Many Find Meditation Difficult
Meditation is often seen as a means to an end. A way to attain something more.
Many people attempt to clear their minds completely then get frustrated when they cannot. Your mind will go as it goes. To think thoughts is the job of your mind. This is your ego.
When meditating you will be focusing on your breath. Thoughts will pop into your mind. Some of them you will chase and others you will let go. After a while of chasing your thoughts you will realize you have been lost in thought. At this moment simply return your focus to your breath.
The most frustrating point for people is their thoughts. Through this practice of sitting and paying attention to when thoughts arise, accepting that they arise, returning your focus to your breath, you will attain nothing.
There is nothing to attain. Joy, love, and freedom arise naturally because this was your state to begin with. This was your state before your began to believe your thoughts as though they were facts.
When your thoughts begin to tell you that this meditation thing is not working, this is not a fact. It is a good indicator that your meditation is working. Understand this thought is just the ego trying to create a problem. Acknowledge this is just a thought. Return your focus to your breath.
Now, how do you meditate?
There are two types of sitting. Either on a Zafu or on a Seiza bench.
When sitting on a Zafu, sit at the front edge. Your legs are crossed. You may be able to place each foot on top of the opposite thigh. If you can do this, good. If not, allow one or both feet to rest on the floor.
To have the best possible posture, your knees rest on the floor as well. This allows plenty of room for breathing. Constricted breathing in meditation creates more thought and a breath that is higher in the lungs. Expanded breathing fills the lungs at the lowest possible place below the navel. Then the air expands the “hara”.
If your knees cannot be on the floor or lower than your hips, sit as best you can. The longer you do, the more flexible you will become. Forcing your knees down does no good and brings you to attachment to the idea that you need to be a certain way. Do what you can do, and the rest will follow in its time.
Sieza Bench Sitting
When sitting using a seiza bench, first kneel on the floor. Then place the bench over your calves with one leg of the bench on each side of your legs so the bench stretches across your legs.
Then sit back with your sit bones against the seat. Some benches are cushioned, others are hard.
Naturally with the bench, your knees will be on the floor and thus lower than your hips allowing your breath to fully fill the hara.
Kneeling with Zafus
Another type of kneeling can be done with one or more zafus stacked on top of each other. Kneel placing the zafus between your legs and settling your sit bones onto the zafu.
Your back should be straight with your ears, your shoulders and your hips on one vertical plane. Imagine a string coming up your spine and out of the top of your head. It would meet the ceiling at a perpendicular angle.
Your nose and your belly button would be in a second vertical plane.
Your hands. You may make a cosmic mudra. With your left and right hands turned upwards, lay your left fingers on top of your right fingers. Almost touch the tips of the thumbs together. They can be close enough that a thin piece of paper would slide between them. Your thumb and your forefinger will probably touch anyway. No need to concern yourself with this.
Place your hands at your hara. Many set them in their lap.
You may also make a circle with your thumb and forefinger or your thumb and middle finger. Place each hand facing up on knees or thighs.
Your elbows should be slightly turned out instead of resting against your side.
For some lowering to the floor is not possible. Sit in a straight back chair with no arms. Sit forward with your back straight. Do not use the back of the chair to support your back. Place your feet on the floor on either side of the chair so that your knees are lower than your hips allowing your breath to expand fully.
If keeping a straight posture is not possible, then try laying down flat. Place your hands on your hara and follow your breath as above.
You may have your eyes closed or open. When you close your eyes you will likely experience your thoughts visually. Noticing this, just return to following your breath.
You can sit with your eyes open. To do this, allow your focus to become soft. Look down toward the floor. You may sit facing the wall when your eyes are open. Just gaze downward with a soft focus.
Following your breath
Focus your attention on your hara or the place just below your navel.
Allow your breath to fill the hara. Do not force it, nor attach to any idea of the breath reaching your hara. This will complicate the matter. If your breath does not fill your hara, if it is higher in the abdomen or even high in your chest, just notice this. Forcing your breath (or anything for that matter) means you have attached to some idea of what is right. Allowing the breath to naturally flow the way it is in any given moment, it will eventually find it’s way to the hara.
Length of meditation
When you first begin to meditate, sit for as long as you can. Then sit for a minute longer. A small clock that tells the time digitally or with hands is helpful. You may notice that you watch the clock at first. A minute may seem like five. Five like twenty.
When you notice you are looking at the clock and you have not reached the time to stop, just return your focus to your breath.
“As long as you can” is vague, so I recommend 5 minutes of sitting meditation. Then sit for just 1 more minute.
After a couple of weeks add a minute or five minutes. Always sit for one more minute than you plan.
Your life may be busy and filled with much activity. Experiment with finding a length of time that will suffice for your practice. If you will practicing daily, reaching 20 minutes of meditation may be enough. You may sit for longer or shorter. I like 30 minutes.
It is tempting to listen to your ego tell you that you do not have 20 or 30 minutes. Your ego will attempt to fill your time with meaningless activity. Examine your activity to see what is unnecessary. Then you will find the time.
Time of day
This may depend on your schedule. I prefer first thing in the morning before activity begins to happen in the house.
If you need to get children to school, or you exercise first thing, you can pick another suitable time.
You may desire to add an additional practice to your day. If you can do this wonderful. If not, one time per day will be helpful.
If you can practice daily do so. If that seems too time consuming, look at how you can arrange your schedule to fit it in before deciding on a less than daily practice. Examine your activity to see what is unnecessary before you decide to practice less than daily.
Pain while meditating
Physical pain while meditating can come and go. Notice your posture if you feel pain. Ensure your posture is straight as described above. Then return to your breath. The pain is worse when you focus your attention on the pain instead of your breath. The pain is temporary. As you sit in this position you will build strength and your meditation will shift away from being in pain.