The Ups and Downs of Practising Meditation
Every journey into meditation is personal (intensely so), full of practical steps, the experience itself and reflections of each one. A journey towards knowing ourselves and life better and taking a small step to making the world a better place.
One of my first steps was reading David Fontana’s small book (note ‘small’ – it doesn’t take long to read and absorb the basics!) He explains things simply, without going into the details of worldwide traditions of meditation, though he mentions some to explain just how many different ways there are to meditate. He has a chatty style making it easy to read and answers beginners’ questions like: “…do you have to wear something special?”
Then I heard that there was a meditation course starting in the Forest of Dean nearby, meeting for four sessions and run by an experienced teacher who I’d met through teaching in the local Adult Education.
I couldn’t go to the first session, and after the second session I had a lot of distractions and only practised sporadically. But the seeds were sown, and perhaps had enough water and nourishment, so that after the third session I sat down and re-read all our notes, and began to see how I could continue in a more structured way.
And as Fontana says, although there are so many things to think about, to get right before we start, there is nothing more important than doing just that – just start and see what happens.
Day one – I meditated for 15 minutes (because I do yoga I am used to my body being still ) – it’s nice to start with a plus! And I used the technique of just watching thoughts arise. I tried not to become entangled in them and just watch them disappear. I suppose inevitably, my attention followed some of them – and for how long?! – but I experienced a few moments when I was aware of just watching and waiting for the next thought to arise. And in that waiting there were a few peaceful moments.
I aim to meditate once a day for about 10-15 minutes so I’m not making my goals too high and therefore make it easier to fail. I don’t sit at the same time each day which is the basic recommendation. I sit whenever I get home from taking a class or when I’m on a walk and can sit down, or when I have the house to myself. I have it there in the back of my mind. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ sitting – it’s the fact that I have sat that’s important. Establishing a new habit is not easy, but it’s the long-term that’s the important thing. The more one sits, the more one benefits.
Overall, I’ve noticed that I’m more aware of my moods and able to acknowledge them more easily with less judgement. I’ve also simply concentrate on practising settling into myself and staying with the breath rather than trying lots of different techniques, though sometimes I vary things. Other practices might be:
using ujjayi breath
focusing on sounds – great if you’re sitting outside and can listen to birdsong
saying ‘I am breathing in’, ‘I am breathing out’ with each breath
counting breaths down from, for example, 100 or 50
focusing on each chakra at a time from the root chakra upwards
reading an inspirational quotation or text to meditate on
I find I’ve been meditating 5 out of 7 days in the week. I’m finding if I meditate at bedtime my mind is tired and more prone to wander, but if I meditate when I can, I have a much better chance of having it firmly established as a thing I do – a habit for life.
If you have experience of meditating, please share and comment!