GUIDED MEDITATION EXERCISE
Q. Is it easy to start meditating?
A. Beginning meditation is very difficult for most people. We're not raised in a society to go in, we're raised in a society that says to go out. We simply are not accustomed to the idea of going inside ourselves; it needs patience and gentleness.
Q. Can you walk us through a basic meditation?
A. To start out, wear loose comfortable clothing, get a pillow and a blanket. You can set a soft beep timer (not a loud alarm because that's too jarring) to structure your meditations if you're trying to fit them into a busy schedule
The classic meditation is that you sit tall. You may sit in a chair, but you don't want to lean back because most backs of chairs are not upright. It may feel awkward to sit forward, so put a few pillows between your back and the back of the chair. You may even put a pillow under your feet. You can also do this lying down on the floor, bringing the head and trunk in a long line. If you have the option, it's best to do it upright.
Take a few moments to prepare you seat and make yourself comfortable. (If you're in a work environment, take off your jacket, loosen a tie and a belt, take off your shoes - as much as is appropriate to get more comfortable, you can pull yourself together later.)
Right now, let go and relax. If you're seated upright, the head the neck and the trunk are in one line, but you are at all rigid or stiff like a soldier. You're upright, but there is a simultaneous softness, a relaxation. Think of this position as noble. Soften your belly, soften your throat. If you're wondering how, try telling yourself, "I soften my belly, I soften my throat".
The first few exhales can be through the mouth. This relaxing in the jaw will actually help to tone the pelvic floor, which will allow you, sit upright and be more comfortable.
After that, the breathing should be through the nose. This is natural, effortless and relaxing. Allow your breath to deepen.
Now we're going to go into a classic meditation. I use the word classic deliberately. I do want to impart the sense that you are joining the countless number of great beings from all traditions and all times and all places, in both genders, and that you enter this stream of all beings who have sought more peace, truth, and relaxation. You don't do it alone. It's important to know that no matter how alone you may feel, everything in this universe is intimately tied, like your breath - you're exhale is my inhale and so on.
Feel that breath now. By now you're breathing evenly, naturally through your nose. Notice the breath come in at the nose, follow it all the way down, feel like it connects all the way into the earth. And then feel it as it comes up from the earth, through your hips, your pelvic floor. The whole body is breathed, feel that, feel the exhale leave your body and soften you. Feel that with each exhale you relax more.
With each inhale you elongate, you become more radiant and this is nothing that you have to do this is what happens. Notice the breath coming in breathing you, nurturing you, giving you what you need. And the exhale releasing you, relaxing you, letting go of everything that you don't need.
You don't even have to try there's no forcing, there's no grasping. If you find that your attention has wondered, with absolute gentleness, like you are speaking to your beloved, bring the attention back. The mind is very sensitive it must be nurtured. Bring it back to the breath and notice how the breath changes. It seems so tedious at first, but it's always different, an infinite variety of sensations and temperature, colors, nuances.
Feel yourself being breathed and just as you don't have to grasp with the breath, you do not have to grasp for what you need. If you relax and let go it will come to you. Watch the arising and dissolving of breath, of emotions. They seem so concrete sometimes - thoughts and concepts - but notice how they pass with the breath. It all just moves through you and you observe and feel.
Feel yourself, gently embraced and nurtured in this breath. This breath that just seems so ordinary, maybe even mundane. The whole cosmos is being breathed in and out and as it breathes you in and out.
Feel the mind release its grip. Remember, the mind is not going to stop. The mind's supposed to be sharp, brilliant even, and make lots of thoughts, but you will expand your awareness so much that it seems that the mind slows down and stills. You are the pure awareness watching mind, feeling body and breath. When your attention leaves you, simply bring it back. You're not doing anything wrong if the mind wanders, bring it back, and feel yourself breathe. You may do this a hundred times, that's part of the meditation.
If there is any area in particular that feels stiff or has stiffened, take your breath directly there. For example, if it's in the shoulder, take your breath right there as if it had nostrils. Breathe in and out, as if your shoulder were breathing.
