What is Meditation?
What is Meditation? It is important to understand what meditation is before you can learn how to meditate. Breath meditation, also known as mindfulness meditation, is the most popular form of meditation. This involves focusing your attention on your breathing and bringing your awareness to it. As you breathe in and out, notice when your mind drifts to thoughts, such as everyday stressors or work. Then, return to your breath. You can train your mind to stay present by focusing on your breath, letting go of your thoughts and learning to bring your attention back to the present moment. This can help you achieve emotional stability and mental clarity.
Thich Nhat Hanh is a well-known teacher of mindfulness meditation and meditation. He says that meditation can help us release tension in our bodies, minds, and emotions so that healing can occur.
Meditation can be used to heal in many ways. Meditation practices can be used to manage stress and anxiety. Meditations can be used to reduce anxiety, promote relaxation, and increase empathy and compassion. You can also meditate by doing a body scan, walking meditation or metta meditation.
How to meditate
A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO BASIC MINDFULNESS MEDITATION
Here are some tips for meditation. You will need to find a peaceful, serene place to meditate. Start with 5 minutes. You can listen to the guided audio meditation below, or you can follow the written or audio instructions.
1) Get into a comfortable seat. Place your feet flat on to the ground and sit cross-legged on a meditation cushion. Do not lean against the chair’s back.
2) Determine your ideal sitting position. Your hands should be on your thighs. Now, sit straight up with your back straight. Your eyes should be open. Let your gaze rest comfortably while you look down approximately six feet in front.
3) Pay attention to your breath and keep it there. Keep your eyes on your out-breath and your surroundings. As the air leaves your mouth and nose, it will dissolve into the space surrounding you.
Simply rest at the end of each outbreath until the next inbreath begins. You can choose to follow both the in-breaths or out-breaths for a more focused meditation.
4) Take note of any thoughts or feelings that arise. If you find that your attention is being drawn away from the breath by a thought, feeling or perception, simply say “thinking” and then return to the breath. You don’t have to judge yourself if this happens. Just notice it and pay attention to your posture and breath.
5) Stop your session. You can end your meditation practice after the allotted time. You don’t have to lose any feelings of calm, mindfulness or openness that you may have experienced. Try to consciously allow these feelings to continue throughout the day.
You just meditated!
Why should I meditate?
QUIET THE MIND
Meditation can be used to gain insight into reality, or to relieve stress and pain. According to the 17th Karmapa, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, meditation can help us feel more connected to our inner wisdom and compassion. Meditation can calm an anxious mind and relieve stress and anxiety, while relaxing the body. Meditation master Ajahn Chah explains:
Meditation will help you to relax and feel calmer. It’s like sitting in a still forest pool. You will not only be still, but many rare and beautiful animals will also come to the pool. This is the happiness and peace of the Buddha.
DEVELOP MINDFULNESS AND INSIGHT
Meditation can also help you to have a greater awareness or mindfulness that can lead to profound realization. Meditation can help you to see beyond unhelpful beliefs and foster a more compassionate relationship with yourself. Meditation practice has long-lasting mental health benefits.
CULTIVATE QUALITIES POSITIVE
We might also meditate to cultivate positive characteristics. Pema Chodron, a Buddhist teacher, lists five key qualities that meditation can help you develop: clarity, steadfastness and courage. Meditation can increase your ability to focus, resilience, compassion, as well as improve relationships.
Meditation doesn’t require you to be a Buddhist. Meditation is an essential tool to liberate from suffering, according to the Buddha.
FOLLOW THE SCIENCE
Numerous studies have shown that meditation has many benefits.
- Sharpen attention
- Increase compassion
- Reduce stress
- Boost patience
- Mental health can be improved
How can you make meditation a habit?
It’s obvious that meditation is more effective if you practice it regularly. Maintaining a consistent practice is the most difficult challenge for all meditators, regardless of their experience level. It can be helpful to create a space in your home for meditation, especially if you are just starting out. A meditation cushion, also known as a zafu or a bench, may be a good idea. It is also fine to meditate in a chair. Be aware of how you sit.
