Living in such a hectic world can take its toll on your body, mind, and spirit – but the practice of meditation can help you to focus, have a clear mind, and stay centered. Meditation is a practice of learning to train your mind. There are many purposes and techniques.
What all of the techniques have in common is that they work for some benefit in your life. Meditation can help you reduce the effects of stress on your body and mind. It can help you develop a clear mission and purpose for your life. It can help you connect to a higher power.
If you’ve never meditated before, it can be hard to imagine how to get started. There’s a wide range of meditation techniques. Some are simple, while others require a great deal of discipline and training. In the end, though, there’s really no wrong way to do it.
As you consider beginning the practice of meditation, there are factors to consider. The first is determining in what position you’ll meditate. There are several options for you – choose the one that makes the most sense for you.
Getting Into Position
Determining an appropriate position for meditation can set the stage properly. You really don’t have to choose one specific way to do it, but getting your body into a different position from the norm can help you to focus your mind in a more effective way.
While many people choose to use specific yoga positions for meditation, trying to get your body to hold a position that’s uncomfortable can actually take away from your meditation practice. Choose a position that separates you from outside activities, but is comfortable.
The Lotus – The lotus position is the one that most people associate with meditation. This position is a seated position on the floor. For this position, you’ll bend your right leg and place your right ankle on your left thigh.
Then you’ll place your left ankle on your right thigh. This takes a bit of flexibility. Extend your arms and place your hands on your knees palms up. You’ll also want to touch your thumb and index finger.
For this position it’s important to maintain proper posture so that your spine is properly aligned. You may also want to lower your head so that your chin is touching your chest. It may take some time to be able to achieve this position comfortably.
If you’re not able to achieve it comfortably, there are positions that are close, but don’t require as much flexibility. These can allow you to work up to the lotus position that you want to achieve and allow you to meditate.
The Half-Lotus – This position is similar to the lotus, but not as difficult. You start in the same way by touching your right ankle to your left thigh. However, when you bend your left leg, you keep it on the floor and rest your left ankle in front of your right knee.
For this position your arm placement will be the same. This will help you to begin experiencing meditation even if you’re not quite flexible enough to achieve a full lotus. Many people who want to practice meditation in the lotus position begin with this pose.
Crossed Legs – If you’re not ready to perform the lotus, you can also sit with your legs crossed on the floor. Make sure to sit straight up and have proper posture. This position is more comfortable if you’re not flexible and will still allow you to meditate.
Lying Down – There are also positions for meditating where you lie on the floor. Lying down can help you to relax your body and separate yourself from your regular daily life. It’s very comfortable, doesn’t require flexibility, and keeps your body supported.
When it comes to meditation positions, the most important consideration is your comfort. While meditation positions can help you to focus your mind, the wrong position can actually take away from your experience.
If you’re new to meditation, you don’t need to spend all your time focusing on your body position and trying to contort your body into an uncomfortable pose. Instead, focus on finding a pose where you can relax and focus on what’s important.
Breathing for Relaxation
In addition to finding an appropriate position, meditation requires that you pay attention to your breathing. Breathing is an automatic function you perform thousands of times each day without much thought.
Most people breathe using muscles from their chest and upper body. These breaths are often pretty shallow. In order to breathe properly for the purposes of good health and meditation, you’ll need to focus on breathing a different way.
For meditation, we use diaphragmatic breathing. This is breathing that comes from the belly area of the body. As you breathe, think of pushing your belly button out as you inhale and pulling it in as you exhale. This will allow you to take deep, relaxing breaths.
You may also want to try counting when you breathe so that you have consistent, rhythmic breathing that leads to relaxation. Try using a count of five. Breathe in for a count of five and exhale a count of five.
Just as it is with your meditation position, you should make sure that your breathing is comfortable. If you’re uncomfortable, you won’t be able to free your mind for meditation. If you’re distracted, then you’re not doing it correctly.
The Third Eye
When it comes to meditation, the concept of the third eye is very important. The idea is that when you meditate you can open a “third eye” that connects you to a spiritual force. Many people meditate with the goal of opening the third eye.
