Today's meditation tips come to you from our resident yoga teacher, student of Philosophy & Religion, and online store manager Candice. We hope they are helpful to you if you are just starting out on "the pathless path!"
When starting a seated meditation practice, it’s only natural to assume that there must be some kind of a goal in mind: perhaps increased inner peace, or achievement of an idealized "Zen" state. In so many areas of our lives we set goals, and satisfaction comes from achieving them.
Thankfully, seated meditation needn't have any type of goal in mind. Phew - that's a relief! Truly, “the journey is the destination.” With that in mind, here are my top 3 tips for the aspiring meditator. Enjoy!
1. Observe Yourself Without Judgment
One of the core concepts of a meditation practice is getting to know yourself as you are. This is the practice of self-inquiry, which may be familiar to you if you've done journaling, therapy, or introspection of any sort. Above all, it involves letting go of notions of good and bad, right and wrong, and just letting things be.
In seated meditation, we can notice thoughts, sensations, and sounds as they come and go -- like watching clouds in the sky. As you begin a meditation practice, consider it an endeavor of self-knowing. What does your body feel like? How about your breath? What kinds of thoughts do you tend to entertain inside your mind? It's important not to judge. Do you judge clouds for being too big or too little? Too fluffy or too wispy? Too shapely or too blob-like? Probably not, right? :) Just let the clouds be.
2. Beginner’s Mind
Everyone is a beginner sometimes. This is a very refreshing state. When you're beginning, you don't have to be "good" at something -- all you have to do is try your best, and stay open to learning something new. In sitting, see if you can repeatedly return to the childlike space of “I don’t know.” Pretend as if each breath is your first, and see if you can notice how each new moment can feel full of possibility, discovery, and wonder.
3. Nurture Awareness... And That’s It.
Thinking and judging are great tools that we have at our disposal as human beings. But sometimes we forget that we have other, equally valuable tools, such as sensing and feeling. A common misconception is that when we meditate, we “turn our thoughts off,” but that’s rarely ever the case. Rather, we simply rest our open-minded attention on other things: sounds inside and outside of the room, the rise and fall of the breath, and the sensations in the body as they come and go.
As you start to rest your awareness in these details (breath, sensation, and sound), your thoughts will likely still be there -- just not at the forefront of your mind. It's a bit like turning down the volume knob on a blasting stereo. You can still hear the music, but it isn't so overwhelming anymore. It's a great skill to be able to selectively "turn down the volume" on anxious, worried, or egotistical thoughts as they arise. However, this isn't a goal we set out to achieve through meditation. Rather, it is a happy possible side-effect of nurturing awareness, which is its own reward.
BONUS: Apply these tips to your physical yoga practice, and see where they take you! :)
Some of my other favorite meditation resources/teachers:
- Thich Nhat Hanh on Meditation
- Pema Chodron on Meditation
- Awesome You Are Not So Smart podcast on Mindfulness
For more from Candice, visit her website at www.candicedavantzis.com.