I want to start meditating but I do not know how to do it properly. Does anyone have experience with meditation and/or books that would help explain the practice?
Yes! I had an internship at the Center for Mind Body Medicine at Mass General Hospital, in which meditation was used to accomplish weight loss via mindful eating.
Dr. Benson's timeless and slim volume on the "relaxation response" gives very simple steps on how to meditate. It is only a couple dollars used on half.com.
The other best explanations I've seen are from
--Thich Nhat Hanh
--Anything by a zen buddhist
But the best of all might be going to a local meetup to meditate in a group. It's nice that way, because you can talk about your experience afterwards, and people can help you if you find it tough to un-scatter your thoughts. Good luck!
First, make the distinction that you HAVE a mind, but you are NOT your mind. Observe the random thoughts as your mind wanders and feel how they influence your emotions. The mind is an illusion. You were not born, "Eric". You were repeatedly told this until you started to BELIEVE. Exactly like a puppy. Then you were downloaded with beliefs of societal conformities, religions, etc. Later you exchanged your beliefs for other beliefs based on perceived experiences apart from the Whole. Truth is devoid of duality, fragmentation and ALL belief. We are ALL One.
As someone who's been doing meditation practices for 25 years, I personally recommend starting with breath based meditations before you dive into quality of mind.
Beginner's Breath Meditation
one. Start out with three or seven long in-and-out breaths, thinking so- with the in-breath and hum with the out. Keep the meditation syllable as long as the breath.
two : Be clearly aware of each in-and-out breath during this meditation.
three : Observe the breath as it goes in and out, paying particular attention to the tip of the nose: also notice whether it's comfortable or uncomfortable, broad or narrow, obstructed or free-flowing, fast or slow, short or long, warm or cool.
If the breath doesn't feel comfortable, change it until it does. Or invest some time in mastering ujjayi breath
As soon as you find that your breathing feels comfortable, just start here and let your focus be on your breath.
If you are ready to be more advanced, then continue: let this comfortable breath sensation spread to the different parts of the body.
To begin with, inhale the breath sensation at the base of the skull and let it flow all the way down the spine. Then, if you are male, let it spread down your right leg to the sole of your foot, to the ends of your toes, and out into the air. Inhale the breath sensation at the base of the skull again and let it spread down your spine, down your left leg to the ends of your toes and out into the air. (If you are female, begin with the left side first, because the male and female nervous systems are different.)
Then let the breath from the base of the skull spread down over both shoulders, past your elbows and wrists, to the tips of your fingers and out into the air.
Let the breath at the base of the throat spread down the central nerve at the front of the body, past the lungs and liver, all the way down to the bladder and colon.
Inhale the breath right at the middle of the chest and let it go all the way down to your intestines.
Let all these breath sensations spread so that they connect and flow together, and you'll feel a greatly improved sense of well-being.
Have some kind of white noise, like a fan, going on in the background, but not music. One of those tapes with the sound of a running stream might be good. Also, don't get frustrated with yourself when random thoughts start creeping in. Make sure in clothing that doesn't bind or annoy you. Remove as many physical distractions as possible - if your glasses slip, take them off, if you tend to adjust jewelry, remove it, if you have a lock of hair that flops in your face, pin it, etc., etc. Pick a spot that isn't drafty, or where some random sound (like the refrig suddenly running) won't distract you. Above all, try to enjoy it.
A great book on meditation is called No Self No Problem by Anam Thubten. It's short, simple and to the point. I've been meditating everyday for the past 3 years... sometimes when i sit there are no thoughts, other times there are millions of thoughts. the key is to just be aware. aware of the thoughts, feelings, sensations. dont stop them or analyze them. just let them come, recognize them, and then they will leave. after time, the mental noise starts to lessen and a natural peace arises. this peace will carry into your everyday activities and make them so much more full of life!
The more you do it the better you get. I would tell someone to read Robin Sharma's book The Monk who sold his Ferrari......after reading it I became a daily meditator because the book sounded a lot like my own life. And I want to change it. So I did.
Anything by Jon Kabat-Zinn, especially Wherever You Go There You Are and Coming to Our Senses. Some religious sources are good, though I think it depends on your bent. When I first started, I really found Lawrence Leshan's How to Meditate helpful as a guide.
Really, the practice is bout bringing into your life what you otherwise lack, in a sense. If you need time to just breathe, then do breath work. If you want more awareness of your surroundings, work on that. If you have a specific goal for your future, you might find visualization work (including all five senses!) to be really motivating. Meditation is about centering yourself, and growing as a person. Naturally, that means it varies between different people.
Keep it simple, observe your thoughts on a regular basis and you will reap the rewards of meditation. Give yourself 5-20 minutes to just be still and have a looksie at all those thoughts bouncing around in there. Watch them like you would watch a river flow. Even 1 minute of non-judgmental observation can change your perspective and mood in amazing ways.
If you have trouble sitting still, a good way to start is by doing something that keeps your body busy, but leaves your mind free like: knitting, sewing, folding paper cranes, walking slowly, or riding on a stationary bike.
Dogmatic rules give me dry heaves, so trying to read up on meditation actually drove me further away from it. I do like Eckhart Tolle's books though, if only because he isn't associated with any particular religious tradition. I haven't read it yet, but I think "Confession of a Buddhist Atheist" might be a good one to read as well. I saw an interview with the author, and was moved by his story of "searching" and becoming a monk in Tibet. What he said in the interview confirmed some of my suspicions about the focus on meditation styles and traditions distracting from it's potential for personal evolution.
Go into it and finish it with no expectations, your first and only intention should be the act of meditation itself. We often bring these idealized wild expectations with us into it whenever we meditate based on what we have heard either from others, read about in religious or self help book, going for some Grand magical mystical experience, really the whole point of meditation is to relax, witness and become aware, ie see clearly . You cannot do that when you walk in with a big bag of expectations and desires for our meditation to go the way we want or think it should. Please do not allow the mind to complicate or intellectualize this simple innate process that your body already knows how to do. I day this because so many people wind up quiting because they get frustrated because they aren't getting what they think they should. Keep at it, don't question it, do it every day and you will reap the many rewards that this ancient wonderful practice brings
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