The following is a simple and realistic meditation practice that can be done daily for a short session or two. Ideally, it can be done in the morning and before sleeping.
"In the morning we are planting some of our first thoughts that carry along with us through the day like a song stuck in your head."
At night we are preparing for rest and the mind is winding down, which can foster interesting results from meditation.
Posture is perhaps the most important aspect of meditation as it lays the physical foundation of the body/mind system. When beginning meditation, it is best to do shorter sessions more often, rather than one long session.
You should have your knees below your hips to fall into an upright posture. This may be done on a cushion or sitting toward the front of a flat chair so that the knees are below the hips. The feet may be flat or alternatively, those with longer legs may slightly cross them and their feet will rest where they fall. The hands can be just rested on the legs, relaxed. Or, for increased attention, the thumb and pointer can be touching each other rested face down on your legs (see photo).
To find the strong but relaxed spine position, imagine a rod of light extending from the sacrum through the top of your head, this will naturally align the back and tilt the chin forward. This slight tilt is vital for proper meditation. The eyes may be left open if you tend toward drowsiness or they may be closed if your mind is more active. Let them do as they please. Often I begin with mine closed and later they open. If you lower your gaze your thoughts will slow and calm more. The higher your gaze the more energy and alertness you will feel. We have to experiment to find the right eye position for our energy levels.
Once you find it try to keep the three stabilities:
1) The body, don’t fidget too much. Settle in like a rock.
2) The tongue, just let it relax.
3) The eyes, just relax the optic nerve altogether.
Experiment with the precise positions of your body while maintaining attention on the quality of your mind in various positions. This is a helpful way to gauge correct posture. When the posture is nearing an ideal position you should notice a felt quality of clarity and improved attention arise as compared with positions of slouching, even slightly. The posture should feel stable and relaxed. This meditation instruction has just three parts. As you will see, meditation does not begin or stop on the cushion. All day long while we think, we are meditating. We are planting thought seeds of how we see the world and thus how we will see the world. These instructions carry with us into our life once we rise from “meditation”.
2) Let go.
3) Let go of letting go.
1) Relax. This proceeds with inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth three times. Then begin to settle your awareness into your body. Feel your feet, feel your knees and hips. Feel your midsection, arms and shoulders. Feel your jaw and forehead, relax these muscles. Relax into the body. The body will eventually feel like it is sinking into place like a big rock into sand. Your meditation may stay at this step for the entire session. It may remain only at this step for weeks or months.
2) Let go. As you know, thoughts will come to you and demand attention. You will follow them, but once you notice that you are following a thought, let go of it. This is the essential point. Bring your mind back to your posture, notice the sounds and feeling around you, let go of them. Notice your body and the sounds simultaneously. Another though comes, this time an important one! ... “Let go,” you say internally. There will be time to deal with it later. Let the attention naturally settle into the body and posture. The more we let go the more training we are getting in this essential skill. So, the more thoughts that “interrupt” you, the more training you get. In this way there is not a division between “winning” by having no thoughts and “failing” by having many thoughts. Thoughts and letting go are like clouds and sky, they need each other to exist. As we begin to let go of more obvious things, more subtle objects will present themselves as things to cling to. By clinging we increase our sense of security and protection which solidifies us. We eventually reach a point where we can say, “I let go of this as something to cling to.” What happens when we continue letting go of deeper and deeper clingings? This is where questions and answers stop.
3) Let go of letting go. Eventually the phrase “letting go” can become something we are clinging to in meditation. Then we let go of even this phrase. We allow the space and possibility of the “Don’t know mind” to arise, which is the opposite of arrogance. If this “not knowing” itself becomes an object of clinging, let go of it. Let go until you let go of letting go.
"If you are new to meditation, start by incorporating this practice into your life just 5 minutes at a time. At the beginning, it will feel impossible to sit still, and probably like the longest 5 minutes of your life. Keep at it."
Focusing and quieting the mind, just like any other skill, takes time to acquire, and the best way to learn is to keep practicing. Eventually, you can work up to 20 minutes or longer, once or maybe even twice a day. You never really “get there”- there is no such thing as the perfect meditator, with a crystal clear, unruffled mind at all times. Meditation is meant to simply be an exercise, and your meditation practice will continue to evolve alongside you as a person throughout the many phases of your life.