There are many schools of thought and several religions that one can follow when it comes to learning the art of meditation practice. A great way to start meditating is to stop thinking—easier said than done. The focus of meditation practice is the breath, to start. When this information is first delivered it may seem to lack some form of direction or principle, but once the student begins to be still and allow the breath to clear away the thinking, then the mind can cleanse itself through this much needed rest.
Many people take classes when beginning to meditate in order to learn the philosophy and techniques behind the practice and it is suggested to find a school or a Sangha, a group that meditates and learns together. Buddhist meditation can bring many comforts to life in general and a good teacher will discuss the different ways to do it.
Starting as a solo practitioner may be difficult for some people as basic instructions are needed and an understanding of the reasons behind meditation need to be explored. People come to a point of seeking out alternative ways to relieve stress through a long list of complaints. A medical doctor may even suggest it, as these ancient ways are beginning to gain favor in many communities and are seen as serious and positive ways to release the constant tension in the mind, body and spirit.
Many alternative healing centers will offer meditation classes for the beginner and in most cities there are Buddhist Centers where people can attend daily meditation practice, usually for a small donation to the center. Often this is not even a requirement. Buying equipment is not a requirement either as most centers have all the required equipment necessary to learn these ancient techniques.
Sitting in the lotus position is a popular and recognizable way to start. This may be uncomfortable for some people and there are alternative positions that can be discussed. Keeping the eyes at about half mast, blurring the vision by relaxing the eye muscles and focusing at about two feet ahead are the instructions with which to begin. Then, start to become aware of the breath and let go of the thoughts that are obstructing this exercise. Sitting on a cushion for comfort reasons as well is allowed. If something is causing an amount of discomfort that the student is unable to manage needs to be relayed to the teacher at some point, as there could be a medical reason behind it that needs to be investigated.
Allowing thoughts to just jump around all of the time is not a healthy mind state and can cause difficulties and distractions that will take away from the beauty of existence and of living in the world. The meditations focusing on the breath are popular as a beginning point and it will take practice to allow the mind to release the concerns of the day and of the pain someone may be experiencing. This may include anxiety or depression and a slew of other health issues. Giving it time is necessary as it is not an easy thing for the untrained mind to do, so be gentle and compassionate in self-care. Having low expectations and realizing that a blissful state of a heightened awareness is not going to happen right away is important. It may take many times to practice the letting go of the misconceptions of control over the mind. Be ready for a wonderful journey.
By Jess Lopez