Sitting is the most commonly recommended posture for meditation. There are a number of classic seated poses: Easy Seated Pose: sitting cross-legged on the floor; sitting in Half Lotus or Lotus position; or kneeling in "Japanese-style". Sitting in a chair with your legs uncrossed and your feet flat on the floor also works and is often the best choice for beginners. It is most important that your spine remains erect and that you feel steady, relaxed and comfortable. To maximize comfort when sitting cross-legged on the floor, place a cushion or folded blanket or towel under your buttocks to elevate them and gently guide your knees down toward the floor. This helps support the natural lumbar curve of the lower back. Relax your arms and place your hands on your thighs or in your lap, with the palms in a relaxed position either facing up or down. Roll your shoulders back and down and gently lift the chest. Keep your neck long and the chin tilted slightly downward. Depending on which technique you are following, the eyes may be opened or closed. Breathing is natural and free.
This is a moving style of meditation - highly recommended by many teachers. You walk slowly and consciously, each step becoming your focal point. Destination, distance and pace are all incidental. Relax your arms at your sides and move freely, coordinating your breath with your steps. For instance, you might breathe in for 3 steps and breathe out for 3 steps. Or you can just breathe freely. Although you can practice walking meditation anywhere, try to choose a setting you like - the beach, a favorite park or a meadow. Getting somewhere is not the purpose; rather the complete involvement in the act of walking becomes your meditation.
Hatha yoga is also a form of moving meditation, where mind and body are united by conscious awareness. Every pose takes concentration. Yoga integrates and harmonizes the mind and body through visualization, breathing, and movement. Tai chi and dance can also be used as moving meditations.
This is another meditation that is often recommended for those who find sitting difficult, and martial artists find that it builds physical, mental and spiritual strength. Stand with your feet hip-to-shoulder-distance apart. Knees are soft, arms rest comfortably at your sides. Your whole body should be aligned in good posture; shoulders rolled back and down, chest open, neck long, head floating on top and chin parallel to the floor. Either keep your eyes opened or softly close them.
Even though lying down is associated with relaxation, the classic corpse pose is also used for meditation. Lie down on your back with your arms at your sides, palms facing upward. Touch your heels together and allow the feet to fall away from one another completely relaxed. Place yourself in a symmetrical and comfortable position with the appropriate support under your head and knees if needed. Your eyes may be opened or closed; although it is easier to stay awake with your eyes open. This position entails a greater degree of alertness to remain awake and focused. Therefore, beginners may find it more difficult to meditate in this position without falling asleep.
Hatha yoga students are most often introduced to meditation through the Corpse Pose which is done at the conclusion of each practice session. This pose brings about deep relaxation, as the body is still, yet passively alert and fully supported by the floor. In this pose, muscles relax and lengthen, passive breathing - necessary in all postures - takes over, and quiet concentration builds.
Concentration meditation is the focusing of the mind upon a single subject. Through this attentiveness, the mind is united with the present moment. The subject that is chosen for attention will differ according to the meditation style, but the objective of sustaining a focus remains the same. The intention is to cultivate an undistracted and undivided attentiveness. The subject that is chosen serves as a steady anchor, a lifeline amidst the swirls of thoughts, images and sensations. It is a place to continually and gently return to each time you become lost or entangled in the streams of activity that pass through your mind. The sustaining of the focus upon a single object requires both perseverance and patience as you are faced again and again with the habitual wandering of the mind as it departs into past and future. It is not willpower or striving that enables you to penetrate this habit but practice, consistency and the right spirit of dedication and acceptance. Any attempt to resist or push away the thoughts that arise will only increase their intensity. A gentle but consistent returning of the attention to the selected focus is the way to bring the mind to calmness.
Concentration focus subjects:
Mantra yoga employs the use of a particular sound, phrase, prayer or affirmation as a point of focus. Traditionally, you can only receive a mantra from a teacher, one who knows you and your particular needs. Transcendental Meditation (TM) espouses the practice of mantra yoga. If you choose to meditate on a sound, you can create your own mantra - silently or audibly repeating the word or phrase that is calming to you, such as "Om", "peace", "love", or "joy". Affirmations also work: "I am relaxed" or "I am calm and alert" are good. Think "I am" as you breathe in and "relaxed" or "calm and alert" as you breathe out. Once you have chosen a mantra, do not change it. A chant involves both rhythm and pitch; either in Sanskrit or reciting a meaningful prayer or affirmation in any language. Using a tape of chants or listening to a relaxing piece of music are also options.
