How to Meditate

by Charles Day

Meditation helps you think, speak, and act more effectively and joyfully by training the mind to focus and to let go of unwanted and unnecessary thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. It is used to relax, reduce stress, manage pain, and promote personal and spiritual growth. Scientific research consistently shows it benefits (1) physical and psychological health, (2) relationships with family and others, (3) job performance and satisfaction, (4) academic grades and intelligence scores, (5) artistic, creative, and athletic skills, and (6) self-confidence, happiness, and peace. It also benefits but is not a substitute for therapy. The technique of observing the breath is used in all religions

*Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor, and keep your head, neck, and back straight to assist in body relaxation, ease of breathing, and staying alert while relaxed.
*Close your eyes and focus your attention on the sensations of breath experienced in and around the rim of your nose or, if you prefer, in the rising and falling of the abdomen or chest. Breathe naturally and observe the changing sensations of each in-breath and each out-breath in your chosen area for as long as possible.
*When your attention wanders to sounds, thoughts, feelings, images, or other body sensations, gently let go of them and return your attention to your breathing.
*When the time you allow for meditation has passed, stop focusing on the breath and wait thirty seconds or more before slowly opening your eyes and returning to ordinary activity. Open your eyes slightly to check the time or use a quiet timer or alarm. _______________________________

*Start by meditating 15, 20, or up to 60 minutes once or twice daily. Or meditate for only a few minutes whenever you find the time. Or meditate just to relax when sick, tired, or stressed. Establishing a regular practice may take awhile.
*Decide how long each meditation will be before beginning it to keep the mind from thinking about time or reacting to what comes up by stopping the meditation.
*If feeling the actual physical sensations of breath is difficult, just be aware of breathing in and breathing out while keeping the attention on the chosen area.
*Sounds, thoughts, feelings, drowsiness, restlessness, and doubts about the value of meditation are not problems. Just let go of them and return to the breath. Just as the heart beats, the mind thinks, and so it wanders, at times often or for long periods.
*It’s OK if thoughts float like clouds in the background if the focus stays on the breath.
*Other effective meditations use as a focus mentally repeating words (e.g., “relaxing,” “letting go” or sacred words), prayer, counting breaths, body sensations, imagery, sounds, music, chanting, slow specific movements (e.g., Tai Chi or Qi Gong), etc.
*Simply observing and returning to the breath, while sitting comfortably, minimizes physical and mental activity and trains the mind to focus and to let go of negative and distracting thoughts, feelings, and sensations. It is perhaps the oldest, most popular meditation used today to promote psychological and spiritual happiness and peace.

Click here to download this handout written by Charlie Day.