In my last column, I described what meditation is and went over Benson’s Relaxation Response. In this column, I want to give you simple instructions to get you meditating.
Purpose: The following activity, Breath Meditation, will teach you how to meditate using your breathing as a focal point. Having a focal point such as your breathing helps you get back to the present moment when your mind starts to wander. By returning your focus to your breathing you’ll learn how to slow your active mind and allow your body to fully relax.
- Set a timer for 20 minutes and prepare for an uninterrupted activity where you will not be disturbed by people, the doorbell, the telephone or anything else.
- Sit comfortably in a straight-backed chair or on the floor. If you sit on a chair keep your legs uncrossed with your feet resting comfortably on the floor and your hands resting gently on your lap. If you sit on the floor you should sit on a cushion that raises your buttocks off the ground slightly while your legs are crossed comfortably and resting on the floor.
- Your folded hands can remain comfortably on your lap or you can let each hand rest on a knee, palms facing up. In both cases, sit up straight with your head, neck and back in alignment.
- Wear comfortable clothing such as a sweatsuit with a non-binding waistband.
- Remove your shoes or sneakers.
- Focus your attention on your current breathing pattern.
- Make a mental note of the depth, pace and regularity of your breathing.
- Visualize a picture of your lungs and your diaphragm.
- Slowly breathe in through your nose.
- Feel your belly move out as your diaphragm pushes down against it.
- As you breathe in through your nose, visualize your lungs inflating completely starting from the bottom (the part closest to your diaphragm) and moving upward.
- Let your ribs expand and shoulders gently rise as your lungs inflate.
- When you have filled your lungs, slowly exhale through your nose.
- Feel your belly push back and your diaphragm rise back into place.
- As you feel the movements in your belly, visualize your lungs emptying.
- Imagine all of the air leaving your lungs as they deflate (sometimes visualizing a balloon losing air or a tube of toothpaste squeezing the paste out can be helpful in understanding the emptying process).
- As you continue to breathe in and out this way pay attention to your thoughts. Try to keep your thoughts focused on your breathing. You might find that saying “in” as you inhale and “out” as you exhale makes it easier to keep your focus on your breathing. Say these words to yourself. Some people find that counting the seconds it takes to inhale and exhale keeps them focused on their breathing.
- When your thoughts stray from your breathing do not get upset at yourself. Simply note that this happened and re-focus on your breathing and the words in and out.
- Continue breathing this way for at least 20 minutes.
- At the end of the 20 minutes, it will be time to come back to the present, open your eyes, and start to sit up and return to your day.
With a few months of practice, you will find that you can slow your breathing down and stay focused on it most of the time.
In my next column, we’ll continue our discussion of meditation and shift our focus to moving meditation. Until then, remember to Stress Less and Live More.