There’s no right or wrong way to meditate. There are many different types of meditation and meditation takes many different forms. What works for one person may not make any sense to another. Because each mind sees things differently, how it makes sense of the world is different.
One definition is this: Meditation is what happens when you sit down to meditate. *
To begin, there aren’t any hard and fast rules to follow, just a few guidelines and suggestions. So why not read this section over and then try it yourself?
Find a comfortable position which allows you to feel upright and alert without being rigid or tight. Sit in a chair, stand, or, if your body is really hurting, you can also lie down. Then close your eyes gently and notice your hands or feet or the pressure of your buttocks on the chair.
What happens next?
Allow your body and mind to be just how they are. Everything you feel is fine: sleepy, restless, bored, interested, nothing. Give yourself permission to follow whatever comes up: your thoughts and feelings, body sensations such as a heartbeat or a pain in the knee, writing a shopping list, having a memory of when you were five–everything. Can you be curious about what you are experiencing? Can you be kind to whatever experience arises?
What if I get lost in thoughts or feelings?
There’s really nothing special about what happens in meditation. You might start out thinking about what happened during the day, or about some problem you have to solve, or still feel mad at someone you had an argument with today. You might drift off a little and not know where you are. You might actually fall asleep. You will likely notice some kind of body sensation you’d prefer not to have–a complaining hip or a sudden knife-like pain. You might have a memory of Girl Scout camp, or find yourself feeling sad and upset about a relationship going sour.
If you get terribly lost, frightened or angry, you can always come back to your body: your hands, your feet on the floor.
Everything is fine. There is no right or wrong thought or feeling. This is how we begin to know ourselves and become friends.
How long should I meditate?
It’s good to set a reasonable time and then to stick to it. Start small: 10 minutes, maybe. It’s best to set goals you can achieve instead of aiming for big ones you fail at. If you have a kitchen timer, use it, or download a meditation timer app. You are in charge of this, and you will learn what feels good and what is reasonable. And as you get the hang of it, you can meditate a little longer, if you want to, and see how that feels.
Try to remember what happened.
Once the time is up, take a few moments to remember what happened in your meditation: Can you recall how it started? What surprised you? What do you remember best? How did you feel: restless, bored, interested, silly, like you were wasting your time? Did you see images or colors, hear sounds?
All these feelings are quite familiar to us; they are part of our inner landscape, but now we are getting reacquainted with them through meditation. Meditating can be a way of communicating between our inner selves and our conscious mind. It can be a rich and interesting dialogue.
Try writing a meditation journal.
If you’d like, take a few minutes to write down what you can remember of your thoughts, feelings, body experiences and attitudes. Try to remember as much as you can. Keeping a journal gives you a record of what happened in your meditation that you might like to share with a teacher or in a group of other meditators. It also allows you to look back over time and see what is changing and moving in your internal experience.
If you would like to talk to a teacher about your meditations, please contact Janet: firstname.lastname@example.org or see the Contacts page for other teachers who talk to individual students.
*This approach to meditation, known as recollective awareness, was originated by Jason Siff, and is described in his books Unlearning Meditation and Thoughts Are Not The Enemy (Shambala). It has subsequently been opened up and expanded by its teachers and students, and is called reflective meditation or simply meditation.