Sit preferably in a comfortable but straight-backed chair, close your eyes and fold your hands in your lap.
Take three deep breaths, and then breathe normally for a few moments. Then begin focusing on the air coming in and leaving your nostrils.
Focus your breathing from the diaphragm (in the area around your belly button).
Notice the brief pause in between each inhalation and the exhalation.
Keep your mind focused totally on your breathing – in, pause, out, pause.
You’ll notice at the beginning of meditating your breath may be shorter, and when you become more relaxed it will become longer.
Just keep noticing the breath without judging yourself at all.
When you are meditating you may notice that you have thoughts – just notice them, let them go and return to your breathing. We cannot get rid of all the thoughts in our head, so accept them, and just notice them come and go without latching on to them.
When you are meditating you may be aware that you have emotions – just notice them, let them go and return to your breathing.
When you are meditating you may hear noises, or sounds, and unless there is something alarming that you need to attend to you just notice them, and return to the breathing.
If you pay attention to that barking dog you are thinking and then your emotions kick in with annoyance or anger and you cease to observe your breathing and then you are out of your meditation. Observe the noise and treat it as just a sound, and then return to the breathing.
Some experienced meditators have told me that they can meditate with quite a high level of noise going on around them. They are just not paying attention to it.
While you are meditating you may have physical sensations – just notice these, let them go, and return to your breathing.
Keep on doing this until the session is up and then gently bring yourself back to your present situation.
If your mind wanders
It is the nature of the mind to be active and to wander. Someone has estimated that we have 40-60,000 thoughts a day, so we can’t stop all these. Meditation is a discipline and in this type of meditation you learn to focus on your breath so when you notice you are thinking, just gently bring your attention back to your breath – again and again.
Some people give up on meditation because they believe their mind should be totally empty of thoughts, and when they can’t achieve this they get frustrated and stop.
Meditation is not about having a totally empty head, devoid of all thoughts, but be aware that if your mind wanders off into thoughts for a few minutes you are thinking, and if you doze off you are sleeping – not meditating!
Don’t judge yourself for doing this; patiently bring your mind back to the breathing, and eventually you will gain more discipline over your mind.
Start with 5 minutes a day for the first week, and then 10, 15 and 20 minutes a week. You can build up to more if you wish but work up to 20 minutes a day which would be a good start towards calming your mind and body.
There is so much more to meditation than can be expressed here and I would recommend reading the book ‘Mindfulness in Plain English’ by Bhante Henepola Gunratana, published by Wisdom Press.
Mindfulness – a little different from meditation
With mindfulness, when you are not sitting in a chair and meditating, you are mindfully observing what is going on. Focus your whole attention on what is at hand. Be curious as if it were the first time this experience ever happened.
Keep your attention on whatever is happening at that moment. For example if you are eating lunch, focus entirely on chewing your sandwich or whatever you are eating. Most often you will notice that you are eating your lunch, listening to the radio, carrying on a conversation with someone on your mobile or one to one, and perhaps trying to read the paper as well!
Multi-tasking is often not a great idea and is usually mindless behavior.
If we really thought about it, most of the time we behave in a mindless way. That is we do not pay full attention to others when we speak to them or listen to them. We are often thinking of something else or doing something else at the same time.
I’ve noticed that many parents do not really listen to their children or they are not really with the child most of the time. I see parents in a play park with their child or children and they are on their mobile most or all of the time, while the child is ignored. This is not mindful behavior.
So when your attention wanders from your experience of the present moment, patiently bring it back. If you find that you have been mindless, don’t start beating yourself up. Just return to doing one thing mindfully, for example, listening mindfully to the other person and over a period of time you will grow accustomed to being “in the moment”. Your mind will be much clearer, and you will be relating to your friends, your family, yourself, your food and to your environment in a more mindful way.