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Wednesday, 11 January 2017

How to Meditate - The Basics

   As I mentioned on Thursday, this month I'm going to participate in Fabletics' 21 day meditation challenge to make meditation a daily habit, and I begin today. It's a straight-forward process that #Fabletics21 has lined out to make it easier, as well as providing a 21-day calendar for the timing goals. For example, day 1, 2 & 3 want you to aim for 3 minutes of meditation a day, while day 5 wants 4.5 minutes, day 11 wants 7 minutes, working towards an ultimate target of being able to shut your mind off for 15 minutes by the end of the three weeks, as well as having made it a habit to find time in your day to meditate.

http://www.fabletics.co.uk/21-day-challenge/meditation

   If you're struggling to find the mindset, and even if you fall in love with meditation, you will have days when you just don't want to even if it would help. In these cases, I find having a few dedicated items can help. It goes the same way with exercise - having pretty workout clothing can really help you stay on track, and treating yourself to something gorgeous and expensive becomes a bit of a reward, as well as further investment.
   In the case of meditation, having some nice, loose-fitting clothing can help. A nice oversized top in a nice colour, pattern or with a motivational/relevant quote, and some loose trousers. I always wear leggings or capris when I work out and rarely get on well with loose-legged trousers, but this was a nice opportunity to buy a cute pair that would otherwise go unused in every other moment in my life. To some degree, pyjamas would work very nicely. Whatever you're comfortable in.
   Other meditation-specific things could be a CD or playlist you would otherwise not listen to outside of meditation, or a pretty pillow (zafu or regular sofa cushion) bought for this specific purpose. You get the picture - a useful and visual investment of some sort.

1. Find somewhere comfortable to sit, somewhere soft and quiet where you'll be happy to stay put without fidgeting for at least 5 minutes. Bring a cushion if you need one - sometimes a peaceful spot isn't always comfortable, and a comfortable spot not always peaceful. Better to find a peaceful spot and make it comfortable. Light candles and play some relaxing music, if it helps. If it's your first time, you'll soon find out if it helps or not. If you find it doesn't, turn it off or blow them out.

2. Sit with a straight but relaxed back - your torso should be open and unrestricted to allow for easy breathing, and your back shouldn't be hunched or arched. It should be comfortable and easy to maintain the position, though it may take a moment or so for your body to settle into it. Fold your legs however you find comfortable. For most people it's the Burmese position, with both ankles on the floor, one in front of the other rather than stacked on top. There's no need to go full or half lotus if you don't find it comfortable.
   Close your eyes if you prefer, but don't close them tightly. Closing them to start with can help to shut out outside simulus, but once you've reached a tranquil state later on, don't fight them if they begin to open. Let it happen; most monks who meditated half-shut their eyes, shutting out outside stimulus without turning away from it.



3. Once comfortable, set a timer. Start with 3 minutes and work your way up. Alternatively, you can use music as a timer; the end of a certain track or number of tracks.

4. Breathe deeply, calmly, and from your centre. Let your stomach rise and fall, but try not to over think it. Let it happen rather than make it happen. It may well take a few breaths for this to become natural, and because of this method, this is one of the two most challenging details of meditation.

5. Begin to count your breaths to ten, then go back to one and count again. This is much harder than you expect because your mind will wander. When you notice it wander, start counting your breaths again from the beginning. Don't let yourself get frustrated. There's challenge in any new thing, and this is the second and greatest challenge of meditating.
   #Fabletics21 suggest focusing on a colour instead of counting on your breaths, and when your mind begins to wander, return to that colour. Anything that doesn't take concentration will work. We all know how to count to ten, and we all know what a colour looks like. It takes little to no brain power, and that's the point.

6. When your timer goes off or your playlist finished, open your eyes but don't move. Let yourself absorb the calm you've achieved. You can choose to write down any thoughts that came to mind - the ones that would pop into your head during a time you're trying to shut them out will be the ones most dominantly on your mind and likely giving you the most trouble. Write them down and, as suggested by #Fabletics21, consciously close the notebook and set it to one side. Odds are, most of these will be pointless things that don't deserve worrying about, some might be unavoidable and so time shouldn't be wasted thinking about them and others will either fix themselves or turn out to be better than expected.

   Try to do this three times a week, at least, but aim for every day. Learn that even if you only manage a few minutes, sometimes that's all you'll need, and if you're really stressed out, you'll want to make the time for it, so you're more likely to try harder. If you're really pressed for time, try doing it in the shower. I used it and it worked quite well for me.



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