It helps to have a regular time and space for cultivating a meditation practice. The best time for meditation is when you can commit on a regular basis for however long you can. Morning upon waking and at night just before bed is a good place to start. Deciding in advance how long you will meditate for will help support your practice. Mindfulness, one of the many jewels of meditation can be done throughout the day, anytime brining you back to centre. A regular meditation practice helps carve the neural pathways to mindfulness. It is as simple as breathing and as complicated as you make it.
Set your intention
As the Zen teaching says ‘ the most important thing is remembering the most important thing'.
It is helpful at the start of your practice to recall what draws you to meditation and what matters to you. Setting your intention or connecting to your Sankalpa ( Sankalpa is the Sanskrit word for intention). San means “to become one with and kappa means ‘time’ and ‘subconscious mind’ .
In yogic philosophy a Sankalpa is a way to set an intention, to connect with your hearts desire or a resolve to do something. Therefore we set our intention with meditation. It can be as simple as just wanting to find some peace in our daily life, to rest for awhile in the soul nourishing comfort of 'silence' or to feel less stressed or anxious.
Finding a dedicated space which is yours to return to daily helps cultivate our practice. A relatively protected, quiet space where you can leave your mediation cushion or chair so that you can return. You may like to create a sacred space with whatever arouses a sense of beauty and peace. It may also be a good reminder to practice if you set out to have a space that is yours, however small or in whatever capacity you can. This space should be free from phones and distractions. It is a place to rest & reconnect.
A comfortable upright position is ideal for meditation, a straight spine creates a clear mind and beyond that it is up to you. Meditation invites us to show up, just as we are, a place to sit is all we need to start the practice. The goal is to still and explore the body and the mind. Find a posture that makes you feel alert, but comfortable. If you feel uncomfortable throughout the meditation gently and quietly move or shift your body. Just show up as you are, feel what you feel, observe what you observe. It is quite normal to feel aches & pains when starting out in meditation, allow these too to be there. Alertness is one of the essential ingredients in every meditation. A sense of openness and receptivity is the second essential part of a practice.
Sit in a chair, on a cushion or kneeling bench upright, tall and as balanced as possible. Support the back if needed. Posture in meditation has a direct impact on channelling the vital energies in the body. Create an environment of feeling as comfortable, warm and safe as you can. A shall or soft blanket can keep us cosy. Correct posture is about stillness of the body. The practice is sitting still and just meandering through the creases of our mind. The ability to sit still will increase over time.
In more traditional meditation practices we begin by sitting crossed legged supported or cushioned on the floor with the pelvis tilted forward. You can tilt the pelvis by placing a pillow or bolster underneath the sit bones. With our back and head straight, arms gently relaxed on our knees. Sitting in this position for awhile can be challenging to begin with, so to start where you are while keeping the basics in mind. Sitting with our backs straight allows the vital energies to flow through the body. There is no set point in meditation, even if it is only 10 minutes a day, do what you can when you can. It is however important to have a clear, specific personal reason to meditate and this too can be as simple as finding a bit of peace and quiet. Your posture should be firm but not tense, steady and comfortable. With a comfortable posture and natural stillness, it becomes easier to meditate. There will be good days and there will be bad days. Meditate anyway. It is a matter of showing up for ourselves daily.
Connect to your breath
Once we are comfortable we connect to our breath. A form of concentrative meditation breath awareness is a great way to start practicing and a popular meditation technique. The breath is rhythmic in nature, moving and changing. Breath awareness has a calming effect on the mind and soothing to feel and hear. The tidal rhythm of breath is powerful and can create a deeply relaxed state. No control of the breath is needed. A focal point to come back to when the mind wonders. The breath is the ultimate lesson in presence. When you concentrate on breath your attention to breath and everything else falls away and you can experience presence as it unfolds, moment to moment to moment. Even 5 minutes a day of natural breathing can help relax the nervous system and hold many benefits.
The simple embodied presence of a body scan is a further focal point in a practice. This involves tuning in to the sensation of the body. Sensations of the breath & body.
Starting from the crown of the head, slowly and methodically move your attention down your body, pausing in each section of the body as your awareness moves. It can help to think of your attention as a scanner, a wand or a light as it moves over the landscape of the body. Notice the sensations on the surface of the body, the air on your skin, pain sensations, tingling, connection of body to ground or chair. Beating of the heart, spaces in the joints. Attend to areas of discomfort by bringing awareness to them and observing the sensation. Continue to scan the body until you reach the feet. Observe without judging. In a body scan we become more aware of our bodies and the sensations.
Getting comfortable, setting our intention, observing the breath, stilling the mind and scanning the body can be a simple practice that we do daily to check in and is a great place to start.