Meditation – A Starting Guide

piccolomeditating

Happy Monday!  As I hinted at in The Spirit of Ryu, we’re going to be going over the basics of meditation today!  But first, allow me to announce we are officially past the halfway point in our latest quest, The Call of the Bluebird!  I’m going to be shooting some video game combat video tutorials today, and ONE OF THOSE could be released early if we complete the call of the bluebird quest!  Keep up the good work!

Anyway, on to meditation!  We’re going to be going over some basics first, and then a couple different methods!

What is meditation?

At its simplest form, meditation is quieting, focusing, and relaxing your mind.  In our modern-day lives we are constantly bombarded by external stimulus, making our brains get stressed, overworked, and overwhelmed.  Meditation can help this.  For some meditation is also a spiritual and religious practice, but for today we’re going to go with a secular approach, just so everyone can take advantage of it.

What’s so good about meditation?

Well, besides feeling like a mystic ninja wizard warrior monk badass because you can be all like, “Hey, I meditate,” meditation is also a fantastic stress reliever, and general life improvement aid.  Because I learned how to meditate, I sleep better(chronic insomnia sucks), I can focus more when I need to, I’m generally less stressed out from day to day, and I find myself being happier and more content.  It’s also a nice way to recharge your batteries quickly when you’re tired and overworked, and practicing mindfulness meditation(we’ll discuss it shortly), can also help you be more aware of your body, and the world around it.

Preparation

Before we start, you need to do a couple things.  First, you need to block out some time for you.  Fifteen to twenty minutes is fantastic, and really all you need when you start, but you need to make sure you can have this time unfettered and uninterrupted.  You also need a relatively quiet, calm place.  I’m not talking absolute silence(I actually like to listen to quiet, soothing music), but no TVs or talk radio blaring.  Finally, you need to find a position you’re comfortable in.  I personally like to either sit in a chair, or sit semi-upright in my bed with pillows against the wall.  Some people like to stand.  The important thing is finding a position you’re comfortable with, and will not fall asleep in.

Universals

I’m going to go into a few different methods after this but here’s some things that carry across all methods.  First off, you need to learn to breath naturally, and diaphragmatically. Breathing diaphragmatically sounds complicated, but you just want to breath “low” into your stomach rather than “high” by raising your shoulders.  It takes some practice, but your body will learn how to do it.  Make sure you don’t tense your stomach when you’re doing it, though, that’s what I meant by breathe naturally.  Just ease the air in, and out.

Secondly, you want to relax your body as best as you can.  This will come naturally with practice, as your body learns to recognize your meditative state, but it can be difficult at first, and you’d be surprised what you’re still tensing when you think you’re relaxing.  Don’t stress this too much, just try to relax as best you can and follow the methods.

FInally, you can either close or open your eyes.  I either close my eyes, or keep them half-lidded, not really focusing on anything.  Some people keep their eyes open, I find this harder, as I get visually distracted sometimes, but to each their own.  The important thing is that you’re not focusing on your vision, or letting it distract you.

Mindfulness Meditation

This is the basic meditation method for most eastern practitioners.  It’s the basis for buddhist meditation, and basically operates under the premise of being aware of your body in its entirety.  You start just by breathing.  Open your mouth and relax your jaw, breathing naturally through your nose and mouth at the same time.  Focus on your breath.  Don’t try to take forced, deep breaths, just focus on your breathing, in and out.

While your focus is on your breath, your mind should be gradually slowing down to match the rhythm.  It will naturally begin emptying your thoughts a bit.  From here, you want to try to continue focusing on your breath, but begin to extend your focus to the rest of your body.  Feel the air on your face, or your back resting against your chair, but continue to focus on your breath.  You are attempting to be aware of everything going on, while not focusing on any single thing at once.

If outside thoughts continue to invade your mind(and believe me, they will), don’t worry about it.  Look at the thought that has invaded.  Observe it, follow it to its completion, and return to focusing on your breathing.  Everything comes back to the breath.  Oxygen keeps you alive, breathing gives you oxygen, and so you always come back to the base, the thing that is giving you life.  Focus on it, and everything else will eventually pass.

By the Numbers

This is actually the method I started with.  Again, it focuses on the breathing, but I had a very difficult time quieting my brain with just my breath.  As such, I did some more reading, and found(and then modified) a method based on counting, which can give you a good thing to focus on besides your breath.

When you inhale, do it slowly, in your head, counting up to the number seven.  Without tensing your body, hold that breath for the count of five, at that same rhythm,  then, exhale for the count of seven, holding for the count of five again once you’ve finished exhaling, before starting the cycle over again.  If you’re having a hard time with this at first, try shortening the count for the “hold” period after inhale and exhale, to three or four, then  work your way up to five.

In closing

This is hard.  Don’t worry if you have a hard time with it.  Meditation, like all things, takes practice.  However, just the act of practicing meditation is healthy, as long as you aren’t worrying about doing it wrong or something.  There is no “wrong.”  Every person is different.  The important thing is that you are taking time for you, specifically to relax and release your brain.  This will always benefit you, regardless if how close you get to the methods I described above.

Keep in mind, as well, this is ONLY an introduction.  If you find yourself wanting more, there is a WEALTH of knowledge out there on the internet.  Use it!  Personally, I admire the buddhist meditation methods.  Even if you don’t subscribe to the religion, the philosophy and theories behind it are still fantastic.

That’s it for today, folks!  I’m off to shoot some video for the upcoming Youtube channel.  Tomorrow is another grab bag post, and on Wednesday we’ll be covering a new character!

With that, our time with Ryu is done!  Tomorrow is the weekly fitness journey update with Jackie and myself, and then Monday is a new grab bag post!  I’ll see you all then!  Until then, make sure to like the Facebook page, follow me on Twitter, and go follow the Tumblr as well, and, as always, continue to be awesome!

Dan “DaRatmastah” Wallace

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