meditation

How to Meditate

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How to Meditate

by John Onorato

Lots of people think meditation is about “emptying your brain of thoughts.”

It isn’t, though!

One of the brain’s primary functions is to generate thoughts. Thus, it’s counterproductive to expect it to be blank.

The purpose of mediation is to notice your thoughts.

It’s actually rather similar to when you “get in the zone” while biking, running, swimming … or any other sport, actually.

It’s also similar to finding your creative groove when drawing, painting, writing, knitting, or whatever else might be your jam.

Meditation is deceptively easy! And as with many things worth having, much success can be attributed to preparation.

Setting the Stage

  1. Find a place where you won’t be bothered or distracted. I like to sit for 10-20 minutes, but when starting out it’s better to start out with 3-5 minutes.

    Don’t stress about the amount of time you meditate. It’s more important you do it regularly. If you’re trying to start a “meditation habit,” it helps to do it at the same time every day. This primes your brain for the task at hand.

    I like to meditate at least once a day, shortly after I wake up.
  2. Get comfortable. Keep your back straight and upright. It’s not advisable to lie down, but you can sit in a chair. If you do this, make sure both feet are on the ground.

    But however you get comfy, know there is no set way.

    I like to do it semi-traditionally, sitting with both knees on the floor, and a hard pillow under my butt.
  3. Set a timer. I recommend a soothing, gentle timer. Don’t use a jangly one that will upset you.

    There are many smartphone apps to use for meditation. The first one I used was Calm.com— in addition to having a course for beginning meditators, it provides pretty music and nice things to look at, should you want to keep your eyes open. It also has a non-intrusive bell to tell you when you’ve reached the end of your scheduled time, and it keeps track of the days you’ve meditated.

    Pro Tip: Seeing the “streak” you’re keeping is great motivation for starting a daily practice!

    I also like InsightTimer. It has a great timer that’s very customizable. It’s also free, and has over 20,000 guided meditations, spiritual podcasts, and pieces of music.

    Headspace is another good one. I used it for a while and liked it, but you had to pay to continue past the introductory class.

    Please note: If you’re going to use an app to meditate, then I suggest you mute the notifications on your phone. When you’re trying to turn your concentration inward, the last thing you want is some external stimulus drawing your attention outward again.

    In time you’ll be able to weather little interruptions like this. But at first … mute the phone.

How to Sit

Now that the stage has been set, we’re ready for the fun part. It’s as easy as counting your breath!

First, set up your environment. Light a candle, dim the room, put on soft music, whatever works for you. Be sure you won’t be interrupted for a while.

Next, sit as described above.

Inhale. Count ONE with this breath.

Hold it until your body is ready to exhale. Don’t stress, just let go.

Count ONE with that exhale.

Hold until your body is ready to inhale again. Remember to just let go.

Count TWO with the next inhale.

Count TWO with the next exhale.

Inhale, THREE.

Exhale, THREE.

Just let go.

Proceed until TEN, then start again at ONE.

If you lose count, no big deal. Just restart at ONE.

Your mind will stray. That is fine. That is natural. This is what brains do!

Simply observe these thoughts and let them pass. 

Imagine yourself at the bank of a river. Imagine your thoughts passing by you like leaves floating in the water. They flow downstream and out of sight, along with your breath.

Another good metaphor is traffic. If you’re standing on the side of a road, waiting to cross the street, the cars move in front of you, back and forth. You can’t affect them, and they don’t affect you.

Don’t worry about trying to “make your mind empty.” That’s not how brains work! The very function of the brain is to generate thoughts. The trick is to observe those thoughts and not engage with them.

If you are having trouble with your thoughts, try labeling them. When a thought comes up, say “thought.” To yourself, of course! If an emotion comes up, say “emotion.”

About Breathing: Most folks breathe from their lungs. Their shoulders move up and down with the breath. This is more like a “half-breath,” though.

To get a deeper, fuller breath, use your diaphragm. Moving it down will push your belly out a little and elongate your lungs. Doing so will enable you to take in a roomier breath.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with breathing the first way. Breathing without diaphragm action will make your shoulders move. Just be aware of how you’re breathing.


As You Meditate

While meditating, you can repeat affirmations or other phrases. These are called mantras.  Some examples: 

  • “I am awesome” 
  • “My body is healed”
  • “My mother is well”
  • “I am grateful for our abundance”

Pro Tip: Practicing gratitude on the regular is an awesome way to level up your vibrations!

Simply count your breath, and keep your mantra in mind.

If you want to say your mantra phrase out loud, that’s cool too.

If you feel more comfortable keeping your eyes open, then try and keep your focus on one point: The flame of a candle, your bedroom doorknob, that spot on the wall. It’s all good.

If you have to scratch some part of your body, that’s OK too. Scratch that itch, just don’t focus on the scratching. Do it and be done.

All this said — there really isn’t any “right ” way to meditate, any more than there’s a “wrong way.” (Hint: There isn’t.) There’s only what works, and what doesn’t work.

This is what works for me, and I hope it makes a good starting point for you. If something I’ve suggested above doesn’t work for you, then don’t do it that way. Do it your own way.

And that’s really all there is to it.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Book a call with me using the friendly purple button, or shoot me a message using the Contact link in the menu above.

Posted by John Onorato in Portfolio, Visionary, 2 comments