It is inevitable this arising and dissolving. No matter how heavy and solid it feels now as you sit here nobly watching the arising and dissolving, you come to know that it all changes. That there is a changeless place in you that is watching and feeling. This is a place of deep wisdom; this is not an overstatement. Allow yourself to be immersed by this knowledge.
Continue to take your breath to areas that need it in the body and the mind. If there is an area in the mind that feels knotted and stiff around anger, treat it as if it were a shoulder or a knee. Watch it and breathe through it. If you feel like you're getting caught in the emotion or thought rather than watching it, give it name like you're greeting it and let it go.
Take your awareness to these sensations, following the arising and dissolving of breath for as long as you have or as long as you can be comfortable. Don't struggle, because wherever there is a struggle or a conflict the mind increases its activity. Let awareness drop to the heart, where you already know all things.
Allot at least 20-30 for this exercise, when you are done, you silently give thanks. Give thanks to whomever and whatever you would like, for in the silence there is great power you can send a gratification as a blessing to any being. But don't' forget to thank yourself. Deepen your breath and notice how much easier it is to do that now and remember that this place exists in you, you are never without it.
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GUIDED RELAXATION EXERCISE
Q. Can you take us through a guided relaxation?
A. This is called point to point relaxation. Ideally you want to lie down on the floor, a bed or a couch is all right if it's firm and comfortable. You might want to put a pillow under your knees. Lie flat and let your arms and legs come out from your body at about 45-degree angles. Your hands face up, the palms softly cupped. You don't want your fingertips on the ground. Close your eyes.
Relax everything. Begin by relaxing the large, heavy bones of the body, the larger muscles of the body, and the legs. Relax the back, the bones in the arms, the muscles there. Relax your whole body and feel the point of contact of your body to the ground. Tell yourself "I am going to relax for the next ten minutes or so", and let your breath be natural and deep. All the thinking and planning that you need to do will be done afterwards. Your breath deepens in agreement, relax more.
Feel yourself soften and then deliberately take your breath awareness to your feet. As if you could breath in though your feet, breathe in from the feet all the way up to the crown of your head. Exhale from the crown of the head all the way down to your feet. Inhale from the feet to the head, exhale head to feet. Inhale, feet to the head ? Do this ten times.
Now exhale from your head just to your knees, and then inhale from the knees to the head. Exhale head to the knees. Though you're going a shorter distance, keep your breath the same length, duration and depth. Inhale knees to head ? Do this ten times.
Exhale from your head to your fingertips, then inhale from the fingertips to head. Exhale head to fingertips. And like before even though you're not going as long of a distance you keep the breath duration the same, consistency helps to deepen the relaxation. Inhale fingertips to head ? Do this five times.
Exhale from you head to your navel, then inhale from the navel to the head. Exhale head to navel. Inhale navel to head ? Do this five times. Keep the breath deep through the nose, this is important.
Exhale from the head to the heart center, and then inhale from the heart to the head. Exhale head to heart. Inhale navel to head ? Do this five times.
Now exhale from the head to the throat, then inhale throat to head. Exhale head to throat. This is a short distance, but keep the breath equal, long and deep, penetrating through the greatest of obstacles and resistances. You are completely relaxed. Inhale throat to head ? Do this five times.
Now this time again, exhale to the heart. Inhale heart to head, exhale head to heart, and inhale heart to head ? Do this five times.
Then exhale from your head to your navel. Inhale navel to head, exhale head to navel,
Inhale navel to head ? Do this five times.
Exhale head to fingertips. Inhale fingertips to head, exhale head to fingertips, and inhale fingertips to head ? Do this five times.
Exhale head to knees. Inhale knees to head, exhale head to knees; inhale knees to head ? Do this about five times.
Finally, exhale head to the feet. Inhale feet to head, exhale head to feet ? Do this about five times.
Just feel your whole body being breathed. Gently start to move your hands and your feet slowly. Roll to your right side and draw your knees towards your chest. Linger a moment. Put your left hand to the ground and sit up, feel how you feel. You'll find that when you do get up and move around you'll actually have more energy.