Meditation is training your mind to be focused upon the present moment. By staying within the present moment, you allow your body and mind to become more open to reality as it is.
You will become able to see things as they really are without coloring the present reality with your desires and attachments; or the forcing of your will onto reality in an effort to make reality what you wish it to be rather than relaxing into it and accepting if for what it is at that moment in time.
Meditation allows you to become more open to yourself and the world around you. You begin to develop gentleness, and loving kindness, toward yourself and others. It allows you to accept yourself just as you are in the present moment without judgment. You become more acutely aware of your inner self and of your body.
Meditation enables us to awaken to ourselves and to the world around us and to interact with the present moment in a whole new way. We begin to realize that it is here, in the present moment, where our life is actually happening. You can’t really live your life if you are not present for it. You can’t experience the fullness of your life if you are forever lost in the regrets of the past or fretting over a future that never comes.
By being present, we become more open and gentle with ourselves and with others. We begin to see more and more. We begin to realize that we are all in this thing together.
Meditation trains our mind toward equanimity. This means that whatever may arise in our lives at the present moment, our mind will remain calm and still. It will enable us to see reality for what it truly is without any emotional storm to cause us to lose focus; cause us to lose our peace and loving kindness.
Meditation becomes mindfulness; that continuing attention to the present moment; that being in the midst of life being lived; that being in harmony with the constant and continual change that is your life.
The correct posture for meditation is critical to the success of your meditation. In sitting meditation, one can assume a lotus or a half lotus position with your feet and legs. Or, you may simply sit cross legged. Your back is straight and erect. You do not slouch. Your hands may rest comfortably on your knees or you may rest them on your thighs, palms down, which will allow you to remain erect for longer periods of time.
Your head is erect with a sense that you are gently holding up the ceiling. Your eyes can be open or closed. If your eyes remain open, focus them slightly downward toward the floor just a few feet ahead of yourself. If you’re sitting in a chair, you are forward in the chair and not using the backrest. Again, your back is straight and erect. Your hands will rest on your thighs, palms down, and the soles of your feet are flat on the floor. Again, open or closed eyes.
The importance of posture is to allow your body to strongly and forcefully breathe from your diaphragm rather than weakly, and shallowly, from your chest. In addition, your erect posture aligns your internal organs and allows them to be free from pressure and restriction.
There is no urgent need to find a totally quiet and undisturbed place to meditate. This is just another misconception many people have regarding meditation. The world is a noisy and chaotic place. By training your mind, through meditation, to stay in the present, you become more aware of, and attuned to, your immediate environment. You begin to hear more; from the singing of the birds, to passing traffic, to a muted television.
There is no correct way to breathe. Simply breathe as you would normally breathe. As you continue to meditate, you will discover, to your joy, your breathing will become longer and grow deeper. It will simply happen. The relaxation and the sense of peace you will begin to feel may surprise or even startle you at first.
For the beginner, the focus of your meditation will be your breathing. You will be totally focused on your breathing. You will be totally aware and concentrated on your inhale and your exhale. It is all your mind will be occupied with. Breathing in and breathing out. You will, also, be aware and focused on the small pauses that occur between an inhale and an exhale. Feel them. Be with them. Notice them. When you remain focused on your breathing, it is training your mind, through meditation, to be present.
Your Inner Dialogue:
One of the great challenges of being human is dealing with the constant and never ending inner dialogue that is always there in our minds. It is this ceaseless chatter that causes us to lose focus on the present moment. When first beginning your meditation practice, this inner dialogue will, most assuredly, tend to continue. The goal of your meditation is not to stop your thinking. That is impossible. The goal of your meditation is to be aware of your thinking. Becoming aware of your inner dialogue and thinking keeps you present, keeps you totally aware.
When you encounter thinking, and you will, you just simply need to realize that you are thinking. It’s like eating an apple. Are you really aware that you are eating an apple? Or is your mind distracted and somewhere else and before you know it you have finished the apple without even realizing you ate it? Being present, being here now, is not as easy as it sounds.
Do not act upon your thoughts or try and stop them. As has been noted, you can’t stop your thinking. Simply admit to yourself that you are thinking. Observe and acknowledge your thoughts and then return immediately to your breathing. Your thoughts will recede harmlessly away as you return to your breathing. Your thinking will always be with you but as you practice your meditation regularly you will begin to notice that there are gaps in your inner dialogue. There will no longer be a constant stream. There will be moments where there is no thinking and these gaps will grow wider and longer the more skilled and practiced you become. Your mind will be learning to be still and clear. You will be able to hear the silence and embrace it as joy.
Also, whenever you return your focus back to your breathing, check your posture and adjust it accordingly. Remember that your posture aligns your inner organs and helps to keep you focused on, and aware of, your breathing.
Meditation will seem a huge challenge to you at first. Most give up and quit because they think it too hard. They forget about those times when they first learned to cook or to dance or to drive a car. Did you quit then?
Practice is everything. It is more beneficial to practice for shorter, yet consistent, periods than to attempt longer sitting on a more irregular basis. Begin humbly with five, maybe ten, minutes every day. Even try doing this a couple of times a day like in the morning and after the stress of the day.
As your practice progresses, you will find yourself more at ease and relaxed with who you are and what is happening in your life right now. You will become more open, much more observant, much more loving and compassionate. Also, your sitting time will lengthen gradually and naturally. Also, don’t forget all of that physiological damage you will be reversing as you begin to feel healthier and more alive.
Remember that we are all in this together. When we begin to understand that every one else suffers and struggles and just wants to be happy, we realize that we are just like everyone else. Through meditation, we can begin to develop the courage to accept, and love, ourselves just the way we are and will be more able to bring that love and compassion out to others and out into the world.