It is important when meditating to not over complicate things. Over complication sets into motion the busy mind, which is what we want to quell in meditation. So keep it simple, yet effective. If you must remember just 3 things, this is it:
Tip number one: STILLNESS
This means I have an environment that is distraction free. I will not be interrupted. Stillness also means I am committed to not moving my body in any way for the time set for my meditation. This is fundamental. No scratching. No readjusting my posture. Nothing. So I do all my posture adjusting before I begin and make sure I can hold whatever posture I have for the full duration. Lying down generally sucks for meditation, by the way. Certain postures correspond with certain states of mind, and lying down can become dreaming or sleeping too easily. We want alertness.
Tip number two: YOUR ATTENTION IS ENOUGH.
Bring your attention to something that is real and present, something that is coming in through your senses. This can be the weight of your body, the sound of wind or traffic, or the refrigerator humming. Be the observer. What is it like to notice and do nothing?
Probably the number one meditation misconception is that during meditation you should “try to relax.” This is an oxymoron. Trying involves tension. Instead of “trying,” just notice. Notice your tension. Notice the discomforts. They don’t have to be special. They are just one of the things in your sea of noticing, i.e., refrigerator hum, soreness in my back, tension between my eyebrows, weight of my legs on the cushion, thought about the movie I saw last night, refrigerator hum, etc…
Probably the number one meditation misconception is that during meditation you should “try to relax.” This is an oxymoron.
Noticing is powerful. Your attention is powerful. It is a force. If you stay in noticing mode you will “notice” how the tensions in your body naturally release or respond to your attention. This is truly amazing. The only effort required on your part is to not stop observing and resist “doing” anything. The truth is, we don’t know how to relax the body. Only the body knows how to relax itself.
If you stay in noticing mode what you will find is something I call unwinding. It is the way a flower blooms or the way the body unfurls itself when given the right conditions. So beware the temptation to name anything as “pain” or “tension” while meditating. It is just a sensation, like all the others, although you may certainly experience it as less or more unpleasant. It is nothing to concern yourself with fixing or even “trying to relax.” Notice. And notice what happens when you notice.
This same applies to thinking and the unruly mind. All this is, is a tension of the mind. So when you see that you are stuck on a particular thought, you have already returned to noticing. So gently continue that return. Expand your awareness into the here and now, ie., refrigerator hum, sensation in my back, another thought about the movie last night, weight of my body, etc… And you will notice as you continue, these “tensions,” or persistent thoughts, will begin to relax themselves, as well.
Tip number three: CONSTANCY
Think of your practice like Chinese water torture on all your problems. It is one drip, right between the eyes, incessantly breaking down and wearing away everything not required in your life. So you have to keep it coming. One drip follows the next drip. Meditation is the accumulation of the small that becomes mighty when we don’t give up. So have a regular time, a time you can set aside daily. It doesn’t have to be a long time, but it needs to be consistent. Be relentless with your practice as you would in a battle against those things that steal peace and happiness from your life. If your day gets hectic and something throws your schedule off, can you find 5 minutes somewhere? Commit.
Ana Cortez is an author, independent publisher, and 30 year regular meditator, trained in Zen meditation and multiple other forms of Eastern sitting practice.