Meditation for Beginners
Does your mind ever wander while you’re trying to meditate? Yeah, mine too. That’s just what it does. The mind is good at thinking about things, which is fantastic when you’re trying to schedule meetings, or plan a road trip. It’s not so great when you’re trying to meditate. It’s amazing how easy it is to give full attention to the internet or tv, and how hard it is to sit in meditation for 15 minutes. Meditation masters and teachers have offered many tips and tricks to help us keep our focus when our mind starts to wander. Here are a few that work well for me.
Grab hold of the object of your meditation.
If you are doing mantra meditation, hold onto your mantra. If you are watching your breath, breathe more deeply. You may notice that when your mind starts to wander, your voice becomes softer or your breathing becomes more shallow. A good way to bring yourself back is to give your all to the object of your meditation. Sing from your heart in a full voice, noticing the movements of your mouth and the sound of the words. If you are focusing on your breath, feel the sensation as it enters your body. Notice the way your chest and belly feel as it moves into your lungs. Really going for it will help to break the spell of daydreaming and return you to your meditation.
Refine your posture.
Just as our breathing and our mantras diminish when we’re distracted, our body positions may do the same thing. Sometimes it’s just a subtle shift, perhaps a slight lowering of our hand position (mudra) or a slight collapsing of our chest. Bring your attention to your body. Feel your connection to the floor or your yoga mat, notice the placement of your hands, and the lift of your chest. Occasionally sweep your attention over your body and refine anything that seems to be fading. Also, read through Ramdesh Kaur’s article on eye gaze again, and keep that in mind as well.
Buddhists will often dedicate any merit accrued in their practice to the benefit of all beings. In other schools of meditation, it’s common to set an intention for your meditation practice. That intention could be something personal, a wish for another person, or a hope for the world. Having an intention can be a powerful motivator to keep bringing your mind back again and again. It can also be helpful to have a visual reminder of your intention in your meditation space, such as a photo or other meaningful object. Spending a moment looking at the object at the beginning and end of your practice can be quite powerful.
Getting frustrated when you catch your mind wandering is normal. Our ego wants to “do it right.” But don’t beat yourself up when you realize you’ve been making a grocery list instead of concentrating on your mantra. Instead, you can take the attitude of interest and curiosity at the way the mind works. Are there certain kinds of thoughts that are more likely to carry you away from your meditation? How does your body feel when you are carried away vs. when you are fully present? Try to stay focused on your mantra or breath during your meditation, but be aware of these issues. Later on, you may have insights that will help your practice.
There is nothing “bad” about thinking. It’s just that some types of thinking are more beneficial than others during meditation. Rather than telling yourself to “not think” during meditation, tell your mind to think about appropriate things. Giving your mind a job, such as focusing on the sound of the mantra and holding your intention can anchor the mind in the present moment. Because really, meditation is about living in the present moment rather than worrying about the past or dreaming about the future. The present moment is where we have power to affect change in our lives and the world around us, and the mind is capable of helping us if we use it well.