How to meditate

I’ve wanted to write a post on meditation for a little while, and with all the ups and downs in emotion that I’ve been feeling over the last few weeks: packing, saying goodbye, preparing to move to another country, I thought this was the perfect time to do so.

It’s when things get overwhelming, confusing and unsure that meditation is really precious to me; it’s a way to connect with where I’m going and why, when all around me there are distractions and complications.

I’ve explained a little here about my experience of learning the practice of meditation. It is a different experience for everyone but I know I found it useful to read about other people’s experience.

Before you start
Firstly, commit to it. I’d say commit to 2 months every day (I started with 9 minutes a day) to really give it a good try out. My own coach, who suggested the practice to me, kept asking me how it was going….I have to admit, at the beginning I was making myself do it so I could say I’d done it most days – I didn’t manage every day!, so I know the resistance that comes at the beginning. I didn’t really see the point. It didn’t seem to work for me. But she kept encouraging me to keep going. And then I understood. So keep at it, and get some accountability from someone who values it in their life!

In case you’re still not convinced, just picking three things that I attribute almost exclusively to this practice, my meditation gave me:

  • an understanding of who I was and clarity on where I was going;
  • confidence to take steps towards my dream because I was connecting with the true me;
  • a deep sense of peace

What to do
I lie down to meditate – on a bed or sofa. It doesn’t matter if you fall asleep.

Relax. Let the weight of the bed support you. Feel it underneath you, by pretending you’re a sack of potatoes. Be a ‘heavy lump’, allowing the bed to be the carrier of your body. For a long time I would sort of ‘hold myself up’, thinking…well I’m not sure what really: it was a kind of tension. The bed won’t break, let your body go limp and floppy.

Identify the tension in your body (imagine ‘searching’ inside your whole body). Then let it go. This might be tricky to start with (I started meditating with a LOT of tension). Releasing it meant I just tightened my grip again. But keep going, the act of trying to release is really the starting point and you will find it easier after a while (This is why we call it a practice!)

Focus on your breathing: listen to and feel your normal breath go in and out. If it’s really been a tough day, take three (or as many as you want!) slow, deep breaths – get as much air in your lungs as possible – before going back to a normal breathing pattern.

Then just focus on your normal breathing, listening and feeling your breath go in and out. Slow down with this, follow the pace of the breathing, allow yourself to do this.

Bring yourself to the present moment (here’s a post I did about staying present generally) where you’re concentrating on exactly now, this moment, right here.

Allow your thoughts to be released. A helpful way when I started was to imagine the words THOUGHTS in caps – and not allowing any thoughts about your life to get past it. Use this image as a barrier to stop the thoughts getting through. The other way was to say to yourself ‘What’s my next thought?’ because, as you’re waiting, you’re not thinking. Yes, it’s only a millisecond, but it’s a start. Keep at it. Another way is to see every thought as wisps of air floating away, or not ‘finishing’ the thought – just letting it go without completing it.

What to expect

Sighing.

I know I have brought myself into the present moment when I begin to sigh. This is the body getting rid of emotion – this is a great sign. When there is a disconnect between our mind and our body, we experience emotion.

Persistent thoughts.

When you find a situation tricky or emotional, it may come into your mind persistently. Keep releasing the thought, without dwelling on it. It will get easier. It’s an interesting way to figure out what’s bothering you: I remember when I was finding a relationship tricky, the image of them or their words would come into my mind a LOT. By accepting the situation as it was and looking for ways I could have compassion for that person, I was able to relate to them better in ‘real life’ and my meditation also improved.

Random thoughts and images from the past.

Really random thoughts used to pop into my head – people, places, events that happened that I haven’t thought about in years and years. Things I’ve forgotten. I find this so fascinating, it makes me wonder: What happened here? I don’t always figure out why I have the thought, I just see the scene as if I’m there, feel the emotion I had then if I can, then let it go.

Random pain and tingling feelings.

I had this a LOT at the beginning, when I really began to take meditation seriously. The feelings varied from tingling to ache, to a sort of fizzing feeling or sometimes pain within my body. By just ‘observing’ the feeling, it’s been a feeling (rather than when I’ve begun to resist it – and it becomes pain) it often changes and releases completely.

Deep relaxation.

The kind you get from a massage but much deeper. I recall my shoulder blade ‘moved’ very gently once and the relief and realisation that my body can heal itself was immense. I often wake up after falling asleep meditating, and feel like I’ve had a massage.

Awareness.

An increased understanding of situations and yourself. How you react to things and what you love. I’ve written here about using my body as a ‘go to’ for advice: it responds to the part of me that knows what I REALLY want and will always tell us through it’s reaction.

What’s your experience of meditation? If you’d like to, please share in the comments below.