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Practising Meditation


There are many different ways in which to practice mindfulness meditation. Here I share the one that has been the most useful to me.


Set aside sometime before you begin your day if possible. This may be difficult at first because we all live such hectic, busy lives and are often tired and stressed and think we need more rather than less sleep. But starting the day with meditation often brings a realistic perspective on the day and all the tasks that it contains for us to engage in. I awake naturally some time between 4 and 6 am and so somewhere around 5 am I begin my meditation practice.


It is often helpful to read some thing that inspires you. Perhaps you have a passage of scripture from your religious tradition that might help you re-focus and bring yourself into the present moment. I make myself a cup of tea and then begin my meditation practice. I usually start with reading a passage of scripture or listening to a talk by someone whose teaching I admire


Set a timer for 20 minutes. A timer on a cell phone is often good for this. You might like to start with less time, say 5 minutes then build up to 10, 15 and then 20 as you see more and more benefits of meditation. Find yourself a private space in your house and a comfortable chair or sitting position. Keep your back straight and preferably not propped up by the chair or by cushions. This way you remain alert and avoid sinking back into sleep. Let your feet rest firmly on the ground. If you are short you might like to use a small box or stool so that your feet are not hanging loosely from the chair. Allow your hands to rest quietly in your lap. Some people like to keep their palms facing upward in a position of humble receptiveness. Make sure you have adjusted the light in the room so that you are comfortable with it. I adjust the lighting so that I am sitting in very dim light. This is because I find bright light hitting my closed eyelids quite uncomfortable and distracting.


Now bring your body and mind into the present moment.  First, focus on the sounds that you can hear. Cars? People talking? The sound of a message coming in? The clock ticking in the room? Sundry sounds within your body? Then bring your attention to your breath. Watch it enter into your nostrils and watch it leave your body. I tend to push it out with a sound through my mouth. People practice mindfulness in different ways. I like to imagine that I am breathing in love and hope and joy and breathing out tension, stress, anxiety and resentment. Sometimes it is easier to concentrate on your breath if you open and close your hand in rhythm with your breathing. Saying a mantra might help you to bring your body and your mind into the present moment. People use different Mantras. Maranatha is a popular Christian one. It means Come, Lord. The Gayatri Mantra is a beautiful chant. You can also make up mantras for yourself. The idea of using a mantra is only a suggestion. You do not need to do this. Only if it helps you become mindfully present.


Start your timer. Many thoughts may come into your mind. Accept them. Do not try to control them. Just watch them non-judgementally and then let them go and bring yourself into the present moment again. So much of our pain is caused by our inability to stay centred within the present moment. We tend rather to dwell on the past or rush into the future. The idea  behind mindfulness is to stay within the present moment. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist monk has this to say about everyday mindfulness:


‘Joy and happiness are born of concentration. When you are having a cup of tea, the value of that experience depends on your concentration. You have to drink the tea with 100% of your being. The true pleasure is experienced in the concentration. When you walk and you're 100% concentrated, the joy you get from the steps you are taking is much greater than the joy you would get without concentration. You have to invest 100% of your body and mind in the act of walking. Then you will experience that being alive and taking steps on this planet are miraculous things.’


When both body and mind are both in the same place in the NOW, that is bliss.


When your timer beeps at the end, allow yourself to come slowly into the room.


At first meditation might seem like an exercise in futility. You may feel bored or be frustrated by the seeming uselessness of it all. You may feel frustrated at yourself for not being able to centre down and become still. Accept these feelings, accept yourself. This is all part of the practice of developing the skill of centring down. In the beginning you may find it helpful to use some guided meditations. I have formed some guided meditations which you can use to help your practice along.


If you are just beginning on the path of meditation, be kind to yourself. It is a hard discipline to acquire and it may take years to become regular at it and practiced. Know that this is true for everybody. But the end result of becoming STILL is really worth it. It opens up a hidden dimension of life.