Mindfulness Meditation – An Introduction to Get You Started Today
In this week’s Feature story we take a look at Mindfulness Meditation and how to get a practice started right away, even if dolls freak you out…especially a bunch of smiling buddha dolls meditating in the grass.
I resisted getting into a mindfulness meditation practice for a long time.
Its utter simplicity through me off. I thought that there had to be great ritual and circumstance and that I must seek training from a “certified” guru.
But this is not the case.
While a skilled meditation teacher can certainly help you in your progress, it’s not necessary to take this step if you are simply testing the waters to see which type of meditation practice is best for you.
Here is what you need to know to get started with Mindfulness Meditation.
First and foremost, we need to put to rest a common misconception regarding this type of meditation. I’ve had many fellow students express that the reason that they’ve decided to explore meditation is because they want to “get away from it all” if only for a few minutes a day.
Mindfulness meditation is not about withdrawing from the world. The purpose is to find equanimity in spite of everything that is going on around you.
So do not be discouraged when during your meditation you get distracted by the thoughts in your head. It will happen. You will not be establishing a mind without thoughts. But to the degree that you can acknowledge the distracting thoughts and bring yourself back to the focus of your practice during your meditation session…that’s the key.
When you notice that you are distracted by a thought, perhaps you can try labeling the thought and then bring yourself back to the core of your practice. For example, if you find yourself going over in your head what you will be preparing for dinner tonight, simply say, “I am planning” and then let the thought go. Bring yourself back to the focus of your breath.
I am planning.
I am remembering.
I am emoting.
These are some of the common ones, and they are all okay. We are not judging ourselves when we are meditating.
But let’s get into our practice, for that’s why we are here. We need to sit on something, right?
How to Sit
First and foremost, with mindfulness meditation, you can more or less sit on anything you want to, with the following caveats. If your are able to without great physical discomfort, you need to sit with your spine as straight as possible, and without your back being supported by anything.
That means if you decide to sit in a chair, try to sit nearer to the edge of it so that your back is not resting on the chair’s back rest. If you truly need the support of the chair back or a wall, that do so for it’s better to meditate somehow than to give up the practice all together because you can’t get into posture. The straight spine helps with one thing, anatomically, and that is it allows you to breathe deeply through your diaphragm. If your posture is slouched, then your breathing will be quite a bit more shallow.
Additionally, you will be much less likely to fall asleep if you do not have the back support.
The other caveat with sitting for mindfulness meditation is that we want to try to sit so that the knees are lower than the hips.
I personally use both a Zabuton and a Zafu no matter which type of practice I do. The Zabuton is a rectagular cushion that is typically an inch or so thick and the Zafu is a small, circular pillow that is six to eight inches thick and sits on top of the Zabuton. Together they tend to look like this:
However, you may not want to invest in any equipment before you decide whether meditation is something you want to add as a regular practice to your life, so you can simply place a couple of pillows on the floor and work with that while starting out.
There is also something called a Peace Bench, which can be used if you prefer to kneel while meditating. I’ve spoken to several students with back pain from injuries and they love using the peace bench.
The peace bench can even be placed on a folded blanket so that you have some additional padding for your knees.
There are, of course, several other options for meditation cushions, but we’ve covered the major one’s and you should be able to select one to begin your practice.
What to Meditate On
Once we are seated with legs crossed (if possible) we want to partially close our eyes so that they are at half slits. Then we want to find a spot from four to eight feet in front of us to become our locus of focus. When I say “focus” it is really a soft gaze. We do not want to focus laser-like on a single spot. We also want to make sure we are not tilting our head downward for this gaze. Our head stays facing forward, but our eyes, due to the half-slit, are looking slightly downward.
Where to place your hands? For now it is sufficient to just place the palms of your hands on your thighs, wherever it’s comfortable.
We will spend five minutes, starting out, for a week straight, seated in this posture. And in the beginning we will simply count our breaths. One inhale plus one exhale equals a count of one. We will do this till we count to ten and then start over again. If we lose our place, simply center again on our meditation and start at the count of one again.
If you can manage to keep your practice going daily for five minutes, then you may expand to ten minutes in week 2, and perhaps twenty minutes in week 3. But as we like to say at Om Flux, some minutes are better than zero minutes, so if all you can manage is five minutes of mindfulness meditation per day, then that is better than nothing. You will gain benefits with your practice.
I hope you’ve found value in this article and if you can think of anyone in your life whom you care for and think can benefit by this practice, please feel free to share this article.
Till next week…
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