Meditation 101

Meditation helps to balance the body, mind, and spirit. It allows you to be who you really are — the spiritual being in your body. Consequently, meditation brings various benefits such as improved health, clearer mind, better performance in your personal and career life, and even psychic development.

There are many techniques and approaches in meditation. In this article, I’ll introduce you to the basics of meditation so you can start it right now.

1. When & Where: Choose the time and place you can enjoy quiet solitude. First thing in the morning is a great idea — it starts your day right. Meditating when the stomach is full may be difficult. But of course, meditating any time is better than not meditating.

2. Position: There are two basic positions, open position and closed position, and various variations of each.

To meditate in open position, choose a firm stable chair. You want to keep your lower back straight while you meditate, so reclining chairs and soft sofas are no good. Office chairs with wheels are not recommended, either. A firm upright chair or bench is good. Adjust the height or use foot rest so that you are sitting with your knees at the right angle and your feet comfortably landed on the floor. Think of ancient Egyptian figures.

To meditate in closed position means you sit on the floor. You don’t have to do the lotus or half-lotus position. You can just put one leg in front of the other. It helps you to use a firm pillow under your butts, but not under your legs, so that your butts are plopped up to the height of your knees. Some yoga stores sell “meditation pillows” for this purpose, but any firm and large pillow works. It helps you to relax your leg joints and to keep your back straight.

In both cases, you want to keep your upper body upright and straight, but relaxed. Place your hands comfortably on your lap without stretching your shoulder joints. There are many hand gestures used in meditation, as you see in Buddhism arts, and each has different effects, but for now, let’s just place your hands palms up and form circles with your thumb and middle finger.

Be sure to loosen up your belt. Tight underwear are no good, either. Close your mouth and keep the tongue touching to the ceiling in your mouth. It probably helps you to close your eyes even though there are techniques to keep them “half-closed”.

3. Breathing: Now breathe in to the count of four, hold, then breathe out to the count of four, hold, and breathe again. This breathing pattern helps you to bring your focus to breathing. It also regulates the breathing — the point is to take about the same time breathing in and out and to have a short period of holding in between. You only need to count your breath for a few minutes. As you progress in your meditation practice, you will notice your breathing slows down naturally, and this is very good. It means your body is getting adjusted.

I tried to count my breathing to share as a reference. I cannot count right when I’m meditating — I can only check my watch right after meditation, and as soon as I do this, I can feel my breathing start to speed up a bit. But just as a reference, I think I breathe about 3 times a minute when I meditate. On good days, maybe 2.5 times a minute.

4. Mindset: But don’t force yourself to do this. Don’t force yourself to achieve anything in meditation. Just be. The various benefits may happen, but chasing them is counterproductive.

Most of the time, we operate from our head. By not thinking anything particular, we give rest to our logical mind and let our soul come through. When thoughts try to distract you in meditation, don’t fight it. Fighting and trying to push away your thoughts only gives energy to the thoughts and let more thoughts come to you. Just gently let them go. Notice that you are noticing the thoughts — you are not your thoughts, the true you (your soul) is noticing your thoughts — and sit quietly there without chasing them. This way, they will go away. And yes, more thoughts will come to you, almost constantly, but keep releasing your thoughts.

5. Experience: As you get more experienced in meditation, you will reach a quiet state of no thoughts and no words. At this point, trust whatever happens in your meditation is good. Let your soul be in full control rather than judging with your mind.

Also, because meditation is about both body and soul, you may experience physical change while meditating. For example, your body might start swaying without your intention. If the movement is too much and uncomfortable, stop. But if it’s a gentle swaying, let it do what it needs to do. You may also see unusual vision or sense your spirit guides around you. I also heard men get election due to increased blood flow, but I haven’t made sure about this.

6. Closing: Don’t force yourself to meditate, say, for 30 minutes. Just meditate for the length of time you are comfortable with. 10 or 15 minute meditation is great.

When you want to end your meditation session, don’t suddenly get up. Gently come back to this world, open your eyes, maybe shake your hands gently, and then get up.

7. Additional ideas: You may like to do the visualization of self protection at the beginning of your meditation session. Visualization of a grounding cord, stretching from your first chakra to the center of the Earth, is also helpful.

I like the simple and open-ended meditation I just described, but if you want to do more extensive visualization, that is fine. Just don’t overload it and make meditation yet another project in your life.