How to Prepare for Meditation

How to meditate – How you prepare is fundamental

Preparing for meditation is Stage Zero of the meditation process. With any kind of meditation, it is essential to do some preparation for things to go well.
Stage Zero is often seen as an optional extra and either skipped or not done thoroughly. It is sad because it hinders the effectiveness of one’s meditation even before it begins. If you want to get a particular result, you need to set up the right conditions to get that result. According to Buddhists, there is a principle called “conditionality,” which states that if your goal is to achieve “x,” you need to set up the conditions that will enable you to make “x.” Buddhists put a heavy emphasis on the importance of preparation. They believe that it’s impossible to skip this step and expect to get the results that you desire.

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Preparing for meditation involves both the external and internal. Externally you want to make a place that will be conducive to a deep, meditative experience. Internally, you want to address your posture, deepen your awareness of your body, and relax as deeply as you can. This preparation is essential for a calmer, less stressed, and more peaceful mind. Following are some suggestions on how you can prepare your external and internal environment in a way that will help you get the most out of your meditation.

Mirror your internal intention by an external act
Mentally you are emptying your mind of all irrelevant, powerless human thoughts to reload it with ideas that are in line with your spiritual higher self.
Physically, you can show your intent to purify your thoughts by taking a shower (to wash away your worries), brushing your teeth, or washing your hands and face. The act of removing yourself is a very symbolic cleansing ritual that will make you feel renewed, refreshed, and clean. It can also have an extremely positive effect on your mood and overall mindset as you prepare to meditate.

Create a relaxing atmosphere
If you want your body and mind to relax, then create an atmosphere that is conducive to relaxation.
Light a candle, burn some incense, dim the lights, place some fresh flowers on the table, or play some meditation music. Creating a sanctuary in which to meditate will go a long way in helping you clear your mind and experience a deep, enjoyable, and enriching meditation.

Provoke a meditative state
Take 5-20 minutes to read spiritual writings. These can vary between biblical God-centered books, religious healing material, or even some positive, encouraging words that feed your soul and get you in touch with Spirit. As you read, absorb and reflect on the meaning of every sentence. Take notes in a particular journal that you exclusively reserve for spiritual reflection.

Breathe deep
When you feel that your spiritual reading has led you to a state of awareness and peace, take between 5-10 slow deep breaths. As you breathe inward, open yourself to the peace-loving nature of God (or Universe). Let your outward breath release the tension and frustrations that are held within your unconscious. Let them go. Now begin the meditation practice of your choice. Breathe from your diaphragm and feel your body relaxing with every full, deep breath.

Choose the best time for you
There are no set rules in terms of the ideal time to meditate. It will depend on what works best for you and your schedule.
Morning meditation is preferred by some people because it helps set a good mood for the rest of the day. Others prefer meditating after work or school because it helps them let go of the tensions of the day. There are still others who opt to meditate right before bed to allow their unconscious minds to work on their intentions while they sleep. Some people will find this time difficult because they are tired and have to fight their desire to fall asleep. Choose the time of day that suits you best. It might involve some trial and error, but once you find your ideal time, it will nurture your meditative practice for months or even years to come.

Get comfortable and sit correctly
First, choose comfortable clothes that will not restrict or confine you. Make sure that the area you have designated as your meditation sanctuary is warm.
The way you sit during meditation is fundamental because the emotions and mental state that you experience during meditation are ultimately attributed to the way you hold your body. Even something as intricate as the angle at which you conduct your chin can affect how much thinking you do. It is why one of the first things you need to learn is how to sit correctly.

There are two vitally essential principles you need to remember in setting up a suitable posture for meditation:
Your attitude has to allow you to be comfortable and relaxed
Your position has to enable you to be alert and aware

If you are uncomfortable, you won’t be able to meditate. If you can’t relax, you won’t be able to enjoy your meditation. You might consider sitting cross-legged on a meditation pillow. However, if you are not very flexible, you will probably suffer from doing this. Your best bet is to sit in a chair that you find comfortable, and that allows you to sit upright. Here are some elements of good posture that you should consider when sitting.

Your spine should be relaxed and upright
Avoid slouching because a slumped-over posture closes off your heart. You want your heart and mind to be open during your meditation
Your shoulders should feel loose yet rolled back and down a little bit
Your hands should sit on your lap, on the arms of a chair, or rest on a cushion
Your head should be straight with your chin tucked in slightly, and the back of your neck should feel long and loose
Your face should be free of tension, and your jaw loses
Have your feet flat on the floor

Avoid meditating right after a big meal
Research studies show that mental activity is intensified when the body is metabolizing food. To avoid unnecessary noise in your head, choose not to do your meditation right after a big meal.

