How To Meditate
Mindfulness is the practice of grounding oneself on the breath, becoming aware of the breath, and experiencing the present moment as it is happening in conjunction with the breath.
Meditation is the basis of a mindfulness practice and we learn the skills of mindfulness by practicing meditation. Meditation is a practice that supports us in befriending the breath and, in some ways, having an intimate relationship with the breath while fostering awareness of the unique characteristics of each individual breath.
Mindful Fort Collins promotes a long-standing and simple mindfulness practice based on the Early Buddhist tradition known as Anapanasati –awareness of the breath, as documented in the Pali Canon. This practice does not involve listening to music or a guide, however, if you would like to listen to music in the beginning, please try something relaxing and soft. The goal of a meditation practice is to bring about positive change in one’s life through a distinct awareness of the present moment and our inner reactions to situations. When done properly, meditation is a powerful tool to promote positive personal growth.
If you are interested in starting a routine, it’s not difficult. Below are the basics for starting a basic meditation practice as shared by Mindful Fort Collins.
To get started just follow these steps:
- Find a quiet space. Chose a quite place where you will not be easily disturbed to practice meditation. Sit comfortably in a standard chair, preferably not an overstuffed chair, folding chairs work well. Place both feet flat on the ground, do not lean against the back of the chair, move out away from the back of the chair so that you are supporting your posture naturally.
- Set your timer. For beginners, we suggest meditating from three to five minutes. We promote Insight Timer, a free meditation App that you can download from your mobile App store. You can set a time for meditation and it will also be a good way to keep track of your progress. Please join the Mindful Fort Collins group on Insight Timer.
- Breathe into your belly. Imagine a balloon in your belly, now fill it up with an in-breath and deflate it with the out-breath. Practice this to get the feel of belly breathing. If you have a hard time discovering belly breathing, simply lay down on the floor and breathe naturally.
- Befriend your breath. Take a moment to focus on your breath. Breathing through your nostrils, notice the cool air as you breathe in and warm air as you breathe out. Be sure to breathe through your nostrils during meditation. We do not breathe through the mouth, unless your nose is stuffed up.
- Count the breath cycles. A breath cycle is an in breath and an out breath. We act on the out breath. Action could be one of several things, but here we will count. Simply count each out breath until you reach ten, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10. Then start again at one. Do this throughout your meditation practice. It gives your mind something to focus on while you practice awareness of the breath. If you forget what number you are on, just go back to one. If you pass ten, just go back to one. When in doubt, go back to one.
- Notice the inner world. As we practice, we begin to notice thoughts, ideas, feelings, and a variety of mental and physical phenomena. As this happens, simply notice it and bring your attention back to the breath and counting. The mind may want to engage you with thoughts like: “This is a waste of time”, “Shouldn’t you be …?”, and many other possible scenarios. It is important to return your awareness to the breathing and continue your meditation.
- Add more time. After a week or so, add a couple minutes to your present time. If you are practicing for three minutes, then add two minutes and begin practicing for five. Keep adding time every ten days or so until you reach 20 mins. By that time, you should have a good sense of what a meditation practice is and be well on your way to experiencing the benefits of a meditation practice based on the breath.
- Join a meditation group. Joining a meditation group is a great way to grow your practice and learn more subtleties of the practice from others who have been meditating longer. Sharing your successes and challenges with like-minded people will also present you with a means to grow your practice faster. Mindful Fort Collins has several meditation groups around town where you can gain support and experience the synergy of group meditation! Check out the Mindful FoCo Meditation calendar and join us to take your meditation practice to a new level.
Be sure to practice daily to gain the benefits of meditation. For the longterm, the more aware you become of the breath and awareness of the present moment –what is happening now, in your thoughts, emotions, reactions, feelings, and how they interact with the world outside, you will begin to notice subtle yet powerful changes. Meditating is not easy, it takes grit and will-power, and if we aren’t consistent on a daily basis, the benefits will be few. Meditate everyday, even if it is only for three to five minutes!