Although regular meditation can have many benefits, it can be hard to make it a habit. These tips and techniques will help you stick with your meditation practice every day.
1) CREATE A ROUTE
You can practice meditation in the same manner each time. You can make a habit of repeating the same actions, the same small rituals, over and over again. Create a cue for meditating. Some meditations set an alarm on their phone or remind them.
Every time, sit in the same spot. Before you meditate, light a candle or incense. You can use any number of stimuli to meditate: time, place, sight and smell. (See also “5 Ways To Get into the Meditation Habit.”)
2) STEP SMALL
Set yourself a promise that you can keep. Start small, and then increase your practice. Start slow if you’re just starting to meditate. Try to keep it to five minutes. Even if you only meditate for two consecutive mornings, it will be a start to forming a routine.
3) MEDITATE WITH OTHERS
It can be very beneficial to have a regular meditation practice together. Join a Buddhist group near you. You can practice alone or with a Buddhist group if you are unable to meet up with someone. Regularly sitting with someone is a great way to support your home practice. It’s fine to do it all alone, but it can be very rewarding to have others help you.
4) DO NOT EXPECT MORE THAN YOU CAN ACHIEVE
Meditation can transform your life. Meditation can seem overwhelming even for a single session. It can be a win-lose-lose situation. People expect to find inner peace when they meditate, but it is not common for them to be able to speak Italian fluently the first time they enter a language class. Don’t let yourself get discouraged, but continue to work hard and you will be amazed at what happens once you have a regular meditation practice.
5) MAKE IT PLEASING
Find a way that meditation is enjoyable to make it enjoyable so you can keep coming back. You want your meditation space to be pleasing to the eye and comfortable. A stool, a chair, incense and artwork might be added to your meditation space. An altar is a common practice for meditation.
Physically, your practice should be enjoyable. You can use your senses to find something that you like when you sit down. Your mind should be able to focus on the sound of your breathing, the weight of the hands on your knees, and any other part of your body that you find relaxing. If sitting is too painful, you can try different chairs or cushions. For advice on how to position yourself while meditating, you can ask your teacher.
Alternativly, you might make walking meditation your daily routine. While any form of meditation can cause discomfort and pain, it is not meant to be torture. To reduce pain, be flexible with your practice.
6) BE KIND TO YOURSELF
It’s easy to establish new habits, but enthusiasm can sometimes wane. Do not beat yourself up. If you find your mind wandering, don’t get mad at yourself or berate it. This will cause burnout. Your mind will wander. Your mind will wander. Be content that you were able to bring your attention back to your breathing. Even if you feel the meditation is being interrupted by thoughts, it was still done. Remind yourself to say “Good job!” and look forward to the next time that you sit.
7) ENJOY THIS CHALLENGE
Sometimes, meditators get bored and simply sit there without trying to meditate. Meditation is a rewarding experience that requires us to focus on the present moment.
Most Common Questions about Meditation
IF I’M THINKING DURING MEDITATION, IS THAT BAD?
It’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s quite natural. Your mind is partly a machine designed for thinking. Meditation is about being able observe how your mind works. We’re watching our thoughts as they emerge. It is important to allow thoughts to flow as naturally as they appear. Meditation is not an easy process. However, it can be done with effort and time.
Pema Chodron explains that “When our mind wanders off, without any harshness, judgmental quality,” we are instructed to acknowledge it as ‘thinking’ and return to the outbreath. Training teaches us to return to the moment of being here. This is how our confusion, our bewilderment and our ignorance can transform into clear seeing. “Thinking” becomes a code for seeing ‘just’ what is — our clarity and confusion. We are not trying get rid of our thoughts. Instead, we see our defense mechanisms, negative beliefs about ourselves, and our hopes and desires. We also see our kindnesses, bravery and wisdom.
WHAT DO I DO WITH MY EYES DURING MEDITATION?
