Tips & Trends

Centering Yourself: Meditation Tips

June 7, 2011 by
meditation by AlicePopkorn via Flickr
meditation by AlicePopkorn via Flickr

meditation by AlicePopkorn via Flickr

It’s easy, especially during the busy summer months, to get a little frazzled.  No doubt there are vacations to pack for, summer programs that need to be scheduled, and day-trips to take.  But summer is also the perfect time to re-center yourself.  Beginner meditation can take as little as 10 minutes a day, allowing your body & brain to relax & de-stress.  Psychology Today states that the benefits include “a reduction in stress, an increased ability to enact mindfulness, greater concentration and a lowered tendency toward immediate and excessive emotional dysregulation.”  Who wouldn’t love to feel clearer, more mindful, more at-home in one’s body?

Best of all, all you need is yourself & a quiet space.  The Conscious Life provides a simple guide for beginners, breaking down the process into 4 easy-to-swallow parts:

  1. Choose a conducive environment. Find a nice, quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for fifteen minutes or longer. Sit down, relax and rest your hands on your lap. You can sit on the floor cross-legged with the support of a meditation cushion, or on any chair with your feet resting on the ground. It’s not necessary to force yourself into a lotus position if you’re not used to it.Regardless of how you sit, it’s important to maintain the natural curve of your back. That means no slouching forward or leaning backward — either of which can strain and hurt your back. People with chronic back problem may find a kneeling meditation bench useful, especially for prolonged meditation.
  2. Breathe slowly and deeply. Close your eyes softly. Begin by taking a few slow and deep breaths — inhaling with your nose and exhaling from your mouth. Don’t force your breathing. Let it come naturally. The first few intakes of air are likely to be shallow, but as you allow more air to fill your lungs each time, your breaths will gradually become deeper and fuller. Take as long as you need to breathe slowly and deeply.
  3. Be aware. When you are breathing deeply, you’ll begin to feel calmer and more relaxed. That’s a good sign. Now, focus your attention on your breathing. Be aware of each breath that you take in through your nose. Be mindful of each breath that you exhale with your mouth. Continue focusing on your breaths for as long as you like.If you find your attention straying away from your breaths, just gently bring it back. It may happen many times. Don’t be disheartened. What’s important is to realize that you’ve wandered and bring your attention back to where it should be. As you develop greater focus power, you will find it easier to concentrate.
  4. Ending the session. When you are ready to end the session, open your eyes and stand up slowly. Stretch yourself and extend your increased awareness to your next activities. Well done! You’ve done it!

Goodlife Zen is another resource, with a handy list of 10 tips.  I particularly like this tip regarding focus:

In ordinary consciousness we are hardly ever present. For example, sometimes we drive the car on autopilot while being preoccupied with thoughts. Suddenly we arrive at our destination and don’t remember anything about the drive!

So, meditation is a wonderful way of waking up to our life. Otherwise we miss most of our experiences because we are somewhere else in our mind! Let’s take a look at what focus is. In ordinary life, we tend to equate focus with concentration. That’s like using the mind like a concentrated beam of light. But in meditation, that kind of mind isn’t helpful. It’s too sharp and edgy. To focus in meditation means to pay soft attention to whatever you place in the centre of awareness. I suggest using the breath as a focus. It’s like a natural door that connects ‘inside’ and ‘outside’. Zen Master Toni Packer says:

Attention comes from nowhere. It has no cause. It belongs to no one

(I am incredibly guilty of driving on auto-pilot.  Both literally & figuratively.)

Essentially, it all boils down to posture, breathing, & focus.  Being someone who has a constant monologue running through her brain, taking the opportunity to let go of that jumble of thoughts & simply be, is enormously refreshing.  What do you do to gain some inner peace?


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