31 May 8 Dos and Don’ts of Meditation
Most of the time, when we come across an image of someone meditating, they look very peaceful. It almost seems like they are just sitting there with closed eyes and looking naturally serene. But is this all there is to meditation? Well, you may know that meditation is the process of concentrating on a particular sound or object with the aim to calm and eventually still the mind. Whenever our mind drifts off, the process of meditation only requires us to be aware and bring our mind back into focus.
Although this is a simple process, we can attempt to make the practice easier by avoiding certain common mistakes. But it also helps to be aware of some beneficial steps we can take to enhance our practice. So, here are a few Dos and Don’ts:
Tips to enhance our practice.
# 1. Keep your back straight.
There are several benefits to keeping our back and neck straight while meditating. Firstly, a straight back helps align our energies, which in turn allows for better concentration. As we progress, a straight back also enables us to slip into deeper states of consciousness. A bent or slouched back, however, increases our chances of feeling drowsy during meditation. In fact, so does lying down, although that still counts as a straight back.
We can also sit on a chair to meditate. This posture is efficient as long as our back remains straight and we cross our ankles together, with our feet on the ground. For those of us who prefer to meditate on the floor, if we use a cushion to sit in the cross-legged position, it automatically straightens our back. In both cases, to avoid contact with the cold floor, it’s beneficial to place a mat underneath our cushion or feet, on the floor.
# 2. Smile
This may sound rather strange. Smile? During meditation? Yes, you read that right. Smiling sends the signal to your brain that you are having a good time. If we are able to maintain a smile while meditating, the experience becomes enjoyable.
# 3 Start with shorter sessions.
As beginners, we may be tempted to start meditating for 30 mins or even an hour, from day one. However, initially, as we seek to understand our mind and the practice itself, it is more beneficial to slowly build up our practice.
The mind is constantly thinking, and many of us mistakenly believe that meditation just stops our flow of thoughts. This is an erroneous belief. If we start with short 2-minute sessions, we will gain great control on the practice of meditation and in bringing our attention to our object of meditation; e.g., listening to our inhalation and exhalation.
As we gradually increase our sessions from 2 to 5 minutes and further to 10 minutes, we learn to master the skill. Gradually, we understand how to meditate as well as how our own mind works. One-hour sessions at the beginning can be quite futile and discouraging, in fact.
# 4 Do it anywhere and anytime.
It is very easy to constantly postpone our meditation sessions. The excuses are many: “I don’t have time” “There is no quiet space” “I don’t have a cushion” “I need more free time” And the list goes on.
However, did you know that meditation can be done anywhere, at least at the beginning? In the car, for 1 minute, in the parking lot, for example. Practicing mindfulness whilst brushing our teeth also counts as meditation, as does attentively listening to a friend talk. Meditation can be done anywhere and at any time!
Next time, try to meditate while you wait for your food to heat up! Or you could even play a guided meditation anytime you have a few minutes to spare. Grab a chair, headphones in, and start!
Some mistakes to avoid
# 5 Don’t turn it into a burden.
When we take up meditation, it often becomes a burden. It feels like something we have to do, even if we’d rather not. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. It is perfectly okay to take a break sometimes. And with the right mindset and flexibility, meditation no longer feels like a burden. So, don’t make it a burden; it’s not a do or die situation! Start somewhere, and be kind to yourself.
# 6 Don’t sleep without meditating.
Meditating for 5 minutes before bed can help us relax our way into a better night’s sleep. In this uber-connected world, with constant digital communication and excessive screen time, it can be very beneficial to wind down with some me-time. Meditation enables us to gather our thoughts, focus on our breath, and eventually feel relaxed before sleeping. A calmer mind, in turn, leads to a better night’s sleep.
# 7 Don’t pursue thoughts.
One of the simplest and most essential aspects of meditation is the knowledge that thoughts are not to be pursued. This has also been expounded in most books and texts about Mahamudra meditation.
The entire purpose of meditation is to build our concentration by focussing on one thought. For example, let’s assume we are meditating on our breath. If we remain aware to the best of our ability, whenever our mind drifts, we can simply bring our attention back to our breath. In doing so, we choose to not pursue stray thoughts.
# 8 Don’t give up!
“You can never fail if you don’t give up!”
Keep meditating – one minute at a time and one day at a time. The results may not be instantaneous, but after a few days of constantly keeping up with the practice, meditation most definitely brings changes to our insight and perception. But guess what? We will experience this amazing transformation only if we keep walking; I mean meditating.
You’re all set to meditate and don’t forget #2- Smile!
~ Komal R