Imagery or Visualization:
This involves visualizing an object such as a flower, a meadow, the ocean, a clear sky, a calm lake, a blank movie screen, or a chosen deity. Any object can be used; pick an image that gives you a relaxed, quiet feeling. With your eyes closed, visualize that image until you experience a quiet feeling. Then gently let go of the image - let it dissolve - and let the quiet feeling remain as long as you can. Go back to your image as often as you need to in order to remain still. Be careful that you don't get so involved in the image that your mind gets carried away by memories and perceptions associated with that image.
You can also focus on one of the body's chakras, or centers of primary energy, for your meditation subject to enhance the energy associated with that chakra. The Saturn chakra is at the base of the spine and is the source of dormant or coiled energy. The Jupiter chakra is behind the lower abdomen and is the source of creative energy and passion. The Mars chakra is behind the navel and is the source of action energy. The Venus chakra is behind the heart and is the source of compassionate energy and emotion. The Mercury chakra is in the throat and is the source of communication energy. The Sun chakra is on the forehead between the eyebrows and is also called the "Third Eye". It is the source of perceptive energy, unclouded thinking and intuition. The Thousand Petalled Lotus chakra is at the crown of the head. It is the source of enlightenment energy, bliss and self-realization.
This involves using the breath as a point of focus such as observing the breath as it is without changing it in anyway. You do this by observing every nuance of the breath and each sensation it produces: how it moves in your abdomen and torso, how it feels as it moves in and out of your nose, its quality, its temperature, and so on. Though you are fully aware of all these details, you don't dwell on them or judge them in any way; you remain detached from what you're observing. Or you may mentally think "in" while being aware of the breath coming in the nostrils and "out" while being aware of the breath leaving out of the nostrils. Then shift to simply observing the breath, noticing its own natural rhythm and its movement in your torso. By using earplugs you can increase your concentration on the sound of your breath.
Another way to observe the breath is to count it. Breathe in for 3 to 7 counts and breathe out for the same length of time. Another way to count breaths is to count breathing cycles. Inhale normally and then count on the exhale. Count up to 4 then start over. Or count the breaths from one to ten and then start again. Do this by inhaling and mentally counting one, then exhaling and counting two. Begin again when you reach ten.
This involves focusing on a physical sensation such as how hot or cold your hands feel, or on a particular emotion or any area of discomfort you feel. Whatever you choose remains your point of focus for the whole practice. Observing a physical sensation - becoming keenly aware of all its intricacies and yet remaining detached - can be more challenging than observing the breath.
Mindfulness meditation is slightly different from concentration practice; although it does hold within it an element of concentration. Where concentration practice is exclusive, focusing upon a single object while excluding other aspects of your experience, mindfulness meditation is inclusive. Your body, mind, feelings, mental states, perceptions, sounds and sights are all equally embraced. Whatever is happening in any moment invites the application of mindfulness meditation; without judgement or preference. Mindfulness is concerned not with just thinking about the present moment but also with the intention to understand what is actually taking place beneath your concepts, thoughts or ideas of what is occurring. In mindfulness meditation the focus of attention will shift in accord with the moment-to-moment changes that occur in your experience.
Choose a time - morning, evening, or whenever you can rely upon not being interrupted. Find a place - as secluded, simple and quiet as possible. Choose whatever position you find most comfortable. It is important to be as comfortable as possible so you won't be distracted by any discomfort. Wear socks and cover yourself with a blanket if you need to so you won't get cold. Decide on your point of focus. Whichever posture and method you choose, stick with them for the duration of your meditation period. Decide how long you plan to spend on your meditation - 10, 20, 30, 45 minutes or whatever you decide. You can place a clock or watch where you can glance at it occasionally to keep track of the time. Or, if glancing at a clock periodically is too distracting, you can set a timer. Try to use a timer with a gentle ring and without a loud tick; or put it under a pillow to muffle the sound so it doesn't distract you or startle you awake when the time is up.
