If meditation practice is new to you, the following practices and guidelines may be helpful as you start to build a routine.
When to Sit
Some like to meditate early in the morning when the family or the roommates are asleep and the soundtrack of daily living is relatively silent. Regardless of when you sit, there will be some ambient noise competing for your attention—there may be a train passing by in the distance, a car speeding by down an adjacent road, or the sound of footsteps and other evidence of life in an adjoining apartment. At first, this soundtrack called life may seem distracting… but whenever you find time to meditate, make your way to a space where you can sit.
Where to Sit
Some find it helpful to create beautiful meditation spaces. While they can be lovely and very well appointed, you can meditate just as well in any room in your house, or even outdoors. Find a place where you won’t deal with extreme temperatures and where you can be relatively comfortable and undisturbed.
How to Sit
Meditation as a practice is a long tradition. As practitioners have taken the path of meditation throughout history, some have recorded their thoughts and experiences in order to chronicle observations and helpful instructions.
Many encourage the use of one of the following seated postures:
On the Floor
While sitting on the floor, it is often recommended that you elevate the pelvis above the ankles and feet. For this reason, many sit on a zafu, seiza bench, or a yoga brick. For comfort, some place their prop on a zabuton or a folded blanket.
Indian Style – Sit with the legs crossed. The right foot is tucked under the left knee while the left foot is tucked under the right knee.
Burmese Style - Sit with the legs crossed. Both legs rest on the floor, one in front of the other. The calves and ankles of both legs are parallel.
Seiza Position – Sit in a kneeling position with the legs folded and the ankles tucked under the hips.
Half Lotus – Sit with the legs crossed. One foot rests on the opposite thigh with the foot facing upward. The other foot rests under the opposite thigh. Both knees touch the ground.
Full Lotus – Sit with the legs crossed. Both feet rest on the opposite thigh with the feet facing upward. The knees touch the ground.
In a Chair
Seated Meditation – Sit towards the edge of the chair such that the hips support the weight of the back. Place the feet on the floor a little wide than hips-distance apart. Hold the hands just above the lap while holding a mudra or rest the hands on the knees.
How to Hold the Hands
Anjali mudra – Press the hands together and hold them at the heart center. This is a traditional posture of prayer.
Dhyani mudra – The backs of the hands face the floor with the fingers of the left hand resting on the fingers of the right hand. The thumbs curl around and meet each other forming the hands into a bowl shape. The thumbs touch lightly but do not press against each other.
Bhairava mudra - The backs of the hands face the floor with the back of the right hand resting on the palm of the other hand. The thumbs are held in alignment with the forefingers.
Bhairavi mudra – The backs of the hands face the floor with the back of the left hand resting on the palm of the other hand. The thumbs are held in alignment with the forefingers.
Chin mudra – The backs of the hands rest on the thighs toward the knees. The thumb and forefinger circle around and touch each other gently. The other fingers rest naturally, slightly curled and parted.
Hands on knees – Curl the hands over the knees and let them rest there gently with the palms facing downward.
What to Do
Complete a series of yoga asanas or stretching exercises to open the hips and increase circulation and flexibility in the hamstrings, inner thighs and calves. Sun Salutations are a good place to start for beginners.
Set a timer. A timer with an audible alarm that you don’t have to interact with (look at periodically) is recommended. Take a few deep breaths while holding your hands in the Atmanjali mudra.
Sit quietly and focus on the breath. Follow the inhalation and exhalation. If you find that your thoughts or emotions are particularly busy, try one of the following techniques to remain focused on the breath
Count the Breaths – either mentally or audibly with the out breath, count from 1 to 5 then repeat for the duration of your practice
Practice Insight – turn your attention to the distraction temporarily. Simply name the distraction (thinking, worrying, obsessing) or the emotion (anger, sadness, disappointment) while focusing on the inhalation and exhalation. Observe the distraction for a short time then return to observation of the breath.
Be mindful of your posture. Make an effort to keep the spine straight, the shoulders relaxed, the throat supple, and the arms relaxed but not drooping. Relax the face and the jaw. If you can, keep your eyes open just enough so you can see your eyelashes. If this is uncomfortable, keep your eyes closed.
Keep the body aligned for the duration of your practice. Allow the spine to support the torso, and shoulders. Allow the neck to hold the head firmly in place. If you notice any area slouching or tilting, bring it back into alignment.
Rub the hands together quickly for several seconds to generate warmth in the palms. Rest the palms over the eye sockets for a few moments.
Turn to the right to gently twist the spine and hold the position for a moment. Then turn to the left and repeat. Feel the release in the spine.
Lean forward and drop shoulders over the legs and let the head fall gently between the shoulders toward the ground.
Slowly sit up straight. Arch the back into a bend while sitting upright. Pull the shoulder blades slightly inward as your shoulders stretch backward, then release them gently as you return to an upright sitting position. Stretch the arms up over your head then bring them back down in the Anjali mudra.