Meditation can be done with or without your eyes closed. You can look down slightly, letting your gaze drop about six feet in front. This will allow you to meditate with your eyes closed.
WHAT DO I DO WITH MY HANDS DURING MEDITATION?
Mudras are hand positions. Two mudras are commonly used for Buddhist meditation. One is called “resting your mind”. This involves placing your hands palms down on your knees with your upper arms parallel to your torso. This will allow your hands to relax while your back remains straight but not stiff.
Another hand position that you could try is the “cosmic Mudra”, which is commonly used in Zen. Place your right hand on your lap, palm up, and your left hand on top. To create an oval, touch your thumbs together. It reminds us to get up when the oval begins to fall as our attention drifts or becomes sleepy.
IS IT PERFECT TO LOOK UP ON A FLOOR?
Although the most popular way to meditate is in a lotus position, not everyone can do it. You can sit in a variety of ways when you meditate: Some people sit cross-legged on a cushion or kneeling.
It’s fine to use a chair if you feel the need. You should feel relaxed and grounded in your posture. Sitting in a chair should make your spine straight, your feet flat on ground, and your hips higher that your knees. Meditation can be uncomfortable, but not painful. Try different sitting positions. Find the best position for you.
WHAT TERMINAL SHOULD I MEDITATE FOR?
Meditation can be done for as little or as much time as you like. It doesn’t matter how short or long the time you spend meditating, it is beneficial. Even a 5 minute meditation session can suffice. For beginners, a good starting point is 30 minutes. But you should meditate long enough to keep your mind and body still. You can begin your meditation practice once you feel calm and relaxed. You can sit for a while to relax and go through the calm phase. There is still time to meditate.
WHAT IF SOUND DISTRACTS ME
Beginners should find somewhere quiet to meditate in order to be able focus. Sit with the noise if you are unable to find silence. Meditation is about becoming comfortable with the “what is”, which can include traffic noise, loud music, and even neighbor’s TV. While sitting, observe your frustrations without judgement. You can continue to sit in less-than-ideal situations.
IS MEDITATION PAINFUL?
Even meditation can’t be avoided, and pain isn’t always avoidable. Sometimes, our bodies experience “growing pains” as we adjust to sitting. Experts in meditation advise that you first notice the pain and use it as a focus for meditation. What is causing the pain? Follow your breath to see if you feel some relief.
Experts have different suggestions on how to respond if you feel the pain is too intense. To find relief, some experts suggest that you adjust your posture. Some suggest that you take a more rigid stance and hold your position while you meditate on the pain. You’ll reap the benefits of sitting still, but it is up to you whether or not you do so. Meditation shouldn’t be painful.
Meditation can help with mental health
Sometimes. Meditation can be a good option for mental health, according to researchers and meditators for millennia. Meditation is not meant to replace therapy or medication. Meditation can prove ineffective and even harmful if it is not used correctly to treat mental illness.
The most effective method to release trauma, bad habits and negative emotions is to combine meditation and psychology, according to Western practitioners. Psychotherapy engages with the substance of thoughts and emotions. Meditation provides insight into how they work, while psychotherapy gives you that same insight. Talk to a doctor if you are interested in meditation for mental health.
Are there different types of meditation?
Many new meditators start by practicing practices that calm the mind such as following the breath. Your brain can’t focus if it is racing from one thought to the next. Instead, you will be unable to take the next step. This would require a more focused mind that can see deeply into reality and insight. There are other ways to anchor your mind.
These meditations include Body Scan. During this meditation, you can focus your attention on a specific area of your body or your bodily sensations.
Some people practice Walking Meditation. Walking along the streets, notice how each foot touches ground. Follow your breath as closely as possible. Is it possible to sync the movement of your legs and the rise/fall of your breath?
Tonglen is another popular meditation. It literally means “giving and receiving.” Pema Chodron describes this practice as “How to Practice Tonglen”. This involves visualizing how you can “take in the pain of others with each in-breath, and send out what will benefit them on every out-breath.”
