Okay - you’re interested in meditation and have no clue where to begin? Welcome.
There are a million forms of meditation out there, and one thing that renoo does really well is taking the traditional practices that have been time-tested for centuries and making them accessible and applicable for our modern world. If you’ve heard a lot about meditation lately though you very well may have heard a specific word linked to it: mindfulness.
Here’s the three steps for mindfulness meditation:
- First, take your meditation seat with an uplifted and relaxed posture
- Rest in the present by placing your attention on the breath
- Gently and precisely notice and release thoughts as they arise
That’s it! Maybe you read those words and sat down and gave it a try. The thing is, when we sit down we discover that the mind has a lot of thoughts. That’s why this practice, like most things that take time to learn and are ultimately life-changing, is simple but not easy. Let’s break those three steps out a bit:
1) First, take your meditation seat with an uplifted and relaxed posture
Everyone’s bodies are different and that means you ought to take a posture that feels comfortable and dignified, whatever those words mean to you. I often recommend a meditation cushion for a whole slew of reasons but two quick ones: it helps you establish a posture that feels grounded and balanced. Also: having a meditation pillow (or zafu and zabuton as they are more formally known) can help you establish a consistent space in your home where you go to meditate.
If you’re on a meditation cushion you can sit with your legs loosely crossed - no need to be masochistic about holding an uncomfortable lotus-like posture! If you’re in a chair, place your feet firmly on the ground about hips-width apart. Lift up through the top of your head, elongating the spine. There are many ways to place your hands in meditation, but for a grounding effect you can place your palms down on your thighs about an inch or two away from the kneecaps. You can close your eyes or rest your gaze a few feet ahead of you in a loose and unfocused manner - your choice.
2) Rest in the present by placing your attention on the breath
We are always paying attention to something. Right now you are paying attention to the words on this screen. If someone called your name from the other room you would likely pay attention to them. Or perhaps you’re feeling stressed out about a meeting coming up and while they talk to you you’re actually paying attention to the stories in your mind about what might take place during that meeting.
Here we bring our attention to something that’s happening all the time but we don’t often focus on: the breath. You’re breathing right now. Just take a moment to notice how the in-breath and out-breath are flowing.
There. That’s it. However your breathing is fine. Whether you best find the breath in the rise and fall of the abdomen or the flow of it from the nose or mouth - anywhere you are able to relax and simply be with the body breathing (as opposed to trying to control the breath) is a-okay.
3) Gently and precisely notice and release thoughts as they arise
There’s an old joke: my meditation would be perfect if I didn’t have all these thoughts. The mind generates tens of thousands of thoughts a day - that’s just what it does. We can’t expect to be able to sit down in meditation and turn the thoughts off.
Instead, what we are doing is getting to know the thoughts - gently noting that they come up and then coming back to the breath. If it’s helpful, you can even say the word “Thinking” to yourself just to acknowledge that you drifted off. We repeat this cycle over and over again, not getting frustrated with the mind expressing itself but kindly inviting ourselves back to the present moment, returning to feeling the body breathing.
In the same way you may have trained in other areas of your life (learning a musical instrument or working your way toward running a marathon, for example), here you start where you are and build out your learning incrementally over time. Not unlike going from awkwardly gripping the guitar to playing songs by The Cure or sweating after a short jog to running twenty-plus miles, here you’re going from a super stressed-out mind to one more willing to relax into the present moment. The more you invest your time in this way, the easier it becomes to live a more mindful life, based in feeling peaceful and grounded.
Photo credit: Ray Jolicoeur Model: Melvin