Meditating might be easier said than done, but our goal is to make it easier done than said. Here are five steps to sitting pretty. Before you begin, find a quiet space. You might consider creating a beautiful space for yourself, or lighting a candle, or whatever it is that makes you feel comfortable. But any space will work, from a quiet office, to your walk-in closet or your car (real spaces we ourselves practice in).
Once you have found your space, begin with steps 1-5 and find your zen.
1. Set an intention for time. As mindfulness expert Joseph Goldstein has said about meditation, “Something quite extraordinary can happen in even five minutes.” His colleague Sharon Salzberg concurs, explaining: “Usually when people start sitting, we say that five minutes is enough. You don’t have to think, ‘I’ve got to sit here for six hours.’ You don’t have to get into some pretzel-like posture and suffer!” But it’s often said that the best practice is the one you can actually maintain. So start with a small, truly doable amount of time. You can always increase the length of your meditation later if you want to. Even one mindful breath a day is a good start!
2. Find your seat. Sit cross-legged on a meditation cushion, on a straight-backed chair with your feet flat on the floor, or lying down, if you are someone who struggles with back or neck pain. The important thing is to find a relaxed yet dignified position so that you don’t get sleepy. Palms of your hands can be upright or down on your thighs…just don’t wave them in the air. If you prefer your eyes open, let your gaze rest comfortably as you look slightly downward about six feet in front of you otherwise let your eyes close softly.
3. Notice and follow your breath. Place your attention lightly on your out-breath, while remaining aware your environment. Be with each breath as the air goes out through your mouth and nostrils and dissolves into the space around you. At the end of each out-breath, simply rest until the next in-breath naturally begins.
4. Note the thoughts and feelings that arise. Whenever you notice that a thought, feeling, or perception has taken your attention away from the breath, just say to yourself, “thinking,” and return to following the breath. No need to judge yourself when this happens; just gently note it and attend to your breath and posture.
5. After the intended time, close your practice. Open your eyes and take your time to acclimate back to the environment. Notice the way you feel. There’s no need to give up any sense of calm, mindfulness, or openness you’ve experienced. See if you can consciously allow these to remain present through the rest of your day.
Remember that a little R & D is okay. There will be a process of exploring and learning what is best for you. Free yourself of any expectation of doing what’s right. What works for you at one time may later not work for you. We simply remain curious and inquire about our experience, and change according to what our bodies, minds, and spirits need.