In our day-to-day physical world of routines it’s easy to become a creature of habit. The same can be said of our mental world in terms of our thinking.
In some of my previous posts, I have been suggesting that if we can be more mindful about how we are thinking and in turn reacting, we are better able to manage life’s challenges. To augment this approach, I have suggested learning to meditate, however, I did not really elaborate in terms of a specific technique.
One of the most popular meditations is called the “sitting meditation.” This technique involves sitting in a straight back chair or sitting in what is referred to as the lotus position on a meditation cushion on the floor.
The objective of this posture is to exude an erect posture, to be “mountain-like” and fall awake to help you notice each in-and-out breath, to avoid falling asleep.
It is also a good idea to practice when you are feeling energetic near bedtime. Once you have settled into your posture, you simply just close your eyes and attend to each in-breath and out-breath.
You can use either your nostrils or the rising and falling of your belly to become aware of your in-and-out breath. If you choose your nostrils, as the focal point of the breath cycle, you’ll quickly discover that your in-breath is cooler and your out-breath is warmer, which some people find is helpful in learning to attend to the cycling of their breathing.
With your anchor or focal point established, you are now able become the observer of each moment, as it passes. While this sounds relatively straightforward, it will be challenging as your focus will naturally begin to drift like a fishing line in the water. This is not good or bad, only a natural part of learning to meditate.
As you continue to practice, your attention will drift in and out as you notice your thoughts and/or body sensations. A wise master teaching a student monk to meditate asked him to go outside and take his bamboo mat to a hill top, sit and attend to his breath cycle with the goal of meditating just on his breath and without thoughts. The eager student took his bamboo mat to the hilltop and quickly settled into his meditation but after several minutes began to experience thought after thought.
The student, unable to stop noticing his thoughts, ended his meditation, returned discouraged and told his master what happened. The wise master told the student not to worry and instructed him to return to the hill top, however, this time with the goal of continuously being aware of his thoughts.
The student eagerly returned to the hilltop to complete his meditation. However, after several minutes he was unable to notice any thoughts and became greatly discouraged and returned to his master.
The master, after listening to the student’s struggle, asked him what he learned from his experiences. The student discovered that he could not control his mind, but only observe it.
Many people shy away from exploring meditation because they are worried they would “think too much,” but this is a popular misconception that deters people from learning to meditate.
As you can see from the story of the wise master and student, meditating is only to help one become more aware of their moment-to-moment experience. So if you start to notice streams of thoughts during your meditation, practice and/or spend the vast part of it consumed by your thoughts of the day; it is certainly OK.
Thinking during meditation does not mean you are failing, as there is no such thing as a bad meditation. Just taking the time to meditate is always succeeding.
When you notice you are dwelling on your thoughts, just gently reel your focus back to noticing your in-breath and out-breath cycle again.
In terms of time, there is no standard time to meditate – either you could start with a relatively brief meditation, such as, five minutes and gradually work your way up to 15 or 20 minutes over the course of time.