Thinking About – The Practice of Meditation
No, we don’t know if the ancient Druids practiced a form of meditation.
Right, now we’ve got that out of the way let’s move on.
What we do know is that meditation, or something like it, forms part of most religions and spiritual practices around the world. We know through scientific research of the benefits of meditation on health, peace, balance, and that the practice of meditation can bring an overall sense of meaning to peoples’ lives. Right now meditation is being practiced by everyone from Buddhist monks to business executives who are embracing the current trend of ‘mindfulness’.
It’s a good thing.
I know many of my friends practice meditation, but I’ve also heard people say that they haven’t tried it because they don’t know the rules, or think it is too complicated. Of course there are many styles of meditation and some are indeed quite complex, but to begin a practice it doesn’t need to be that way. I thought it might be useful to let you know how I practice, so you can try it out too, if you’re someone who has been standing on the edges.
Before we begin, what do we do about those thoughts? The ones that arrive, just as we begin to meditate. Don’t stress about them, that’s for sure. Thoughts will come, it’s a given. Even to seasoned meditators they come. The way to deal with thoughts is to treat them kind of like clouds in the sky. When one arrives, don’t berate yourself, or try to actively push the thought away. Instead acknowledge it by saying you yourself, “Oh look, I’m thinking” then allow the thought to dissipate, like a cloud gently moving across a blue sky, and refocus your awareness back to the meditation.
And remember, it’s called a practice for a reason. Just enjoy the ride, the feeling of peace, the stillness, and accept what happens. Don’t ever feel like a failure in your practice.
So make sure you have some time for yourself when you know you won’t be interrupted. Try 10 minutes to begin with. You can sit on the floor, on a chair, it doesn’t really matter. If you’re on a chair just sit with your back against the backrest, with your gentle gaze just above where you think the horizon may be, arms to your side, hands and lower arms rested on your legs, feet on the ground. Relaxed and comfortable.
For about 30 seconds take some long slow breaths, in through your nose, out through your mouth. Then on an out breath just gently close your eyes, and return your breathing to normal.
Become aware of the space around you. Listen to the sounds around you, feel the weight of your body on the chair. Become aware of your place within that space.
Just enjoy that sense of presence for a while.
Then bring you focus back to your breath. Sense it moving in and out of your body. The feeling of the moving air. The rising and falling of your chest. Don’t force anything. Just breathe normally. After a little while you might like to begin counting your breaths. One for the in breath, two for the out breath, three for the in, and so forth, until your reach ten, then begin again. This counting of the breath can also help focus your awareness, so those thoughts have more trouble getting through. But if they do, don’t forget, just acknowledge them, and let them float away.
After a while you can stop counting your breath, and bring your focus back to your body in the room. Listen again to the sounds around you. Sense yourself within that space. And when you are ready, gently open your eyes. Don’t move immediately. Just enjoy the sensation and the peace.
It really is a wonderful practice that not only affects you during the practice, but also, after a while, that sense of awareness and focus walks with you throughout the day. I try to meditate for a little every day as part of my daily practice.
If you want to have a little help I would recommend an app called Headspace. There’s also another called Calm. They are on all of the app stores, and well worth checking out.