Meditation is a skill that can be learnt like any other. Of course, as with anything, when you first start it isn’t easy! You need to persevere to let it become a habit. The good news is that it is a very pleasant, happiness-inducing activity so it shouldn’t be too hard to keep on practising. Once you have found the way to get yourself into a relaxed meditative state you will be able to induce this state in times of stress and deal with any bad situation more calmly.
First you should ask yourself "Why do I want to meditate?" It may be as simple as wanting to know why so many people now meditate and seem to become so much happier if they meditate regularly. When you take your eyes off your problems and put them onto something beautiful and relaxing, even for just a short time, it clears problems from your mind. This gives you a chance to breathe deeply and relax, and to recover from built up stress.
How do you start meditating? To be able to meditate, you need to get away from distractions. That is not always easy! If you do not usually get time alone, tell your partner or children that you will not be available for a period of time. It doesn’t have to be for long - you are better off having fifteen minutes where you know you can relax and not be disturbed than to ask for an hour and then have to deal with interruptions, so start with a small request and then, as people get used to you disappearing for a short time, you can build up the duration.
Shut the door to your room and set yourself up a relaxed position. You might want some cushions to sit on or to support your back, or a blanket to keep you warm. Light some candles or burn some fragrant incense. Sit yourself down on your cushions in a comfortable position; you may want to have a wall behind you for support. The traditional cross-legged pose may feel a bit strange, but it is a good pose to use and as you get used to it, getting into that seated position will be a trigger to your body that this is time to start meditation. Have your hands in a comfortable position in your lap or resting on your thighs with the thumb touching the index finger of each hand. Of course, if sitting cross legged is not comfortable for you, choose another position. The easiest may be to simply to sit on an upright chair, make sure your feet are supported (use a cushion if necessary), don't slouch, and rest your hands in your lap.
Now simply close your eyes. Listen for any sounds inside the room, then outside the room. Notice the sounds without questioning what they are, what they mean, who is making the sounds – just notice each sound and then move on to another sound. Then put the sounds to one side and take your attention to your breath. Simply watch your breath going in and out of your nostrils. Next, internally scan your body from your feet up and see where there is tension. As you scan each part of your body consciously relax each area. If there is an area that won’t relax easily, take a breath into that place, then exhale and tighten all the muscles in that area, then let go of the tension and totally relax the muscles. Think about every small area of your body, like your eyes, eyebrows and mouth and make sure they are also relaxed.
After scanning your whole body, come back to watching your breath. Each time you find external thoughts coming into your mind, simply acknowledge your thoughts, be aware of the thoughts coming and going without trying to analyse them, or trying to solve anything. Then take your awareness back to watching your breath.
If you are having difficulty staying focussed, count along with your breath, one on the inhale and two on the exhale, or count the length of each inhalation and exhalation. It may not be easy to stay focussed to start with, but it will gradually become easier.
Keep doing this for as long as you can manage. If you have not meditated before, it may only be a couple of minutes. Try to build up to at least fifteen minutes, ideally half an hour. When you decide to stop, simply open your eyes slowly and give yourself a minute or two to bring your attention back to the present before you get up and go back to your busy life.
That’s it! That is how to begin to meditate.