Saturday, August 29, 2009

Learning to Meditate

I don't believe that there is only one way to meditate. And for most of my life, I have been satisfied to call my movement practice mediation, my dancing meditation or even walking a sort of meditation. Although I have done the sitting kind of meditation, but I used to find it very difficult to sit still. But one of the benefits of massage and other bodywork modalities is that I find that I can sit without pain now and therefore I can be more disciplined in being still. Of late I have become very interested in exploring different kinds of meditation practice. And while, I think that a contemplative movement practice is indispensable, I also see a tremendous value in quieting both the mind and the body.

I am reprinting the first part of a tutorial on meditation that I have found to be very helpful. I recently went to a meditation and talk at the Insight Meditation Community of Washington DC. If you visit the site, you might want to explore the recorded guided meditation and talks available for download. They are really fantastic.

The following comes from their website:

Learn to Meditate

Part I: How to establish a daily sitting practice

Before you sit
As with all things, start where you are. You have everything you need right now. First, decide to sit each day. Next, plan the time, place and duration for your sitting meditation.

Choose a time
Morning is often best because the mind is calmer than it is later in the day. However, the best time is the time that you can commit to on a regular basis. If one longer sit isn’t possible, try two shorter ones.

Choose a space
There is no perfect place. If possible, dedicate a space exclusively to your daily sitting. Choose a relatively quiet space where you can leave your cushion (or chair) so that it is always there to return to. You may want to create an altar with a candle, inspiring photos or statues. These are not necessary, but are beneficial if they help to motivate you.

Choose a duration
As long as is comfortable, plus 5 minutes. This is a general guide, not a rule. Even fifteen or twenty minutes will seem an eternity in the beginning, but that impression will change with time. If you sit each day, you will experience noticeable benefits (e.g., less reactivity, more calm) and be able to increase your sitting time.

Every time you sit: Set your intention: It is helpful to recall at the start of each sitting meditation why you are doing it. Remember that your purpose, to become more open and free, will benefit you and those around you.

Set your posture
Alertness is one of the two essential ingredients in every meditation. Sit on a chair, cushion, or kneeling bench as straight and tall as possible. In the beginning, sitting against a wall can help you learn what a straight back feels like. Around this straight-back position, let the rest of your skeleton and muscles hang freely. Let the hands rest comfortably on your knees or lap. Let the eyes close, bringing the attention inward.

Relax deeply
Openness is the second essential ingredient in every meditation. Once you feel your spine is erect, let everything else relax, hang loose, and soften. Breathing through the nose, loosen the face, neck, hands, and stomach area. You may want to begin at the scalp and move your attention slowly downward, methodically relaxing and softening each part of the body. Please don’t skip the step of relaxing/letting go! Consciously releasing body tension will help you open to whatever arises during your meditation.

Choose an object of meditation
Once you’ve established this alert and open posture, you are ready to decide where you’ll place your attention. Useful objects for beginners are:

• The breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils.
• Other body changes during breathing, e.g., the rise and fall of the chest.
• Sounds as they arise from within the body or outside of it.
• Other body sensations as they arise.

Whatever object you select, stay with it for at least ten breaths. Even with this effort, your mind will insist on going to its usual places. Make note of this when it happens, and gently lead your attention back to the chosen object of meditation. Your intention and persistence are the key ingredients for cultivating awareness, not the number of times your mind wanders. As often as you need to, check yourself—“Alert and erect? Relaxed and open?” - and begin again.

L.J. Kelly, April 2001.


  1. Thanks for the link to the Insight Meditation Community.

  2. You're welcome. It contains a link to some download-able audio- guided meditations and talks that are really wonderful. I hope that you check them out. Let me know what you think.


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