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How to Meditate

Meditation is a mental discipline by which one attempts to get beyond the conditioned, "thinking" mind into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness. To free one's awareness from associating solely with the mind and its thoughts. There are many different meditation methods.

At the core of meditation is the goal to focus and eventually quiet your mind, thus freeing your awareness. As you progress, you will find that you can meditateanywhere and at any time, accessing an inner calm no matter what's going on around you. You will also find that you can better control your reactions to things as you become increasingly aware of your thoughts (letting go of anger, for example). But first, you have to learn to tame your mind and control your breathing.

 

Make time to meditate. Set aside enough time in your daily routine for meditating. The effects of meditation are most noticeable when you do it regularly, some like to end the day by clearing their mind, and some prefer to find refuge in meditation in the middle of a busy day. Generally, however, the easiest time to meditate is in the morning, before the day tires your body out and gives your mind more to think about.

 

Find or create a quiet, relaxing environment. It's especially important, when you're starting out, to avoid any obstacles to attention. Turn off any TV sets, phone or other noisy appliances. If you play music, make sure it's calm, repetitive and gentle, so as not to break your concentration. Meditating outside can be conducive, as long as you don't sit near a busy roadway or another source of loud noise.

 

Sit on level ground. Sit on a cushion if the ground is uncomfortable. You don't have to twist your limbs into the half lotus or full lotus position or adopt any unusual postures. The important thing is to keep your back straight, as this will help with breathing later on.

  • Tilt your pelvis forward by sitting on the forward edge of a thick cushion, or on a chair that has its back legs lifted off the ground 8 to 10 cm (3 or 4 inches).
  • Starting from your bottom, stack up the vertebrae in your spine, so that they are balanced one on top of another and support the whole weight of your torso, neck, and head. Done correctly, it feels as if no effort is required to hold your torso up. (A small amount of effort is in fact required, but with the right posture, it is so small and evenly distributed you don't notice it.)
  • Relax your arms and legs. They don't need to be in any special position, just as long as they are relaxed and don't interfere with balancing your torso. You can put your hands on your thighs, but it might be easier at first to let your arms hang at your sides - the hanging weight helps reveal where things are out of alignment.

 

Relax everything, and keep searching for things that aren't relaxed. When you find them, (and you will), relax them. You may find that you can't relax them unless you adjust your posture so that you are better aligned, and that place doesn't need to work anymore. This commonly happens with muscles near your spine. You may also notice that you are twisted a little and need to straighten out. Little muscles in your face often keep getting tense, too.

 

Let your attention rest on the flow of your breath. Listen to it, follow it, but make no judgments on it (such as "It sounds a little raspy...maybe I'm getting a cold?"). The goal is to allow the "chattering" in your mind to gradually fade away. Find an "anchor" to settle your mind.

  • Try reciting a mantra (repetition of a sacred word) A single word like "om" uttered at a steady rhythm is best. You can recite it verbally or just with the voice in your mind. Beginners may find it easier to count their breaths. Try counting your breath from 1 through 10, then simply start again at 1.
  • To circumvent images that keep intruding on your thoughts, visualize a place that calms you. It can be real or imaginary. Imagine you are at the top of a staircase leading to a peaceful place. Count your way down the steps until you are peaceful and relaxed

 

Silence your mind. Once you've trained your mind to focus on just one thing at a time, the next step is focus on nothing at all, essentially "clearing" your mind. This requires tremendous discipline but is the pinnacle of meditation. After focusing on a single point as described in the previous step, you can either cast it away, or observe it impartially and let it come and then go, without labeling it as "good" or "bad". Take the same approach to any thoughts which return to your mind until silence perseveres.


 

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