Intro to Meditation

I wrote a little about consciousness and explored a guided meditation last week, but thought it would be helpful to do a quick "how to meditate" for anyone who may be a beginner!

Meditation is such a great way to practice consciousness and stay in touch with Self. To get set up, it's important that you are comfortable. Begin in a seated position with an upright spine. Options are sukhasana (easy pose) with the legs crossed. Hero's pose is also a great place to start, sitting on your heels with your knees and angles together and toes untucked. Do whatever feels comfortable with your hands. I generally like tops of hands on my knees, palms face up for receiving. 

If you find that those two positions are uncomfortable for you, please change positions before moving on. You might try sitting on a pillow (or block if you have one), or try laying down. You could also sit up against a wall to support your back with the legs either crossed or outstretched. The point is to be able to let go of your thoughts and you don't want physical discomfort or pain to get in the way of that. 

Another note on comfort: you may find that after a few minutes of meditation that your legs start to fall asleep or your position ceases to be comfortable. I'd suggest first sticking with your original position without fidgeting and try to let go of the discomfort. If you decide that it's best for you to switch positions due to any pain, please do so! Just first ask yourself whether you need to move or whether you're just finding it difficult and want to move. 

After finding your position, close your eyes and begin to observe general sensations in the body. Observe any muscles that seem to feel sore or tight. Do your best to relax everything. Really take some time to do this if you need to (3 to 5 minutes or more).

I sometimes like to do a full body scan, starting with the forehead and working all the way down to the toes. Focus on one body part at a time and give it permission to relax and just continue to work your way down. You may have certain muscles that are tight all the time and you just don't realize it until you do a scan!

Observe the breath for a few minutes but try not to control it. Observe your thoughts with no judgement. Just notice what you're feeling and let it go.

When I say things like "let it go," or you may have also heard "clear your mind," I'd like to clarify that it's okay to have thoughts pop into your head. By "letting it go," you're allowing a thought to pop up in your mind, but also allowing it to disappear just as quickly as it came. Try not to dwell on any thoughts in particular. See if you can turn down the volume on any thoughts that pop up in the first place.

If you're having trouble, start at the beginning and bring your attention back to your breath. Don't try to change it, just bring your thoughts there. Feel your body fill up as it inhales, feel it contract as it exhales. You can also choose an emotion to inhale and exhale. Inhale love, exhale everything that gets in the way. Inhale confidence, exhale doubt. Inhale strength, exhale fear. Anything that resonates with you and helps you feel empowered to focus on your breath.

On more difficult days, I find myself talking myself down. "You're not supposed to be thinking about anything, what's wrong with you?" Or even just a general feeling of disappointment or discouragement that I wasn't able to control myself. Instead of thinking negatively, however, consider it a win that you noticed your thoughts at all. Feel good about the fact that you caught your brain off guard in the first place. Each time you do that, you're bringing yourself closer and closer to consciousness.

If you've tried several rounds attempting to bring attention to your breath and are still unable to clear your thoughts, try embracing the feeling of "Yes." You can't stop thinking about what you're doing later today? Just say "Yes" to that thought and move on. If you need to, choose to sit with your breath and that thought simultaneously without dwelling. Sometimes it's just too hard to completely clear your mind, but saying "Yes" will only get you closer. Don't give your negative mind something to argue with. "No" thoughts will only bring you deeper into that thought spiral.

And of course there are always guided meditations! Those are also a great place to start. Don't feel discouraged if you find meditation difficult at first as this is truly something that takes practice. You also don't have to meditate for very long. Try 5-10 minutes right before bed or first thing in the morning (before your morning pages!) and increase the time as you continue your meditation practice.

The more you're able to clear your mind when you meditate and focus on Self, the more you'll be able to do this during normal day-to-day life. Each time you meditate, you're one step closer to consciousness.