By opening the third eye, you may find that you feel more spiritually connected. You may also find that your intuition is keener and that you have more ‘psychic’ sensitivities. It takes to become this connected, so I need to state here how very important it is not to be attached to any outcomes. This is a process, and a big part of the intent behind the process, is to enjoy the journey.
You may be wondering how you’ll know if you open your third eye. People who have achieved this type of spiritual awakening report seeing colors and hearing sounds. The idea is that you’re connected to the ultimate creative source.
In order to open your third eye, you’ll need to be completely relaxed and in a meditative state where your mind is relaxed and totally at peace. Rather than focusing on issues in your life, you’ll need to work toward turning off conscious thought. For most people initially, especially here in the West, this requires diligence and a lot of practice. In my experience, tuning in to the energy of the third eye helps to balance and align the other chakras in our systems as well.
If you get too focused on trying to open your third eye and achieve a new level of meditation, you can actually make it more difficult. It is akin to the idea of watching and waiting for the proverbial ‘pot’ to boil. It’s important to free your mind and body and not put pressure on yourself to meditate in a specific way.
Meditation and Religion
Meditation can often be associated with religion, although it doesn’t have to be religious. People of most faiths have some sort of meditation. For some religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, meditation is actually a formal practice.
In other religions it’s less formal. In fact, prayer in Judeo-Christian religions is a form of mediation where you become connected to source. For some people, meditation is more about spirituality than actual religion.
You’ll need to look at meditation in your own life and decide how it fits your personal religious and spiritual beliefs. Remember that there really aren’t any rules when it comes to meditation- it needs to be right for you.
When you’re new to meditation, it can be difficult to really know how to get started. Guided meditation will help you to get started on your meditation journey. While there are many meditation centers where you can participate in guided meditation, you may want to start out in private.
You’ll be able to find many different types of guided meditation audio recordings that will help you to get started. These meditations will cover everything from positions to breathing. They may also help you with specific chants to enhance your meditation and free your mind.
In addition, they may have background music that will be designed to help you relax. Music can be a very powerful addition to your meditation practice. When you find music that speaks to you, you’ll find that meditation goes quickly.
You may also want to read books that give suggestions for guided meditation. Guided meditation is a tool that can help you to get more out of your meditation time. The more you practice, the easier it will become and you may find that you don’t need guided help anymore.
Most of the meditation that I do is on my own at home, and I have quite a collection of guided meditations. With three little ones, I don’t always get the time to sit in stillness to make my way through entire recordings, but I almost always have them playing in the background. The power of soothing voices coaching you into calmness is incredible. Some of my favorite recorded guided meditations are:
- Stress Proof Your Brain, by Rick Hanson (3 CE credits are available with this course)
- The Enlightened Brain, by Rick Hanson (9 CE credits are available with this course)
- Guided Meditation, by Jack Kornfield (2 CE credits are available with this course)
- Guided Meditations for Self Healing, by Jack Kornfield (4 CE credits are available with this course)
- The Inner Art of Meditation, by Jack Kornfield (7 CE credits are available with this course)
- Adventures In Mindfulness, by Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Body and Mind Are One, by Thich Nhat Hanh (10 CE credits are available with this course)
- Your Breathing Body, Vol. 1, by Reginald A. Roy
- Native American Healing Meditations, by Lewis Mehl Medrona
- Touching the Earth, by Thich Nhat Hanh
- Contemplative Prayer, by Father Thomas Keating
- Spontaneous Awakening, by Adyashanti
- The Present Moment, by Thich Nhat Hanh
All of the above guided meditations, I have enjoyed thoroughly. I could have listed quite a bit more, but I will stop here. The bonus is, all of these meditations include various forms of breathing techniques, and most of them also include some guidance as to movement practices that accompany the meditations. Each of the links above will bring you to an audio sample as well, if you wish to have a sneak peek.
If you haven’t yet started your personal meditation practice yet, then what are you waiting for? And if you are like me, a busy working mom trying to find the time to squeeze a practice in, perhaps you will find some useful tips in this post to get you going.