Getting Started Meditating
While on the outside it looks like people who meditate are just sitting there with their eyes closed, a lot is going on under the surface. Meditation, while accessible and learnable by pretty much anyone, is more difficult to perform than it looks. How long can you sit around with you’re a single thought, let alone sit around without any clear or concrete thoughts? The wildness of the mind is tough to tame, and in the West we have even more stumbling blocks when it comes to practicing meditation for more than a minute at a time.
For starters, westerners love to be busy, to be active, to always be moving. Westerners like to be active and to keep doing things, rather than allowing things to happen to them. We just aren’t huge fans of being passive or seemingly inactive. We tend to feel bored and restless when we spend even a short passage of time inactive. In addition, we tend to like things that are easily measurable. We’re control freaks, and like the saying goes- what gets measured gets managed. Unfortunately for that impulse, meditation isn’t really about keeping score. It’s just not a competition.
With that out of the way, it’s important that I reiterate that you really can learn how to meditate, despite the cultural baggage that might make it a little more difficult. Plenty of super-type As meditate every day, and if they can learn, so can you.
When you start to learn to meditate, it’s important that you take the proper preliminary steps. First, you want to find someplace that’s as quiet as possible. You don’t want to have a TV running, you don’t want to have a computer screen tempting you, you don’t want your cell phone sitting there next to you or have pop music waiting for you on your iPod. You want to find somewhere quiet, where you can be alone, away from the constant media deluge.
Once you find someplace quiet and private where you can be alone and uninterrupted, you want to get into a comfortable seated position. You don’t need to try and imitate the traditional yogi lotus position or anything like that- just get into a comfortable position that you can hold for a little while. You’ll be sitting here for up to 20 minutes, so above all, get comfortable, whether in a chair or a cushion or simply on the floor.
Focus on one single thing. It can be a repeating sound, it can be a single word, it can be a certain feeling or image, and it can be an object like a candle or a part of your body like the bridge of your nose. It can even be a single, simple (relaxing) thought. Whatever it is, focus on it and let all other concerns and images and thoughts drift by like a passing cloud.
As you continue to focus, you need to allow yourself to sink into a trance state. This is simply a state wherein you are aware by accepting, conscious by passive. To put it simply, you need to let go of everything and sink into the feeling. Negative or otherwise distracting thoughts will enter your brain, and it’s important not to force them to leave as that is too active. Instead, simply relax when they arrive, passively acknowledge and accept them, and then let them pass along.
Try and maintain this state as long as possible. You might only be able to maintain it for a minute or so at a time, but dedicate a full twenty minutes to the practice. When you leave the state, simply fall back into it. Try to work up to spending all twenty minutes meditating, but don’t kick yourself if you don’t achieve this in your very first sitting session.