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The basics of meditation

Relaxation and meditation

Welcome to our guide to the basics of meditation. Here's what you'll need to know to get you started in this calming art.

Get started in the calming art of meditation

First of all you will probably sit down in a comfortable posture, maybe on firm cushions on the floor or in a chair. Or, if you have an injury or back problem which requires it, you may need to lie down on the floor. It is helpful to have your spine in a relaxed but upright position, and your hands supported by a blanket or something to help take the weight from dragging on your shoulders. Lying down, though relaxing, can be too conducive to sleepiness. Physical posture is your foundation for practice so it’s important to feel as comfortable and grounded as possible.

Meditation is not about having a blank, empty mind, or about having lots of trippy visionary experiences! It is also not something you do just intellectually ‘in your head’. Meditation invites you to be much more broadly aware of ourselves than that. The main thing to begin with is to gently investigate your own experience, being aware of the sensations in our physical body, our changing emotions and the thoughts that pass through our mind.

To help us do this you may be taught a simple technique, a practice with a few easy to remember stages, which helps us to anchor our concentration. To start with perhaps sit for 20 minutes or so. A traditional object of concentration is to be aware of your own breath coming and going, (a practice called the ‘Mindfulness of Breathing’ or similar names).

This can seem strange, even a bit boring as an idea, but in fact, your breath is an incredibly subtle and fruitful thing to be aware of. Our breath is intimately connected to our emotional state, it is the most essential thing keeping us alive in our physical body, and it flows between our inner being and the outside world. And it’s free, your breath is always there, you don’t need any special equipment or location or company to become aware of your breathing, and it is always a useful thing to be aware of.

You may also learn techniques for working with our emotional experience, for example the ‘Loving Kindness’ or ‘Metta Bhavana’ meditation, so that you can feel more connected to other people and enjoy becoming more confident, friendly and connected with others.

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