Beginning a Meditation Practice
At the turn of the year, many of us decide to incorporate a new practice into our lives. We decided
that this year will be the year that we are healthier, stronger, more organised, less stressed. But
often by the time February rolls around we’ve slid back into old patterns and what we’re left with is
a feeling of regret and annoyance that we weren’t able to keep our resolutions. Whether you set
New Year goals or not, the beginning of the year is as good a time as any to begin something new.
This year, why not invite a meditation practice into your routine?
For many, the idea of starting a meditation practice is daunting. The word ‘meditation’ often
conjures up images of ash-covered sadhus sat in caves, perfectly still monks clad in orange robes or
the endless recitation of long, complex mantras. Fortunately for us, there are many other, simpler
ways to introduce meditation into your life.
The benefits of meditation are vast – a reduction of stress and anxiety, improved concentration, lower blood pressure, greater self-awareness and even increased compassion and kindness. If (like me) you operate from a position of scepticism then you may also be interested to know that Harvard Medical School has produced a significant amount of research proving the effect of mindfulness and meditation, even alluding to the possibility that different techniques do in fact produce different chemical and neurobiological results. (For more on this, check out this article)
So we understand why meditation is useful, but how to begin practising it? Often the mistake
beginner’s make is that they try to ‘empty’ their mind of thoughts, and many people believe that if their mind is not quiet then they aren’t meditating. This isn’t true! Meditation is the act of
concentration and observation rather than trying to rid your mind of thoughts, and like anything else this will take a certain amount of practice. We don’t expect to perform certain asanas at first attempt, nor do we believe we can instantly play a new instrument or speak a new language. These things take time, practice, and a certain amount of dedication. Meditation is no different. By beginning small and simple, you will rapidly begin to reap the rewards of your practice, and over time meditation becomes far more accessible.
Here I’ve outlined 5 basic techniques to get you started and remember, you don’t need to sit for hours at a time. Consistency is far more important than duration, particularly when you are just starting out, so try instead to dedicate 5-10 minutes a day, 4-5 times a week. When you’re ready, you can gradually increase duration and frequency. Set yourself up somewhere quiet with minimal distractions (yes, that means turning your phone off!) and sit comfortably. If sitting on the floor isn’t
inviting, try propping yourself up with cushions, sitting on a chair or even lying down. Your comfort is paramount! Begin with any of the following techniques and try them all until you find one that resonates with you. Good luck and happy meditating!
Follow your inhale and exhale into and out of the body. Notice where you feel the breath move to, the rise and fall of the chest and belly and the sensation around the nostrils. Maybe see if you can focus on the sound or temperature of the breath. If it helps, you can also try counting the breaths up to 10, and then back down to 1. If you lose count, go back to the beginning and train your focus.
Bring your awareness from your toes all the way up to the crown of your head, and back down. Try to move your concentration slowly between body parts, observing any sensations at each point. Consciously relax or soften any noticeable areas of tension.
LOVING KINDNESS (METTA BHAVANA)
Metta Bhavana translates roughly as ‘cultivation of love’. In this Buddhist meditation technique, we try to foster feelings of love, compassion and kindness to all beings. Begin by cultivating these feelings for yourself, and then imagine sending love to a close friend, to a person you find difficult and finally a person you are neutral towards. Generate equal feelings for all four people and imagine extending your love towards them.
Japa is recitation. You can choose a simple mantra (in Sanskrit, English, or your own language), and verbally or mentally recite it. A good mantra to start with is ‘OM’, the sound of the divine.
THIRD EYE MEDITATION
Bring your awareness to your third eye, the space between the eyebrows (also known as Ajna Chakra or the seat of intuition). Keep drawing your focus back to that one space, and observe any colours, patterns or images that arise.
If you’re interested in learning more about this ancient practice, why not join me at Shree Hari Yoga for unique yoga teacher training opportunities geared specifically towards meditation? We are currently offering a variety of 100-hour courses, alongside the traditional 200 and 300-hour YTTC courses. Discover our website for more information on Meditation TTC.
Blog writer: Polly Butler / firstname.lastname@example.org