Don’t rush off after meditation
After completing your meditation, sit quietly for a little while longer. Use this time to assimilate your experience as well as reflect and contemplate on it. Be conscious of the intuition or revelation that you might be feeling.
Doing this enables you to embrace your meditative experience fully. It also acts as a gateway for allowing the knowledge to become part of your ‘real world’ rather than keeping it as something separate from your day-to-day life. As you learn to listen to your inner voice, your ‘real self’ will begin to guide you daily.

Make meditation a daily habit
The benefits you will gain from meditation are cumulative. It means that as you continue to meditate regularly, you will acquire more and more profits.
If you are truly serious about improving yourself through meditation, make it a part of your daily routine by meditating at least once or twice per day. The rewards you gain will improve with commitment and regularity.

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How to Practice Zen Meditation

By simply sitting, without looking for any goal or any personal benefit, if your posture, your breathing and your state of mind are in harmony, you will understand the true Zen; you will understand the Buddha’s nature.
Taisen Deshimaru

The Lotus Posture

Zen Meditation is an ancient Buddhist tradition from the 7th century China, and it spread Japan and other neighboring countries where it is still practiced. There are many different ways to meditation, here we will show you the traditional way to practice Zen meditation or by its Japanese name Zazen. Conventionally, only the full lotus position or the half lotus position is used during meditation. Choose a room that is peaceful and silent and make sure that you are not disturbed during your meditation practice, the room should be cool, that is not too cold or too warm. To do the half lotus position you put either foot on top of the opposite thigh, and place the other foot on the floor underneath the other thigh. The full lotus position is done by putting each foot on the opposite thigh with the line of the toes matching the outer line of the thighs, as seen on the image. If the lotus postures are not possible for you to do, you could sit on a chair or on a cushion, whatever is the most comfortable for you.

The postures might feel uncomfortable for a beginner but keep practicing and your legs will become more flexible and you will find the lotus position to be relatively comfortable after a while. Most important with the lotus posture in Zen Meditation is to keep the body upright, the spine should be erect like a stack of coins, and balanced, that is not leaning forward or backwards nor leaning right or left. Do not be too relaxed or too tense when sitting in any of the positions. Your mouth should be closed, and the tongue should be placed at the roof of your mouth just behind your teeth. The eyes are traditionally kept open during Zen practice, this is to prevent you from daydreaming or becoming too tired to continue. Your eyes should not focus on anything in particular, they will after a while rest in the right position, with the eyelids half open and half closed. The cosmic mudra is the name for the hand position which is the same for the lotus postures in meditation. The palms should be turned upwards toward the sky, the left hand is placed on the right one. The tip of the thumps touching each other forming a bridge as seen on the image. Keep the wrists, arms and shoulders relaxed.

The State of Mind and Breath

Breathing is an essential part of Zen meditation practice. Traditionally, correct breathing is only achieved through one of the lotus postures. You should breathe gently through the nose and the mouth should be kept closed during Zen practice. During breathing try to establish a calm, long and deep natural rhythm. Your focus should be on exhalation while inhalation is done naturally.

Having the right state of mind is fundamental during Zen meditation practice, the correct mindset comes naturally from a deep concentration on the breathing and posture. During meditation it is common to have thoughts, images and feelings bubbling up to the surface from the subconscious mind. You should only watch them as they come up, do not fight, escape or pursue them, the more attention you give them or trying to get rid of them the stronger they become. Watch them like you would watch clouds in the sky, without judgment or attachment. As soon you catch yourself interacting with thoughts, you should immediately bring back your attention to breath and posture. After practicing for a while your thoughts during mediation will become less and less, and your mind will settle down naturally.

Now you are ready to start your practice, to avoid any distractions we recommended that you practice facing a wall, as traditionally one would do in a monastery. Position yourself a meter or so away from the wall, not focusing on some point on the wall. Once you are sitting in full lotus or taken the position that is the most comfortable for you, you should take a few deep breaths through the nose. Next, place your palms in a prayer position and bow a few seconds as a sign of respect for the Buddha and the teachings of the Enlighten one. Finally, place your hands in the correct position as mentioned above, keep your neck and back straight and start your meditation practice. In the beginning we advise you to practice for 20 to 30 minutes. Once you have finished your practice remain on your position calmly and quietly for a few minutes, don’t hurry up. Try not to talk for a moment after completing your Zen meditation practice.

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