It is hoped that you are now sufficiently interested to try meditation for yourself. The meditative state can be reached by anyone prepared to make the effort, patiently and on a regular basis. The following guidelines will help to explain what you need to do as you start on the path of meditation and prepare you for any simple difficulties that you might encounter.
Preparation of Place
The place that you are able to prepare depends upon the physical conditions at your disposal. Ideally you require only a quiet and comfortable place where you will not be interrupted by others. This might be no more than a corner of a bedroom but that is quite sufficient. It is not the place itself that counts but what you are able to bring to it. With practice you will be able to meditate anywhere that you wish. The place you choose ideally should be regularly available to you, especially at the outset. The same place regularly used tends to act as a trigger to meditation and builds up an atmosphere that is serene and calm. Minimize possible distractions as far as possible; take the phone off the hook or it is bound to ring.
Some people find it helpful to prepare the place for meditation by lighting a candle or burning incense. Such things certainly add to the atmosphere of a room and serve to sanctify the space being used. They can also serve to delineate the meditation period by providing a definite opening and closing to the session. There is no harm whatsoever in such preparation if it suits your temperament. Merely make sure that such items are put away when not in use, leaving them around casually defeats the object of using them in the first place. If, however, you should find that you cannot enter meditation unless you have your cherished things about you, then it is time to break the pattern.
Meditation is a state of mind that you can enter into wherever you are. There is a great deal to be said for sometimes moving outside when possible to meditate in the lap of nature. It opens up the possibility of meditation upon your surroundings and entering into natural rhythm of the landscape.
As you attempt to integrate a new pattern into your life be careful not to let it intrude where it is unwanted. Your family may not be sympathetic to your new interests. It is much simpler to retire quietly to your room with as little fuss as possible rather than draw attention to yourself with billowing clouds of incense and sounding gongs.
Preparation of Self
Your internal preparation matters a good deal more than any preparation of place. A certain amount of inner but quiet simple preparation is important. Just as worshipers in many parts of the world remove their shoes to remind themselves symbolically that they are about to cross the threshold from the mundane to the sacred, so we need to remind ourselves of the same thing. The act of ritual washing is often used to draw the dividing line between the physical and the metaphysical. There is a great deal to be said for even the simple act of washing face and hands as a preparation for meditation. What matters is that there should be some acknowledgement of crossing a boundary from one state to another. The outer acknowledgement can be dispensed with as soon as an inner one has been internalized.
Meditation can be likened to a journey. The first stage of that journey is quite simply entering into a state of physical relaxation. In time this becomes automatic and immediate but in the beginning it should be treated as a stage in its own right. The aim of this process is to relax the body while bringing the mind to the point of being one-focused. This is also the time to shed any tensions of the day and particularly and unwanted emotional residues. The body can be relaxed quite simply by going through the process as shown on the grounding and centering CD. Do not treat it as a purely mental exercise or it will fail to be effective. You must ensure that the body experiences the feeling aspect of the process.
The Role of Posture
The very word meditation conjures up the image of the cross-legged devotee. This is perhaps unfortunate as many newcomers fear that they will have to master this exceedingly difficult pose even before they can begin to meditate. This is simply not the case. The lotus posture, which is indeed the classic Eastern stance for meditation, is excellent for its purpose. The body is balanced and stable, the spine straight and it can be maintained with ease for long periods once it has been mastered. However, the average Westerner will find it all but impossible unless he or she has been trained in the discipline of yoga. We tend to forget that Easterners sit this way as children. It therefore comes quite naturally. It does not come naturally to the average Westerner and it is not necessary for meditation, even if it is desirable where possible. The physical body needs to be comfortable and balanced if you are to sit quietly for any length of time. It is not conducive to meditate if you develop cramp or back ache. Therefore where and how you sit are important. A soft chair will only encourage you to slouch and in all probability you will fall asleep, and a low-backed chair will cause you to loll gradually forwards as time passes. The ideal chair is a high-backed one which will support but not cosset you. Comfortable armchairs and soft sofas are out as far as meditation is concerned.
The position most easily adopted by us for meditation is often called the Egyptian position as it is frequently depicted in ancient Egyptian statues. The body is seated , the spine is held straight, the head is upright, the feet sit flat upon the floor, the hands rest usually upturned one upon each thigh. It is a very simple posture, really no more than sitting in an attentive manner. Correct posture learned at the outset will pay off in the long run. Sloppy posture prevents proper breathing which also hinders the flowing of the subtle energies. I have often observed that people who pay scant attention to posture at the outset of a meditation session invariably subside into a crumpled heap as the meditation proceeds. They inevitably have difficulty in recalling what they have experienced. So just as when you learn to drive, get into good habits right from the start.
The Role Of Breathing
We breathe quite unconsciously, without giving it a second thought. This is of course perfectly natural. However, during meditation we are seeking to achieve a particular state of mind and the pattern of breathing will take on a new significance. We all know from experience how our own breathing directly reflects our emotional state. If we become angry or upset, experience fear or panic then our breathing changes instantly. In everyday life the pattern of our breathing mirrors our state of mind. In meditation we reverse this reciprocal relationship by establishing a breathing pattern that will help to create a state of emotional calm and found to be the most conducive to establishing the mental calm of meditation. There are more advanced breathing techniques which are part of more complex meditation but these are beyond the needs of the beginner. It is quite often revealing to become aware of one's own natural breathing pattern, to see particularly where we breath from, whether deeply from the diaphragm or in short shallow breaths. For those used to breathing from only the top part of the lungs deeper breathing can be quite a liberating experience.
I hope this will help any one who is starting to get into meditation.
Love and Light