Meditation In Ten Easy Steps
Although meditation often has a spiritual connotation, the benefits of meditation include not only strengthening our connection to something larger than ourselves, but also improved health, heightened creativity, better problem-solving skills, and increased feelings of well-being and serenity. During meditation breathing slows down, blood pressure decreases, and stress hormone levels fall. Even though the body relaxes completely during meditation, the mind is awake, although quiet. This relaxed mental state is ideal for coming up with new and unexpected ways of doing things, for releasing worry, fear, anxiety and other negative emotions, and for recharging our mental batteries.
Below you will find a simple ten step meditation routine you can begin to practice right away to help you relax, quiet your mind chatter, and create access to the deeper knowledge that resides within.
1. Ideally, you should meditate for at least fifteen minutes a day, every day. Also, you should try to meditate at the same time each day to help create a sense of ritual. You can use an egg timer to countdown to fifteen minutes so that you’re not constantly opening your eyes to see how much time has gone by.
2. Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. If you would like ideas on how to create a space for meditation, refer to my previous post, “Creating Sacred Space”. You can lie down on a yoga mat or a sofa, you can sit on a meditation cushion, or you can sit on the floor or a comfortable chair with your back straight and without crossing your arms or your legs.
3. The more senses you can engage in signaling to your brain that it’s time to slow down, the better. Play soft music or Tibetan chants, or get a sound machine that plays nature sounds. In addition, the sound of rhythmic drums has long been known to help create a state of deep trance. Light an aromatherapy candle or incense. You can also place a few drops of essential oil combined with water in a ceramic diffuser, or dip a cotton ball in the scented oil and place it nearby. Smells that are relaxing include cedar wood, chamomile, lavender, and sandalwood. For the sense of touch you can wrap a soft, cotton shawl or blanket around yourself.
4. To help you begin to relax, rub a tablespoon of oil between your palms and massage your forehead using gentle, circular motions; then massage your temples, the outside of your ears, the top of your head, and the back and front of your neck. You can also massage your scalp. With a second tablespoon of oil massage the soles of your feet. Deepak Chopra explains in “Grow Younger, Live Longer – 10 Steps to Reverse Aging”, that a massage gives you access to your inner pharmacy, and a slow, soothing massage releases natural relaxing chemicals.
5. In “Energetic Boundaries – Practical Protection and Renewal Skills for Healers, Therapists, and Sensitive People”, Karla McLaren suggests that you create a “room in your head” that gives you a place to settle into your body. Simply imagine a room inside your head where your eyes are the windows, the sides of your head are the walls, the top of your head is the roof, and the floor is at about the level of your upper jaw. You can mentally decorate the room any way you like, but make sure you add a comfortable chair or sofa to sit in. When you’re ready to start your meditation session, feel yourself comfortably sitting in the chair or sofa right behind your eyes. Imagining yourself in this sanctuary will help you focus your energy and attention inwardly so that you can begin to let go of the worries and demands of the outside world.
6. Once you’re comfortably seated in your inner sanctuary, close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Awareness of the breathing process is itself sufficient to slow down your breathing rate. Let your abdomen move upward on inhalation and downward on exhalation. By focusing on the breath we bring the mind and body together in one place.
“There are people who are born and die and never once are aware of the breath going in and out of the body. That’s how far away they live from themselves.”
7. To relax even more, count backwards slowly from 50 to 1, and feel yourself relaxing more and more with each number. You can also imagine a warm, gentle light entering through the top of your head and moving slowly down toward your toes, relaxing your body completely.
8. Continue to concentrate on your breathing. If your mind wanders, simply bring it gently back to the present moment and refocus on your breath. It often helps to repeat a simple phrase to help keep you focused, such as the Zen saying: “Simply being with what is.”
9. Once you feel a sense of steadiness and calm, you can begin the process of inner listening. Nothing has to happen next; experience the present moment for what it is. You can also use this time to silently repeat positive affirmations and/or to practice creative visualization.
10. When you’re ready to come out of your meditation session, tell yourself that when you open your eyes at the count of 5, you will be completely awake and alert, feeling better than before.