Meditation – The Basics
Don’t let the word fool you with the crazy esoterics going on about how great their morning meditation was. Science is slowly uncovering the incredible benefits it has with quality research and data. You know, the stuff that people have been claiming for centuries – peace, longevity, clear thinking, increased brain power and memory, feelings of euphoria, relaxation, better sleep, inexplainable experiences. It’s all true, but you should definitely try it for yourself if you haven’t already.
I read somewhere, but can’t remember where, that praying is asking for guidance and mediation is sitting still long enough to get it. To me, it’s a perfect description, and that’s how I use it. How you decide to meditate is up to you.
Meditation isn’t just sitting still with your legs crossed and eyes closed. Meditation happens when you lose focus on the world around you and the world inside your head gets silent and peaceful. This happens to some artists while they create with their hands, to some dancers while they dance, to some athletes when they perform, especially runners, as well as to many practitioners of yoga.
Again – you don’t have to sit still! You can find an activity that soothes you and has similar effects. Generally physical or creative activities seem to be the best, but hey, if you enter into a state of meditation when you brush your hair or sweep the floor, then power to you!
However, most will agree that it “should” be done in stillness, so that is what I am going to focus on here.
This is a simple, basic meditation that I like to do sitting or lying down comfortably. Feel free to use it and tailor it as you like!
- Make sure your surroundings are comfortable, clean and relatively quiet. If you want some gentle music in the background, go for it. But if you have noisy neighbors, shut your windows. You might even want to put earplugs in. The idea is to limit your senses so that you can’t be easily distracted. Clean is important because you don’t want to get distracted by hair flowing by on the floor around you or that weird smell coming from the dirty dishes in the sink. Dirty surroundings are easy to get distracted in!
- Once you’ve decided your surroundings are comfortable, clean and relatively quiet, sit or lie down comfortably. I prefer my yoga mat, but you can sit on your sofa or a comfy cushion – I just don’t recommend your bed because if you get too relaxed it’ll be way too easy to fall asleep. So unless your meditation is to help you sleep, avoid the bed.
- Now it’s time to relax – work from the bottom up, roots to branches. Start with your toes and think, “Okay toes, wiggle softly, come to stillness and feel elongated but relaxed.” I find using the adjective “elongated” gives me a picture of my toes and the rest of my body not being all cramped up and tense. I invite you to try using the word and see if it helps you, too. Move from your toes to your ankles, calves, knees, thighs, and so on, hitting all the joints and organs in between from the toes to the crown of your head. Once I get to my shoulders I move to my arms and when my fingers are done I go back to my shoulders and then up to my neck. I also make sure to pay attention to my jaw, tongue, sinuses, eyes, ears and forehead. Even my hair gets a friendly reminder to relax!
- Picture yourself in a positive empty space. It can be all white or all black, it can be a mountain top or a beach or whatever makes you feel satisfied and calm with yourself. And you can change locations with meditations, you don’t always have to pick the same one. If one day you decide you’re deep under the sea and the next you’re in a matrix-like white room, then go for it. You pick a scene that’s comfortable for you.
- Once you’ve suggested to your whole body that it is relaxed, invite your brain and thoughts to do the same. See if you can just sit in stillness. When thoughts pop in, picture yourself smiling at them and pushing them along, kind of like how you’d picture a sweet old grandparent gently pushing an energetic child along in a line. You can’t shout at the thoughts because that is exactly what they want – your attention, be it positive or negative. So, just lovingly push them aside and enjoy the empty space in your head.
- If this is proving really difficult for you, this is where a mantra can help you out. A mantra is a word, line or phrase that you repeat over and over again. There are many different mantras and ways of using them, and you can find some of the more popular ones in this post.
- Once you’ve decided you’ve had enough, if you like, you can ask whoever it is you’d like, including yourself (yes, talk to yourself!) to fill you with energy to help you avoid the post-mediation energy droop that sometimes happens. Then you’ll want to slowly start wiggling your toes and fingers. This will help you bring back your awareness to your body. Next, slowly open your eyes. A really nice, deep couple of inhales and exhales help here. Smile and softly move around on your butt or floor. When you’re ready, stand up. Do a little dance. Okay, so you don’t have to, but if you’re feeling particularly good after, a little happy dance never hurts, right?
I hope this helps get you started with meditation. If you’d like some more ideas, check out the other posts I have. 🙂