9 Steps to successful meditation
Preparation: Getting into the right mindset.
Getting into the right mindset for meditation practice may seem like a contradiction. If we use the practice of meditation to clear our minds and re-evaluate negative emotions, if the aim of the practice so to speak is to engage into a better, more positive mindset, then why would the preparation phase of getting into the right mindset be so important?
Well, during the meditation, you will be using your mind to its full capacity. That means, you will be concentrating with your mind, transcending your emotions.
Getting in the right mindset is an opportunity to mindfully acknowledge what you are currently feeling emotionally, and consciously putting your emotions aside in order for productive meditation time.
Occasionally, once you have already established a mindful meditation practice, and know the benefits of sitting in silence, you may skip over this section in order to come to a quieter place within yourself to operate from. That is completely acceptable. These steps are meant as headful guidelines. With practice your intuition will strengthen and become a stronger authority than any information outside of you.
1. Set a practice time.
It really helps to decide exactly ow much time you are willing to spend on your practice. Your practice should never take away more from your schedule than you can afford. You may find the practice so enjoyable that you go overtime with it, and end up resenting the practice for taking time out of your life. Alternatively, you may give up on the practice, not utilizing the full amount of time you put aside for it not giving it a fair try.
Initially 15 minutes a day is an excellent amount of time to commit to, but really any amount of time that you feel comfortable with will be beneficial. The key to a successful mindfulness practice is not the amount of time you spend on it each day, but the fact that you are committing to it with full attention, each day.
The purpose of meditation, is to give us time to reflect and repose from a hectic life, but mostly, it gives our minds the training on how to stay mindful during our non-meditating activities, and thus allow our experience of life to me less chaotic, more manageable, positive and peaceful.
2. Permission to take the time.
Yes, we have busy lives and taking time out of it to sit and do nothing, can sound like complete absurdity when we already have more to do than we have time for. Giving yourself permission to sit down for the practice of mindfulness is essential before starting the practice. Without this permission, your mind is likely to carry on making list of things to do and unfinished tasks you have to remember.
When you sit down for practice, regardless if you are sitting for 5 minutes or an hour, you want to give it your everything. Time is precious after all.
Of course there are times when we have more responsibility than usual, during this time, have a little notebook by your side. During the first 5 minutes or so, right down all the things on your mind in short bullet points. Write down everything you are thinking about, have to think about later, have to decide on or take action on. Write down everything you are scared you may forget, and then give yourself permission to take the time for meditation practice.
3. Warm up your body
This step is probably the most overlooked step in meditation communities I’ve experienced. Think of meditation as a mental full body massage. You move a lot of energy! Allowing the joints to be lose, the spine to be open and your body to feel awake will fuel your practice, making it a lot more enjoyable. Warming you body up before practice is also the most effective way to clear your mind in preparation for your inner work.
At any point of day or night, we may have something we are working with in our mind. In general, every person has a dominant emotional trait, which is an undercurrent that is always present, such as worry, uncertainty anxiety, ambition, frustration. More specifically, our thoughts may be occupied with some area of our lives: relationships, health, work, creativity. Accepting our position in relation to whatever is going on in our lives, is not only the first step in clearing the way for mindfulness practice, it is also a very significant practice of mindfulness within itself.
Using the phrase: “This is the reality of my experience,” can help to remove any negative charge or judgment about the situation you find yourself in. Why we are in certain situations become irrelevant. We get to take our egos out of the experience and simply let the experience be.
Regardless of how pressing your situation, this is the moment where you give up all responsibility to it. If you are Christian, you may think of it as a situation beautifully orchestrated by god, one in which you are playing only your part. If you are Buddhist, you may look at it as an opportunity to end specific karma. You may use this opportunity to see yourself as only part of a bigger, perfect existence.
4. Remember you motivation to practice.
Here’s the thing, for most people, the motivation for practice are the results they benefit by from the practice. In other words, to start a regular practice is the hardest part. Once you have established your practice, going a day without is becomes a bit like going a day without brushing your teeth – occasionally you do it, but it just never feels that great!
It is often the contrast of the experience we seek which drives us to contemplate a practice of meditation. For me it was the constant feeling of emptiness and lack of direction and unhappiness with no apparent cause. Feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, uncertainty and unsettledness are great causes for pushing us to change our game in life.
Lack of identity, lack of creativity, lack of confidence can all contribute to you seeking a meditation practice. The desire for a deeper sense of belonging and connection in the world, or inquisitiveness about exploring spiritual realms may be another reason people get interest in taking up a practice of mediation. However, whatever the feeling or circumstance that inspired your interest in practice, defining your motivation in positive uplifting terms can be the one thing which get the practice going in moments before commencing. Your motivation becomes like your mantra. It becomes your core beliefs, and your core values.
