Most people find that they can relax both body and mind quite quickly (and effectively) when guided by a teacher. Replicating that quality of relaxation outside a group or classroom situation, however, is not always so easy.
If you are new to meditation, you might have good intentions, but no clear idea of what to do when you meditate. Or you might have too many ideas, and not know where or how to start. The following six ‘mini-meditations’ provide a useful starting point for those who want to integrate meditation into their lives, independent of a teacher or class. You can use any one of them as a spot-meditation, or sequence them together — in any order — to provide a template for a longer meditation.
A clever student of mine came up with a useful mnemonic with which to remember the six meditations: Please Release Stress Before Something Breaks, which stands for:
- Blue Light
If you can remember each of those names, you should be able to remember the technique itself, because they are all very simple. You can listen to the meditation below, or scroll down further for a complete description of each of the meditations.
We often allow our bodies to slump or twist. We sit with our legs and arms crossed, our spine twisted and our neck bent. Notice the difference — the sense of comfort, stability, ease and openness that results when you make these few minor adjustments.
Start with your feet — ensure that they are both flat on the floor.
Keep the knees wide apart so that the belly can hang out and so that a supportive tripod is made for the body via the buttocks and each knee.
Slide back in your chair as far as possible so the back is supported and the spine upright.
Let your arms hang loosely from your shoulders, your hands resting either lightly in your lap or comfortably upon your thighs.
Tilt the head slightly forward (tuck the chin in), so that the back of the neck feels broad and open, and soften your gaze.
Allow your tongue to rest softly at the bottom of your mouth and take a few moments to feel the stability and comfort of this posture. Notice how sustainable it feels.
Gently allow your torso to sway from side to side. Just a small movement will do. In fact, you could even imagine the movement. Then, slowly, allow the movement to become smaller and smaller, until, of its own accord, the torso comes to a point of balance. Then, do the same with the head. Notice any resultant sense of balance, stability, stillness or centredness.
Attend to the following parts of the body: left foot, right foot, left thigh, right thigh, left buttock, right buttock, left arm, right arm, whole body.
At each body part spend a few moments noticing the contact it makes with the floor or chair, then get a sense of that part of the body softening, sinking, or becoming heavier. Let go of any tension in the surrounding muscles and enjoy a sense of softening and relaxation, surrendering to the downward pull of gravity.
4. Blue Light
Imagine a line running through the central axis of your body — from the base of your spine to the top of your head. Then visualize or feel the breath flowing up and down this line: from the coccyx up to the crown as you breathe in — and back down as you breathe out. To aid with this visualization you could picture each breath as a blue light, gently rising or falling. Alternatively, you could just get a feel for the breath floating up and down the spine.
Continue for a minute or two (or longer if you like), then take a few moments to notice how centered or stable the body feels.
Some people prefer to do this one earlier in the sequence, after rocking, for example.
The instructions are simple. Just listen.
To keep your mind open, receptive and curious you may ask yourself questions like:
- what is the most / least obvious sound I can hear?
- can I hear the sound of my own breath?
- what else can I hear from within my body?
- what sound has the highest / lowest pitch?
- where does this sound resonate in my body?
- does this sound vary over time?
- are there subtleties and layers to sounds that I am missing?
Use your imagination, but spend most of the time simply enjoying the soundscape, rather than inventing new questions.
If you follow all the instructions above, by this point you may feel as though you are flying through the stratosphere at 30,000 feet in the middle of the night. The flight attendant wakes you up and hands you one of those steaming warm wash cloths. Dab it on your forehead, feeling the warmth and softening of the brow.
Continue down through the entire body, noticing whatever sensations come to light, and imagining the warmth of that wash cloth as it soothes each part of the body it contacts.
Good areas to focus on as you scan downward include:
- scalp, forehead, temples and brow
- bridge of the nose, eyes and muscles around and behind the eyes
- cheeks, mouth and jaw
- neck and shoulders, arms and hands
- rise and fall of the chest
- expansion and contraction of the lungs, in all directions
- lower back and the contact it makes with the chair
- abdomen and the organs of the torso
- groin, hip flexors and muscles of the hips and pelvis
- contact of the thighs with the chair or floor
- legs, particularly the soles of the feet and toes
Finish by flooding your entire body with attention, and take your time to emerge from the meditation, perhaps drawing in a few deeper breaths, revisiting the soundscape or opening your eyes and allowing them to slowly scan the room.