First of all, you don't have to be religious to meditate. Treat meditation as a relaxation technique, very much like getting a massage for your mind. Also, meditation doesn't require changing your diet, becoming celibate, living in ashrams, or seeking a guru. Although you're free to do so, but let's try to keep it simple here. Lastly, don't think that you need to sit there for hours! Attempting an hour long meditation may trigger boredom and frustration. It's better to start with shorter sessions.
There are thousands of methods on meditation. To cover all of them would be impossible. Here, I'll introduce a simple meditation called Zazen, also known as "Just Sit".
- Find a quiet and comfortable place. Preferably away from distractions, such as TVs, computers, cellphones, etc. Sit on a cushion or a yoga block to elevate your hips above your knees. Cross your legs and straighten up your spine.
- Rest your hands naturally on your knees or gently fold your hands on top of each other and rest in your lap.
- Slowly close your eyes. Start bringing awareness to your breathing, even out your inhalations & exhalations.
- Counting an inhalation and an exhalation as one. Continue until you get to 10.
- Go back and start at one again. Notice if your mind starts wandering. If so, simply acknowledge the thought and then continue back counting from one again.
- Try to maintain this practice for 10 minutes. Eventually, you will be able to concentrate on the breathing without the counting.
In the beginning, don't try to meditate for too long. Anywhere from 10-15 minutes is ideal. Slowly increase by 5 minutes each week until you reach an hour (or however long your lifestyle allows you).
"Meditation is nothing but putting the mind aside, putting the mind out of the way, and bringing a witnessing which is always there but hidden underneath the mind." – OSHO
The aim of meditation
The main task in meditation is to simply observe one's mind. You may soon realize that our minds are constantly moving from one thought to another. When a thought comes up, acknowledge it, let it pass, and focus back on your breathing.
Zazen is one of the simplest technique of meditation, albeit one might find it difficult to sit still with a calm mind. According to my meditation teacher, it's very similar to learning how to ride a bicycle. At first, you'll spend a lot of effort on concentrating. Later as you get more skilled at riding, you don't need to concentrate on balancing anymore and simply enjoy the ride itself. With meditation, as you concentrate less and less on the breathing, you'll eventually feel calmness, peace, and bliss leading to a healthy life overall!
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