A ‘you should really start thinking about meditating’ part two (part one). At the beginning of this year, I read a book called Buddhism for Busy People. The author, David Michie, talks about 4 meditation techniques you can try to start you off. I still use Insight Timer, to be fair, but you might find these useful. First thing is first – when you learn how to meditate, it’s important to ensure that you are sitting comfortably, your back is straight, and your jaw and shoulders are relaxed.
Technique one: Breath counting
Like any meditation technique, your attention must be focused. All that is required for this process is to count each breath that you take. Breathe in, exhale, and on the out breath, count. David recommends counting to ten, and then starting from the beginning. He advises to place your attention onto the tip of your nose – where the air is coming in. But do not follow the airflow, and don’t fall asleep. I’ve failed on that last part countless times. But practice makes perfect, right? If ten is too hard to begin with, it is absolutely fine to aim lower. Maybe start at five and go from there.
Technique two: Nine-cycle breath meditation
This second technique also focuses on the breath. Start out by drawing your attention to your left nostril. Concentrate on inhaling through this left side of the nose, and exhaling through the right for three breaths. Then, repeat the same process but start with the right side, and exhale with the left for three. Lastly, inhale and exhale through both for three breaths. David notes that the point of this exercise is not to actually breathe through the left or the right, but to simply focus your attention. Observing the breath is important – as well as observing the space in between each.
Technique three: Helping ourselves & others
The technique full of compassion. You may need a heart for this one. Here are the steps:
- Get into your meditation position. Start by practicing one of the previous breath-counting methods to calm yourself and focus.
- Concentrate on a compassionate motivation – “by meditating like this may I dispel all negativities, depression and suffering that I experience, as well as the negativities, depression and suffering experienced by all living beings. May all beings be happy, fulfilled and quickly reach enlightenment”.
- Visualise, on every out-breath, that you are ridding yourself of present and future suffering in the form of dark smoke, which you exhale. Then, when you breathe in, imagine white light entering your nostrils and filling your body (along with a feeling of contentment).
- Repeat this process of inhalation and exhalation of these different lights.
- It’s time for others. Once you have cleared your own suffering, think of those close to you who you would like to help. Visualise each of them, and think – “I will now get rid of any dissatisfaction or unhappiness you are experiencing now, or ever will in the future”.
- While you continue to exhale the dark smoke, imagine that you are freeing each of these people of their suffering. As you breathe in the white light, imagine it is filling them with happiness.
- If you would like to continue this process, as you are a divine and selfless human being, you can then move on to strangers and even people whom you dislike (this is a tough one, David). The last step is all living beings.
- Continue this meditation for as long as you like (10 – 15 minutes is fine).
Technique four: Mahamudra
This one is more of an advanced technique and is recommended to be practiced with an experienced teacher. Here are the steps:
- Adopt meditation posture and practice a breath-counting meditation to first calm your mind.
- Turn your focus to the mind itself – your mind.
- When a thought arises, acknowledge this thought, and then let go of it. It’s an easy thing to get caught up in a thought and let it continue to play out in your head, so the main thing here is to be aware of each and remain focused.
- In between thoughts, observe the clarity that can be found within your mind (this is my favourite part).
- As your concentration improves, you will notice less and less drifting thoughts, and a sense of quiet and calm will grow. You’re progressing!
The point of learning how to meditate is not to be without thoughts or agitation, remember that. At first, meditation will feel uncomfortable – both physically and mentally – and you will probably become bored and restless. You will also have thoughts floating about in your mind continuously. These thoughts do not go away easily – it takes patience, consistency, awareness, and a lack of judgement. So sit with the thoughts, acknowledge their existence, gently remove them, and bring your awareness back to the exercise. Over time, you will become more relaxed and ease into each meditation. Good luck and enjoy!
Cover photo by Alesia Kozik