Everyday Ways to Practice Meditation
Here are twelve ways you can practice meditation on your own, whenever you choose. Take a few minutes or as much time as you like.
1. Regularity: Set aside the same time or times each day for your meditation. It is a good practice to meditate at the same hours every day. Routine conditions the mind. You’ll find yourself wanting to meditate whenever those hours return. It will be much easier, then, to set all distractions aside. Recommended are dawn (just after awakening), twilight, high noon, and midnight. Another time is in the evening, just before bedtime. It’s also easier to meditate on an empty stomach (2-3 hours after meals).
2. Exercise: If you have time, exercise a little before you meditate. Yoga postures are an excellent way to relax the body and mind before meditation. Paramhansa Yogananda’s Energization Exercises are also highly recommended.
3. Location: Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Wear loose-fitting clothing and sit cross-legged on a chair or cushion, or on the floor. If you have time constraints, set an alarm to ring softly. Set aside a room, or small part of a room, just for meditation. Try to find as quiet a spot as possible; if this is difficult, try using foam earplugs or headphones to block out the noise. Be sure the room is not stuffy and a little on the cool side; a blanket or shawl to wrap up in is nice.
4. Sitting: Keep your back, neck, and head straight. Leave your eyes unfocused. Get comfortable and relaxed and minimize movement. One of the most important aspects of sitting meditation is to be able to sit comfortably, without an aching back, or legs hurting or going to sleep. If you are in pain or great discomfort, the only thing you will be meditating on is that! Options for sitting are in a chair, or on a meditation bench, or on a pillow on the floor. Most westerners are not trained from birth to sitting comfortably on a hard floor. So a chair is probably best for most of us, beginners or otherwise-and many very great meditators with many years experience use a chair or stool for their meditations. It is not a sign of a lack of meditative ability if you are unable to sit in the lotus posture or any other floor sitting position. Protect yourself from the downward pull of earth currents by sitting on some natural fiber, like a wool or silk blanket or piece of cloth placed on your meditation chair, bench, or cushion. Sit Erect! Whether you sit on a meditation bench, pillow, or on a chair, keep your back straight, chest raised, head erect, eyes closed, and hands resting palms upturned in your lap, preferably at the juncture of the thighs and abdomen.
Scan Your Body
5. Scan your body. When using this technique, focus attention on different parts of your body. Become aware of your body’s various sensations, whether that’s pain, tension, warmth, or relaxation. Combine body scanning with breathing exercises and imagine breathing heat or relaxation into and out of different parts of your body. Relax by focusing your attention on your relaxing each part of your body from the toes to the head. Start with your toes, feet and slowly move up your body, next do your legs, hips, stomach, chest, shoulders, back, arms, neck, face, and head. Ensure each part of your body is relaxed before you move on to the next. When you are relaxed, focus your attention on your breathing.
Breathe From Your Belly
6. Breathe from your belly, not your chest. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Try to become aware of your breathing, fixing your attention on the inhalation and exhalation, how the air feels entering and exiting your body.
Close Your Eyes and Relax
7. Close your eyes and relax. Slowly focus all your attention on your natural breathing. Notice how it feels, sounds, how fast you are breathing as well as any pauses, and changes that you feel in your breathing. The main point here is to focus completely on your breathing only. You may begin your meditation by saying a prayer either out loud or inwardly. Then practice the breathing exercises to relax: Inhale, tense the whole body, then throw the breath out and relax (do this 2 or 3 times). Then do some measured breathing: inhale, hold, and exhale, then begin again. Do this 6-12 times. Choose a count that is comfortable for you; anywhere from 6-6-6-6 to 12-12-12, or higher. Afterward, relax and breathe normally, and become aware of your breath.
Repeat a Sacred Name or Phrase
8. Repeat a sacred name or phrase. A mantra is the name of a sacred deity or a sacred phrase that you repeat silently or aloud. You can create your own mantra. Mantras are the building blocks of transcendental meditation. Examples of religious mantras include a Jesus prayer in the Christian tradition, the holy name of God in Judaism, or the Om mantra of Hinduism, Buddhism, and other Eastern religions. Now concentrate your thought on the spot between your eyebrows. Focus your mind on this spot. Then take whatever your special theme is, and place it in this spot. Any theme which is peaceful for you to contemplate is acceptable. Perhaps you have a favorite line of poetry, a scenic view you love, or a calming word or phrase. Center your mind on this spot for as long as you can. The idea of sticking to one Mantra only is to accustom the mind to its sound pattern, in order to engrave its grooves in the subconscious, as it were. The choice may be made by oneself, such as in this case between Om and Soham. Experience alone will tell you, given enough time, if a Mantra is suitable to one’s psychological make-up through a sense of harmony with it, or not. There is no rule that a Mantra cannot be changed if the mind resists it. The preference of receiving initiation from a Guru is personal but there is no dogma that to repeat a Mantra one has to be initiated into it. Sensible teachers try to find out the psychological inclination of the student before giving a Mantra, rather than perfunctorily superimpose one with a dubious understanding that the former can know what is appropriate for the latter just by sensing the vibrations. Gurudev Swami Sivananda, never urged anyone to receive Mantra-initiation from him but, if someone came to him for it, he generally enquired about the preference. Whereas a Mantra should not be treated frivolously by revealing it to just anybody, to make a top-secret of it is rather silly. All Mantras can be found in books. Some Christians have even made a Yogic combination by deciding on “Om Jesus” as a Mantra.
Goal of Meditation
9. The goal of meditation is to become fully aware of the present moment. As you breathe, watch your thoughts come and go. Don’t fixate on any idea, thought, or memory. Simply take note of them and let them fade. If you get distracted, retrain your focus on your breathing. If you feel that you start thinking about something else, slowly move your focus back to your breathing. It will become easier to keep focus through time and practice. You should feel more relaxed now. Remember to hold the body still. You can mentally check it from time to time to see that no part becomes tense again. Physical tension is a great deterrent to calm and deep meditations. Be very silent and relaxed, yet aware.
Meditate with Joy
10. Meditate with joy, with devotion. Do not wait for God’s joy to make you joyful, be joyful first yourself! Meditation will help you to remember, on ever-deepening levels, of whom and what you truly are. You are a child of God, and one with the Infinite Light.
11. How long? Do not set unrealistic goals for yourself. It is better to meditate 5-15 minutes and be very consistent with your practice, and then increase your time as you can. One longer meditation each week can be very helpful. It also helps to meditate with other people, especially with those who have been meditating longer than you. You’ll find that group meditations will often help you to meditate longer than you normally would on your own.
Ending a Meditation
12. Ending a Meditation: Do not end the meditation session abruptly but rather stay relaxed with your eyes closed for a couple of minutes and slowly reflect on how you are feeling. You should feel calmer than when you started your meditation process.
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