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Meditation Basics

by Richard Ebbs

Relaxation

For this one lying on the floor is actually best. Please try not to fall asleep though! Put your palms down on the floor by your sides. Your feet should be just a few inches apart.

OK. Now just lie still for a few seconds. Let your thoughts gradually quieten down. Without any force at all let your breathing become naturally deep and regular. Now feel the weight of your body on the floor.

Now we're going to very quickly just 'name' some parts of the body in turn. Centre your consciousness briefly on each of these parts as you name them to yourself. Toes, feet, ankles, calves, knees, thoughs, groin, midriff, chest, shoulders, hands, arms, neck and head. Be aware of any areas where there is particular tension. OK? Now I'll just explain the next bit before we do it.

What we're going to do is spend five seconds making our whole bodies as tense as we possibly can. Then we're going to release all of that tension in one go, pushing it out and up and away from us. But before we do this, on the count of three take a long deep breath in. One, two, three -now tense as many muscles in your body as you possibly can, and when I count three push the air in your lungs out at the same time as you let go of every last little bit of that tension. One, two, three -push away the stress!

Now concentrate on your breathing. Breathing in through the nose and out through the nose is best here, but find some other way if that is uncomfortable for you. Let your breaths be deep, and let your mind be still. Just watch the way you take in the air and how it fills your lungs. Hold the air in your lungs for just for a second or two before you breathe out, and wait for just a second or two before you breathe in again. Just watch your breath for thirty seconds or so. If you get distracted or your mind wanders, then gently bring it back.

Now try and maintain the sense that by letting the body relax, and by allowing the mind to be still, so you are letting all parts of the system become more integrated. By simply being calm, and aware, you are letting bodymind become more balanced. More efficient. More energised. Be calm in this attitude for another minute or so.

Now gradually bring yourself out of the meditation, slowly bringing your attention back to where you are.

Breathing

Choose a Posture you feel comfortable with.

Then relax the body by concentrating on each part in turn, allowing the stress in that area to fall away.

(See Basic Relaxation). Spend two to five minutes on this.

Then when you're ready concentrate on the breath, and simply watch it come and go.

Allow your breathing to become regular and a little deeper, but don't force anything. Breathing in through the nose and out through the nose is best, although breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth is fine too if this is what you prefer.

If your mind wanders off in any direction, gently bring it back to an awareness of each breath you take.

Spend a few minutes just 'watching' the air going into your nose, and then through the nose or mouth. Try to maintain this simple awareness.

Breath comes in, and breath goes out.

Now let your attention focus on the sensations you can feel at the end of your nose or your lips as the air passes through on it's way in and out. Relax. Simply watch.

When you are ready, come out of the meditation by gradually becoming aware of your surroundings, and open your eyes. Stretch out. If it helps, put your hands on the floor for a short time as a way of 'coming back to earth'.

Movement

Props: some loose-fitting clothes, no shoes, and some space to move around in.

Stand in your space with your palms uppermost by your waist, and almost close your eyes so that you can just see your hands through the lids of your eyes. Now let your body make whatever slow, simple movements come naturally to it.

Let your body decide how to move. Let all of parts your body be loose. If at any stage you want to close your eyes, that's fine too as long as you keep an awareness of what your body is doing. Simply watch what's going on, and try to be as fully aware as you can be of all those parts of you that are moving. If your thoughts get distracted, then bring yourself back. Without telling your muscles what to do, let those parts of you that want to, move, while being 'engaged' with your mind. Don't think too much, and try not to move too many parts of your body at once. It's easier to keep track of simple movements. Try not to make any movement that your mind isn't 'engaged' with.

Sense which muscles are moving as your shape changes. Notice how even a small movement in one area generally involves some sort of compensation somewhere else. Notice how finely tuned your sense of balance is, and how it works with no conscious thought.

Now concentrate on the movement of your arms and your hands, preferably with your palms open. Concentrate on your palms more than your fingers. Let your hands and arms do what they want to do, and try and be as fully aware as you can of all the nuances of movement involved. Do this for a couple of minutes.

Then when you're ready, end it. 'Jiggling' your whole body for a few seconds sometimes feels good before you do anything else!

Zazen

Zazen is the classic Zen meditation. (Perhaps deceptively) sometimes described as 'sitting quietly doing nothing'. A common practise among Japanese Zen Buddhist monks and nuns.

It's traditional to sit in the lotus or half-lotus posture here, (see Posture) but if this is uncomfortable for you then sit in a straight-backed chair.

Your hands should rest in the lap, with the both hands palm uppermost, and the left hand resting on the right hand. The tips of the thumbs should be lightly touching each other.

Make sure your spine is straight. Push your lower back forward slightly and expand your chest while making sure your head is upright. Gently move from side to side until you find the balance point that is most comfortable.

Keep your eyes open just a tiny bit ('neither open nor closed') and look at the floor a few feet in front of you. Breathe in and out through your nose, keeping your mouth shut and the tongue resting gently against the roof of the mouth.

Take a few deep breaths, exhaling all of the air in your lungs each time, and then let your breathing find it's own natural deep rhythym, without force of any kind.

Watch the breath. When the mind wanders, gently bring it back again to that simple awareness. Be still. Relax. Be easy on yourself. Don't judge yourself harshly. Just keep the attention on your breathing, and when the mind wanders, just gently bring it back again.

Be here now. Engage fully in the moment. Breathe, and be fully, vitally present.

When you choose to come out of the meditation, first come back to a full sense of being engaged in all of your body. Then gently move your your upper body around in small arcs before stretching your legs out. Don't stand up too soon if your legs are stiff!

Visit the personal website of Richard Ebbs at www.feedback.nildram.co.uk/richardebbs/ E-mail: richebbs@nildram.co.uk

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