Meditation is a word that covers many different forms of focusing and stilling the mind. It can range from sitting motionless in the lotus position on top of a mountain to being present whilst out walking in nature or doing mundane chores such as washing up or cleaning the house. There are many methods and ways to practice meditation with none being better than the others but I want to explore the more common sitting still method.
Firstly, meditation must be accessible and comfortable. There is little point in trying to force your body into a painful position as any benefit will be lost and you will only feel frustration. So, sitting comfortably, somewhere you feel safe, is perfectly acceptable. Secondly, try to meditate for 15-30 mins daily. If you miss a day or two, don’t worry. Just come back to it when you can. Regular practice builds up confidence along with the physical and spiritual benefits.
Meditation is not just about calming the mind, becoming one with the universe or achieving a deeper understanding of the self, it has proven health benefits for both the mind and the body – deep relaxation, improvements in focus and concentration, and stress reduction. There is also a spiritual aspect to meditation, whereby the act of sitting down to meditate is saying to the universe ‘I am here, I am with you and you are with me.’ This shows you are ready and open to grow and connect with all that is. Meditation is a little like a prayer – asking for help from something you are not aware of in your normal day-to-day consciousness. Maybe connecting to your subconscious, the Universe, God, nature or spirit. I cannot give an answer but, for me, the benefits are worth the small regular effort.
Some simple methods include:
– Following guided meditations on the internet.
– Staring softly at a flower or plant (a pot plant is ideal).
– Staring softly at the flame of a candle for a few minutes then closing your eyes and watching the image.
– Repeating a mantra (positive phrase) in your mind with eyes closed.
I would suggest using the mantra method as this can be used anywhere at any time. Using a mantra also occupies that part of the mind that wants to be thinking – to be active. A mantra is a good way to keep it busy!
A good starting mantra is the Hindu chant of “Om” or “Om Namah Shivaya”. Alternatively use positive words such as peace, love and happiness. Playing with different mantras is a good way to find the one you feel comfortable with and that works for you.
How to meditate with a mantra
Find a safe, quiet place to sit comfortably with your hands resting in your lap. Settle yourself and take a nice breath in and allow your body to relax on each out-breath. Move your focus around your body as you breathe, feeling your jaw loosen, forehead and eyelids soften, your fingers, toes and shoulders relax, as does your torso and hips. If you have any aches or pains, focus on those areas and imagine them loosening and relaxing, letting go of any discomfort on the out-breath. If you wish you can do a full body scan starting from the toes and working up to the top of the head, focusing on each area as you breathe. Repeat in your mind, “My toes are relaxed”, “my ankles are relaxed”, “my calves are relaxed”, “my knees are relaxed”, and so on. Don’t forget the parts of your head – relaxing your cheeks, lips, tongue, jaw, eyes, nose, ears, forehead and scalp is surprisingly effective.
Once you feel totally relaxed, begin repeating the mantra in your mind over and over at a pace that feels right for you, whilst trying to stay still physically. Initially, you may want to fidget, scratch and move to get more comfortable. That is fine. Have a scratch, shift your position, clear your throat. Then, come back to the mantra and continue. As you progress with your practice the amount of fidgeting will reduce.
It is likely your mind will drift as you meditate away from the mantra and onto many other thoughts. Typically, “Why am I doing this?”, “I should be doing …”, “What will I have for dinner?”, “Why hasn’t …. replied to me yet?”, etc. The truth is your mind could wander onto absolutely any subject or question. That is OK. When you notice you have drifted, gently bring yourself back to the mantra and begin repeating it once again. Similarly, the more you practice the less your mind will drift. Sometimes, thoughts or images that come up will have a meaning and be pertinent to your life at the time. Allow these to come up, but then let them go – like images on a cinema screen, with you sat in the auditorium watching.
You may lose yourself in the meditation, in the peaceful restful state you are in, and totally forget about the mantra. This too is fine and to my mind one of the benefits of meditation. A great way to recharge and similar to a power nap! If you wish, when you remember you are meditating, bring yourself back gently to the mantra and continue.
When finished, and it may only have been a few minutes, bring yourself out of the meditation by returning to your senses, stopping the mantra and coming back into your body. Slowly wiggle your fingers and toes, before gently opening your eyes and taking a moment to become present wherever you are. A good stretch is nice afterwards before carrying on with your day.
Journalling any thoughts, ideas or issues that came up in your meditation can be a useful learning and reference tool and be mindful of any signs or coincidences during the rest of the day.
Much love, Trevor.