I am too full of Christmas fare to think too deeply. Instead I am providing a routine for mindful meditation. I stress that it is only the routine which I have developed, and which benefits me greatly. It is an amalgam of ideas put forward by the experts.
Regular users of mindfulness report reduction in anxiety or tension, a sense of peacefulness, a boost of creativity and better sleep. I have experienced all these things over several years.
If you don’t do it regularly, try it. If you do, share your additional or alternative ideas. Then gradually develop your own routine. You will find that it takes a week to a fortnight of regular sessions before you begin to feel the benefit, so don’t try to assess it until you have given it a good run.
Sit in an upright chair, ideally with arms. I use the one I would normally use for my desktop computer.
Close your eyes and look through the lids, noticing the colours and shapes.
Sniff up and down your nose, noticing the changing temperatures.
Use your tongue to explore your mouth, teeth and lips.
Listen for sounds. Do not bother about their origin, just note the noise entering you ears.
Wiggle and relax the joint between your neck and your skull; similarly the join between neck and backbone.
Stiffen and relax your shoulder joints. Note the relaxation. 3x
Hard fist your hands, then experience their slow relaxation. 3x.
Become conscious of your fingertips of both hands resting on your thighs.
Put your hand on the top part of your chest and breathe in and out as fully as possible. Then the main part, then the stomach part. 3x each.
Long breathe in from the bottom of your lungs to the very top. 5x.
(Quickly check the routines above to see if all remains relaxed. Be aware of the whole top part of yourself.)
Pull in and relax your buttocks. 3x.
Tense, in turn, your thighs, calves, and feet. 3x each.
Check back all the way. Try to be aware of the whole of your body from top to toe.
Breathe deeply and quietly, remaining aware of your whole self. (Use cooking timer?) The whole process should, with practice, normally take about 10 minutes. Develop the habit of being aware of yourself in this way from time to time during the day – particularly when you feel harassed, stressed or uncertain.
Meditation will become a more important means of relaxation and of getting closer to our Lord, the more we as a church go into future bounds of time.
I completely agree with every thought of Quentin’s in this post.
The central means of gaining the modicum of proficiency in meditation, is to be completely passive about any thinking such as, ‘Am I doing this right?’ or ‘I don’t feel or think that I have done anything by sitting for 30 minutes or so.’
After becoming aware of the importance of becoming passive in mind and body, you need to focus on something in order that you can avoid going from one thought to another.
I do this all of the time. I have never had a perfect meditation session where my mind has never wandered from one point to another. It doesn’t matter if you wander-off all of the time, as long as you gently return to
What helps you to regain your focus is to simply return to your ‘mantra’ or saying, as soon as you become aware that you have wandered off to ‘another place’.
I have been using the mantra ‘Maranatha’ which is never actually said or voiced as in talking but using your mind to quietly say it to yourself internally or mentally.
No one ever speaks during a meditation period. It is always a silent affair.
I have developed the routine of ‘saying’ my focus word or mantra whenever I breathe in. When I have done this I simply breathe out but without any focus word to say to myself internally.
All of my breathing during a meditation session is done through my nasal passages and never through an open mouth.
You simply repeat this process until your smartphone’s meditation app tells you the time is up and you simply return to normal activities.
Breathing through one’s nose seems to suit most people and breathing through an open mouth may suit others. Experiment to see whatever works for you.
As Quentin has said, you need to do this daily for 30 minutes for at least a week or two in order to appreciate the benefits of this regular practice.
I find meditating once a day suites me better than meditating twice a day.
The simplicity of meditation can be offputting to some people. Don’t worry about its simplicity or the fact that you cannot think of your mantra or focus word all the way through the period you have set aside to meditate.
Losing your focus and being unaware that your mind has wondered everywhere over the last several minutes is absolutely normal. Everybody does this no matter how long they have been meditating.
Again, as soon as you become aware of your wandering mind, or ‘monkey-mind’ as it is known and described throughout Asia and India. Gently return to your mantra until the next episode of your wandering mind becomes manifest to you several minutes later and you return again to your mantra in a passive manner throughout your period of meditation.
Don’t worry about what other people think about your meditative practice. If you feel that you cannot tell anyone about it, then don’t. Keep practising it in the privacy and comfort of your own home.
There is no obligation on any meditator to proselytise or convert any person to practice meditation.
Meditation has been a practice within the Catholic church in monasteries for centuries.
It is not a form of self-idolatry, laziness or selfishness. Meditation will never lead one onto these attitudes.
‘John Main OSB (1926–1982) was a Benedictine monk and priest who presented a way of Christian meditation which used a prayer-phrase or mantra. This approach was then used by groups which then become the World Community for Christian Meditation.’ (Wikipedia article on ‘Christian Meditation’, accessed on the 30th December 2017)
Don’t be fooled by conservative rubbish about meditation that can be found in a multitude of magazine articles such as the one below, that suggests that it is simply using a Bible reading. It is much more than that.
These articles are a form of control so that you will never actually meditate, or if you in fact do, it will be on their terms.
I would prefer to tell you about this group of meditators that have recovered a method of meditation that has been practised by hermits or in various monasteries for centuries.
If you think that this ‘presentation’ was a way of controlling you to practice a method that I prefer. You may indeed think that, but you will have to trust me that I am not.
You can come and go as you please.
If this doesn’t do anything for you, well that is the end of the matter.
I too have ‘followed’ John Main’s teachings (and Lawrence Freeman’s, his ‘postulate’, now director of wccm) on meditation for several years on line and in their many writings. Sitting in solitary silence twice a day by saying the ‘mantra’ (Maranatha). But i see this as the preparation for a state of ‘contemplation’ – which is always given by grace, not achieved by our own effort. The opposite in fact.
I see the main purpose of meditation (in christian terminology) as to ‘let go & let God’ bring the ‘real self’ to the fore in relationship. (Trinitarian: God/self/other)
I personally start my ‘sitting’ with meditation, audibly chanting slowly and gently the mantra on the out breath and silently on the in breath, until it leads to a place of ‘stillness’ that is conversely full of an ‘inner activity’ with it’s own momentum, and the mantra ‘saying itself in the background’.
…. The rarely accepted but always present ‘graced horizon’ to be open to …..
As for the always present ‘distractions’ of thoughts feelings images etc, i just allow them to be paying as little ‘attention’ to them as i can. I think it was Thomas Merton who said something like (and i misquote wildly) ‘leaving them in the porch to chatter amongst themselves’.
When they do gain my attention and become ‘real distractions’ i ‘say’ “pray Thou Thyself within me” and simply return to the mantra and find they are kind of ‘taken up into it’.
On meditative reflection (after the sitting) they can often prove to be a lucrative source/content for intercessory prayer and/or development, growth & insight.
Even distractions are not solely negative in their right place & time. Challenging to the ego as it may turn out to be!
‘Meditation(s)’ takes many forms and use many different ‘techniques’ for gaining clarity of mind, health of body and purification of spirit. As many forms as there are people who meditate!
All can be valid and valuable in their own right, if practised correctly; and all can defeat the discovery of the ‘real self’ if practised for egotistic reasons. As we all will continue to do at times, and need to be ever on the look out for.
… But, for me, the ‘sitting’ is simply … ‘Let go : Let God’ …. to accept the ever present grace of Contemplation.
Well said, G.D.!