There are hundreds of different meditation techniques, which can be confusing for someone who is new to mediation and does not know where to start.
If you would like a simple practice that will bring calm and clarity into your daily life, I would recommend concentration on breathing meditation. It is an ancient Buddhist technique.
I love it for its simplicity and all the benefits I receive from it. A consistent daily meditation using this technique will bring more peace, clarity, creativity, wisdom, inspiration and, as a result, happiness into your life.
You can meditate anywhere, anytime. For longer sessions, a quiet place is preferable, as it will allow a higher concentration resulting in a deeper meditation.
Finding a quiet place can be challenging. One of the solutions is waking up 15-30 minutes earlier. Although sacrificing that sleep time can be painful at the beginning, meditation will allow you to start your day in a peaceful, clear state of mind. You will love the way you feel and will very soon see that it is well worth it. Besides, your brain is resting during meditation.
My favorite place to meditate is my bedroom, however, I have successfully meditated while on a bus, on a train, waiting at a bus stop, or in line at the airport.
Lotus or half lotus posture helps to comfortably hold the balance of the body. Try to sit in a cross legged position with your back straight. You may fold your hands in front of you, palms facing up, the non-dominant hand on top of the dominant hand. Or you might choose to rest your hands on top of your legs a few inches away from your knees with palms facing down or up.
I would not recommend sitting on a bed or a couch. Try to sit on a harder surface. Put pillows or a cushion under your butt. Having your tail bone slightly elevated will help your back hold its natural curve and you will be able to sit up straight without putting too much effort into it.
If your thighs feel tight, put a blanket or pillows under one or both knees so they are supported and are not hanging up in the air.
If you are unable to sit in a cross-legged position, then you can sit in a chair with a straight back. It might be helpful to put a pillow between the chair and your lower or upper back. Your feet should be flat on the ground. Make sure you feel stable and comfortable.
Feel your body and try to relax all of your muscles. Relax your shoulders, your jaw and even the muscles around the eyes. Our physical posture affects our state of mind, therefore, having a relaxed posture will help the mind to relax. Now that you are comfortable, lets meditate.
Concentration on breathing meditation technique
1. Settle into the present moment. Let go of thoughts and worries, give yourself permission not to worry about the past or the future for a little while. Bring your attention to the sensation of breathing. You may observe your breath in rising and falling of the chest or the abdomen. Or keep the area of your concentration limited to the area inside and around your nose and above the upper lip.
Notice the breath as precisely as you can. Keep your attention with every in-breath and every out-breath, notice its length and the point where in-breath changes to out-breath. Notice if you feel any sensations, such as sensation of air passing through the nostrils, the temperature of the air or any tickling sensations on your face. Do not alter your breath in any way - breath naturally.
2. When the mind begins to wander, which happens naturally just after a few moments, bring your attention back to your breath and continue. It is absolutely normal for your mind to produce thoughts, so do not judge yourself for getting distracted. Release the thought and bring your attention back to your breath, gently and without judgment.
At the beginning, staying with your breath can be difficult, because your mind is used to running wild. But do not get discouraged. After some practice you will be able to keep your focus for a few seconds longer than before. Every moment of meditation is important.
It does not matter how many times you get distracted and for how long. Becoming aware that you are distracted and coming back to the breath over and over again is the meditation practice, and that is where magic happens. You become more aware.
When the mind is overactive
The thoughts that come up during meditation are the thoughts on the surface of your mind.
When a thought arises, you release it by equanimously bringing your attention back to the breath. This helps to clear and calm your mind.
Do not ponder a painful thought or a memory, do not feed it any energy. Let it be there and continue concentrating on breathing. It might be helpful to take a deep breath and relax your body further. You are not pushing the pain away, rather you are letting it pass.
If during meditation you catch yourself making lists or planning for the future, just say to yourself: “Right now, I am meditating. I will think about this later.”
You will have moments when you won't be able to concentrate for more than a second. You might think that meditating in such a state of mind is a waste of time. In truth, this means that your mind is very agitated at this moment and that is when you need meditation the most. Simply do the best you can. As long as you eventually come back to the breath - it is a successful meditation practice.
Length of meditation
There is no rule on how long you should meditate for. Some people benefit just from ten or fifteen minutes of daily meditation. As for myself, I started noticing results after twenty minutes of a daily morning practice.
I suggest that you do not look at others in this aspect, listen to your own intuition instead. Start with ten minutes and after a few days, or whenever you are ready, increase the length to fifteen minutes, and so on.
It is possible that after some time you will realize that those are your favorite fifteen minutes of the day and you will want to increase the length of your meditation further.
A short meditation is certainly better than no meditation at all. Consistent, daily practice is the key to success. I recommend Insight Timer app for timing your meditations and tracking your progress.
One session in the morning and one in the evening is preferable. Morning meditation will allow you to start your day with in a clear state of mind, and evening meditation will calm and prepare your mind for rest.
It is advisable that you meditate on an empty stomach before you eat breakfast or dinner, or wait an hour after food intake.
If during the meditation you start thinking “This is not working. What's the point? I should go do something else…” Remind yourself that when you finish your meditation, you will be more productive and your mind will be calmer and in the right place. Remember that by keeping a daily practice you will see positive changes in all areas of your life and everyone who comes in contact with you will benefit from your presence and your doing.
If you need help establishing your meditation practice, check out Waking Up app, which offers simple guided meditations and interesting talks by Sam Harris.
Insight Timer app offers a wide variety of guided meditations by excellent teachers for free.
Check out LanaSmeditation for more blog posts like this one and other guidance from me.