Meditation is difficult, but also so very easy!
Everything we do can be a meditation.
The practice of Yoga is a meditation.
Any activity, observing the waves on the beach, doing the dishes, waiting for the bus or enjoying the company of a loved one can become a meditation if we do it mindfully, with all our being.
Where should I meditate?
But it’s also good to have a special place for meditation – a temple, a shala, a corner in our home that we reserve for meditation – where we can sit on the floor in lotus pose with our hands in chin mudra and our eyes closed like the masters and gurus in the Yoga manuals. But we are not gurus, and even if we were, we could still meditate in any other position; not all hips allow the body to get into lotus pose! We have the possibility of sitting on cushions, on a bolster, on yoga blocks, on a meditation stool, or simply on a chair. However we choose to sit, the important thing is to have the spine straight and long. The legs can be crossed in any of the yogic poses: sukhasana, siddhasana, svastikasana, padmasana, but the knees should never be higher than the hips.
If the knees are higher than the hips and the feet close to the hips, we will be contracting the psoas (a very important muscle) and posteriorizing the pelvis which will cause the back to lose its natural curves so stressing vital organs.
If we decide to use a chair, the feet should be firmly on the ground, or on a block.
If we don’t have a meditation stool we can kneel with our buttocks on a couple of yoga blocks or cushions between the legs. Whatever position we choose, the back should be straight, shoulders relaxed, the head neither tilted forward nor backward and the jaw relaxed. We want to be comfortable as we’ll stay in this position for 12 or 24 minutes, without moving. As we get used to the practice of meditation we can increase the time: some teachers think that 48 minutes is the maximum – others recommend twenty minutes, thirty, forty-five, one hour, two, ten . . .
The back should be straight, respecting the natural curves; this is important because we want to be able to breathe deeply, so quieting the mind and attaining a sense of peace.
Why should we meditate? Is this just a new trend?
There are philosophical, scientific and religious reasons to meditate or to practice yoga, but for now let’s just say that meditation, one of the paths of Yoga, helps us to quiet the mind and attain a sense of peace and serenity. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras tell us that:
Yogas citta vritti nirodhah (1.2)
Yoga is the stilling of the changing states of the mind.
Edwin F. Bryant. (Trans & ed.) The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
A first meditation
We can begin by observing our breath: exhale and inhale. We generally do this without thinking, but try to pay attention to the flow of air as it enters and leaves your nostrils. Observe it. Observe the temperature of the air; where does it go? Are you holding it in? Is it fast or slow? After observing for a while, try lengthening the exhale and the inhale. Count to 4, to 5, to 6 – whatever is comfortable – on each inhale and exhale. Observe what happens when you lengthen the breath. Be witness to your breath. And there you go! You’re meditating!