Why meditate? Ultimately, to better your situation. Some talk about it in terms of freeing yourself from suffering. It would also be correct to say it can bring more calmness, non-reactiveness and happiness to your life. Research on meditation is showing other benefits: lower stress levels, less inflammation, overall shrinking of the fear portion of your brain and better concentration skills.
How? Suffering is caused by craving thoughts. You want something pleasurable. Or the reverse, you have aversive thoughts. You don’t want something painful or unpleasant. Meditation is a practice of accepting things the way they are without judgment. This ability to see clearly allows you to focus your thoughts and energy in the most productive and positive way possible.
When you are reactive, your thoughts go very quickly, and usually cause harm to yourself and others. Meditation slows the process of thought so you might practice intervening in this process.
People mean different things when they refer to meditation. There are guided meditations where someone is talking to you for most of the session. There are different objects people use to focus their attention: the breath, a mantra, or chanting.
There are different postures, sitting, lying, and walking are some of the most common. There are meditation aspects of yoga as well. I am focusing on mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness is non-judgmental attention. To be awake and aware in the present moment on purpose. Your mind is used to jumping around thinking all sorts of thoughts. I like the term Monkey Mind to describe this.
Two aspects to sitting meditation: Object of meditation: breath. Pick the point where the breath is most present in your senses.
Posture – head above spine, in line with gravity. Chin tucked. Chest open.
When you realize your attention has drifted from your object of meditation, or your posture has slumped, you gently and non-judgmentally bring your attention back to your breath. The ability to come back to your breath and your body is the skill you are developing. To be able to let go of a thought and come back to your breath is freedom from that thought.
To begin close your eyes, put your hands on your thighs, and focus on your breathing. Don’t try and manipulate the breath, let it be how it is. If you have an itch on your nose or face, try and focus on the sensation and not touch it. You will be surprised how it changes. Be gentle and patient with yourself. Each time you come back from being distracted is a moment of mindfulness and freedom.