October 7th, 2011

How to Start Meditating in the Next 5 Minutes

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Ethan Nichtern Banner IllustrationWhatever method you use, meditation is simply getting to know your mind. It’s not about meditating “on” something or getting into a zone where you’re blissfully removed from your mind’s contents. Instead, the actual meaning of meditation is more like getting used to being with your own mind.
-Dzogchen Ponlop, Rebel Buddha: A Guide to a Revolution of Mind

Why Meditate?

Meditation helps us increase our mindfulness and awareness, strengthen our sense of inner peace, and improve our ability to deal with our emotions. After practicing meditation over a period of time, the mind naturally falls into a resting state, allowing us to be fully present in our life. When we are not constantly pulled into the past or future, we are able to begin experiencing the present moment.

Sitting Meditation

Calm abiding meditation, or shamatha, is a practice that helps us to develop a peaceful state of mind, along with the ability to remain in a peaceful state for increasing periods of time. Normally our mind is a whirlwind of thought, so “peace” is the calming down of the mental agitation and stress caused by this whirlwind.
-Dzogchen Ponlop, Rebel Buddha: A Guide to a Revolution of Mind

This is the easiest type of meditation to start practicing. I’ve adapted these steps from Rebel Buddha: A Guide to a Revolution of Mind.

Step 1: Find a Comfortable Seat or Cushion

Find a comfortable seat in a chair or cushion. Have a relaxed but erect posture, keeping your spine straight. If you are sitting on a cushion, cross your legs. If you are sitting on a chair, place your feet evenly, flat on the ground. Your hands can rest in your lap or on your thighs. Why? Your body’s position has a powerful effect on your mind. A natural and upright position allows your mind to rest naturally in a calm state. A slouched position will make it difficult to rest your mind.

Step 2: Watch Your Breathing

Sitting relaxed but erect position, watch your breathing. You should be breathing natural, even and relaxed. Focus your attention on your breathing, specifically the coming and going of the breath at the tip of the nose and mouth.

Step 3: Become One With Your Breath

As you do this practice for some time, you start to become your breath. You feel the inhale and exhale and become one with the breath.

Step 4: Allow a Gap

At the end of your exhalation, let your mind and breath dissolve. Allow a gap and let it go. There’s no rush to take the next breath. Keep your mind on the breath as you inhale, feel it, and relax.

Bonus Step: Wandering Thoughts and Counting Your Breath

When you are meditating, you will experience all kinds of thoughts, some of which may seem extremely important. Instead of getting up and stopping meditation, simply recognize the thoughts and continue. Acknowledge each thought and then let it go.

If your mind becomes distracted with thoughts, or the sense of nowness is gone, you can practice counting your breathing. Simply observe your breathing and count each inhale/exhale cycle as one breath. If you find your mind wandering off into a thought, start over at one. Keep this up until you can count from one to ten without becoming distracted. Afterwards, you can start setting new goals for yourself, such as counting to one hundred without your mind wandering off.

Creative Commons License photo credit: bainesmcg

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