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How to Meditate

Namaste. There are many ways to meditate. They all seem to lead to the same place, so find one that suits you. On this page are three methods of meditation. Here I describe a classic meditation that is simple and easy.

Mantras: A mantra is a sound, word, or phrase that is repeated to yourself. It could be spoken aloud, as a chant, or silently, as in meditation. Many people think that the best mantras are sounds which have no clear meaning, and are used as a way of displacing your usual thoughts and moving your awareness inward. There are many mantras ranging from words taken from Hindu Sanskrit to Christian scripture (especially when saying the Saint Frances prayer or the rosary where the repetition of the prayer is meditative). If you do not already know of a good mantra to use I suggest you use "Om" or "hamsa." This is a natural mantra, being the sound that one makes when breathing, with "ham" (h-ah-m) on inhalation and "sa" (s-ah) on exhalation.

Directions for the hamsa meditation:

I have found the following techniques deepen my experience. You will certainly find your own as well. These techniques are secondary and may be omitted entirely or added later:

During meditation your business is simple awareness, nothing else. It is a time to connect to your inner Source and let go of the things and roles we get caught up in: work, parenting, concerns and responsibilities. It may be that your meditation is peaceful, or it may be fretful and full of obsessive thought. Regardless, daily meditation will have a positive effect on your life.

Benefits of Meditation: The benefits are unique for each person, but both physiological and psychological balancing is common. Some of the benefits of meditation will be realized quickly, and others over many months, so don't be discouraged. After a few weeks of regular daily meditation you will start to notice that your concentration gets better, there are less thoughts, and you have moments of real peace and stillness.

When to Meditate: I recommend that a person meditate twice a day. Before breakfast and before dinner are ideal. (The digestive system often shuts down during meditation, so a full stomach may result in indigestion.) Remember, whatever happens is OK. It's OK to fall asleep or to not become relaxed, OK to laugh or cry, OK to be, or not to be, in an altered state, OK if the mantra doesn't follow the breath as I have suggested, or even goes away altogether. What is important is that you have an intention to think the mantra during your meditation. In short, don't try to control it! For 20 minutes, twice a day, JUST BE!

Questions and comments: The most common question I get when I teach someone to meditate is "What do you mean by - think the mantra gently and easily?" My best answer is an analogy. When you read you take the effort to look at the page, to focus on the page and the words. And you intend to discern the meaning of the words. That is usually enough and the meaning comes without much effort, yet there is some effort involved. Thinking the mantra is similar in that you direct a similar level of effort (which is very little, yet it is there) toward thinking the mantra. You do not force yourself, brow furrowed, to think the mantra to the exclusion of all else. Just let it come, and if that is not enough, then encourage your mind to think it with a small effort.

You might experience irritating itches on the body or discomfort in your knees. If this happens, try to keep your body relaxed without moving and keep focusing on your mantra. You will probably have many intruding thoughts coming into your mind and distracting your attention from the mantra. The only way you can deal with this problem is to patiently keep returning your attention to the mantra. If you keep doing this, eventually thoughts will weaken, your concentration will become stronger and you will have moments of deep mental calm and inner peace.

If you are tired when you meditate you may fall asleep. Regardless, do not use meditation as a sleep aid. If you have insomnia, just meditate during the day and the insomnia will probably take care of itself.

"Sitting comfortably" to meditate does not mean cross-legged. If that is comfortable for you, you can meditate in that position. However, sitting with your feet flat on the floor, erect but comfortable in a chair, is just as good. Don't lie down.

I suggest that you re-read this occasionally, it contains lots of information.

How to sit Zazen (Zen meditation)

Sitting zazen with our eyes focused on the hard wood floor, the polish reflects the falling snow outside the window. We watch our breath passing through our body. We are aware of the present moment.

Sit on the forward third of a chair or cushion.

Arrange your legs in a position you can maintain comfortably. In the half-lotus position, place your left leg on your right thigh (or vice versa). In the full-lotus position , put your feet on opposite thighs. In the Burmese position, tuck both your feet together near your crotch. You may also sit simply with your legs tucked in close to your body, but be sure that your weight is distributed evenly on three points: Both of your knees on the ground and your buttocks on the round cushion. On a chair, keep your knees apart about the width of your shoulders, feet firmly planted on the floor.

Sit straight up but not rigid. Straighten and extend your spine, keeping it naturally upright, centering your balance in the lower abdomen. Chest back, stomach in. Imagine a straight vertical line through your nose to your navel. Sway your body gently from left to right, until you naturally come to a point of stillness on your cushion. Tighten your "hara" the area about 2 inches below your navel.

Look to the floor about 3 to 4 feet in front of your body, eyes neither fully opened nor closed. If the eyes are closed, you might start to daydream or visualize things.

Place your hands on your lap with the one palm up and your other hand (palm up) resting on your lower hand, thumb-tips lightly touching, forming a horizontal oval. This is the mudra of zazen, in which all things are unified. Place the sides of the little fingers against your abdomen, a few inches below the navel, harmonizing your center of gravity with the mudra. Place your concentration there, or if you grow drowsy, concentrate your attention on your forehead between your eyes.

Take three breaths, inhaling with the stomach going out instead of just expanding the chest, then exhale fully. Let your breath settle into its natural rhythm. With proper physical posture, your breathing will flow naturally into your lower abdomen.

Sit still and begin to count your breathing, 1 on the inhale, 2 on the exhale, etc up to 10, then start over. Getting to 10 is not the point, if you can't keep track up to 10 (many beginners can't -- it's surprisingly difficult) count as high as you can, even if it is only 3 or 4, and start over. If you lose count or get to 10, start over. Keep counting.

Be attentive to everything: your count, your breathing, the sounds and smells and feelings around you. At the end of your sitting period, gently sway your body from right to left. Stretch out your legs; be sure they have feeling before standing.

Practice every day for at least ten to fifteen minutes (preferably 20).

How to sit Mindfulness of Breathing meditation

Just follow these easy steps: the four Ps are place, posture, practice and problems. First, find a suitable place, perhaps a room that is not too noisy and where you are not likely to do disturbed. Second, sit in a comfortable posture. A good posture is to sit with your legs folded, a pillow under your buttocks, your back straight, the hands nestled in the lap and the eyes closed. Alternatively, you can sit in a chair as long as you keep your back straight.

Next comes the actual practice itself. As you sit quietly with your eyes closed you focus your attention on the in and out movement of the breath. This can be done by counting the breaths or watching the rise and fall of the abdomen. When this is done, certain problems and difficulties will arise.

You might experience irritating itches on the body or discomfort in the knees. If this happens, try to keep the body relaxed without moving and keep focusing on the breath. You will probably have many intruding thoughts coming into your mind and distracting your attention from the breath. The only way you can deal with this problem is to patiently keep returning your attention to the breath. If you keep doing this, eventually thoughts will weaken, your concentration will become stronger and you will have moments of deep mental calm and inner peace.

Practice this meditation for 15 minutes every day for a week and then extend the time by 5 minutes each week until you are meditating for 45 minutes.

Aum Mani Padmé Hum or Om Mani Padmé Hung
"The All is a precious jewel in the lotus flower which blooms in my heart". (92k .wav file)

Om Gate Gate Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha
        meaning (depending on the translation):
"Om Beyond, Beyond, the Great Beyond, Beyond that Beyond, to Thee Homage" or
"Om gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond; praise to enlightenment" or
"Om Beyond, beyond, totally beyond, perfectly beyond: Awakening ....Yes!".

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