Monthly Studio Theme for August: Meditation
Meditation can be done simply. You don’t need to have any equipment. You don’t need to learn any fancy techniques or esoteric language. All you need to do is to bring stillness to your body and invite your mind to be still and simply pay attention. Bringing stillness to your mind is hard, but it’s worth the effort.
What can meditation do for you? For one, it can help you with stress-management. Yes! Who doesn’t need help there? Meditation cultivates focus on what is real right now. If you are stressed, what is real right now? Right - your stress! Your feelings are part of the reality of you right now. Meditation helps you to see yourself as you are. No judgment. No labels. No diagnosis. No blame. Just be aware. As you come to be familiar with what stress is like for you, you can begin to put it into some perspective. You acknowledge your stress, and you acknowledge everything else that is part of you. Meditation can help you to see that you are more than your stress. Your stress doesn’t have to take over your life. You can find those other aspects of your self – the self the world needs you to be. First, you need the awareness.
Here is a very basic meditation to try:
Begin with an appropriate posture. This has nothing to do with manners. Nobody is going to judge you for how you sit, but you want a posture that you can sustain for 20 minutes or more. Slumping or sprawling taxes your back and this will distract you. You can sit in a chair or on a cushion. Start with a straight back, roll your shoulders away from your ears, and let the crown of your head rise. If you are sitting on a cushion, you should cross your legs in a comfortable manner. Try to keep any strain out of your knees. If you are on a chair, you want your feet flat on the floor. (If your feet don’t reach the floor, see the cushion instructions.) Your hands can rest on your knees or you can fold them in your lap.
Now that you have your posture, take a deep, cleansing breath and let it out. Gently close your eyes. (After you’ve read this.) Breathe normally and pay attention to this breath. Your mind is going to wander. This is what minds do. Meditation is a way to train your mind so that it can focus. Focus now on your breath. Do this by counting. Inhale – exhale – 1. Inhale – exhale – 2. Inhale – exhale – 3.
There is no prize for counting up to ten or twenty or 130. There is no penalty if you never make it to 2. Counting your breath is only a device. Think of it as a platform on which you can rest your mind. When your mind starts to wander – and it will – bring it back to this platform and start counting again. Inhale – exhale – 1. Inhale – exhale – 2. You’ll have to catch your mind and bring it back several times before you’re done. Don’t worry about this. Remember that counting isn’t the point. The experience of meditation is its own goal. That experience can include the counting; it will include a wandering mind, and it should include your effort to bring your mind back to a platform of focus.
Meditate for as long as it feels right. There are two qualifications here. First, you should try to meditate for at least 15-20 minutes. Again, there are no prizes if you meditate for an hour or more. There is, however, research and anecdotal evidence to suggest that meditating for less than 15 minutes doesn’t do much for you.
Be gentle with yourself when you meditate. Meditation is practice. You’re not in any competition. There’s nothing to achieve. You’re just extending an invitation to your mind to settle down and pay attention. Remember that your mind is going to wander. This is okay. The practice is the adventure.