Chiang Saen in The Golden Triangle, northern Thailand

Buddha statue in Chiang Saen part of The Golden Triangle in northern Thailand

In order to gain benefit from meditation, it is necessary to establish a regular practice.  You can start off with short periods of meditating in order to establish a space and time in your life; a habit if you will.

A number of challenges may arise, all of which are really just part of the process, ingredients in the stew, but they will feel like obstacles for you to overcome.  Approach each in a matter-of-fact manner and with a bit of humour.  Be kind to yourself along the way.

  1. Sitting still is just not possible.  Your body may be restless and unpracticed at stillness.  Try a walking meditation where you walk slowly and pattern your steps with the rhythm of your breath.  Keep your eyes open but your gaze soft and focused somewhat downward. Be very mindful of your feet making contact with the ground/floor; move with intention.  Keep your breath and the mechanics of each movement as your focus.
  2. Thoughts race through your mind.  Like your body, your mind can be restless; it is a natural state.  Finding a focus will assist.  Count your breaths or repeat a word or phrase, something conducive to the practice such as ‘one’ or ‘peace’.
  3. Something hurts — your back, legs, backside.  Remaining still and comfortable is foreign to most of us.  If you are experiencing an urgent pain, adjust yourself.  If you are experiencing restlessness, try to sit with it/through it.  Practice your meditation in a position which best works for you.  You can be seated in a chair, on a cushion, lying down, or as noted above, walking.
  4. Nodding off is not part of meditation.  When you are able to relax, falling asleep is a natural response.  Meditation is about remaining aware, so try sitting to meditate or keep your eyes open with a soft gaze directed a few feet in front of you.  Keep your spine erect and your body balanced over your spine.
  5. Nothing special seems to happen.  Generally, a practice is begun with preconceived ideas about what will be experienced while meditating.  Simply enter the process with the goal of increased awareness of your breath.  Your meditation experience will be highly personal — awareness of thoughts, concentration power, alert relaxation may all be part of what you experience, along with many other states.  Be patient with yourself, practice kindness towards yourself.  Stop worrying, you can’t meditate ‘wrong’.

Setting a regular time of day to sit in meditation is helpful in establishing a practice and experiencing the wonderful, calming, life-sustaining benefits of meditation.  An early morning practice can create a difference in your day.  A late evening practice can allow you to finish your day in peace, relaxed and ready for a sound sleep.

Whatever time of day you sit, with yourself and with your breath, you will quickly begin to experience the benefits of meditation.