With these basics, you’ll be certain to have a successful meditation.
As a society we’re so busy trying to accomplish and do things, we often forget or skip the fundamentals of stuff we’re working on. The same is true for meditation. My partner, Ula, kindly reminded me of this the other day. That said, I thought I’d quickly review some of the basics to consider before and while meditating to help cultivate a solid meditation practice. With these in place you’ll be properly prepared to get the most of your practice.
Audio version of this blog post + meditation.
How you sit and being comfortable while you are meditating is very important. Both sitting on the floor with crossed legs or normally on a chair is fine. While lying down isn’t forbidden, sitting up usually is better to maintain sharp mental awareness. If you’re sitting on the floor, using a cushion or block is easier to sit up straight, especially for those with tight hips. Sitting up straight with a slight bend is generally most comfortable when sitting for long periods. I find a slight bend in my neck feels natural as well. Using a wall to lean against is also fine for beginners or for people with back issues. As for your hands, I recommend keeping them together between your crossed legs or on your lap.
I’d also urge you not to move too much when meditating, but if you must, no problem. It is just a best practice. The most important thing for now is sitting in a comfortable position. Early in your meditation journey, if you’re struggling to sit comfortably, it will only take away from focusing on actually meditating.
Your physical and mental state
Before and while meditating it is best to be relaxed both mentally and physically. Taking a few deep, slow breaths can often help calm your mind before meditating. As for your body, giving yourself a good shake, head to toe, plus finding a comfortable sitting position can remove the physical tension present. Once relaxed and sitting comfortably, you’re ready to meditate.
That said, if you’re feeling stressed or anxious, meditating is a perfect way to break that mental state and to find some inner peace.
A calm environment is helpful for all levels of meditators. For new meditators, a peaceful space is helpful to avoid distractions. For more seasoned meditators, a calm surrounding is ideal for deeper meditation. While a quiet environment to meditate isn’t always available, it should be made a priority when possible.
For the type of meditation we’re doing via MeditateYear, our breath is a fundamental component so it is important we review this as well. For Anapana meditation, using your normal breath is perfect. The key is to use your normal breath, the same breath that you always have as your mental anchor. Keeping your mental attention on one thing is hard enough so keeping your breath simple is important. Only if you can’t feel the sensation of your breath coming in and out, is it recommended to take a few harder breaths (more forceful, stronger breaths) so your mental awareness can catch the exact spot where your breath comes in and out. Once your mental awareness catches the spot where you feel the breath coming in and out, you can slowly go back to your normal breath. Now you should be able to feel the sensation of your normal breath coming in and out at that same spot.
“We should be less attached to the result and more interested in the level of effort we put into our practice.”
The other important item to discuss about your breath is the area to limit your mental awareness when focusing on your breath. To start it is best to focus your mental awareness only from the bridge of your nose, between your eyes, down to the top part of your upper lip. Just that triangle area. This includes the inside of your nose, the skin between your nostrils and the top of your lip and the rim of your nose. Anywhere in that entire triangular region. It is fine if you feel the sensation of your breath through one nostril only.
Last, but not least is mental focus. While your meditation practice will help you develop focus, it is important to start your practice mentally alert and try to maintain your focus while you practice. Without mental alertness you’re either day dreaming or sleeping. While this happens to all meditators and it shouldn’t be looked down upon, this isn’t meditation. So it is important to enter your practice calm but focused and aim to do your best to maintain this mental state throughout your practice.
With these basics in place, no matter the state of our minds during our practice, it will be a success. Even when we do our best and come prepared to take a test, sometimes our grade doesn’t reflect our effort or desired outcome. This doesn’t mean our effort goes to waste. We still learned something. The same goes for meditation. We should be less attached to the result and more interested in the level of effort we put into our practice. Overtime this effort will pay off and we’ll find the peace, focus and happiness we’re all seeking.