Meditation has become a buzzword in the past few years. Nowadays you come across more and more people telling you ‘they are meditating’, which to me is great! The more, the better. However, also often people tell me: “I think meditation is good for me, but I don’t really know how to do it”. And because of this unknown, or the fear to go to a course where explained, people hesitate to get into it.
In meditation there are several schools of thought on what is supposed to be the best way: labeling thoughts, imagining rivers, singing a mantra, clearing your mind completely, etcetera. Whatever label, technique or form you choose, they all have a few basic rules. And these rules are all you need to do it on your own.
Before I start explaining what you could do, I first want to take away a few misconceptions:
- I need to sit cross-legged
Many people are uncomfortable sitting cross-legged and this keeps them from meditating. Meditating cross-legged is the most common form, but most definitely not the only one. As a basic rule: you have to sit in a way that you can be comfortable while keeping your spine straight. If this means sitting on a chair or putting your legs in a different position, then this is absolutely fine. However, sitting on a chair means (trying) not to use the back of the chair, because you need to keep your spine up straight by yourself.
- I need to do it for a least 30 minutes (or any other length you might have in mind)
I also sometimes let myself trick into this one. Meditating for a few minutes per day is always better than nothing at all. So whenever you have a few spare minutes, use them wisely: meditate.
- I can only meditate in a quiet, closed off room
This situation is preferable, since it will make it a whole lot easier to focus on your breath and calming your mind. The less the distractions, the easier it can be. But not having a space like this is no excuse to not meditate. When I was commuting in a train for work, I used to take my train ride time to sit calmly, close my eyes and meditate, also I used the toilet in the office, the taxi ride or a more quiet corner in a bar, bookstore or office.
SO HOW DOES IT WORK?
It is simple and at the same time not simple at all. Here a few basic things to know and do.
Basic things to know:
1. Endless stream of thoughts
As soon as you sit down and close your eyes an endless stream of thoughts will start. Meditation is to stop this stream of thoughts, something that sounds easy, but is not. You need patience, determination and compassion to make it work.
2. Nature of your thoughts
Maybe you know, maybe you never realised, but every thought is connected to either the past or future. You either have a memory of something that happened, a minute ago, an hour, a day, a week, month and so on. Or your mind wonders to what happens in the future, an hour from now, day, week or many years. The goal of meditation is to experience the present, to be in the now.
3. The mind wants to control you
Your mind wants to keep you busy, that way it controls you. So it will do everything to take you away from being in the now, in this very moment, because it has no control over the now. So it brings up memories, future thoughts, it makes you tired, angry, emotional, frustrated, anything that keeps you from actually living the moment. We all have had an experience (beautiful place, a sky-dive, birth of a child, amazing peace of art, an evening with friends) that was so mind blowing that, for maybe only a second, our mind stopped and got silenced with what you witnessed. That moment is when YOU control the mind.
The basic things to do
- Sit comfortably (in any position that feels good for you, and in any location you feel ok meditating)
- Close your eyes (close them softly, don’t press them together)
- Start breathing in and out through your nose
- Breath in deeply and deliberately into your belly
- Breath out slowly feel how the belly, ribcage and chest deflate
- Keep on following your breath coming in and out
- Pay attention to the moment where the breath pauses before you breath in and before you breath out
- Stop breathing deliberately and come to breathing without any effort
- Face whatever comes into your mind. Try to not pay attention to it.
- When you have started wandering away with your thoughts, come back to following your breath coming in and going out
- Start again having a few breaths more deliberately.
- Come to a breath without any effort
- Try to ignore what comes to your mind.
- When you wander away, come back to following your breath
- Keep on repeating this however many times is necessary
- When you get frustrated because this happens every second, acknowledge you are frustrated and accept it, be compassionate to yourself
- Continue this process
You can start doing it for 5 minutes, or 10 minutes. Over time you can make it longer, but only if that feels necessary for you. If you do it on a daily basis you will notice that the mind starts wandering less and less. Every second, becomes every 5 seconds, becomes every 10 seconds, becomes every 20 seconds, 40 seconds, 1 minute and so on.
My experience is that it really helps you to face challenges in a more calm and stable way. You do not freak out, can keep a clear mind and are able to make better decisions. Your creativity increases, because these moments of silence, no thoughts, create space for new ideas and insights.
I hope this explanation helps to take the hurdle and create a moment for you during the day to practice meditation. Remember, it is better to meditate for only a few minutes, than not at all. Enjoy, may peace and calm come to you!