There are many popular meditation techniques including Transcendental Meditation and Zen Meditation. The most effective meditations from the perspective of natural healing and stress management tend to be less formal and structured. In the early stages of this approach it is the practice of meditation that is most important rather than the technique. A less formal approach allows for spontaneous shifts in posture, changes in breathing patterns or emotional states, or perhaps regenerative physical movements such as swaying, etc., which may naturally arise as the practitioner sits in meditation. Some forms of meditation have a dancelike quality such as would be observed in the approach of the teacher Osho, Garielle Roth and the Sufi “Whirling Dervishes”. Some approaches integrate sitting and movement in meditation.
It is said that every journey begins with the first step and so let us begin with how one needs to sit to create a mediation practice.
In meditation one will usually sit on the floor or if it more comfortable on a small pillow to sit on. Zen based meditation is known by the Japanese word Zazen which when translated literally into English means “seated meditation”.
As I have mentioned there are many ways to sit in Zazen but no matter what way of sitting you choose how you sit is very important. Rather than be rigid about this. Let’s explore different styles of sitting. These are often traditional approaches based on a particular culture or country. For simplicity I will use descriptive names rather than the names used in their places of origin.
The simplest meditation position is from Burma. Here the legs are crossed with both knees resting flat on the floor. One ankle is in front of the other, but not over.
The Half Lotus Position is very common in Hatha Yoga classes taught in the West. Here you are placing the left foot onto the right thigh and tucking the right leg under your left thigh.
The Full Lotus Position is by far the most stable of all positions but also more difficult than the Half Lotus position, especially if you are not particularly flexible.. It is done by placing each foot onto the opposite thigh. This might be slightly painful at first but if practiced consistently the muscles in your legs will become more flexible. This should not be done if you have knee injuries or chronic knee pain.
The Kneeling Position. Here you are kneeling with your hips resting on your ankles. Many people actually use a small wooden bench that they purchase in Asian supply shops to help them in sitting in this position. These benches are call Seiza Benches, because this position is know in Japan as Seiza.
The Chair Position. It is an acceptable to meditate while sitting on a chair. The key when sitting in this way is to keep your back straight.
The Standing Position. Though you will not often see individuals practicing standing meditation in the West it is common in China and Korea. This is a useful position for individuals who cannot sit for long periods of time. In this approach one stands straight with the feet shoulder width apart. The heels should be slightly closer together than the big toes. Remember not to lock your knees.
While standing in this position it is recommended that you place your hands over your belly, right hand over left. 3
Once you have chosen the position in which you wish to meditate let’s begin.
Step 1: Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. If closing your eyes is not comfortable you can keep your eyes open, or half closed, or you can shut them completely.
Step 2. Count each inhalation and each exhalation, until you get to ten. It is likely that your mind will wander without you even being aware that it is happening. When you do become aware of this acknowledge the thought and then continue back counting from one again.
I know individuals who mediate three hours a day but generally fifteen minutes is a good time frame to begin with. If even fifteen minutes is difficult begin with five minutes or even one minute.
Step 3. In time and with practice as with most things, you ability to focus will expand.When you are able to get to ten repeatedly without any intruding thoughts, you may then begin counting an inhalation and an exhalation as one rather than counting them separately. In time you will be able to just concentrate on the breath without counting at all. In order to develop this ability it is helpful to practice meditation on a daily basis.
Step. 4 When you open your eyes slowly stretch and warm up your legs and arms.
If you are serious about creating and maintaining a meditation practice it is good to begin with meditating 15 minutes daily for the first week and increase this up by 5 minutes each week until you reach 45 minutes to an hour, if you can. If you practice zazen regularly and gradually, your meditation sessions will be very relaxing and you will experience a wonderful stillness. Don’t try to make yourself breath any special way, let yourself breath in any way that is natural for you.
Author Bio: Lewis Harrison is an author, speaker, meditation teacher and Zen Based Life Coach. He offers on-line training through the Natural Healing Academy – http://www.Chihealer.com
Lewis conducts intensive weeklong residential retreats at the Harrison Center in Stamford NY – www.TheHarrisonCenter.com
You can read his daily blog and receive free courses on Zen and Applied Game Theory at http://www.LewisHarrisonsAppliedGameTheory.com