Not happy with how you meditate? Maybe a change in how you sit down could make a difference...
The thought of writing this post has crossed my mind a few times even as I sat meditating, in the middle of my own attempts to let go of all thought and distraction—but somehow I couldn’t bring myself round to jotting it down.
Today is Guru Purnima, and what better day than the ‘Teacher’s Full Moon’ to give shape to a noble thought! Guru is a Sanskrit word that means one who removes darkness or ignorance, thus allowing the light of knowledge to shine through the disciple’s intellect.
This post assumes that you are convinced of the value of meditation in your life, and perhaps have even had a go or two at it, but are unable to find the peace and tranquillity that meditation entails (If you are curious about what meditation really is, maybe you can find some clues here).
So let’s get on with it, without further ado.
At a very basic level, when you sit down to meditate, all you need is comfortable clothing, a relaxed posture and a decent, quiet place. After all, what could be there to really learn about “sitting down to meditate”?
But, believe me, at a deeper level, there’s a lot to it. And I’m not saying it for the sake of it but drawing upon my close to three years of regular practice (which, by the way, doesn’t make me an expert—though it should lend a bit of credibility to what I’m going to say).
The first thing I would suggest is to review your approach to the whole process of meditation. Are you meditating just because of peer pressure or some vow you want to get over with? Or is it some deeply felt need that has been pulling you close to setting aside some time regularly for being at peace with yourself and your environment? Do you consider meditation more of a physical act or a fad? Or do you realize the involvement of your whole being in its ‘practice’?
As they say of an arduous journey, “Well begun is half done,” so it is with meditation. If you are able to start it on the right note—which essentially means being able to “sit down” in the right frame of mind—you are more likely to get up peaceful, rested or even feeling blessed at the end of your session rather than find yourself wondering what went wrong.
What to do? Let’s do a mock-up. Suppose it is time for you to meditate (while one can meditate any time of the day, I find setting aside a regular time-frame to be of help in developing the practice). Typically, what do you do? Do you sit down hurriedly, put on some music and close your eyes quickly? Start telling beads or chanting some mantra, while shaking your body with each repetition?
Instead, give some time to the process of sitting down. Make sure your surroundings are quiet and comfortable (to the extent possible), you have set your mental clock to the time available for the current session (I vary mine depending on the other tasks and schedule of the day). And last but not the least, sit down in peace, noticing your whereabouts and closing your eyes gradually. (Before you sit, you can play some soothing music if it works for you; it’s fine otherwise too.)
If you need to cough, regulate your unruly breathing or do any fidgety thing to enhance your comfort, do it now. Do not jump headlong into the process of chanting—nor should you worry too much about the flood of thoughts that continues to lap at the shores of your mind even after you shut your eyes.
On the contrary, after slowly closing your external eyes, turn your attention to your mind’s eye and to all the thoughts coming to your mind. Breathe deeply but simply a few times and gradually bring that same attention to the act of inhaling, holding and exhaling of breath. While you do that, pay attention to your spine and try to make it as straight as you can (but hey, straight doesn’t mean rigid or taut like a bowstring!)
Once your breathing has stabilized, the tide of your thoughts has turned to a slow ebb (or almost disappeared) and you are more or less reconciled to your posture, you are ready.
Now, bow mentally before someone or something you highly regard—anything you revere or respect or hold dear to your heart—and be grateful for a moment. Be forgiving, too—of your own self and of the actions right or wrong of others. Sit like this for a while, suspended in thought, space and time—mindful of your breath and thankful of the moment.
Keep still like this, breathe simply, with your back straight and attention relaxed on breathing.
Now you are ready: go on, meditate...