I walk into the guest room and lock the door behind me. The door has a lever handle that my cat can open (not unlike a velociraptor), so if I don’t lock it, I might have a curious visitor that interrupts my concentration.
I reach under the bed and grab my meditation bench and cushion. I lay the cushion down, kneel on it, and place the bench under me.
I use a meditation bench because my legs aren’t flexible enough for a cross-legged position. Kneeling is much easier for me.
I always use a timer when I meditate (I use the Android app Meditation Helper as a timer). I decide how long I’m going to sit before I start so I’m not tempted to give in to any boredom I encounter.
The ego is crafty. Meditation reduces the ego’s power over us, so it will try to stop us from doing it. Using a timer is the first defense against it.
I also like a timer because it prevents me from worrying about when I need to stop. If I didn’t use a timer, I’d have to look at a clock to determine when I should stop, which would interfere with my concentration. With a timer, all worries about how much longer I should sit are taken care of.
I try to sit for at least 5 minutes every morning. Even if I’m running late, it’s usually not so late that another 5 minutes can’t be spared. On the weekends, I’ll often go for 30 minutes in the morning. Generally, though, I like to sit for around 20 minutes. 20 minutes is good because it allows me to develop some initial concentration in the first 10 minutes, which produces a nice base for focusing on the present moment for the last 10.
I’ve been trying to meditate more each morning, so I put together a loose plan to increase the amount little by little over time. To that end, I recently incremented my normal time from 20 to 22 minutes.
Meditation Helper has a “preparation time” for each timer profile, which allows you to settle in before the “official” meditation starts. I set each of my timer profiles (05, 10, 15, 20, 22, and 30 minutes) to 10 seconds of preparation time to get a balanced kneeling posture.
Once I’ve decided on a time, I hit start, turn off my phone’s screen, and gently close my eyes.
I’ve been experimenting recently with focusing on relaxing my body. A lot of thoughts and emotions cause a tensing in the body. By establishing an initial relaxed state, it’s easier to sense when I begin to tense.
The areas I personally focus on are my shoulders, stomach, and eyes. For instance, my eyes usually dart around when I’m thinking. By focusing on relaxing my eyes, it becomes obvious when I start to to think.
When I become aware of any tensing, I refocus my attention on my breath, and then relax those muscles. An example of some tensing I had been unaware of was what I was doing with my tongue.
I had read/heard that you should rest the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth behind the teeth, which will help with the formation of saliva and the need to swallow it. It turns out while I was doing this, I was sucking a little bit, creating a vacuum.
I’m now more aware of when I do that. When I notice it, I just relax the muscles, and then gently replace my tongue behind my teeth.
When I relax my muscles, it can be easy to slump over. To remain completely relaxed, though, I need to have good posture. When I get it right, my back is relaxed and balanced. The back shouldn’t be completely straight, as the spine has a natural curve. I’m not too far forward or back, which produces a relaxed and balanced posture.
My head and hands are important in balancing, too. I try to slightly look down at the ground 3-5 feet in front of me (if my eyes were open), with my chin slightly tucked. My hands are in my lap, left hand in right. It’s a balancing act between my back, head, and hands, which all rest on a sturdy and relaxed lower body.
As I sit there, I try to keep my focus on my breath. My mind will eventually wander to a work problem or maybe a funny movie scene. After a while, though, I’ll notice that that has happened, at which point I’ll bring my focus back to my next breath and relax any muscles that have tensed, while keeping a sturdy posture.
As this mind wandering and refocusing process continues, it becomes much easier to do. My mind becomes less scattered during the session, and instead of realizing later that my mind has wandered, I start to see the distractions as they arise. A thought will materialize from nothing, and since I’m right there seeing it as it happens, I can divert my energy to watching it rise and fall, rather than using that energy to fuel the train of thought.
I don’t try to stop the thoughts from happening. I just don’t chase after them.
I’ve talked about the urge to get up due to boredom. It’s a strong urge, which actually makes it a good meditation object.
A meditation object is anything in the present you choose to focus your mind on. The breath is the best candidate, because it’s always with us. But once I’m sufficiently focused, I’m able to just focus on whatever pops up into my field of experience. Whether that’s a thought, sensation (such as a tickle, but also the breath), or emotion, I can watch it as it arises, sustains, and eventually falls away.
<“Everything that has the ability to arise also has the ability to fall away.“>
When boredom arises, I have the urge to open my eyes, turn off the timer, and stand up. But I don’t. I’ve set my timer, and I’m not getting up until it rings.
After that initial urge subsides, I bring my attention to the actual feeling it produces. Boredom is a good meditation object because I can really feel its sensations just above my stomach.
I then ask myself, <“What are you rushing towards?”>, meaning, “Why do I want to get up? Where is the boredom coming from?” I realize the answer is “nothing”. I’m not rushing towards anything. I don’t want to get up and do something else, in particular; I just want to stop sitting there while I watch the present as it arises.
By watching the feeling and not getting up, though, I prevent the ego from winning. I just let it go. I watch the feeling until it eventually passes away, which makes me realize the boredom was rooted in nothing.
<“Everything that has the ability to arise also has the abiltiy to fall away.“>
Then, I focus my attention on my next breath, relax the muscles that have tensed since the digression arose, and then continue to watch the next phenomena that arises.
When the timer’s bell rings, I gently open my eyes. I watch my next breath, relax any tense muscles, and then stand up. I fold up the bench in the cushion, slide it under the bed, and then walk out of the guest room.