Sitting cross-legged on the floor or a cushion is probably the first thing most people think of when they think about meditating.
It’s the preferred physical posture because it keeps you balanced on three points: your backside and your two knees as your feet rest on your thighs. This is known as the full lotus position.
Being balanced in that way lets you sit straight in a relaxed way as you’re not struggle to remain upright.
Another way to achieve the three points of balance is to us a small meditation bench. When using a bench, you kneel, slide the bench under your backside and sit. Your knees still form two of the three points. It’s just that their position has changed.
There are also meditation benches that allow you to sit comfortably while crossing your legs so your ankles create two of the balance points instead of your knees.
There’s a large variety of benches and aids. To get an idea of what they look like and how you sit on them click here.
The good news is that you don’t have to sit in a cross-legged posture or on your knees in order to meditate. You can still achieve the 3 points of balance using a firm chair.
Feet flat on the floor and your rear sitting forward in the chair so you’re not resting against the back of the chair creates the three points of balance. This too lets you sit straight in a relaxed way.
Something to Consider
The purpose of meditation is to practice calming your mind, experience reduced levels of stress, and to help you be more relaxed.
Does it matter how you sit?
Yes and No.
Not everyone can sit on the floor, or on a cushion, use a bench, or even sit on a firm chair for any length of time.
Does that mean you can’t still meditate? Of course not.
You want to sit in a position that will allow you to sit as straight and in a relaxed manner as possible so you can remain attentive throughout your practice.
So yes, how you sit is important.
With that said, while sitting on a sofa is not ideal, but if that’s all you can manage, then do your meditation practice there.
I think having a meditation practice is more important than how you sit while you’re doing it.
Just remember to sit as straight as you can and remain alert during your practice.
How to Meditate
The practice that’s described here is a basic meditation style where the focus is on your breath.
This section covers:
- Parts of the body you’ll use to focus your breath and positioning your eyes and body;
- What to do when you meditate;
- Determining the length of your practice; and
- Coming out of the meditative state.
- Beginning your meditation.
Step 1 – Determining Your Breath Focus & Positioning Your Eyes and Body
Breath: There are three ways you can experience your breath coming in and out of your body.
- The feel of it in and out of your nostrils,
- The expansion/contraction of your chest, or
- The expansion/contraction of your diaphragm/abdominal area
The choice is yours, and you can change your mind at any time. The important thing is that you stay with one focus throughout each meditation practice.
That’s because if you’re jumping around from focus to focus, you’re not allowing yourself to settle into the practice.
Eyes: When meditating you can keep your eyes open (helpful if you’re drowsy), keep the lids slightly lowered (helps with being attentive), or close your eyes completely (helpful when you’re having difficulty settling down).
Body: Choose your posture for each session. Always choose the one that will allow you to be as upright and attentive as you can. Adjust your position as necessary.
Step 2 – What to Do When You Meditate
Your mind is used to being busy, and meditation is attempting to help you ignore it.
Trying to calm your mind by focusing on your breath is like trying to quiet a room full of puppies and kittens who just woke up from their naps.
Your thoughts are going to be rambunctious and intrusive.
You’ll find yourself losing focus on your breath and following a train of thought, or story – A LOT.
Not to worry because that’s normal and it happens to everyone.
Your mind is used to being the center of your day and it’s not going to like being ignored.
That means your’re going to have to make an effort to let go of those thoughts when they interrupt your practice.
When that happens – do not berate yourself – let the thoughts go as quickly and easily as they showed up – and refocus your attention on your breath.
Each and every time you return your attention to the focus on your breath, you’re using the neuroplasticity of your brain to re-train it. It’s like learning anything new – it takes time, and repetition.
Step 3 – How long do you want to meditate?
If you’re new to meditation, then doing the practice is more important than how long you do it.
Try doing the practice every day starting with 10 minutes at a time. Longer is okay, but shorter doesn’t really give you a chance to settle into the practice.
There will be days that you settle in for a 10 minute meditation only to find upon ending your practice you had been meditating for 20 minutes or even half-an-hour.
To end your practice at a given time, set an alarm that will gently notify you when you’re time is complete.
It’s no fun being jerked out of a meditative state. If your alarm is noisy and irritating, then put in another room, in a cabinet, or under a pillow.
Step 4 – Coming out of your meditative state.
Just as it takes a few moments to settle into meditation, at the end of your practice, give yourself a chance to re-adjust to your everyday world.
When ending your practice, keep your eyes in their meditation position and open your awareness to where you are in the room. Feel your body on mat or whatever else you’re sitting on.
Picture in your mind where that in the room.
Then check in with your body, and gently massage any stiff muscles. Flex your feet, your legs, your arms, and then open your eyes.
Take a few more moments to reorient yourself, and feel the changes, then continue on with your day.
Step 5 – Begin meditating
Get into your meditation posture, and settle comfortable.
Your back should be straight, but not rigid. Shoulders back, chest open and relaxed. Your chin should be in a natural position neither pointed to high or too close to your chest.
Begin with your eyes open, decide on where you’re going to focus on your breath.
Feel the breath that’s coming in, and then feel the breath that’s going out.
When you feel you have a good focus, position your eyes (open with eyes looking at the floor, have closed or closed), and keep focusing on the breath.
Congratulations! You’re meditating.
How Do You Know When Your Meditating Successfully ?
The meditative process is different for everyone.
The first clue that you’re successfully meditating is that you’re practicing on a regular basis.
While each practice will be different from the one before it, that fact that you’re doing it is what makes it a successful practice.
So how do you tell when you’re meditation practice is having results?
This is a tricky one to answer as well. That’s because you can have an absolutely awesome practice one day, and the next day wonder if you imagined it.
Try thinking about it this way: on the day you had a good practice, when you sat down to meditate, all the kittens and puppies representing your thoughts were still having their naps.
On the next day, they were already finished with their naps and energetically racing around!
As your practice continues, there will more times you’ll find the puppies and kittens winding down and ready to nap. Sometimes a few will be overtired and resist, but with gentle persistence you can get them to calm down as well.
One way to know if you’re making progress is to keep a log of what each meditation practice was like. Because many things will affect your practice be sure to include in your log:
- the time of day you practiced,
- the place you practiced, and the posture you used,
- what you focused on while breathing,
- what you sat on ,
- what you wore,
- how warm, cold, or stuffy the room was, and
- what your state of mind was.
You log can give you clues to how you can increase your potential for having a practice where the puppies and kittens are more cooperative than not.
Meditation is a two-fold practice. On the one hand, it’s about clearing your mind and becoming calmer. On the other, in order to clear your mind, you have to learn to let go.
Pushing your thoughts and feelings aside doesn’t work because you’re resisting what’s happening. The more you push, the more those thoughts and feelings push back and disrupt your practice.
What to do instead: accept that they’re bother you, recognize them, and then . . . let them go.
The next time you meditate and your mind refuses to leave you alone say, “Okay. What do your want? I’m listening.” And then turn all your attention to your mind’s chatter and really listen.
I think you’ll find that when you do that the silence of your mind will be almost deafening.
Of course, by doing this you’re also letting go of your need to be in control of your meditation practice, but sometimes that’s what needs to happen.
The more you can let your needs, thoughts, and emotions arise without being captured by them, the easier you’ll find it let them go as quickly as they showed up.
That’s when you’ll know that your meditation practice is getting results.
May your practice bring you napping kittens and puppies and peace of mind.
You may also like to check out Guided Meditations.
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