Meditation is the act of trying to focus and quieten your mind and by doing so to attempt to get beyond conditioned 'thinking' into a deeper state of self-awareness. The first challenge is to learn to tame your busy mind and control your breathing. To begin with it may be important to find somewhere very quiet to be able to do this, but as you feel more comfortable with your meditation practice you may find you are able to meditate anywhere, any time, no matter what's going on around you. And as a result of meditating, in your everyday life you will become better able to handle your reactions to things and choose different responses.
There are some simple guidelines that may help develop your meditation practice:
1. Make Time to Meditate
It is usually good to find a regular time of day when you can set aside time in your daily life for meditation. Most people tend to prefer early morning or the evening depending on commitments and body clocks. Usually the easiest time is to meditate in the morning before the body tires out and the mind gets too busy.
To begin with, start meditating for between 5 and 15 minutes a day. In a busy life it takes discipline and determination to find even this time in frenetic schedules to meditate.
2. Create or find quiet, relaxing environments to meditate in
It is easy to be distracted when you first start to meditate so good to avoid environments where there are TV, phone or other distracting noises or activities.
Meditating outside can sometimes be helpful as long as you are not distracted by noises or movement.
3. Find a comfortable position to sit in
It is important you are as comfortable as possible when meditating. Unlike traditional views of people meditating in full lotus positions, it's best you sit in a way that best fits your situation.
It is important to keep your back straight, and ideally you need to tilt your pelvis forward by sitting on the forward edge of a thick cushion, or on a chair that has its back legs lifted off the ground 3 or 4 inches. It should feel as if there is no effort required to hold up your torso.
Try to relax your arms and legs. You could put your hands on your thighs or in your lap, or they could hang at your sides.
4. Relax Everything and Search for that which is not relaxed
As your meditations get longer you will usually find more and more parts of yourself that are NOT relaxed.
You may need to adjust your posture to align your body differently.
You will learn where your tension is and whether you are sitting in a twisted position.
You will learn to understand the needs of your body more through meditation.
5. Let Your Attention Rest on the Flow of your Breath
The aim of meditation is to let brain chattering relax and a simple way to do this is to focus on each breath flowing in and out. Your breath is always there, and is the essence of your being alive.
Perhaps breathe in and out, and count silently to yourself '1'. Then breathe in and out again and count '2' and so on . . . up to 10. You may find it difficult to concentrate on counting upto 10 breaths without your mind wandering. If it does wander, simply start back from counting '1' again.
This is a simple and effective way of keeping the mind focussed on the breath. You will find that worrying, hoping, dreaming and wishing are challenging things to occupy a space filled with the focus of counting breaths. This is a valuable first stage of learning the discipline of meditation.
6. Silence Your Mind
Once you've trained your mind to focus on one thing at a time through counting, the next step in learning to meditate is to focus on nothing - learning to 'clear' your mind which requires discipline yet is the very essence of meditation practice.
It is important to avoid labelling your thoughts 'good' or 'bad' as we tend to do in our everyday lives. It is more valuable to simply noticing them coming and going, a bit like clouds floating across the sky.
Using the same principle of counting as above in Stage 5, try to apply the same technique to your thoughts until you notice your mind gradually quietening. There may then be occasional moments of silence where there are no thoughts, something which in the 21st century tends to be a very unusual event !