Frequently Asked Questions about Meditation Practice and Getting Started

The following replies by Christine, a Mindfulness and Meditation instructor, will hopefully support your meditation practice –

How Long Should I Meditate?

If you are new to meditation, I recommend that you begin slowly. Start with just 5 minutes each day. Gradually increase the time over several weeks. When I started meditating, five minutes felt like an eternity. I now practice for 30 minutes a day, and sometimes I am surprised at how quickly it passes!

Where Should I Meditate?

Find a comfortable place where you can sit. You can sit on the floor (using a pillow or cushion for support if needed) or sit upright in a chair, with your feet resting on the floor. Some people recommend that you do not lie down on your back, but I think you should meditate in whatever pose works for you unless of course lying down makes you sleepy! Jon Kabat-Zinn’s describes the ideal meditation posture as one that “embodies dignity and wakefulness.” You want to be upright, but not rigid and tight. You can meditate anywhere, but I like having a special place in my home for my practice.

What Do I Do?

The easiest meditation technique is to count the breath. I count each in-breath and out-breath with the same number. So my mind focuses on “One” (in-breath), “One” (out-breath), “Two” (in-breath), “Two” (out-breath), and so on. Once I hit 10 (which rarely happens before my mind has wandered!) I start over at one.

If you don’t like counting, you can simply repeat to yourself “in, out…. in, out…” When your mind wanders – which it WILL DO (that’s what the mind does!) gently guide your attention back to your breath. If you need to start over counting because you don’t remember where you left off, that’s fine!

The key is to not criticize or judge yourself for letting your attention wander. In fact … noticing that your mind has wandered is the whole point of meditation – you are becoming more aware of the actions of your mind.

Even the relatively simple instruction to “follow the breath” can sound a bit vague or confusing. A helpful technique is to bring your attention to where you most notice the sensation of the breath — in the chest and lungs, or the nose or perhaps the belly? That is your anchor. Each time your mind wanders, come back to the physical sensations of breathing. When thoughts arise, it’s easy to get distracted and follow them and engage them and solve them and interrogate them…. A helpful practice is to simply label the thoughts: “worrying,” “planning,” “remembering.” Don’t worry about figuring out the precise label for the type of thought you’re having.

How Do I Fit This Into My Day?

Find the time of day that works best for you. Some people like to begin their day with meditation, others prefer to take a break for meditation at lunch, and for others the best time to meditate is in the evening.

The important thing is to make it a habit. After many weeks of a consistent practice, it will become an integral part of your day, like exercising or brushing your teeth!

Changing your habits over a period of time actually creates new neural networks in your brain, and the practice will become part of your daily routine.

But Nothing’s Happening!

Meditation is about non-judgmental awareness. We cannot bring expectations into our practice. You may experience a moment of profound insight during a meditation session. Or you might be really bored. You might feel restless and agitated. Or you might feel calm and relaxed. Meditation is about embracing whatever is in the present moment. The benefits of meditation — greater self-awareness and self-control, increased calm and empathy — will emerge over time.

But each individual session will be completely different. So if you’re bored, just note, “This is what boredom feels like.” If you’re content, note, “This is what contentment feels like.”

The most important thing about beginning a Meditation Practice is to do it, to sit, to breathe!

If you would like to find out more about Meditation and Mindfulness, then consider enrolling on ICPPD’s Online 8 week Mindfulness and Mindful-Living programme or attend a 1 or 3 days Certificate Training in Athlone – or call 0906470484 for details.

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