Meditation Instructions

Sit in an upright and comfortable posture.  If you are sitting on a cushion on the floor sit on the front 1/3 of your cushion so that your pelvis can tilt forward.  This will support your lower spine and free your abdomen to breathe more easily.  Ideally both knees are on the ground giving you three points of contact, your two knees and your sits bones.  If your knees don’t touch the ground you can put some cushions underneath to support them.  Another option is to use a meditation bench.  If sitting on the floor does not work for you you can put a cushion on a chair and sit on the front 1/3 of the cushion.  It also helps to roll up a towel and put it under the back legs of the chair to give your pelvis a little more forward tilt.  Whether you are sitting on the floor or in a chair, your hands can be resting on your thighs or in your lap, the main thing is that there is a straight vertical line from your shoulders to your elbows so that your back is not strained.  Your eyes can be closed or half open which ever is more comfortable for you.  Once you have settled in your posture then begin getting in touch with your breath.

Open up to the experience of your breath, the natural rhythm of the in breath and the out breath.  You can imagine you are at the beach watching the waves of the ocean come in and out.  Become aware of the beginning middle and end of the in breath, a slight pause, the beginning middle and end of the out breath, a slight pause, and the beginning of the cycle again.  Don’t try and control the breath in any way, just let it be natural.

To help the mind be more focused you can bring your attention to a point about two inches below the navel and about two inches inside.  In Japanese Zen this point is called the Hara.  It is a natural place to be aware of the rhythm of the breath.  You can feel the movement of the breath initiated here.  Also by focusing here chi or prana is generated in the body helping the body and mind be more energized and clear.  Open up to the sensations you experience here while breathing in and out.

To help the mind keep from wandering off you can practice counting the exhalations as you focus on the hara.  As you breathe out count silently to yourself “one”.  On the next exhale count “two”, the next one count “three”, keep going until you get to ten.  When you get to ten then begin again at one.  As you say the number in your mind let the sound travel the entire length of the exhalation i.e. “oooooooonnnnne” “twoooooooooooo” “threeeeeeeeeeee”.  Count in a very gentle and relaxed way.  Your effort should be gentle yet persistent.  If at some point you lose your count then begin again at one.

As you sit you will experience physical sensations, emotions, thoughts, sounds, etc… coming and going.  Just let these things come and go naturally.  Don’t try and control them or block them.  The point is just to be aware of what is going on without reacting to it.  If you notice that you got carried away just gently come back to hara and counting your exhalations.  If you feel pain in your body but it is not too bad then just let it be there.  If it becomes uncomfortable then change your posture to a more comfortable one.  If at some point you get tired of counting the breath then just take a break for a few breaths and then start again.

At a certain point in your practice you may start to experience a stillness or silence, a sense of presence and clarity.  It may be that the effort of counting the breath actually gets in the way of experiencing this stillness.  Thoughts may still be coming and going but you find focusing on the breath more disturbing than the thoughts.  If this happens then let go of the breath and just rest in open awareness.  If at some point your mind starts getting pulled away too much then come back to the breath.  In other words use the technique of counting the breath as long as it is helpful for you to stabilize the mind and let go of the technique when it is no longer helpful.

Another technique that may be helpful is that when you start to experience the silence or stillness, gently point your mind towards what you experience as the source of that stillness of silence.  Again use this technique as long as it helps and let go when it gets in the way.

It is good to sit 30 minutes a day at a regular time when your stomach is not full.  After sitting you may like to do walking meditation for 5 or 10 minutes.  As you breathe in step with your left foot and as you breathe out step with you right foot.  Pay attention to your feet touching the ground and the breath coming in and going out.  You can say the word “in” as you breathe in and “out” as you breathe out.

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