Metta, also known as “loving kindness,” is a meditation that allows you to conjure thoughts about loved ones and not-so-loved people. This will allow for “lovingkindness” (sometimes referred to as friendliness) in your heart and mind.
How to practice walking meditation
GUIDED AUDIO-WALKING MEDITATION
Walking meditation can be described as mobile meditating, where your attention is centered on your body and your movements. This practice is an integral part of meditation retreats. It is used to counterbalance the power of sitting meditation and transfer its power. It can be a way to incorporate your practice into your daily life. Here are some steps to start a walking meditation.
Start walking in peace. Move your weight to one side and bring your attention to your feet.
As you raise your right leg, notice how your body weight distribution is. To keep your balance, focus on what your left side must do. Place your heel on the ground and roll onto your left foot. Take note of how your left heel rises as your weight changes. Repeat the process with your left foot.
You can use verbal prompts to help you create harmony and rhythm in your walking meditation. To remind yourself not to wander, use a simple cue such as “lifting, moving and placing” to help you return to your body. Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh used a simple verse as a guide to the practice. This one could be used to practice walking meditation.
(Breathing in: “I have arrived”; (“Breathing out”) “I am at home.”
(Breathing in). “In the here”
Breathing out: “In the Now”
(Breathing in). “I am solid”
(Breathing out). “I am free.”
(Breathing in: “In the ultimate”; Breathing out: “I dwell.”
You might notice that your steps are deliberate and repetitive at the beginning of this meditation. As you connect your breathing and your body movements, you will find more fluidity. You might consider dropping the vocal cues for a time and focusing on your body instead.
Start with a 10-minute walk meditation and gradually increase your time to about half an hour.
After you’ve completed your meditation, stand still and find the energy within your body. Notice what is still there.
How to practice Metta or Loving-kindness Meditation
GUIDED AUDIO MEDITATION METTA
People in our culture find it difficult to show love-kindness towards themselves. It’s possible to feel unworthy or egotistical or not be happy for others who are in pain. Instead of focusing on loving-kindness with oneself, which is more traditional, it’s easier to focus on those who are closest to you and your heart. The beauty of loving-kindness and compassion is that we begin where it works. Open our hearts naturally, and then we direct our loving-kindness slowly to the more difficult areas.
1) Sit comfortably, relaxed, and with your eyes closed. You will feel the mystery of human life as you sit here. As the Buddha did, take your place halfway between heaven and Earth. Then, pay attention to yourself. Relax your body and let your breath naturally flow.
Consider someone you love and care about. Let natural words of good will for them enter your thoughts and hearts. You can also use the more traditional wishes like “May they be safe and protected”, “May they be strong and healthy,” and “May your heart be full of joy.”
2) Next, picture another person you care about and send the same kind of wishes and best wishes to them.
3) Now imagine these people who you love offering their love and kindness to you. Imagine how they look at and care about you as they tell you, “May your safety and security be assured.” May you be strong and healthy. “May you find true happiness.”
4) Accept their best wishes. Turn them towards yourself. People sometimes place their hands on their hearts or bodies and repeat the phrase: “May my heart be safe and protected.” May I be strong and healthy. May I truly be happy.
5) Take the same care and look around. Show your love to all people around you. It is amazing how rewarding it can be to spread love-kindness.
Consider yourself a beacon spreading love-kindness around your community, country, and even the world. Imagine, “All beings, young and old, from all walks of the planet, be loved and held in love. May they be protected and safe. May they be strong and healthy. May they find true happiness.
Buddha stated that the awakening heart of love-kindness, freedom and loving-kindness is our birthright as human beings. He said that if these things were impossible, he would not teach them. These teachings are available to you because they’re possible.
You have many options to improve your meditation practice. Meditation teachers and reading Buddhist texts can help you stay on the path to awakening. Understanding your mind’s workings can help you feel happier and more healthy. These resources are provided by Lion’s Roar to help you get started on your meditation journey.