower back / stomach
- Upper back / shoulders
- Upper arms
- Hands / Lower arms
- Face (you may have to open your mouth or even say “Ahh” as part of the relaxation).
You may repeat these processes as many times as needed to become fully relaxed. You may also change the order and move from your head down to your toes. When the whole of your body is relaxed, only your mind remains active and from here you can continue to a different meditation.
- Ram Dass (1978) Journey of Awakening: A Meditator's Guidebook Bantam.