Since the late eighties when I started practising meditation I have seen its popularity increase along with the associated scientific research and today it has become a mainstream activity. In its simplest form meditation is an ideal tool for managing stress, controlling anxiety, improving sleep and promoting health and well-being.
It is best to create an ideal space in which to meditate. Make sure the space is peaceful and with no distractions. Even mini mindfulness periods during the day of 10-20 minutes will have benefits, especially for stress management. For major illnesses, longer periods are recommended.
Traditionally it is said that when conditions are conducive, meditation occurs spontaneously. When we create an environment where we are comfortable to relax in we do just that. We simply let go of all the things we do and relax.
Begin by sitting upright in a chair or on a cushion on the floor. Consciously relax the body from the toes upwards to the head moving our attention through the muscle groups of the body contracting and relaxing them. Bring your attention to the slow gentle breath and just be aware of the breathing in and breathing out.
Next, as the body relaxes and the mind settles, allow the thoughts to just come and go without judging or adding any commentary to it. Just notice the thoughts without any reaction. A similar attitude is adopted for sensations in the body. As we settle more into our meditation there is a progression into mindfulness. We are simply mindful of our thoughts as they come and adopt an attitude of acceptance towards present moment thoughts and feelings. At its core, mindfulness is about being curious. If you see the wind caressing the branches observe the branches give it full attention, imagine the minutest detail. notice how the attention to such detail makes you feel. As we continue this practice of mindfulness the thoughts seem to slow down. We may notice a gap between the thoughts. In that gap there are no thoughts, just a moment of stillness. As we keep going with our meditation this gap increases to a deeper stillness. We simply enjoy this state of mindfulness into stillness and the present moment experience. It is a gentle flow or process from relaxation, mindfulness, to stillness. It pays to remember that the energy field of silent stillness is ever-present and situated just prior to and beneath the advent of thought. If in the course of this practice there is a distraction, back up a step at a time. For example, if the distraction is at the mindfulness part go back to attention on the slow in-breath and out-breath. Then return to mindfulness. If the steady flow of the breath is not there go back to relaxing the body from the toes upwards to the head then return to mindfulness and then stillness.
As the practice improves we find we can meditate in more challenging environments. Life begins to flow with ease. We become calmer, more joyful and serendipity becomes a feature of life.