There are several ways to meditate and you may already have preferences about when, where, why or how you meditate. However, if meditation is fairly new to you, or you want to explore meditation further, I will offer some basic teachings which I have learned directly from my mother, Rev. Tess Pender (who has been teaching meditation for several years) in my next few articles about meditation.
There are four distinct stages of meditation; these can be thought of as: the preparation or approach, the technique, the meditative experience itself, and the ending or conclusion. Here are some insights about the first stage of meditation – the approach.
In the approach to meditation, attention is given to:
Environment: Although you can meditate anywhere, both our external and internal environments can be important factors to support a successful meditation. It is good to find a quiet place free of interruptions as well as comfortable seating – perhaps a meditation pillow or comfortable chair. Creating a sacred space can include setting up an altar, lighting a candle or burning some incense. Internally, being open and receptive to the experience coupled with an attitude of respect for yourself and the process are a good place to begin. It’s also wise to make sure you are not too tired or full from eating.
Posture: Posture is an outer demonstration of attitude. It also is a way of remaining alert and allowing energy to flow up and down your spine. Having the spine straight and the head even – not drooping down or looking upward – is very important, otherwise you can tend to drift into unconscious states. Since, your body and mind are connected, a still posture assists you in learning to be aware of mind states. You may begin to notice desires to move that are prompted by your thoughts. In these cases, simply let the thoughts go and stay with your intention to remain as steady as possible during your meditation. This is a first and essential discipline of practice as it creates a solid foundation.
Relaxation: Once you enter a meditative pose, begin to consciously relax your body and mind. A good way to begin this is by taking a couple of slow, deep breaths; fully inhaling and exhaling quickly relaxes you.
Interiorization: This is accomplished by closing your eyes, and bringing your attention inside your body/mind. A simple way to invite interiorization is to follow the breath as it enters the body, noticing the air as it reaches your nostrils, back of your throat, lungs, and abdomen. With deep interiorization, inner states become more vivid and attachment to external stimuli fades.