Begin by bringing your attention to your breathing. Breathing is a key element in meditation and concentration. Begin with a few minutes of deep abdominal breathing to provide your brain with plenty of oxygen. Become aware of any tension in any part of your body and consciously relax it. Let your exhalations carry out any tension or anxiety you're feeling now, and use them throughout your meditation to expel any tension or anxiety that comes up. Then slow your breathing down, keeping it rhythmical, inhaling for 3 seconds and then exhaling for 3 seconds.
Proceed on to your meditation using whichever method you have previously decided upon. Do not be surprised or discouraged by how frequently your thoughts wander. When you realize that your mind has become distracted, simply return to your chosen point of focus. Continue for the length of time you decided upon at the beginning of your session. Do not leap right up out of meditation. Come out slowly. Take 3 to 5 deep abdominal breaths. Open your eyes and slowly get up. Then go about your day with renewed energy and happiness.
You can practice meditation at any time of the day by remembering the feeling of meditation and also by reminding yourself to notice what is happening right now. Try to become completely aware of this second. Try to live in the moment.
Breath Counting Meditation:
Place yourself in a comfortable position so that you will have as few distracting signals from your body as possible; sitting, lying on the floor, or standing. Closing the eyes shuts out more distractions. Take a few slow deep breaths. Now start counting silently each time you breathe out. Count "one" for the first breath, "two" for the second,"three" for the third,"four" for the fourth and then start with "one" again. Keep repeating this procedure until the time is up. The goal is to be doing simply that and nothing more. If other thoughts come in, simply accept the fact that you are straying from the instructions and bring yourself gently and firmly back to the counting. A variation on this is to include an "and" between the counts to "fill up" the space between exhalations.
This is one of the most widely used forms of meditation. It consists of a word, phrase or sentence repeated over and over and over again. The basic goal is to be doing one thing at a time, in this case repeating your mantra and being aware of your mantra and only that. Start by finding a comfortable position. Close your eyes, if you like. Take a few deep, slow, breaths. Then start repeating your word or phrase. Do this either aloud or silently to yourself. Keep trying to think of your mantra and nothing else. Keep bringing yourself back to the task and trying to involve yourself more and more in it. Find a rhythm that seems natural to you and stay with it. Continue in this way for the set time
Essentially this meditation is learning to look at something actively, dynamically, alertly, but without words. Pick an object to work with (generally it is best to start with a natural object, such as a shell, pebble or twig etc.) and look at it the same way as if you were feeling it. Really look at it, learn it by eye. Take the object and hold it or place it at a comfortable eye range and just look at it. Do not stare at one point on the object. Treat it as a fascinating new continent you are exploring nonverbally. When your mind wanders, or you find yourself translating your perception into words; gently return it to simply contemplating the object. Continue in this way for the set time. It is a good idea to stay with the same object for several weeks at a time before changing to some other object.
Meditating on a lit candle is a very old practice. It is gentle and calming. It is also a comparatively easy introduction to the art of concentration. Sit erect on the floor or in a chair, having placed the candle a short distance in front of you where you can see it clearly. Gaze steadily at the candle flame for two or three minutes, noting first of all its outline - how steady it is, how it flickers - and the colors in the flame. As you begin to feel connected with the visual object, let your eyes close and sustain the visual impression of the candle in your mind. In the beginning you may only be able to do this for a few moments before the visual impression becomes vague or lost. When this happens open your eyes once more and bring your gaze to rest again upon the candle in front of you. You may need to do this many times before you find you are able to retain the visual
impression of the candle within your mind for longer periods. Continue in this way for the set time.
The Meditation of the Thousand-Petaled Lotus:
The basis of this meditation is the idea of the lotus with a thousand petals symbolizing that everything is connected to everything else. The center of the lotus is any word, idea, object or event you may choose. Each of the petals symbolizes the connection between the center and something else. Select something you'd like to meditate upon. It is preferable to select something that creates positive feelings for you. Words like: "flower", "love", "peace", "light", "color", "home" etc. After you have chosen the center word, get comfortable and contemplate it and wait. Presently your first association to it comes to you. Contemplate the connection between the two words for about 3 or 4 seconds. You either understand the reason for the association or you do not. In either case you do nothing more than regard the two words for a few seconds. Then return to the center word and wait for the next association and repeat the procedure. Continue for the length of time you have planned. This meditation often leads to surprising insights about yourself.
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