There is no better introduction to the subject of Meditation and a clear guidance for your personal direction of thoughts, than the beautiful words of Longfellow -
"Let us, then, labor for an inward stillness,
An inward stillness and an inner healing;
That perfect silence where the lips and heart
Are still, and we no longer entertain
Our own imperfect thoughts and vain opinions,
But God alone speaks in us, and we wait,
In singleness of heart that we may know
His will, and in the silence of our spirits,
That we may do His will, and do that only!"
When we settle down to relax following effort or activity, it is natural that we want to be comfortable physically. We tend to collapse into an easy chair, to possibly doze off... possibly enjoy a nice doze for a minute or two-or many!. However, during this period, if we do go to sleep in order to refresh ourselves, we are unconscious. This is not the same as the state of meditation, which is a conscious and pleasurable refreshment experience.
As a beginner, if we wish to practice the simplest meditation we should choose a time of privacy when we know there will not be any interruption for half and hour or so. It is important to ensure there will be no sudden sound or disturbance.
The following is to serve as a simple guide until you feel confident and allow your own intuition to take over. There is no exact technique that is either right or wrong, so feel relaxed in your approach.
Be seated in a comfortable but upright position with hands relaxed in your lap or resting on your thighs if you are in a hard backed chair. Cross legged positions as usually assumed by Yoga students may be better, but most people have to work hard through exercise to allow their limbs to be comfortable enough to allow the mind to be free when in this position. So observe the two most important factors, these being physical comfort and an erect spinal posture.
The eyes are then closed gently. It usually takes a few minutes to take stock of how you feel. You may become aware of sensations, sounds, feelings, light and shade, movement of the air and so on at first before settling down and able to focus upon your breathing.
Simply inhale through the nose for a count of four, and then exhale to the same count. Keep this rhythm going for a few minutes until you feel you can increase the count to six which is to be continued for a few minutes, increasing the count gradually as your feel inclined.
Then, still with eyes closed, focus upon what you 'see' in front of your eyes - on the screen of the mind. Allow impressions, thoughts, and images to pass across the screen and allow any ideas that your subconscious mind throws up for your attention, to have their say.
Then when your inside world begins to quieten down and you perhaps begin to wonder what you should be thinking about, select a quote, or a special word or phrase, poem or prayer that appeals to you and repeat it, over and over until you can concentrate fully upon it. Usually this is continued for some minutes until your mind begins to tire. Then stop.
Continue to sit still. Make no effort to control how you think or feel, just sit.
This is the beginning of the internal adventure into a more profound state of awareness which happens naturally as you regularly practice enjoying the state of just 'being.'
Many find that the physical stillness of the body in contrast to the normal activity of the day is in itself relaxing. Some find these quiet moments filled with interesting feelings, thoughts or psychic experiences. Others are attracted to the practice of meditation as a spiritual experience.
Remember, meditation is a natural practice that allows us to feel peaceful, and refreshed. It is best not to influence your first introduction to it by having any preconceived ideas about how you think you should feel, what you hope to experience and so on, because it is your own private venturing into your inner nature and will bring you unique experiences which are yours alone.
Sally Janssen is a writer and educator who from an early age trained in Raja Yoga--that branch of the ancient science that deals with the mind and its complexities. She subsequently gained an international reputation for her skills and her wisdom in the training of the mind.
In her wonderfully readable book entitled Mental Fitness: The Complete Self-help Guide she presents simple, self-help practices that help to generate and maintain mental fitness just as the natural principles of physical fitness can be personally applied by us all. The book may be found here: http://www.mentalhealthandfitness.com This really is a must-read book for us all. Sally also welcomes you to visit her blog at http://www.mentalhealthandfitness.com/blog