Our modern lives are busy and buzzing, often at the cost of focusing our attention on the present moment. At work our attention is constantly jumping between emails, meetings, and our beeping smart phones. If that were not enough, most of us spend a decent chunk of time dwelling on past events or planning and worrying about what the future will bring. Our senses are constantly bombarded with advertisement, news, and noise of all kinds.
All these factors contribute to nervous, jumpy minds and feelings of stress that many of us experience. And as it is unlikely that the world will transform into a calm and quiet place in the near future, it only makes sense to develop an internal state of peace and harmony regardless of what is going on outside.
Practicing meditation can help you to calm your mind, increase your ability to focus, get rid of stress, feel more connected and peaceful. It seems like a perfect tool to deal with our hectic lives. But what exactly is meditation? It is the simple act of practicing stillness of both body and mind.
Meditation is as powerful as it is simple, yet many are unsure of how to start practicing. Here are straight forward guidelines to get you going and make sure you do it right.
- Start small but daily. When building any habit, you're much more likely to stick with it if you're taking baby steps. Form a genuine intention to meditate 15, 10 or even just 5 minutes every morning and every evening. Set aside a slot in your routine; this could be after dinner or before going to bed. Don't miss out, it is better to sit down just for 5 minutes than skipping a session.
- Sit still and breathe. Find a comfortable position to sit in. This can be with crossed legs on a cushion or just upright on a chair. Whatever position seems most comfortable to you. Set yourself an alarm clock for the time you want to meditate. Then sit still and focus on your breath until the time is over. Observe all sensations at your nostrils and the small area below your nostrils where the outflowing air touches the upper lip. Capture every in- and out-breath with your attention. Feel the touch of your breath. You might not be able to focus on your breath for long as thoughts come in and interrupt you. That's perfectly fine and normal - just go back to your breath when you notice you're thinking. Practice this technique for 30 consecutive days to sharpen your mind and get ready for the next step.
- Move your attention from head to toe. Once you're established in observing your breath with focused attention while sitting still for at least 30 minutes, your mind should be sharp enough for the next step. Start moving your attention to the top of your head - the spot where the skull of new born babies is open and soft. Feel the sensation at this spot. Then slowly move your attention toward your forehead. Again, focus your attention until you feel any sensation. If you feel something, move on to the next part down (your eyes), if not - keep your attention there for about one minute or so. If you still don't feel anything, that's fine - move on. This way you survey your whole body with your attention. Each body part individually from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.
- Aware and Equanimous. The most important principles of meditation are awareness and equanimity. Awareness means that you capture the sensations of your body with your attention as you sit in stillness. This can be tickling, tingling, pulsing, throbbing, cold, warmth, pain, tension, pressure - anything. Equanimity means that you do not crave or resent any sensation. A pleasant tingling is just the same as pain - a sensation. Try to not judge whatever you feel. Just remain aware knowing that all sensations are temporary and will eventually pass.
Enjoy the calmness. Practice patiently & persistently and the benefits will soon manifest in your everyday life.