For years the opening to my practice was: “everything is EXACTLY as it should be,” “I am EXACTLY where I am supposed to be.”
5. Finding your sitting position.
As with every step in this sequence, this step can be a meditation on its own with incredible results.
Simply decide which position is comfortable for you to sit in, preferably with your back straight. This provides just enough tension to keep you awake so your attention can go into the practice. Once you are comfortable, stay in this position for the duration of the practice. Move as little as possible, while constantly observing the micro-movements your body makes to relax.
Feel your pelvis, you rib cage and chest, you neck face and eyes. notice the position of you hands, legs and feet, while all the time relaxing and letting go of tension you may find in these body areas.
6. Single-pointed focus.
This is the practice, also called stillness meditation.
It is through prolonged focus on one thing that a person enters the state of meditation and to me, the biggest factor to embrace during this practice is that of enjoyment. It is very difficult to continuously focus on something you do not enjoy, while it is very pleasurable to steadfastly keep your focus on something you do enjoy.
You will find that simply the freedom from multitasking, the freedom from responsibility, and the freedom from having to do more than one thing at a time, is in itself very enjoyable. However, most of us have never had that experience. Most of us have had the responsibility to watch out for ourselves all the time on so many levels, and while we are not in action of watching out for ourselves in one way or the other, we’ve had the task of preparing mentally on how to be better, earn more or feel safer in the future.
So, removing guilt, shame and fear from second to second to enjoy focusing on only one thing from second to second, can be an adjustment, especially when you choose something seemingly meaningless to focus on, such as your breath or body part.
Choosing your object of focus.
As vipassana meditator, I am biased to believe that the most beneficial way of practice is to focus on your body. However, from my life experience, I know that meditation itself is a most intuitive process. There is absolutely no-body that knows you better than you know yourself. Nobody can make decisions for you, better than you can make yourself, contrary to what you may believe.
Therefor, choose a meditation technique that you resonate with, one that will engross you in it’s experience, and make this your practice. The only recommendation that I can strongly emphasize, is that you are able to monitor how relaxed you are staying during the process.
This is managed in two ways: 1) the rate of your breathing. 2) your body tensing up. As soon as you find your breathing becomes faster, you can know for sure that your mind is wandering off in thought, not giving you the chance of entering the state of meditation. Recall back the enjoyment for the activity you are doing, second to second.
Another way of knowing that your mind is trying to rob you of the experience of entering the state of meditation, is when you notice a body part tensing up. Usually your hand- or face muscles will be the first to betray you in such a way. When your body start tensing up, even just a little, you can know for sure that your mind is engaging in some though that will soon en up in a story, taking away form your meditative experience. Simply return to your original relaxed posture and resume your focus.
Up to this point in the practice, all our emphasis has been placed in acknowledging and accepting what is. We’ve learnt how to be at peace with what is, to allow it to be as it is.
Now that your mind is focussed and still, you can use this state of mind to direct healing towards all the areas of your life and those of others you wish healing for. Not only can this part of the practice be used as an individual practice in its own right, thousands of healing modalities, practices, and therapies have been based on this particular part of the practice.
The Pali word for loving kindness is “metta.” Below is a sample of metta practice you can include in your everyday practice.
- My heart fills with with loving kindness. I love myself. May I be happy. May I be well. May I be peaceful. May I be free.
- May all beings in my vicinity be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
- May all beings in my city be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
- May all beings in my state be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
- May all beings in my country be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
- May all beings on my continent be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
- May all beings in my hemisphere be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
- May all beings on planet Earth be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
- May my parents be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
- May all my friends be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
- May all my enemies be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
- May all beings in the Universe be happy. May they be well. May they be peaceful. May they be free.
- If I have hurt anyone, knowingly or unknowingly in thought, word or deed, I ask for their forgiveness.
- If anyone has hurt me, knowingly or unknowingly in thought, word or deed, I extend my forgiveness. www.buddhagroove.com
8. Take action
Yes, the practice of meditation can indeed be a pleasurable experience in itself, which ads tremendous value to your life through means of insight and relaxation. At the end of the day though, we spend most of our time not in the meditative state, but in real life with real life challenges. You may have gotten some excellent insight and inspiration on what steps to take next in bringing harmony to your life. Now is the time to take action. So, use a moment after the practice to make a strong commitment to act on your intuition.
9. Grounding & Closure
Set and intention for the day and close the ceremony off with jumping up and down, rubbing your feet, or doing a kundalini shake to get yourself fully grounded in your body and have an amazing day!