Mindfulness Practice. The art of being – How to meditate for beginners.
Posted by Bart on October 23, 2014 at 2:45pm
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You often hear people who say they can’t meditate. They don’t realize that EVERYBODY can meditate. If you can feel your breath and watch your mind then you are already a potential master in meditation.
So, first of all, what IS meditation?
Meditating is paying attention in a certain way. Meditation is not something that we do, it’s a state of being.
It’s common to see grandiose claims of mystical states and read about activations in the pineal gland and all that jazz but the problem here is that if we EXPECT those things to happen just because now we are meditating we will set ourselves up for a big disappointment.
In meditation every state is a special state, every moment a special moment, each in-breath a new beginning, each out-breath a letting go. Fully present, here and now. You could say meditation is the direct opposite of taking things for granted.
The key thing here is that we should remember that meditation is about being. This means that we don’t meditate to get anywhere else, we meditate to see with clarity where we are already standing.
Interesting things happen when we do this. Suddenly our thoughts and emotions don’t undergo any of our habitual resistance. It can very much seem like the mind is going out of control the moment you decide to meditate. This is actually not true.
When we meditate we actually become more aware of our mind and it’s habits. If meditation teaches us one thing it’s the fact that the mind has a mind of it’s own.
We are addicted to thoughts, it is a habit so tenacious that even something as simple as paying attention to our breathing will prove difficult. When we never stop to listen, the mind can be like this 24 hours a day without us being aware of it at all. In the blink of an eye judging other people, criticizing our experiences and analyzing our feelings, trying to keep it together, to remain in control.
This should actually be THE motivating factor to keep practicing, because surely, such a huge influence in our lives is worth paying attention to.
When you think about it your live and how you spend your time depends on it...
If we don’t stop to get to familiar with the present moment we will be running in circles at best without any direction or purpose. Where we are right here, right now, is the only thing real. The past is a thought arising in the present and so is the future. What is more those thoughts get colored by our current emotional state so it is never accurate, think of a person with depression thinking about his future, it’s almost never good, but more importantly, it isn’t true. We can get stuck in this way.
We might end up spending our whole life’s trapped inside our heads waiting for some better future or preferable condition to come while never appreciating the gifts and opportunities that are given to us in the present moment.
The only way to actually LIVE your live is to be there for it. If we are always habitually planning the future we won’t be in the present to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
So, you might ask; “This is all well and good but how do we quiet the mind down and accept what is there?”
1. Stop trying to. Trying to stop your mind (which is what many think meditation is) will get you nothing but a headache.
2. A deliberate conscious effort of prolonged concentration upon a desired object. The sensations that are felt when breathing are the most ideal for this purpose, but you can also pick sounds, bodily sensations or any other non-distracting object if you desire.
3. Suspend judgment. This is a very important part of getting into the being mode instead of the doing mode.
It’s a very subtle, yet profound change in the way we pay attention to things.
Instead of our habit to categorize everything into likes and dislikes, criticizing ourselves and trying to get somewhere we are not we STOP and instead of responding with resistance or striving we are witnessing what is happening.
What this means is: You suspend judging yourself and your experience. It is in our nature to judge and to have opinions, and it IS bound to happen, also in meditation. If that happens then just be aware of the judging itself. Even judgement about judging yourselves can be observed in meditation, you don’t have to respond to it.
The important thing here is that instead of coloring our experience with likes and dislikes we have the opportunity to tap our experience at it’s source. We can see it for excactly what it is.
This implies noticing thoughts as "thoughts" and whether they are good or bad you notice them, because they are there.
You might get a thought like: “I’m doing this all wrong! Damn why can’t I even do THIS? I’m no good... I might as well give up.”
Such a thought can and will bring us down but when we have stopped our judging and response we can notice it, think to ourselves: “Oh, lost in thought right there, experiencing the usual negative chatter. Now back to the breath”
In this way instead of the thought itself being automatically identified with and going with that whole drama about “I’m not good enough and this and that” we see it for what it actually is. A thought, nothing more and nothing less. It is not us or even a part of us in any way and we can let it go.
Meditation always starts with concentration, this will slow down your mind. You can begin by paying attention to your breath, it's always with you, you always breathe so you always have the "next breath" to pay attention to. Think of it as an anchor to keep you in the present moment.
Breath naturally, don't fiddle with it and pay attention to the next in breath, how does it feel? Where do you feel it? Really identify how that breath is entering your body. The sensations that occur and the length of time it takes to flow in. Do you struggle? Notice the struggling, how does "struggling" feel? Try to really "feel" each in breath and out breath, where are you feeling the sensations of skin moving as air enters your body? What thoughts are crossing your mind at that time? Do this without any judgment, anything including good or bad is welcome because IT IS THERE.
Try to think of yourself here as a witness, rather then a player, watching a well oiled machine doing it’s job. Completely neutral.
You will find that even paying attention to the breath is not easy and you get lost in thought. Noticing you get lost in thought is a really great sign of progress. You don't need to feel bad about that; it doesn't mean you "can't" meditate.
Even the greatest of Zen masters get lost in thought. The key is noticing you are lost, observing what is on your mind and then simply paying attention to the next breath.
For posture I advice an erect spine and a position that feels comfortable, try to avoid paying attention to the body or doing the "right" (judgment!) thing, the important thing here is the concentration and suspending of judgment.
Just pay attention to what is happening. This will automatically improve your concentration and when you have acquired enough skill, from that concentration meditation will spring naturally.
Do this 10 minutes a day and you will have a great source of peace, tranquility and health. The best part is, once you get good at it you can enter the space of being anywhere, any time. You will have access to much greater control of your mind and by using the breath which is always with you you have a solid anchor to ground you in the present and stop a negative thought pattern.
10 minutes a day, your mind will thank you for it!
Good luck to all of you and share your results!
Some days I get a few minutes in the Loo. Or when I go to sleep. At some point, I stopped 'visualizing,' like everyone told me to do....and started breathing, and letting my mind go. it works so much better that way.
Breathing is important... :-)