Once you have chosen a posture, you can use any of the following techniques to begin meditating. These techniques may help you to achieve a deeper level of relaxation than the basic sitting meditation. They each create their own unique experience, so be sure to experiment and find one you like.
Walking meditation is another common posture. The great thing about walking meditation is that it can be done anywhere, whether you are walking around the house or around town. It also has the advantage of being easy to do. The act of walking helps to keep part of the mind busy, which helps some people to stay more focused.
To begin walking meditation, start by placing your feet shoulder width apart. Cup your hands with your thumbs touching each other, and place them in front of your belly button. Keep your back and neck straight, and relax your shoulders. As usual, close your eyes a little bit to avoid any visual distractions. Just stand like that for a minute or so, and focus on your weight being transferred down through your feet and into the ground. Pay close attention to your feet, and focus closely on where your feet contact the ground. Feel the ground under you, and just relax for a moment while you let your troubles drift away.
Now, begin walking in slow, careful steps. Pay attention to how you step. Do not just fall onto your foot like most people do when they walk, but instead, plant your foot firmly on the ground, then move your weight to that foot. With each step, continue to focus on your connection with the ground. Just keep walking like that, slowly, and focusing closely on each step. Remember to plant your foot before putting weight on it. Continue like this, and try to avoid any thoughts except for your feet, and feel all stress drift away.
That is all there is to it. Once you have the basics down, you can do walking meditation anytime you walk. Many people enjoy going for special meditation walks in the woods, where the sounds of nature help them to relax even more. Plus, the uneven terrain provides an interesting sensation when you actually focus on feeling it with your feet. Try to meditate like this anytime you walk somewhere, even around the house or the office. You will find that you are more relaxed and less stressed throughout the day.
Counting the Breaths
The Counting the Breaths technique is similar to the basic meditation discussed earlier. To begin, choose your desired meditation posture from the ones described in the previous section. Once you are settled into your posture, take a few deep breaths to relax. Now, begin to breath in and out normally, and try to count each breath. However, do not focus completely on the number of breaths you have taken. The goal is to focus on the breath as you would normally, but try to count the breaths in the back of your mind. You will probably lose count after two or three breaths, especially in the beginning; that is fine. The goal is not to see if you can count. Rather, the goal is to try to help your mind to focus on your breath and avoid outside distractions by counting in the back of your mind. If you lose count, simply pick up wherever you think you left off. Again, the goal is not to see how high you can count, so once you have gotten to 20 or so breaths, start over at zero and begin counting again.
The important thing to remember with this technique is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. If you lose count, or begin to get distracted, just come back to where you were and continue. As you continue to use this technique, you will find that you are able to keep track of your breaths longer before you lose count. You will naturally become “better” at it simply by doing it, so do not get caught up in trying to count your breaths more accurately. If you are focusing on your breathing, then you are doing just fine.
To begin, sit down in the basic cross-legged position as described earlier, and take a few deep breaths. Now, pick a sound that you can hear. It can be anything; a bird, a lawnmower, a trickling stream, anything. Focus on that one sound for a couple of minutes and try to tune out all other sounds except for that one.
Now, choose another sound that is even farther away, and focus solely on that sound. Again, try to avoid hearing anything except that one sound, and focus intensely on it for a couple of minutes. Continue this process of focusing on one sound, then finding another one that is even farther away. Try to find the quietest, farthest, most subtle sound possible and focus on it. If another sound distracts you, try to go back and find that sound in the jumble of other noises going on around you.
If you are in the woods, try to listen to a bird on the other side of the forest, or a squirrel making noise far up in the treetops. Or in the city, try to hear the cars on the interstate across town. You will be surprised at all of the sounds that surround us every day that we do not notice.
Go ahead and light the candle, and dim the lights low, so most or all of the light in the room is from the candle. Set the candle on the floor in front of you, and sit in the usual meditation position.
Take a couple of deep breaths to let go, and bring your attention to the candle flame. Notice how the flame has a tendency to pulse a little bit, growing bigger and shrinking at fairly regular intervals. Use that pulsing to time your breaths.
As the flame gets bigger, inhale to make yourself bigger as well. Take big, slow, deep breaths, and try to match the flame’s pace. As the flame shrinks again, slowly let out the air to make yourself smaller. Follow whatever the flame does, and let go of all other thoughts. Focus completely and entirely on the flame as it grows and shrinks.
