Preparing for Meditation ~
In order to further explore meditation, I thought it would be essential to discuss the basic tips for preparing. There are many ways to do so. The tips I wanted to share with you are ones that have resonated with me ever since I started my mediation journey. Some of these points were stated in my last post on meditation and I’d like to delve deeper into each one. The smallest details count and will help you visualize the journey in a clearer sense. As I continue, I hope that these tips allow you to progress in your own practice. Now, let’s begin!
Setting the Mood
First, it is important to set aside a spot for you to meditate. Find a tranquil location. Make do with what you have; it does not need to be a completely isolated corner in your apartment or room. It can simply be the space on the floor between your bed and desk, or the shady spot in your backyard; anything works as long as you feel comfortable. Ideally, this space would be somewhat clean, airy, and uncluttered, so you won’t feel trapped or anxious. You may also want to consider wearing earplugs if you find that the area around you is a bit too noisy. Music is also another option for helping you set the mood and drown out unwanted noise. Try meditating at different times of the day throughout the week to see which time works better for you. Maybe you’ll enjoy meditating in the early morning while the sun rises and the air is crisp, or possibly in the mid-afternoon when you feel the warmth of the day settling in your bones, or perhaps meditating right before you fall asleep when the moon and stars welcome you. Try each one out and see what works.
Quieting Your Mind and Calming Your Body
Now it is time for the general preparation: quieting your mind and focusing on your breath. My teacher told me of a technique called “progressive relaxation.” Progressive relaxation is a technique that focuses your attention on different body parts/muscles. By narrowing your focus, you can feel the tension in your body and then work on slowly releasing it. In terms of meditation I was taught to practice this technique – focusing first on my feet, then working my way up to my head. For example: if you’re lying down, bring your attention on your feet. You want to inhale and exhale into your feet for a few moments. Feel your feet, toes, and ankles soften then slowly move toward your shins, calves, and knees –inhaling and exhaling into each part of your body until you reach your head. Feel each part of your body soften, melting away the tensions of the day through each exhale. Once you reach the head, focus your gaze back to your heart. At this point, breathe normally. Don’t try to control it, let your breath flow naturally, effortlessly.
You may find that progressive meditation can take a while. If you are looking for something a little more flexible and free flowing, I suggest using imagery. I found that this was a great alternative. The human mind is a wonderful thing; don’t be afraid to use it while meditating. Remember: the goal is not to reach a thoughtless being, but rather to become aware of what is going on in our mind and body. An example: once seated or lying down, close your eyes and breathe. In each inhalation and exhalation, calm your nerves and muscles, mind and heart. Try breathing deeply and slowly. Imagine bringing oxygen to each part of your body through each inhalation, filling your system. Imagine yourself at the beach on a sunny day. You feel the sun hitting your skin, warming your body. Imagine the sound of the waves, and slowly visualize your body floating, going along with the calm waters. The point here is to imagine a peaceful scenario, one that speaks to your soul. Let your body dissolve. In this moment, it’s just your breath and nature harmonizing.
While you’re meditating you want to make sure you are focusing on your breath. You don’t always have to control it, just watch it. You may even find that you loose track of your breath, but be at ease for that is completely natural and part of the process. Your breath is important for obvious reasons, but focusing on it allows us to be aware in the present moment. It allows us to quiet our minds. Think about it. Breathing is so natural to many of us that we forget we’re doing it. Then when stress hits us, we find it harder to breathe, our breath becomes shallow, or we stop breathing. When we are aware of our breath, there is a realization deep within us that notices that we are alive and that we are here.
Go Back to Your Heart
Toward the end of your meditation you want to bring your inward gaze back to your heart. Breathe. Focusing on your heart is a wonderful last step to your meditation. I remember my teacher saying that, doing this “reminds you of your true nature” – what we have the ability to do. Love. Kindness. Compassion. They’re all in us and they reside right there in our hearts.
Finally, I’d like to add that you might also think about making an intention before your practice. Making an intention is helpful because it can be something for you to go back to when you feel your mind wondering too far or if you want to work on something specific. It may be that you want to work on becoming kinder and more loving. If this is the case, you can create an intention for your meditation, breathe and think (or say) “ I am loved and therefore I shall love” or “ I have the ability to love and be loved. I welcome both into my being.” Anything at all! Make it genuine and believe in it.
I hope this extra information will help you in your meditation journey. I look forward to our next discussion! Thank you for reading.
Preparing for Meditation ~