An excerpt from Chapter 1 of a book (A Beginner’s Course in Meditation) by Devaki Groulx:
(please see previous article, ABC’s of meditation, ch1, part 1.)
LEARN TO RELAX
You’re probably saying “But how can I relax if I don’t know how to meditate?” Meditation will put you into a very deep state of relaxation, but before reaching that stage you have to PREPARE YOURSELF TO BE RECEPTIVE to the effects of meditation.
Sit comfortably on a chair with a straight back or cross-legged on the floor if you prefer. Breathe in deeply through your nose and breathe out very slowly. Each time you breathe in feel
that a different part of your body is relaxing.
Start with the head, the neck, the shoulders – one at a time then the chest, your arms, your hands, the waist, the spine, each leg and each foot, and even your toes. After you have relaxed every part of your body you are ready to start with the first step –
Everybody needs to be able to concentrate to accomplish even the most mundane task, so it is crucial to be able to focus your mind before entering into a much more profound activity such as meditation.
Try this simple exercise: completely empty your mind of all thought for the next two minutes. GO! If you are like 99.9% of the population, your mental activity probably went something like this… “How can I still my mind?” … “This is ridiculous” … “No one can make their mind completely quiet” … “OK mind, shut up, will you?” … “OK, I’m quiet – hey, no I’m not. I’m thinking about the fact that I’m quiet.”“What will I have for dinner?”. “Shh, you’re supposed to be quiet…”, etc. Don’t feel badly – everyone has this experience. That’s why you have to learn to concentrate on one thing at a time and give it ALL your attention. This thing could be a sound, and object or even your own heartbeat. Try this simple exercise I learned in my theatre days to help actors prepare for a role:
- Wherever you are sitting right now, stop a minute and listen
to a sound that you hear outside the room that you are in. Try to isolate one sound and listen only to it.
- Next find a sound that is inside the room you are in. Isolate and listen only to it. Disregard the sounds from outside the room.
- After a few minutes, stop thinking about the sound in the room and listen to the sound of your heart. Ignore all other sounds but the one inside your heart. If you think of something else, keep coming back to the sound of your heart beating rhythmically inside your chest.
CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve just accomplished the first steps in concentration. Here are some more techniques you can try. Before each one, you should make sure you are relaxed, preferably sitting in a comfortable chair. You can try these exercise lying down, but be forewarned, that great concentration state you reach may be dreamland. You need to be alert to do these exercises.
You may want to try these and other meditation techniques I am going to give you in quiet, peaceful surroundings. This doesn’t mean you have to move to the country. Just pick a time when the kids are at school or asleep and your attention will not be required. If necessary (and this is advisable for reasons I will reveal later), get up 15 minutes earlier so that you can have some peaceful time to yourself. I personally find that the earlier in the morning I meditate, the easier it is. When the whole world is peaceful, it’s easier for you to tune in.
TECHNIQUE # 1: CONCENTRATION ON A CANDLE
Sit with your back straight in front of a candle which is at eye level. Look at the candle from the bottom up until you see only the flame. Try to block everything out but this flame. Become so involved in the flame that you become part of it. If your mind plays tricks on you and tries to distract you with inane, irrelevant thoughts, just ignore it and keep going back to the flame.
Think of the flame as an illumining light that is giving clarity to your mind and burning away all UNNECESSARY, UNPRODUCTIVE thoughts. Allow your thoughts to be only of light, illumination and the burning aspiration to become happier, more peaceful and more purposeful.
Never be discouraged if you don’t have what you may consider success. It is all relative. When you start anything you have to go through a practice and learning period. “Practice makes perfect”, as the old adage goes. Sri Chinmoy’s motto is “Never give up!’
With concentration and meditation, as with life, there will be easier days and harder days, but I promise that the easier days will become more and more frequent with time and practice. If you had given up after trying out anything else in your life after not succeeding perfectly, you’d never have lived this long. You’d never even have started to walk as a baby because you’d have given up the first time you fell down!
Have the perseverance of a baby learning to walk, and you will experience the thrill of accomplishment in your concentration and meditation. And never give up because you are afraid of failure. Try to see failure as an experience, a way to learn and improve – a stepping stone to success.
Now that you’ve had your confidence boosted, try this next concentration exercise :
(please see next post, ABC’s of meditation, ch1, part 3 .)