Loyola University Maryland

Counseling Center

Learn to Meditate

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Meditation is an approach to training the mind, similar to the way that fitness is an approach to training the body. Many meditation techniques exist. In general, the easiest way to begin meditating is by focusing on the breath.

Setting

Anywhere relatively quiet where you can sit undisturbed for the duration of your meditation period (no phone calls, no requests from anyone, etc.).

When

Although you can meditate at any time, the best time is soon after rising in the morning before breakfast. A second sitting can be done in the late afternoon before dinner. Meditating after meals can conflict with digestion; meditating before bed can conflict with sleep patterns.

How Long

 Between 10 and 40 minutes. It is up to you to decide how much you want to do, based on your inclination and availability. Less than 10 minutes is likely note enough to do much good, while more than 40 minutes may be too much for beginners.  Start small (2-3 minutes at a time) and build up.

Body Position

Any relaxed sitting position that allows you to sit comfortably, quietly and awake for the duration of your practice. You can sit on a chair, couch, on the floor or wherever. What is most important is that you are comfortable, that you can hold the pose easily, and that you are able to stay awake - meaning you don't want to get so comfortable you fall asleep. When you first start learning how to meditate, you may wish to sit with your back and head supported. If you are able to do so comfortably, you may find you more easily stay awake if you sit with your head unsupported, leaving your back still supported. Better still, but again only if you find it comfortable and easy to do so, is to sit on the edge of a chair with your back straight and your head balanced in alignment over your shoulders. The best position for meditation sessions that are longer than about 20 minutes or so is one of the traditional postures for sitting on the floor. Again, however, you should only adopt a posture that is comfortable and easy to maintain.

Starting a Meditation Session

  • Having taken a comfortable, relaxed sitting position, close your eyes and take a few moments (about half a minute to a minute) to relax any obvious tensions in your body.
  • Now, opening your eyes, take a moment to feel your body position and to get a sense of your immediate surrounds (within a few feet of your body).
  • Close your eyes, continuing to feel your body position and immediate surrounding.
  • Allow yourself to experience the feeling of simply sitting, doing nothing else but being relaxed.
  • Set your intention.  At the start of each meditation practice, think about what draws you to meditate- take a few moments to connect with what it is you want to achieve (e.g., greater personal freedom, peace, healing and well-being for self and others, etc.).

Meditating

  • When you first start experiencing this relaxed feeling of simply sitting, then "watch" your breath, imagining it as it enters and leaves your nostrils, for three or four full breaths.  Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
  • By doing this, you are associating the breath with the relaxed state of simply sitting doing nothing else but being relaxed.  This association will help you to easily recall this feeling when you begin to get distracted by thoughts and sensations.
  • Now just sit, experiencing the feeling of simply sitting and doing nothing else.
  • Of course, you will have various experiences of sounds, feelings, brief thoughts, perhaps even sights (the blankness behind your eyelids or even soft colors caused by the natural activity of your retinas).  Just accept these experiences and sensations, doing nothing with them.  Just hear, feel and watch them come and go.
  • Eventually you will start thinking about something.  You will start becoming distracted away from resting in the feeling of relaxed non-doing.  This is fine.  It is to be expected.  It is very natural for the mind to become involved in its experiences - that is what it is made for.
  • When you realize you are thinking about something and becoming distracted, simply remember your breath.  Don't criticize yourself or get impatient.  Simply remember your breath.  Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation.  Notice the movement of your body as you breathe.  Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage and belly.  Make no effort to control your breath; simply focus your attention.  If your mind wanders, simply return your focus back to your breath.
  • This remembering of the breath will, in turn, recall to you the feeling of simply sitting and doing nothing but being relaxed. 
  • This is the entire process of mediation.  It is sitting relaxed, becoming distracted, remembering the breath, recalling the feeling of relaxed sitting, then sitting relaxed again until you become distracted. It is a circular movement - at first.  Soon, it becomes more like a spiral that leads you ever more deeply into the feeling of relaxation.  
  • Repeat the cycle for the duration of the meditation period.

Finishing

  • When you are ready to end your meditation, take a moment to say silently to yourself:  "May I be happy.  May I be healthy.  May I be free of suffering."  Feel each sentence as profoundly as possible, allowing their truth to sink deeply into your subconscious mind.  By doing so, you experience love and honor for yourself, which is the foundation for having true love and honor for others.  You can follow this with repeating the same sentences for a loved one, for an acquaintance, for someone you have difficulty with and finally for the whole world.
  • Lastly, spend 2 or 3 minutes just relaxing with your eyes open, enjoying the feeling of having meditated and allowing yourself to gradually return to an active state of mind.

Helpful Hints

Try to meditate daily, even if it is for a very short period.  A few times each day, try to pause and establish contact with your body and your breath.  Feel the moment.  Don't judge your practice - accept it as it unfolds, know that you will grow with it, and seek guidance if needed from an experienced meditator.