Reclining Buddha. Yuliya Glavnaya
At some point a while ago (it’s been years) I promised a post on what I learned in the introduction to meditation course at the London Buddhist Centre. I then wanted to try out the techniques before sharing them, long story short – I forgot about it. Universe reminded me in an interesting way. This week I was approached for advice on how to start meditating. While I was sharing the steps and tips that worked for me, I realised that whereas nowhere near an expert, I learned a lot about meditating so below is a quick guide on how to start meditating today if you don’t know where to start.
First, let me congratulate you – the fact that you are reading this post means that you took an important decision. I am very excited for you on your journey. Second, meditation benefits are numerous and scientifically proven. You can google this. Meditation has been found to improve health, well being and even alter the brain physically – positive thinking, being in the now or mindfulness, perspective, resilience, kindness to oneself and others are just some of the ‘side effects’. We are so busy on a daily basis, so full of worries and anxiety that we forget to breathe fully – if you meditate for at least 12min each day (scientifically proven optimal amount), you enrich your body with oxygen which is a benefit in itself.
I started meditating to be at peace, to achieve ‘the lightness of being’, which I did after only a couple of years, although mindfulness is always work in progress. However slowing down the whirring mind and getting out of the spiral of worrying, anxious negative thinking is just one benefit. Meditation opens you to insight from your past and present experience – while meditating, you move to a long unused frequency and tune into your soul/ heart/ gut – whatever you call it. Profound conclusions about yourself and your life suddenly materialise out of ether in eureka moments. You start making better life choices. You shed lots of baggage you’ve been carrying for years and even internalised. You clear headspace, you create more.
There are different types of meditation, however not all meditation is mantra meditation, in fact I have only tried mantra meditation a couple of times but I found breathing meditation to be easier and working best for me – this is when you focus on breathing and you either meditate in silence, with gentle music in the background (I prefer no frills Simply Being app) or gentle music and a soothing voice.
Where do you start? Start by using the technique that I share below which I learned at the London Buddhist Centre (I believe it’s called either kayagata sathi or anapana sathi). You can meditate anywhere, I did it during my morning commute. If you choose to meditate on a train or a bus, sit with your back straight (so your chest is open for breathing) and ground your feet (feel connection to mother Earth or train/ bus floor for that matter! :)) Don’t worry if people brush against you or it is noisy on transport, unless it distracts you, accept it as part of the experience. Don’t overthink the hand position, personally I prefer what is apparently called Dhyana Mudra (photo guide here).
If at home, lie in this position but with arms open and stretched on your sides.
There are 4 steps:
- Count in your mind to 10 on exhale. I did it this way – breathe in (‘and’), breathe out (‘one’). In (‘and’), out (‘two’) etc.
- Count to 10 on inhale (swap it: in – one, out – and). Take long deep breaths, fill your lungs with air. Do not rush.
- Now imagine your whole body is breathing in and out, every pore. Continue to breathe deeply and slowly. I imagined a wave of energy travelling through my body. Sometimes while breathing this way I did a body scan which is another type of meditation when you become aware of/ scan different parts of your body and check how they are. You may also combine this with another type of meditation where you imagine your body losing its borders, dissolving into the Universe, becoming one with it.
- Now bring awareness to your nose tip and be aware of every breath in and out.
Congratulations, you did it! Now all you need to do is stick to the practice – you can do it as a 30-day challenge for example. And don’t stop there. Try different types of meditation. Headspace app often gets mentioned as a good starting point for beginners – I never tried it but it looks good and it has different meditation types to try. Try the London Buddhist Centre classes if you enjoy the buddhist angle. If meditation puts you to sleep, try yoga. In other words don’t let yourself come up with excuses 😉 If you feel internal resistance, it is normal. Your mind, your ego may not be happy about your spiritual awakening, about you getting in touch with your soul and Universe. Keep trying, keep working, you will be distracted, it will not work immediately but it will work in the end. Use meditation for insight, to find answers. Use it to look inside yourself, to learn about yourself. To make you and the world around you better. Namaste.