Here is a list of steps you can do for a simple type of meditation.
- Sit quietly in a quiet place where you will not be interrupted.
- Make sure you sit comfortably.
- Take deep breaths in and out while counting slowly from 1 to 5, and then exhale while you count. Repeat this several times.
- Relax your body and try to relax.
In this way, you can go into a more quiet and relaxed state of mind.
Meditation – Attention
Start directing your attention to the following:
- Scan the physical sensations in your body, starting with your feet.
- What do you feel in your feet, your legs, abdomen, chest, hands, arms, head?
- Pay attention to your breathing, heart beat, feel the flow of blood in your body.
- Do you feel tired or refreshed? Hungry? Do you need to go to the bathroom? Do you feel an itch? Is there some physical pain or sore muscles?
- Are you cold or hot? Do you sit upright or bent? Are you comfortable or not?
- If you notice that some of your muscles are tense then try to relax them gently. But if there is an itch or a mild pain, don’t be tempted to do something about it. Just observe it. Notice that when you observe them, they get slightly stronger, but if you wait for a while, they usually gradually vanish.
- Pay attention to all the sensory inputs
- What are all the details that you see? Colors, textures, objects, light and shadow
- What do you hear? What are the voices from the other room, from the air-conditioning, a ticking of the clock you’d normally not notice, sounds from the street from birds or cars
- What do you smell? Where does it come from?
- What is the taste inside your mouth?
- What do you feel touching you? How does the touch of your clothes feel on your skin? How does the chair you sit on feel under you? Perhaps there is a gust of wind on your skin?
- Notice your feelings and emotions.
- What do you feel now? Joy? Frustration? Annoyance? Relief? Sadness? Love? Anger? Calmness? Agitation? Excitement? Fear?
- Pay attention to thoughts that appear in your mind. Don’t linger on them.
- Try to be a “witness”, as if you sit on the side and watch your thoughts as they appear and disappear, just like clouds floating in the sky.
Continuously practicing this exercise brings us an experience of an “observing witness”, where we observe our physical sensations and internal mental objects from the side without identifying with any of them, but letting them appear in our mind and then gently disappear.
Focus on breathing
The previous meditation was with open eyes, but usually meditation is done with closed eyes, to help us concentrate on all the sensory inputs except vision, and on internal sensations and mental objects. You can simply focus on your breathing. Try to focus on the air that goes into the nostrils and goes out, or on your abdomen and chest as they slowly inhale and exhale.
When a thought appears, our mind automatically starts identifying with it and pays full attention to it, and then additional thoughts, imaginations, and memories appear. So you might fall into this trap for a few seconds until you suddenly notice your mind is wandering. This is a bit like waking up from daydreaming, and then you realize you’re not doing the exercise you’re supposed to be doing, namely paying attention to your breathing. When this happens, gently let the thought pass and re-direct your focus on your breathing. Repeat this again and again.
Thanks to this exercise, you will notice how restless your mind is, and how new thoughts constantly appear out of nowhere, thoughts that have absolutely nothing to do with the present moment. This is how the mind works. Even if you decide to have full attention for one minute only on your breathing with no thoughts, you will not be able to succeed. But that’s ok, because practicing meditation will help you strengthen your “mental muscle” and ability to catch yourself wandering after your thoughts and refocusing on the present moment.
Sometimes the mind is so restless that it is so difficult for us to sit and concentrate, especially when we are new to meditation practice. So if might help you to listen to a recording of a guided meditation,where you hear a pleasant soothing music and a voice that guides you to breath, relax your body, and so on. Even if your focus starts wandering and you forget to focus on your breathing, the voice in the recording will wake you up and remind you. You can find lots of guided meditations on youtube.
Meditation during action
You don’t have to meditate while sitting. You can also meditate while doing other activities such as walking slowly in a garden or on the street, or riding a bus or taking a shower. Pay attention to your breathing, to sensations in your body, to thoughts in your mind, to what’s happening around you. While eating, eat slowly, paying close attention to the tastes in your mouth, to the textures you feel on your tongue, to the feelings in your throat.
Washing dishes is a good opportunity for practicing being present in the moment. Usually when you wash dishes, you don’t need to consciously think very much about the action, as you can do it successfully almost automatically. So while you do it, you can focus on the flow of water, how it looks like, the feeling on your skin, the temperature, the sound of the running water, bubbles of soap, reflections of light on cups and dishes. When you really focus on it, it actually becomes quite fascinating, like a very high quality 3D virtual reality game. Doing this exercise is also pleasant because finally there is a break from the constant stream of troubling thoughts, and our mind is filled with the direct and unmediated experience of sensations.
The benefits of meditation
Read about it here.