Mindfulness

How to Start a Daily Meditation Practice

swami saradananda

by Swami Saradananda

At some point in your life, you have probably experienced meditation. It is not an unnatural thing that only some people can do – meditation is a universal experience. People often meditate, even if they don’t know they are doing so.

To put this into perspective, think of something that you really like to do. Perhaps gardening is your ‘thing’. If so, you can get out there and work for hours without getting tired. It seems that time ceases to exist; you feel very peaceful and happy. This can be seen as a low-level meditation because you still need something outside of yourself to have this experience.

Imagine your happy, focused experience intensified many times with your mind becoming so one-pointed that you feel as though you are in total harmony with your experience. This is meditation, an experience of absolute peace.

Some practical points
If you lived in tune with nature, the most effective times for meditation would be dawn and dusk when the atmosphere is charged with a special spiritual force. Sunrise and sunset are the most peaceful times of day.

Unfortunately, modern lifestyles can make it difficult to practice at dawn and/or at dusk. So, choose a time when you are not involved with other activities and your mind is apt to be calm. This may be early morning, when your mind is still in a pure state and hasn’t yet become involved with the work of the day. Or it could be the last thing at night when you can put aside the cares of the day and take the opportunity to tune inward. Practicing at night is like cleansing your mind before sleep. Instead of spending hours tossing, turning and dreaming – which actually uses energy – you quickly fall into a deep restful sleep and wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and energised.

One suggestion is to try to meditate at the same time each day. As your mind will come to associate these times with meditation, it will facilitate the practice itself.

Try to not eat for at least two hours before practicing meditation. If you plan to meditate in the early morning hours, make your evening meal a light one.

Decide in advance how long you will sit for meditation. Be determined that, no matter what, you will sit for this period of time. You can set an alarm if you like; there are now many meditation-friendly alarm apps for your phone. Begin with twenty to thirty minutes. Most people find that by meditating for half an hour daily they are able to face life with a peaceful mind and a great resource of inner strength.

How to sit
Sitting in a cross-legged position will greatly facilitate your inward focus, as it helps to physically contain your energy. Your legs form a type of infinity symbol and the pose provides you with a stable, grounded position. To keep your back straight, you may need to sit on a cushion or a rolled up blanket.

If you are unable to sit cross-legged, kneeling (as in Zen meditation) is an alternative. Sitting in a straight-backed chair is a third alternative, if you have severe physical problems or cannot sit on the floor. If using a chair, make sure to keep your feet flat on the floor and don’t cross your ankles.

Whichever position you prefer, make sure that it is a stable. Remember that every time your body moves, your mind moves. To quiet your mind, begin by quieting you body.

Keep your back straight so the energy can travel up your spine and your breath can be full. Take slow, deep breaths to ensure that a liberal supply of oxygen reaches your brain. You may find it helpful to imagine a string drawing your head skyward – and a second thread attached to your breastbone so that your lungs have sufficient space to expand fully.

Close your eyes and bring your awareness on your breath. Don’t try to control your breath, just watch it. Joyously draw in life with each inhalation. Release pent up emotions and impurities with each exhalation. Gradually your mind will become calm.

Most important: don’t put off starting your meditation practice; begin today and practice regularly.

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Swami Saradananda
Mudras for Modern Life: Boost your health, re-energize your life, enhance your yoga and deepen your meditation
£12.99
Available from Watkins Publishing

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