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Meditation for everyone, for heart, mind, body and spirit.   

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Sitting Meditation

Tibetan Tingsha Bells.When first sitting it is advisable to be in a quiet place which is free from overt disturbance such as people coming and going, phones ringing etc. Background noise such as traffic or machinery may have to be accepted and indeed can form part of meditation but when first practicing it is advisable to be in a quiet and undisturbed place

This is by no means a rule, as sitting in the garden or park can be a wonderful environment in which to meditate once meditation has become part of every day life.

Many people create a small special space in there home perhaps with an image of Buddha, one of the deities or an image of someone special in there life.

burning incense nearby can also help to create a relaxing and consistent atmosphere in which to meditate. Equally essential oils can be beneficial but as with incense maintain a consistency of smell. (Or no smell at all!)

If possible one can sit with the knees below the hips, i.e. cross legged on a cushion or special meditation stool. This said one can sit on a chair or stool if sitting cross legged is too uncomfortable.Meditation Cushion (ZAFU) - Order on line

As with the special meditation stools, special round cushions have been created to make sitting more comfortable and are known as Zafu's.

Which ever method is adopted it can be changed, so if you are new to meditation try sitting cross legged on a cushion first, and then, if after some perseverance this is not possible try a stool or chair.

It is important to keep your back straight, not ridged but upright and defiantly not slouching  - this may cause serious physical problems and make you fall asleep! If you suffer more than a little initial discomfort consult your medical practitioner or seek other professional advice about posture.

Singing bowl.The head is tilted forward very slightly and resting comfortably on the spine, (no chins resting on chests!)  Some people meditate with the eyes open and others with eyes closed, If you choose to keep your eyes open then your gaze should not shift around or be focused on any particular object. In effect if the eyes are open they should be almost out of focus - a soft gaze at a point around 5 feet away can be helpful. Some people light a candle and have this as a point of focus (even if this is not really focused on).

Equally if the eyes are closed they are softly closed rather than clamped shut! - the eyes behind the lids can remain relaxed and looking slightly downwards. (Even though the lids are closed!)

As above so below, whilst starting out on the path of meditation it is perhaps important to start of on the right footing!

There is nothing ridged about most forms of meditation but the points above tend to be universal.

The basics of sitting are to be sitting upright with the knees below the hips, so if you find one cushion still leaves your knees above the line of your hips find an extra cushion to raise you up a little. Get as comfortable as you can, meditation is not about suffering.

I can recall my first start as being very uncomfortable and my dogged determination to sit rigidly almost forcing myself in to a near lotus position, with my back rigidly straight and my eyes clamped tightly shut - Good practice for getting the body attuned to sitting but of little use in meditation. So be kind to your self, build some comfort into your practice and the actual process might provide early benefits.

People often say that they have trouble staying awake, conversely others talk of going to wonderful places and seeing wonderful insights, meeting people etc etc.

Whilst we need sleep, dreams, and visions, and even euphoric states which are very powerful, they are not really meditation.

So what is meditation I hear some of you ask? Well it is an opportunity to be as you are for half and hour or more once or twice a day, it is an opportunity to let go of the pressure of daily life, let go of thoughts all together, not to switch off the mind but equally not to get caught up  in thoughts.

Nor is meditation an opportunity to rest in the sense of sleeping or sitting on the sofa gazing into space, although this is probably closer to the meditation process that we generally realise in the west.

Meditation is about being where we are without thinking about it.

Candle.Most of us struggle to let go of thoughts - what will I do about... Oh I know, I could, or maybe someone else can. Then I could... life would be great if they could understand... Perhaps I'll try...

This is how the mind works, it has the unceasing capacity to think - good thing too otherwise there would not be any works here to read!

So while first sitting it is sometimes useful to find something to occupy the mind repetitively, many people focus on the breath - noticing inhale / exhale. Some also try counting breaths form 0 - 10 and then start again (otherwise we get caught up in was that 27 or 28 etc), personally I prefer simply noticing the breath. It's amazing how the mind will try and stop you doing this, if this happens to you don't worry, don't even think about what you were thinking or for how long you were thinking, just return to noticing inhale-exhale. In doing this the mind will not switch off but will have the chance to rest with the thoughts, troubles and whatever else it has in mind without taking over every part of you.

Meditation Stool - order on line.The other major distraction to meditation is the process of sitting - am I doing it right, the itch on the end of my nose etc. Dealing with this is a balance between real discomfort and distracting yourself. If you are really uncomfortable then consider what is required to rectify it before moving - move with the purpose of dealing with the discomfort and return to sitting - return to the breath.

If the mind wonders return to sitting, return to the present moment. DO NOT judge the quality of your sitting, leave this for another time.

When first trying meditation, try sitting without even attempting to meditate, create your space, find a cushion or pillow that meets your needs, get to know how it feels to sit still, get a sense of your backside resting, get a feel for your back being straight (not ridged!), your head tilted forward and your eyes resting, mouth either slightly open or closed. Remember you are not meditating yet, just getting to know how it is to sit quietly with meditation in mind... rest in your body, get a sense of the support beneath you.

If you are new to meditation try starting of with 5 - 10 minutes every day or less, if you can, try to extend this to 15 - 20 or even 30 - 45 minutes over time. If you slip up or do not feel any benefit, persevere, meditation does work and  it is one of the most wonderful ways of finding inner quiet and a sense of peace within mind and body...and it's free!

If you simply cannot get to grips with meditation it can be really helpful to attend a retreat centre for an evening,  a weekend, or a longer period with others in shared meditation. Sitting with others is a real help and support for all sorts or reasons. There is probably a group who meditate regularly in your area.

Try contacting one of the many retreat centres listed here at Metta to attend a meditation evening or retreat, many have contact details for local open groups that meet once or twice a week which newcomers are welcome try.

Bowl.If all this seems to much you might like to try pausing a few times a day, the benefits of pausing can be substantial and often help to get people started in meditation.

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Meditation Cushion, Support Cushion - Zafu
With Buckwheat filling
Zafu Meditation Cusion
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A zafu meditation cushion customarily used in Buddhist tradition. Made from strong 100% cotton drill filled with organic buckwheat. Features a hidden pleat to allow removal of the filling in the event of the cushion requiring to be washed. The zafu has an integral carrying handle for easy carrying.
Click to Order (UK) Click to order (US) 
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