A Short Guide
The best way to learn to meditate is to attend classes and get direct instructions from one of our meditation leaders. This will enable you to practice with like minded people and to discuss and ask questions. Dates and times of meditation classes are available in the sections on general and Buddhist meditation.
If you want to try out a simple meditation at home, here are some basic guidelines:1. Choose your location. If you have a quiet room, free from clutter and at least relatively clean, then that is a good start. At the very least use a corner of your room while there is no-one else there and with the TV and radio switched off. It is easier to settle the mind if you are not confronted with "stuff". Sit facing a blank wall or with an inspiring picture in front of you, such as an image of the Buddha.
2. Decide whether you will sit on the floor or on a chair. Don't swap around mid session but do experiment with both positions until you made your choice. If you are on a chair it should be flat with a straight back, not a recliner or a sofa. Keep your back straight and away from the back of the chair (unless you have back problems) and both your feet on the floor, your knees at right angles and the feet comfortably facing forward.
If you are on the floor, use a firm cushion to sit on, possibly two. You should not be wobbling around so find a stable position. You can sit in full lotus - we bow to you if you can do this; half lotus, one foot resting on the opposite knee - probably difficult if you are not used to it; Burmese style - rather like half lotus but the foot on the floor rather than on the opposite knee; or cross legged. You may need to prop up one or both knees. If you are not used to sitting on the floor it can take several months for the body to get accustomed to the position but persevere if you can, after all it is the recommended posture. However the Buddha Maitreya is always portrayed sitting on a chair (see image) so it can't be that bad!
3. The rest of the posture is as follows. The back should be straight but relaxed, this is the most important point. The hands can rest face up one on top of the other, right over left, with the thumbs touching. Alternatively the hands can rest on the knees. The head should be inclined slightly forward to be balanced. The mouth closed but not clenched, the tongue gently resting against the back of the teeth at the front of the palette. The eyes should be half-open half-closed resting on the floor about one to two metres in front. Take your time to get familiar with this position and feel free to shuffle about a bit to get comfortable. Whilst you are doing all this keep the mind focused on the body and the bodily sensations, no day dreaming.
4. Allow the body to settle and fall still and let your awareness encompass the body as a whole. If you notice any blatant tensions in your shoulders, back, legs or face, just very gently let go and relax. As your mind settles into this simple awareness include your breathing within its scope. Allow the breath to do the breathing, you just watch, you don't need to add anything or get rid of anything.
5. Let the mind focus on the breath, initially the entire process of the air drawing through the nostrils and following it right down into the abdomen and back again. Slowly and gently focus your attention on one of two aspects of the breath. You need to decide in advance which it will be and stick with that. You can either focus on the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils, the sensations in the nose and on the upper lip; or you can focus on the rising and falling of the abdomen. Just stay focused in this way for several minutes.
6. You may find that your mind wanders and that thoughts seem to invade, replaying the past, planning the future and reviewing the present. This is the normal flotsam of the mind and only becomes a problem because we take it all so seriously. Just as you relaxed and seemed to stand back and watch your body, now do the same with the mind. No thought is so important that you need to go with it. Restrain your interest and practice bare attention, watching the thoughts as they pass. Return to observing your breath while the mind is relatively quiet. Practice like this for a few minutes.
7. Finish the session by resting quietly before you get up, allowing your senses to expand outwards. Feel content that you have made the effort to practice. If you can, generate strong positive thoughts towards others thinking: May all be happy! May all be free from suffering!
8. Short sessions are best for the beginner so start with no more than 20 minutes at a time. Regular practice is better than binge practices at the weekends. Find a time that suits you and the people you live with. Don't cause disharmony through your desire to meditate.
If you have enjoyed these instructions then do come and join us at one of our meditation classes!