... it begins and ends with bare attention— the simple, direct noticing of thoughts, sensations and emotions
Reduce stress and anxiety, enhance decision-making and relationships...the possibilities are endless—using meditation, you have everything you need to start right now.
1. Start by choosing a posture from the small assortment shown below. Then play with the tools (watch for the symbol) to get some basic ideas on the proper way to meditate.
Click the arrow to read more about meditation.
2. Sit in a quiet place with few distractions. Notice your breath. Follow it all the way in and all the way out. Many sensations, thoughts and feelings will intrude on this but don't let them carry you away.
If you can keep your main focus on the breath as the distractions come up, this will help you to understand exactly how your breath changes when these different distractions come up. Conversely, you can use the breath to work with distracted states. When you see that your mind has totally wandered, bring it patiently and kindly back to the breath.
3. Meditation will reveal much depth and richness about you that simply can't be covered in a book or here. A meditation group or an instructor will support your curiosity and boost this inner exploration. Some people find it rewarding to note details with a journal. Others may benefit greatly from the degree of acceptance and ability to share meaningful conversation after meditating with a group.
When meditating with a group, more people stick to their plan—it's too easy to quit after 10 minutes when you meditate alone. Meditate regularly to bring more even-mindedness to your daily activities.
Try a mini-meditation now...
The best posture
Many sitting styles exist. And for now, let's not worry about hand positions. The classic posture is a full lotus. Full lotus is tough if you are new because the legs cross over the top of each other. The relaxed position is easier because the legs rest next to each other on the floor without folding on top of one another. The easiest thing is to do is just sit in a chair.
One thing all styles agree upon is that you should maintain a straight back. So for now, let's stay basic. Pick the posture that will be the easiest for you. Once again, note the straight back.
Tip: You can simplify even more by just resting each hand on top of each thigh.
How meditation helps
Have you ever noticed that when you are worried about something it interferes with your ability to fully engage in the present moment? In fact, the worrying condition (or any other strong emotion), may still manage to interfere with the current moment even though you may have gone to extreme lengths to convince yourself that it will no longer bother you.
If you look closely, strong emotions may feel like a mist that separates you from the raw, real experience of the moment. They color what you are experiencing. Meditation helps us to notice that mist, whatever its color may be.
When we watch the show of our own lives, meditation helps us to see into the changing nature of things. It allows us to see how we cling to ideas of who we think we are and how we think our lives should be and, in doing so, we develop insight into how the un-ease of our lives is exacerbated. We can see how to minimize the suffering that results from perhaps painful, unexpected change while remaining more calmly centered as we encounter threats to our self-concepts.
Digging a little deeper, meditation shows us how to acknowledge our inner workings. Acknowledgement implies that not only can we identify thoughts, emotions and sensations but that we can also accept them. So, we build intelligence about ourselves.
We build our intelligence further by staying curious about all the details related to our inner workings. For example, we may discover clusters of emotion that display at certain times or body sensations that precede their display. We may uncover subtle thought patterns that accompany sensations. At some point, we uncover our basic goodness.
The simple awareness of the details of our inner workings allows us to work skillfully with them. This means we can make healthier decisions. The strengthening of concentration and building of awareness will support our ability to maintain a calm center while implementing healthier decisions.
Tips and tools ...
- Use labeling
Use labeling when you want to move superficial awareness to a deeper level. Some ways to use it:
- silently say "out" when you breathe out and "in" when you breathe in
- say "anger" when you recognize an angry thought or feel the tension of anger
Use counting as a tool when your attention is highly scattered.
Count each breath from 1 to 10 and then repeat. When your focus has become established, drop the counting. This tool has the potential to become mechanical so it's up to your awareness to catch that.
- Slow your activity
Use this to disover the ideal pace that supports mindfulness.
Just slow down. You might be aware of the feel of lifting a coffee cup and your anticipation of the first sip but slow down more and watch what happens. The point is not to hold back from your activity but to fully settle into your body and the experience. Get the full texture. How fast or slow do you need to go to acquire optimal mindfulness?
- Choose a main object
Use this when you are still very new to meditation.
Choose an activity that is already happening to keep things simple. Focus on one of these:
- the breath
- sounds in your environment
- your steps if you are walking
- Identify your "Top 10"
This is similar to the labeling tip shown above. Use this to see the most commonly occurring thoughts and emotions.
Sometimes we let our "stuff" ride low, not quite denying it but not quite seeing it either and it has the potential to create a sense of uneasiness or restlessness. Call out this ghostlike "stuff" that arises for you: "wanting", "itch", "boredom", "jealousy", etc.
Alternatively, it may be helpful to sit with paper and pen. That way, when you get repeats, you can add checkmarks to get a tally—then you can also look back to your list later.
The clarity of our full awareness then allows us to act wisely.