By Michellanne Bradley
I am a returning beginner at meditation.
I really have had a long history of a meditation practice, but every once in a while, I get stuck in my own head and it makes it hard for me to get on the proverbial cushion. I am restarting today.
My practice generally starts with grounding, centering and focus on the breath. I make sure that I am in a physically comfortable position, upright in the spine—but not erect—feet generally planted on the floor or ground (my favorite place to sit at my house is in my back yard, but I live in San Diego, this would not help my friends who live where it is currently snowing), arms relaxed, hands resting gently.
I then start to scan my body, relaxing my muscles along the way while maintaining my posture. I start with my head, forehead, release my eyebrows, jaw, roll out my neck, raise my shoulders and roll them into a relaxed position and make sure that they are not raised up to my ears. I focus on my core, which is the genesis of the tension in my body, feel into my lungs, roll down my spine, relax into my hips, thighs, knees, ankles and feet.
I realize that is a lot of words, but the process goes very quickly to scan through the body and focus on the breath.
I prefer to meditate with my eyes closed for any meditation with the exception of walking meditation. I have learned a couple of different variations on walking meditation, one where the walk is continuous, and the other where you pick out a specific path and pace that for the allotted time. In walking meditation, the step can be incorporated into the breath practice as well.
As for the breath, coming back to the breath is a simple (and sometimes not so simple) focus of meditation practice. When thoughts come up, which they will, notice them, let them go, and go back to the breath. I like to do counted breaths to get me started and slow down my body, some know it as box breathing, in for four, hold for four, out for four, hold for four and repeat at whatever interval works for you.
This February, my intention is to meditate in short periods, 20 minutes each, at least three times per day.
First thing in the morning, mid-day meditation, and then evening sit. I do use a timer (and I have lots of stories of sitting on retreat or at the monastery where I was convinced that the time keeper had either fallen asleep or died, because we were sitting for much longer) to ensure that I do not have to make that a focus of the practice, worrying about how long I have been sitting, and then what happens after I sit, and what is for lunch, and then what happens after that?
Why do I do this anyway? See, I can come up with a lot of the monkey mind pieces and parts that attempt to distract me from all of this practice stuff.
Welcome to practice. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to assist, or if you want to just talk through questions or issues.
Photo: author provided
Editor: Dana Gornall
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