Dr. C. George Boeree
The most basic form of meditation involves attending to
Begin by sitting in a simple chair, keeping your back erect
if you can. The more traditional postures are the lotus position, sitting on
a pillow with each foot upon the opposite thigh, and variations such as the
half lotus (one foot on the opposite thigh, the other out in front of the
opposite knee). This is difficult for many people. Some people kneel,
sitting back on their legs or on a pillow between their legs. Many use a
meditation bench: kneel, then place a little bench beneath your behind. But
meditation is also done while standing, slowly walking, lying on the floor,
or even in a recliner!
Traditionally, the hands are placed loosely, palms up, one
on top of the other, and with the thumbs lightly touching. This is called
the cosmic mudra, one of a large number of symbolic hand positions.
You may prefer to lay them flat on your thighs, or any other way that you
Your head should be upright, but not rigid. The eyes may be
closed, or focussed on a spot on the ground a couple of feet ahead of you,
or looking down at your hands. If you find yourself getting sleepy, keep
your eyes open!
Beginning meditators are often asked to count their breath,
on the exhale, up to ten. Then you begin back at one. If you loose track,
simply go back to one. Your breath should be slow and regular, but not
forced or artificially controlled. Just breathe naturally and count.
A few weeks later, you may forego the counting and try to
simply follow your breath. Concentrate on it entering you and exiting you.
Best is to be aware as fully as possible of the entire process of breathing,
but most people focus on one aspect or another: the sensation of coolness
followed by warmth at the nostrils, or the rise and fall of the diaphragm.
Many meditators suggest imagining the air entering and exiting a small hole
an inch or two below your navel. Keeping your mind lower on the body tends
to lead to deeper meditation. If you are sleepy, then focus higher, such as
at the nostrils.
You will inevitably find yourself distracted by sounds
around you and thoughts within. The way to handle them is to acknowledge
them, but do not attach yourself to them. Do not get involved with them.
Just let them be, let them go, and focus again on the breath. At first, it
might be wise to scratch when you itch and wiggle when you get
uncomfortable. Later, you will find that the same scant attention that you
use for thoughts and sounds will work with physical feelings as well.
A more advanced form of meditation is shikantaza, or
emptiness meditation. Here, you don't follow anything at all. There is no
concentration -- only quiet mindfulness. You hold your mind as if you were
ready for things to happen, but don't allow your mind to become attached to
anything. Things -- sounds, smells, aches, thoughts, images -- just drift in
and out, like clouds in a light breeze. This is my own favorite.
Many people have a hard time with their thoughts. We are so
used to our hyperactive minds, that we barely notice the fact that they are
usually roaring with activity. So, when we first sit and meditate, we are
caught off guard by all the activity. So some people need to use a little
imagination to help them meditate. For example, instead of counting or
following your breath, you might prefer to imagine a peaceful scene, perhaps
floating in a warm lagoon, until the noise of your mind quiets down.
Meditate for fifteen minutes a day, perhaps early in the
morning before the rest of the house wakes up, or late at night when
everything has quieted down. If that's too much, do it once a week if you
like. If you want, do more. Don't get frustrated. And don't get competitive,
either. Don't start looking forward to some grand explosion of
enlightenment. If you have great thoughts, fine. Write them down, if you
like. Then go back to breathing. If you feel powerful emotions, wonderful.
Then go back to breathing. The breathing is enlightenment.