Instructions for Mindfulness Meditation
(1) The best way to sit during meditation is in a comfortable posture, on the floor with your legs crossed or folded and with a pillow under your buttocks. Alternatively, you can sit on a chair, making sure your back is straight without being rigid. It is not necessary to try to keep still. If you avoid straining and allow your body to be relaxed and comfortable you will gradually become still naturally.
(2) Next close your eyes and take a few slow, slightly deeper-than–normal breaths.
(3) Now breathe naturally and just allow your attention to follow the movement of your breath. When your attention drifts to other things – to thoughts, sounds, feelings, etc. – you can help it to stay with your breath in one of three ways.
(A) You can count your breaths, from one to 10 – in out one, in out two, and so on; or in one, out two, in three, out four, and so on.
(B) You can focus your attention on your abdomen, noticing its rise and fall in unison with your breathing.
(C) Alternatively, you can try to notice all the various feelings associated with breathing – the cold feeling as the air goes in the nostril, the warm feeling as it comes out, the feeling of the air moving down the windpipe, the feel of the air on the upper lip, indeed any sensation associated with the process of breathing.
Experiment with each technique to find which one is best for you and then stick to it.
(4) Inevitably your attention will wander. When you notice that this has happened, patiently, firmly and gently re-establish your awareness of the breath. But remember this important point: the goal is not to stop thoughts but to notice and be mindful of whatever is happening. Therefore, the more frequently you have to re-establish your awareness on the breath the better. This indicates that you are alert to and mindful of your present experience.
(5) It is important to devote some time each day to this practice. A helpful schedule is to do the practice for 15 minutes each day for the first week and then increase it by five minutes each week until you are doing it for 45 minutes each meditation session.
(6) Sometimes a change in your usual routine means that you are unable to do your regular meditation practice for a few days, a week or two, or perhaps even longer. When it becomes possible to resume your regular meditation follow the schedule described in part 5.
(7) Until your practice becomes regular and stable it is helpful to time yourself. Place a timepiece behind you to remove the temptation to keep looking at it, and then just do the practice until the alarm sounds. Gracefully surrender to the time.
(8) If you finish your meditation and find that you are feeling peaceful or mildly joyful, continue sitting for another 10 or 15 minutes and do Metta Meditation.
(9) A sign of progress in Mindfulness Meditation is not that you have few or no thoughts but that you are able to notice as soon as your attention wanders and then re-establish it on the breath with ease. It may take several months of regular practice to get to this stage. Like any worthwhile endeavour meditation requires a degree of patience and sustained commitment. If you persist you will succeed.
When you are able to notice as soon as your attention drifts, you are ready to start expanding the scope of your mindfulness. When you are sitting in meditation the range of your experiences will be limited. You will hear sounds, feel sensations and think thoughts. You will not see objects because your eyes will be closed and it is unlikely that there will be any odours to smell.
(10) Now commence each meditation session by focusing your attention on the breath for five or 10 minutes.
(11) Then select one or another of the three experiences you will be having – hearing, feeling or thinking – and spend the whole meditation session being mindful of it. Let us say you select feelings. See if you can be mindful and aware of each and every feeling in your body. Observe each one for a moment, without liking or disliking, judging or comparing, and then move on to another one and then another, doing the same with each. Scan your mindfulness over your body trying to notice ever more subtle feelings. Should you get lost in daydreams and fantasies, as soon as you notice that this has happened return to your breath for a minute or two in order to centre yourself again and then recommence scanning feelings. During your next meditation session you might select hearing. After an initial five or 10 minutes mindfulness of breathing, spend the rest of the session being mindful of every sound you can hear, the loud and the soft, the familiar and the unknown, just noticing each and without commenting on it or being carried away by any associations it may trigger. Should there be periods when there are no sounds just listen to the silence.
(12) Once you have established a regular routine of Mindfulness Meditation there will be occasions when you experience periods of great joy. Sometimes this joy comes suddenly, sometimes it becomes apparent gradually, sometimes it is subtle and slight, at other times it is intense. When this happens it can it is good to suspend your mindfulness practice and take the opportunity to do Metta Meditation.