Meditation Made Easy

The first time I tried meditation, back in college, I did not know exactly what it was. I attempted my idea of it, with no instruction whatsoever. I thought that when you meditated you were not supposed to think or feel anything. Boy was I disappointed when I couldn’t get away from the sounds of my breath, the soreness in my back, my constant stream of thoughts, and the frustration that meditation was not working for me.

Now it’s more than a decade later and I have had intensive training with yoga and meditation, and I laugh to think how my first experience was. But I also acknowledge that my original perception of meditation was a common one for beginners.

One of the tips I picked up along the way was to focus on the breath. Give your attention to your breath instead of trying not to be aware of it. When we meditate, we train our minds to be aware, not the other way around. And what better tool can we use than our constant companion, our breath?

To start, do a few stretches to help your body relax and be still more easily. Then come sitting on the floor cross-legged with a straight spine. If you are a beginner, you may want to lie flat on your back with a pillow under your knees, or sit up straight in a comfortable chair with your feet on the floor. Close your eyes and notice your breath. Feel it entering your nostrils and passing down your throat. Observe the coolness or warmth of the air. Notice your lungs expanding and contracting. If your mind wanders, gently bring your awareness back to your breath.

You can count on your mind to wander. Yogis sometimes refer to it as “the monkey mind” because it is prone to getting into mischief. While meditating, your thoughts can wander to daydreaming, worrying if your checkbook will balance, planning dinner, wondering if that certain someone likes you, and more. You can get so caught up in the thoughts, and the emotions that go with them, that you may forget you’re meditating. When you realize your mind has wandered, don’t be hard on yourself. Just come back to your breath.

Be aware of your breath and at the same time, notice the sensations of your body, such as the pull of gravity on you, the feel of the surrounding air on your skin, and the sounds in the distance. Just observe these things and do not judge them as good or bad. All the while, keep in tune with your breath. If a thought comes to you, just notice it but don’t let your “monkey mind” wander off on a tangent. It’s actually funny to realize just how easily we can be distracted. Keep that sense of humor about yourself and return again and again to your breath.
We refer to meditation as a practice. It is practice at being conscious in the present moment. It quiets the mind, relieves stress, strengthens our nerves, and balances our emotions. The more you meditate, the more you can carry this clarity into your daily life.

Take on ten minutes a day to start with and gradually extend your practice to a half hour or more. You may even want to enrich your experience by seeking out and meditating with a local group. Whatever form your meditation practice takes, have fun watching your “monkey mind”.

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2 Comments

  1. Meg said,

    March 12, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Boy did I have the same experience when I first started! My mind was a barrel of monkeys! Those little suckers still sometimes get their way, but thanks to advice from you, not often. I love my quiet times twice a day. 🙂

  2. Joanna said,

    April 18, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    I like how you make meditation accessible, simple and encouraging. My mind still wanders but at least I know that is norma and ok now. Thanks Bridget, hugs,Joanna.


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