Meditation brings out perfectionism very easily and rapidly. It’s known as a lofty and noble activity with many famous figures associated with it. This alone gives it a certain cachet. Meditation is very popular nowadays and as with anything that’s good for us, we want to get it right. Whether it’s exercise, weight control, healthy eating or emotional intelligence there’s a performance factor attached. This gives rise to fear, self-doubt, guilt, procrastination and inner criticism.
It may be some relief to know that meditation is not performance-based. It’s unlike those other things that are good for us. Meditation is a natural state, evidenced by the fact that the brainwaves associated with it are already generated by the brain spontaneously. Kids, poets, writers, artists, athletes, lovers all experience meditative states frequently.
When we don’t know it’s happening or it’s part of another activity, we’re relaxed about it. As soon as we make time and space for meditation, however, conditioning kicks in. It’s time to dial back all this built-in pressure!
Thoughts are the challenge most people face in meditation. There’s misunderstanding about the place of thoughts in meditation and what to do about them. This is all you need to know:
In meditation leave your front door and back door open. Let thoughts come and go. Just don’t serve them tea.
— Shunryu Suzuki
The other challenge is silence and stillness. Silence is uncomfortable for most, and stillness seems foreign. There isn’t a nifty quote for these. Meditation does have a learning curve and with a little self-kindness sitting quietly becomes rewarding.
What’s tremendously helpful with all meditation challenges are the fundamentals. These start with posture.
- Sit on an armless, straight-back chair.
- Sit in a way that’s self-supported (not leaning back against the chair).
- Plant feet flat on the floor.
- Align head, neck and body aligned.
- Keep the spine upright and alert.
- Place your hands upturned on your thighs.
- Let all your muscles be relaxed.
- Close your eyes.
Correct posture ensures stability, comfort and an enhanced experience.
Now, allow your awareness to drop down into your body. This counterbalances the vast amount of time we spend in our head. For however long you sit, at least for that duration you can vacate your head space.
The breath is an excellent anchor for meditation. The body is already breathing. It has always been breathing and it will continue to breathe. The breath is always there, wherever you are.
Let the breath flow on its own without regulating it in any manner. As you breathe in, be aware of breathing in, and as you breathe out, be aware of breathing out.
Notice the breath in the belly. Notice the belly expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale. Stay with these sensations. When the mind wanders off, return to the breath in the belly.
Sit still and breathe for up to twenty minutes or less.
Put labels and expectations aside. No one is going to grade you; you’re not giving a performance. There isn’t an accomplishment or goal; nothing to pursue or supervise.
You’re simply paying attention to the breath in the belly as it occurs all by itself.
In our modern world, we are consumed from morning till night with endless activity. We do not have much time or energy left over to consider the basic causes of our happiness or suffering. We imagine, more or less consciously, that if we undertake more activities we will have more experiences and therefore our sense of dissatisfaction will fade away. But the truth is that many of us continue to feel let down and frustrated by our contemporary lifestyle.
The aim of meditation is to transform the mind. Every one of us has a mind and every one of us can work on it.
— Matthieu Ricard
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Authentic Japanese Reiki Master Teacher / Healer at my Oasis Reiki Dojo – Available globally. Meditation, Healing, and Spirituality training and services. Meditation Guide. Intuitive Coach. Spirituality Writer. Photographer. Poet. Artist. Dad. Plant-based.