In our hectic and busy lives, sometimes taking the time out to pause and relax is the most important thing you can do to recentre and give yourself the focus to continue forward in a positive way. Stress and tension, which can be caused by negative forces in our lives, can often snowball and cause stress in their own right. Meditation is a great way to reduce stress, find clarity, focus on positivity, and find physical and mental tranquility. If you find the idea overwhelming or aren’t sure how to start, here is an introductory guide to basic meditation techniques.
The most important factor in choosing a location is not conforming to specific ideas of what a meditation retreat should be. The key is finding a place in which you are comfortable, free of distraction, and feel capable of focusing fully on the meditation. For one person this may be on the floor of a bright and airy room, with plenty of light and sun rays streaming in. For another, it maybe in a chair in a warm and cozy nook. Another, laying out in the backyard with the rhythmic chirping of birds is relaxing. Some people even have dedicated meditation rooms or corners specifically set aside with a comfortable pillow to sit on and inspirational decorations and objects. As long as the space is of your own choosing and feels personally comfortable and free of distraction and stress to you, then it is an appropriate location in which to meditate.
You can probably picture the “typical” mediation pose right now. While you are free to assume the cross-legged pose, again here the key is finding a position in which you personally are comfortable to begin the journey of meditation. You want your back to be straight, and though you should be fully relaxed, try not to slouch. Choose a comfortable but confident position. Popular poses include sitting on the floor, on a pillow, or on a bed cross-legged or kneeling. Others choose to sit upright on a chair. You want to choose a position that you can sustain for the length of the meditation, so don’t contort your body uncomfortably. You may choose to position your hands, whether placing them together in your lap, laying them on your knees while sitting or kneeling, forming “prayer” hands, or choosing the gian mudra position (think of our “A-O.K.” hand signal) in the cross-legged position. Try a variety of positions but settle on the one that you feel connects you best and allows you to focus on the meditation process.
There are a variety of meditation practices to choose from, and it is simply a matter of trial and error to find which one helps to relax you the most and leaves you feeling most refreshed and recentred following the session. Mantra meditation is a popular variation. In this technique, you select a word or phrase of your own meaning with positive connotations, and repeat the word/phrase over and over. Whether the word is a cherished memory of your past, an aspiration for your future, or simply an abstraction that makes you feel good, repeat the word over and over, focusing only on it. This mental break helps to relieve you of your worries and can lift the weight on your shoulders caused by stress.
This simple meditation session involves relaxation through focusing on the inhalation and exhalation of your breath. Focusing on your breath and the rhythmic pattern of inhaling and exhaling helps to clear your mind of thoughts, distractions, and stressors. Focusing only on the breath, visualizing your body receiving oxygen, you may be struck with a feeling of levity or clarity.
In following these simple steps and adjusting them to suit your particular comfort level, you can develop the meditation technique that is right for you. You can certainly continue from these basic steps to more advanced and traditional Buddhist meditation, or simply enjoy the clarity and relief of tension that can be found with these introductory meditation techniques.