This is a guest post by Ben Stanford, a massage therapist since 2003. He is currently practicing at Tall Tree Integrated Health Clinic located in Victoria, BC. His scope of interests include yoga, hot stone therapy, acupressure, physiotherapy, Thai massage, Reiki, applied kinesiology, meditation, and of course all things related to good health!
Practical tips in the transition into meditation
What do we mean when we say meditation and mindfulness? It does not refer to a particular state of mind or the content of your thoughts, but rather an attitude toward the experience. A phrase I often find helpful is “awareness of the present experience, with acceptance”.
The key to engaging in meditation practice is finding the right kind of effort. Most of us will discover just how rapid the mind is when we attempt to meditate. If we try too hard, the mind rebels but if we are too loose or relaxed, the mind never sustains attention. An optimal balance can be found through trial and error.
Practical tips for meditation
If you choose to sit up use a chair or you can use a cushion or meditation bench. Sit with a straight spine, this posture will help you with paying attention and increasing your alertness. You can sit with two knees on the ground with your buttocks on the cushion or place one foot on the floor just in front of the other without crossing them with your hands on your lap. If you also attend a yoga studio, these can help with flexibility. The idea is to find a posture that feels comfortable and relaxed.
Once you are sitting in a comfortable position, close your eyes – you will notice you are already breathing. For the first five minutes bring your attention to the sensations of your breath. Try bringing your attention to the rising and falling of your belly that accompanies each inhalation and exhalation. See if you can observe your breath through the entire cycle. Breathe to a point where your lungs feel comfortably full and then release until your lungs are empty. You are simply paying attention to the sensations of your breath and what is happening at this exact moment in time.
You will soon find your attention wanders, you may find your mind leaves during your breath focus – this is perfectly normal. When you notice it happening, gently return your focus back on your breath. You may have to do this every several seconds when you’re first starting out as the mind has not been trained to maintain lengthy focus.
Once you have completed your set time, open your eyes and take a few minutes to experience your environment.
Close your eyes again and notice the sensation of your body in contact with the cushion or the ground, anywhere your body touches another object. Notice how these sensations are made of hundreds of smaller sensations built together. Explore these with your eyes closed for a few minutes.
Now, turn your awareness to the wind and air that surrounds you, observe the sensations on your skin, face, hands and other body parts. Notice where the air feels cool or warm. Breathe in and out gently as you notice these sensations.
When you are successful with five minutes of meditation, slowly increase it to 10, and then try 15, and then 20 minutes. Once you are attaining longer periods of meditation, congratulate yourself on your progress.
Each of us may have different experiences from mindfulness meditation – take a few minutes to jot down what you noticed during your meditative experience, and congratulate yourself for taking the time to dedicate to meditation practice.