Even though meditation is a deep and never ending subject, with a multitude of techniques and practices that can be tailored to very specific outcomes and goals, I often find that the simplest techniques are the most powerful. Meditation techniques for beginners are usually deceptively simple and it’s easy to forget just how profound these very easy sounding instructions can be.
There is no great mystery to meditation, it really is a case of just stop procrastinating and start doing the practice. Before we get to a few free meditation techniques though, lets talk a little about the purpose of meditation.
Often, people think the idea of meditating is to block out the stress of daily life. To “turn off” the mind and cut out reality. In fact, meditation is pretty much the opposite. Good technique will allow you to open up to life fully, to understand the stresses and emotions and root causes of what you are going through and to accept them. The great advantage of meditation is that, through practice, you will be able to pre-empt your reaction to many of life’s challenges and by doing so, become less attached and less caught up in the heat of the moment. understanding why you react to a situation with anger will allow you to almost feel the moment before you get angry, accept that you are and let it go. You will also start to find the places between the thoughts and emotions. The points of stillness and calm. Being aware of these moments gives you great strength because you come to realise that even in the moments of great stress, there are points of pure calm; yin and yang.
There are a few key points to any meditation practice – try to follow these as you start your meditation:
- Stay comfortable – a little physical discomfort is part and parcel of meditation, partially because you will suddenly become aware of all the little aches and pains and tensions you never knew you had and partly because you will be sitting still for longer than you normally do and don’t realise how many minor adjustments you make in your posture on a moment by moment basis. Try to stay comfortable and keep relaxed.
- Make a routine – to start with, it is best to set aside a specific time and place for your meditation and follow through with it each day. It takes five days to start building a habit, but once you get over the initial hurdle, you will find it easier to stick with it. Setting asside the same time every day to do your meditation will help you form the habit.
- Start small – if you are a beginner, there is no way you’ll be able to sit for 30 minutes or an hour right off the bat. Start small. Five minutes a day for a week. Then gradually increase. Aim to build up to 30 minutes a day over the course of a year.
- Persist – meditation is a long term practice. Results are rarely seen overnight. Give it time, commit to it and do the practice.
- Detach - once you’ve decided to meditate, forget about measuring the benefits, at least in the beginning. This can be counter productive. Instead, just enjoy the journey and detach from the destination.
Now to the actual technique of meditation. Physically you can choose to stand, sit or lie down. Most people choose to sit when starting out. Lying down is physically a little easier than sitting because it allows you to relax a little more quickly, but it also makes it very easy to drop off to sleep while you are in the middle of your meditation. Standing up meditation techniques can the most tricky physically, because it requires the most residual muscle use.
So to keep things simple, lets choose to sit down. I like to use a straight backed chair and sit a little forward on it so my back is not against the back rest. You can sit cross-legged on the floor, using a zafu meditation cushion or stool or kneeling in zazen if you prefer, but to start with, for total beginners, sitting on a chair will be the easiest.
Find yourself a quit time of day and set up your meditation space – low lighting, maybe some incense or essential oils to help keep you in the right frame of mind.
For our first beginners meditation technique, we are going to concentrate on our posture. This is an ideal first meditation and the perfect place to start if you’ve never done any meditation before. Practice this for five minutes every day for a week and then come back for more. Set a timer for five minutes so you don’t constantly check the clock. If you have a timer with a soft chime to bring you back from your meditation, all the better.
Set comfortably a little forward on the chair, back free of the backrest. Rest your hands on your thighs or take a more traditional pose with them in your lap. Close your eyes. Imagine a very fine thread pulling your head up from the centre of the top of your skull. This is in fact a very important actupucture point called Bai Hui.
Feel your spine stretching gently as you head raises up a little. You should feel as if you head is floating a little and each vertebrae gets a little more space between itself and it’s neighbours. As your attention slowly goes down your spine gently elongating each vertebra, come to your tailbone and then feel your buttocks on the chair. Feel yourself sitting squarely, weight evenly distributed on your sitting bones, and then feel your tailbone gently pulling down into the ground.
The juxtaposition of the top of the head gently rising and the tailbone gently sinking creates a lovely gentle stretch to the spine. There are two very important acupuncture channels running along the back – the Bladder meridian on either side of the spine and the Du meridian directly on the spine. These two channels both allow acupuncturists to directly stimulate and bring qi to all the other meridians in the body. So keeping a good relaxed, but slightly stretched posture will have a beneficial effect on these meridians as well.
When you have completed going through the basic posture of the spine, bring your attention to your forehead. Feel it relax and soften from the middle of the forehead (the third eye – an important chackra and accupuncture point). The feeling is almost as if you are smiling with your forehead. Now concentrate on your mouth. Feel a light smile on your lips. Last bring your mind to your chest. Like the forehead, feel it relax and soften. These three things (forehead, mouth, chest) are sometimes called “the three smiles“.
From the chest move your mind to your shoulders and allow the trapezius to relax. Run your mind down each arm relax the biceps, triceps and forearms. Let your mind linger a little in the hands. Feel your fingers gently relaxing.
Now drop your mind into your belly. Let it relax. We aren’t on the beach. We aren’t in our bikinis. We don’t have to suck it in. Let your belly hang. Reaching the bottom of the belly run your mind gently down your ingiunal crease (the area around your groin in front of your hips) and let that area relax, move your mind into your buttocks and let them relax and then go down each leg in turn, allowing them to relax.
End in your feet. Feel the ground beneath them. Let the toes stretch slightly.
If your timer hasn’t gone off yet, then start again at the head and go through the alignments and relaxation again. When your timer goes and your five minutes are up, put your attention into your belly for a few seconds and then gently, slowly, open your eyes.
That’s it. Pretty simple isn’t it? We’ve covered a nice easy meditation technique for complete novices and beginners. Next time I’ll outline the next steps in the meditation.