With this meditation technique, it is important to keep safety in mind. Be careful not to get so relaxed that you fall asleep and let the candle catch something on fire. If possible, find a partner to meditate with so there is more than one person to keep an eye on the candle. Use common sense, and don’t get burned.
The timed breathing technique is good for people who have trouble focusing on their breath, because it essentially forces you to focus. This technique is a little bit more advanced than some of the others we have done, particularly if you have a small lung capacity or weak abdominal muscles. As with all of the meditations mentioned here, if it is too difficult, don’t push yourself too hard. Simply ease off and relax back into the basic meditation, or stop altogether.
To begin, sit like you would for the basic meditation technique, and take a couple of deep breaths. Now, breath in slowly over the course of eight seconds. Try to time your breath so you are breathing in over the entire eight seconds, but you still get a full breath. You want to fill your entire body with air. Now hold the breath, but don’t close off your throat. Use only your stomach and chest muscles to hold the breath, and hold it for a full eight seconds. After holding for eight seconds, breath out for eight seconds, and try to expel every last bit of air out of your body. Again try to breath out for a full eight seconds. Finally, once you are empty of air, hold that for eight seconds, again only using your chest and stomach muscles to hold the breath.
Continue this cycle of breathing in for eight seconds, holding for eight seconds, breathing out for eight seconds, and holding for eight seconds. If you find it to be too difficult, you can decrease the amount of time for each part of the cycle. But be sure to keep it all the same. For example, if you decrease to six seconds, make sure you decrease every other part of the cycle to six seconds as well. The reason for this is because you do not want to be too focused on trying to keep track of complicated timing patterns. If it is consistent, you can focus on your breath.
“One Body” Meditation
The goal of the One Body meditation technique is to visualize yourself as a whole, rather than a collection of independent parts. It is a great technique to use when you are feeling tired, as it has a tendency to awaken you and help you feel more energized. To do this technique, begin by picking your posture; I find that any of the sitting postures or laying down work best for this one. As usual, once you are in your chosen posture, take a few deep breaths.
Now, focus on your feet, and try to imagine every muscle in your feet pulsing as one. With each heartbeat, imagine the fresh blood pulsing through the veins of your feet as the cells take in fresh oxygen. Now add your lower legs into the mix, with your feet and legs as one single entity living and thriving as one. Once you have that down, move to your thighs, and so on. Move up the body slowly, and try to add each muscle of your body one at a time, until eventually your entire body is alive and pulsing as one. Picture every muscle, every nerve, and every cell in your body pulsing with energy in unison. With each breath, your body is a little bit more alive with fresh life and energy. As you exhale, your entire body relaxes again. Continue this process of relaxing and energizing your entire body as one.
After you have finished, just slowly return your breathing to normal, and gently regain yourself and your surroundings. When you are ready, you can stand up and stretch to loosen up. When you are done, you may notice that you feel a little bit warmer than when you started. You also may feel more awake and refreshed, like someone gave you a fresh battery. It is a great way to feel renewed and ready to take on the day.
The Mountain Meditation is almost the exact opposite of the One Body technique. While the goal of the One Body technique is to feel alive and energized, the Mountain Meditation is intended to give a feeling of solidity and strength, like a mountain or immovable boulder. Just like with the One Body meditation, a sitting or laying down posture works well with this method.
Take some deep breaths and relax. Now focus on where your body touches the ground. Imagine that you have big tough roots growing out of your body and into the ground, holding you in place. Pretend that you body is made of a thousand tons of solid rock, and that you are an immovable, unbreakable object. Take big, deep, full breaths, filling your body. With each exhale, you weigh a thousand tons more than before. Picture a giant armored tank crashing into you and being obliterated on impact, as you stand firm and solid. Keep this feeling for as long as you choose to meditate.
When you are done this meditation, you should feel strong. I personally feel more relaxed, yet more confident at the same time. If you ever start to feel nervous throughout your day, such as when you have to give a presentation, just remember that you are an immovable unbreakable object, and you have nothing to fear.
I hope that after reading this article, you have a clearer, more down-to-earth idea of what meditation is all about. But more importantly, I hope that you have found a lifetime activity to help relax and reduce your level of stress.
With a bit of relaxation each day, then maybe that lifetime can be that much longer and healthier.
Thanks for reading!