Meditation is ideally done two times a day for 15 to 20 minutes. Do
it at a time when you are not likely to be disturbed. Sit comfortably, either
on a chair or cross-legged on the floor. Either way, your spine should be
straight. Select a sound to repeat in your mind. It can be a word, a sound,
or a phrase. Each time you take a breath, repeat the sound. As much as possible,
keep your attention on repeating the word or sound.
As soon as you start, you will notice thoughts intruding: Did I remember to turn off the lights? I wonder what my daughter is doing. Is she all right? etc. Each time you notice that you have been distracted, let go of the thoughts and come back to the meditation. Don't worry about the number of times your mind gets distracted. Keep coming back to the meditation.
Even with your mental distractions, you are getting health benefits and you are strengthening your mental focusing muscles. Over time the distractability lessens, although it may never totally go away. Before you begin, decide how long you want to meditate and have a watch or clock nearby so you can check the time. It is recommended that you do not set an alarm.
This is the basic technique. It is described by Dr. Herbert Benson in his 1975 book, The Relaxation Response. In this book, Dr. Benson said that to achieve the health benefits of meditation, it did not matter which sound or word was selected and that the word "one" worked very well. In 1996, in the book Timeless Healing, the Power and Biology of Belief, Dr. Benson revised his opinion. He noticed that people had higher rates of healing when they chose a word or phrase that had personal, spiritual, or religious meaning.
Here are some examples of the sort of phrases people chose:
A comforting phrase from childhood.
I open my heart to God.
I open my heart to love.
The Lord is my shepherd.
I am loved.
For people who are not comfortable using a religious phrase, a phrase expressing gratitude or love taps into that same energy and can offer similar benefits.
Mindfulness meditation - popularized in the United States by Jon Kabut-Zinn, Ph.D. With mindfulness you choose an object of focus, such as your breath. You bring your attention to your breath and each time your attention wanders, you bring it back to your breath, notice where your mind went and include that in your focus.
For example: Start by sitting in a comfortable position and, if you like, allow your eyes to close. Notice that you are breathing. Notice how your breath feels in your body. You may be more aware of your breath in the area of your nose and mouth, or it may be more noticeable in the area of your chest or diaphragm. Just notice. If you become aware of distracting thoughts, you notice that you have distracting thoughts and you let them be where they are, at the same time returning your focus to your breathing. You might say to yourself, "Oh, I am worried about my daughter," and then return your focus to breathing.
For more about breathing meditation, click here.
This is different from more traditional medication where you let go of thought without noticing anything about its content. With Mindfulness Meditation, you have a thought, you return to your breath, have another thought, return to breath, etc, etc.
Another example: You can use a physical activity as the focus of your meditation, for example: walking. This is walking with the intention of doing a meditation, possibly walking back and forth in a hallway in your house. With traditional meditation you might count each step and that is all you would do. Anything else would be a distraction.
With Mindfulness you would get more into the details, noticing the feel of each step hitting the ground, noticing the size of your gait, how you hold your head and swing your arms. If a part of your body feels a bit uncomfortable as you are walking, you allow the discomfort into your awareness and continue to focus on the sensation of taking one step after the other.
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