Life is crazy, no doubt. With the hectic pace and demands we face every day, many people feel stressed and over-worked. It often feels like there is just not enough time in the day to get everything done. Our stress and tiredness make us unhappy, impatient and frustrated. It hurts our relationships. It can even affect our health. We are often so busy we feel there is no time to stop and meditate! But meditation actually gives you more time by making your mind calmer and more focused. A short and simple breathing meditation can help you to overcome your stress and find some inner peace and balance.
Meditation can also help us to understand our own mind. We can learn how to transform our mind from negative to positive, from disturbed to peaceful, from anxious to calm, from unhappy to happy. Overcoming negative minds and growing positive thoughts is the purpose of meditating. This is a profound spiritual practice you can enjoy throughout the day, not just while seated in meditation.
We will go through some of the very basics of a breathing meditation. This is the one that I use. I find it to be simple and yet, still provides good results. Anyone can benefit from the meditation given here. It is very relaxing and it has helped me greatly. For a list of benefits to meditation, you can read the previous article here.
BASIC BREATHING MEDITATION
Generally, the purpose of breathing meditation is to calm the mind and develop inner peace. You can use breathing meditations alone or as a preliminary practice to reduce your distractions before engaging in a more advanced meditation exercise. I use breathing meditation- that’s it. It works for me. It may work for you, too. Here are the simple steps:
- Find a quiet place and get comfortable
The first part of meditation is to stop distractions and make your mind clearer and more lucid. This can be accomplished by practicing a simple breathing meditation. Start by finding a quiet, serene place to practice your daily meditation. Next, choose a meditation posture that suits you. You can sit in the traditional cross-legged posture or in any other position that is comfortable. You can sit on a chair, cushion or bench, but try to sit up straight. You will need to pay particular attention to your back. Maintain alignment without being super rigid about it.
- Release tension from your body
Once you’ve found your posture, check in with how your body feels. Are you tense? If you are, you can either observe your tensions or invite them to loosen up, gently. I actually start at the top of my body and purposely relax all my muscles and work my way down to my feet. As far as the eyes go, you can leave them open or closed. If you leave them open, try to find something to focus on- not the dust on the table or the dirt under the bed- something simple. While some traditions encourage people who meditate to practice with their eyes closed, you can keep them half open with your gaze directed down and in front of you. Having the eyes open helps with alertness. Another advantage is that as meditation becomes a regular practice, there won’t be such a distinct difference between mindfulness on the cushion and mindfulness in your daily life. As for me, I keep mine partly open. But, do what makes you most comfortable.
Pay attention to what you hear, the sensations flowing through your body, how it feels to sit there, what thoughts are wandering through your mind. Be present without judging your experience. If you start to think, “JUST FOCUS”, you are defeating the purpose. Don’t stress about it, just feel it.
- Breathe…and keep breathing
Your breathing should come naturally – don’t force it. Don’t worry whether it is slow, deep or consistent. Don’t attempt to control your breathing, just be aware of it. Over time, as your mind calms down, so does the breath. Take the time to observe your breath, noticing the quality and rhythm of respiration. As you focus on your breathing, your mind will probably start wandering. This is perfectly normal, and it’s great that you’ve become aware of it. Once you notice that your mind has wandered, let the thoughts pass and gently bring your attention back to the object of your meditation: your breath. You should try to concentrate on it to the exclusion of everything else.
At first, your mind will be very busy, and you might even feel that the meditation is making your mind busier; but in reality, you are just becoming more aware of how busy your mind actually is. There will be a great temptation to follow the different thoughts as they arise, but you should resist this and remain focused single-pointedly on the sensation of your breath. If you discover that your mind has wandered and is following your thoughts, you should immediately return it to the breath. You should repeat this as many times as necessary until the mind settles on the breath.
It is pretty common to experience restlessness or a moment of discomfort during the beginning stages of your meditation breathing. This is simply the body’s way of either releasing built up stress and tension or resisting the relaxation because it is so used to being high-strung and on-the-go. It may take some time for your mind to realize that it is okay to slow down, especially if you are always “going”. Rest assured that if you stick with it, the benefits will be worthwhile as you become calmer, more comfortable and more confident each day you practice.
Meditation breathing techniques are the most important part of the meditating process. If you begin to feel bored with the basic breath focus method, there are more advanced meditation breathing techniques available for practice. Personally, I enjoy the simplicity of basic breath meditation. The more you meditate the deeper you will be able to go into relaxation and the more benefits you will receive. If you are new to the practice of meditation, this simple breath focus technique is an excellent starting point for you.
Here are a few random tips that I have learned while on my meditation journey:
- Don’t meditate after a big meal. I literally fell asleep once. Crazy.
- If you drink a lot of water, make sure to go to the bathroom before getting started. Trying to focus doesn’t work when you have to pee.
- Put your phone on silent (this should be an obvious one, but I forgot once, ugh.)
- Start short- try for 10 minutes. There is no award for going longer.
- RELAX- After all, that is the point.