My Friend: Okay, I have been trying to get this meditation thing right and I don’t know my mind just wanders.
Me: Okay so, the mind wanders, that’s what it does why are you fighting it.
My Friend: Because they say you are supposed to clear your mind for meditating and my mind won’t quit. I don’t know, I can’t do this meditation thing.
Me: “So do you want to meditate”, I asked her.
My Friend: Ah yeah, that’s why we’re hear talking about this.
Me: Ok so then first thing, stop saying you can’t do it when doing it is what you want. Telling yourself you can not do something is like grabbing the keys in one hand to unlock the door, while at the same time using your other hand to mask it shut. Now cut it out!
What followed was a guided exploration to stillness, using the body and the environment as anchors. I have used this method many times with a diverse group of people; and in many settings, such as individual coaching clients via telephone conferencing, men and women in substance abuse treatment, as well as, group workshops for educators. I have also used this method with my own children, whose ages are four and six. One reason the process works is that it removes the idea that mediation involves sitting for an amount of time, and consists of clearing the mind. This method also eliminates many of the precepts that surround the practice of meditation, and places you within a space of openness about the process without burdensome expectations. Here are the 7 steps to make your meditation session the relaxing experience that it is intended to be.
Step 1: Preplanning
As with most things the way you prepare for an event, or rather the things you say to yourself in your head about the event greatly impacts your experiencing of that event. Meditation is no different in this regard. Meditation at its root means awareness. It is a uniquely individualized experience. So before you begin your moments, or minutes of meditation make sure your attitude about the process is supportive of your intent. Let go of the mental images that you have of what meditation looks like, feels like, or is supposed to be. Evaluate your personal intentions, and desires with questions like: Why am I doing this? and What do I hope to gain?
Step 2: Setting the Stage
Okay, now that you’ve gotten your mind right, and are open to whatever this process will allow its time to set the stage. Find a comfortable place to sit where you will not be disturbed. It can be in a chair, on the floor, in your closet, or outside. If you prefer, you could even lie down. The point here is to find a location, and a time of day where you will not be bothered by other people, or distracted by outside factors, like your cell phone for example. To aide the process, you could play soothing meditative music, light a candle, or tantalize your sense of smell with essential oils, like lavender or lemongrass.
Step 3: Getting Into Position
Go ahead and take a seat either in a chair or on the floor. Make sure that you are sitting comfortably and try to elongate your back as much as possible. Begin to notice the sounds, smells, and sensations around you. Close your eyes and sustain your awareness of all the sensory data that is noticed. Allow your thoughts to come and go as they wish.
Step 4: Warming Up
Place your hand on your chest, and feel the rhythmic beat of your heart. Take as long, or as short of time as you want to synchronize your whole self with the heartbeat. As you feel it, acknowledge the work of your heart center as the precious gift of life, which persists without any effort on your part.
Step 5: Breathing
Once you have established a conscious connection with the beating of your heart, begin to notice your breathing. You can at this point move your hand away from your heart, or continue to hold it in place if you like. Become aware of what is happening in your nose, your throat, your chest, and your body as you breathe. Focus on the natural inhalation, and exhalation that is taking place as a result of your breathing. Know that what you are feeling, hearing, and attending to at this moment is your unique self-afforded to you at birth, and sustained throughout the course of your life.
Step 6: The Mind
When thoughts enter your mind, do not engage them. Understand that what you are thinking are just thoughts and become the observer of your thoughts. As you become aware of your thoughts refrain from making judgments, or taking action. So for example, you may have a thought about something from work, maybe an upcoming meeting. Instead of grabbing a hold over the thought, and following it up with another thought, just acknowledge its presence, and let it go. By applying this concept of “thought observation” during meditation, you are increasing your ability to focus in your day-to-day life. Continuing sitting in your space of total awareness for as long as you choose.
Step 7: Purposeful Gradual Ending
Before ending your meditation experience, add a single word like “Love” or “Peace”. It could be a word that you have thought of beforehand, or something that comes to you as you are finishing up. Perhaps the noticing of the heartbeat brought about feelings of gratitude, and you decide “Thank-you,” is an appropriate ending for your session. Some people may want to include a mantra, or a familiar power word that appeals to them. When you select your word, recite it silently three times. Whatever meaning the word garners for you feel it entering your body and surrounding your space. Start to notice the physical world around you-where your feet make contact with the floor, how your hands and arms are positioned, and the sounds and smells around you. When you are ready, slowly open your eyes.
These seven meditation steps are a great starting point if you are new to meditation. With practice and patience, you will begin to receive the physical and mental benefits of meditation.