For many years now I have tried sitting medication to help me control my emotions and highly recommend it as a tool to help control anxiety and find peace in dark times. Two important points I would like to make first 1) I am not a meditation master I will describe what I know and therefore what I do 2) this is not some kind of Zen Buddhist thing, whilst the practice of sitting meditation or ‘practice’ is an integral part of Buddhism what I will describe here is just a simple form. So please do not pick fault in this if I miss finer points but if you wish to learn further the book Zen Mind, Beginners mind is most wonderful.
Meditation can be done anywhere, anytime by anyone. It requires no special equipment and is very easy to do but and I cannot stress this enough it is very, if not impossible to master. Whilst anyone can do sitting meditation I would advise those who may find sitting crossed legs painful you can also do it sat in a straight-backed chair. Here though I will describe it as if sitting crossed legged.
When I practice I sit facing the bedroom window, which I open to let in a slight breeze. There is a wind chime and enough room for me to sit without touching anything. You do not need these things, mainly somewhere quiet where you can spend time without too much disturbance. Meditation can last 5 minutes or an hour, it matters not, what matters is you. I have a meditation cushion that I sit on but a folded pillow or some cushions would do just as well to raise you up slightly and protect you bum from going numb. I also use a rolled yoga mat under my feet to take some of the pressure off my ankles. You do not need this because a rolled towel will work just as well.
Sit on your cushion and cross your legs, mine are slightly bowed so it is impossible for me to do more than just cross them but if you are flexible and want to do, hey its your moment. sit with your back straight and find your point of balance, you will do this many times but to start you should feel your weight evenly distributed and steady. slightly lower your chin so your head tilts forward and imagine a thread from the base of your neck going up, like that of a puppet. Imagine the thread being pulled gently and feel your back straighten, regain your balance. If you wish you can close your eyes or even have them slightly open, if you do open them find a place where there is minimal distraction in your eye line and pick a focal spot. I chose to close my eyes. Finally place your hands in your lap or on your knees, I chose laying one hand on the other with my thumbs lightly pressed together as if making an egg shape but do what makes you feel comfortable.
Finally let a small smile form, and with this smile feel joy. Keep this smile throughout your session and beyond, trust me it will still be there long after you finish.
So now you are sitting, and now you breath. Each breath should be even and regular, neither shallow or deep but regular and even. try not to pause to long so that the breathing becomes slow and cyclic. Once you have found your breathing, recheck your posture. Your muscles should be relaxed, shoulders down and balanced centred, give the thread a gentle pull and feel you back straighten.
Now return to your breathing, once you are happy that it is steady and cyclic start to count each breath in your mind. Each cycle is one breath, do not set goals or targets like “today I will do 100 breaths” the purpose of meditation is to clear your mind and just sit. As you sit and breath you will find thoughts coming into your mind, this is where the fun starts with meditation and why it is so good for anxiety and other mental illness, we will control these thoughts and learn to let them go and even ignore them. This is where the name “practice” comes in, you need to control your body and your mind.
To help me with the thoughts I use the following imagery, I imagine my mind as a river. Each thought is a fish in the river and it is peaceful to just let the fish swim by, see them, acknowledge them but let them swim by. If you find yourself thinking, as soon as you realise say to yourself I am fishing, I have caught a fish and now I must let it go. Release the thought as you would a fish and watch it swim away.
And now let us remember, how is your posture? slight aches, have you pulled the thread? are your shoulders relaxed? probably not but just correct them and continue breathing, continue counting, continue watching the fish swim by. Meditation is quiet, still, but harder than it looks, all you have to do is sit, breath and not think. and yet every time you sit will be different, some days it will all be wrong, other days it will all be right but everyday will be worth it because everyday you will have done something for you. You will have had however long just you and your control. It does not matter how much time that you give only that you do.
I have simplified here, there is more but just doing the exercise above you will find enjoyment. When I meditate I always finish by bowing four times, this is from Zen but my devotions are mine:
I bow and give thanks to Buddha for bringing peace
I bow and give thanks to those who devote their lives to helping and supporting others
I bow and give strength and hope to those who need help and support
I bow and feel blessed by the love I receive from others
Finally I bow and acknowledge that I am of the world and the world is of me.
Feel free to change to your own but the importance is that you “pass it on” so to speak. Once you have finished meditating take some time and care getting up, sitting still for a long period of time can cause aches and stiffness so have a good stretch and enjoy the rest of your day.