Practicing meditation is the art of resting in the present moment with openness and curiosity.  That sounds great and easy, doesn’t it? Yet it is easy and it is not easy depending on our state of mind.

There are usually two main obstacles to a calm and inquisitive mind.  One obstacle is our constant need to have each moment filled with something to do. We may have the strong mental habit of needing to complete “to do” lists.  Or we may always need our attention to be entertained on something.  Or we simply do not want to have nothing to do because we will notice ourselves.

The other obstacle is our anxiety about the world around us. We may find our mind is constantly in a state of needing to fix the world or run away from it. Noticing these mental guards are monumental for every human being.  Neurologically, these compulsive mental states reveal a nervous system caught in the flight/fight/freeze response. Because we do not like it, stress response results.  We are either in an over triggered mode, jumping at every little sound.  Or we are in an over-exhausted mode and all our systems just want to rest.  Or we are confused by this inner pendulum swing of reactions and the mind slips into a kind of inner fog. Meditation practice is asking us to finally acknowledge these mental states, decompress and work with them compassionately.

Take time to be a Breathing Being:

To acknowledge our inner world, we need to give ourselves the time and space to give them respect. This is the first stage in meditation called Shamatha (calm abiding) meditation.  This first stage of practice asks us to focus on our body and/or breath to give our nervous system the opportunity to decompress. The first practice is to sit down, breath into our body and calmly ask ourselves to simply rest in the present moment. We collect our attention on the breath repeatedly.  We invite attention to the sensations of the body to further anchor our complete being. These mental actions let us reconnect to where we can live with skill and compassion – the present moment.

The second practice is to sit down, breath into our body and calmly ask ourself, “How am I right now?”  Sit and have a date with ourself on a real level.

A simple Shamatha practice to start your meditation journey:

For 5-10 minutes, take the time to be your best ally. Just sit down, get comfortable, and follow your breath. Breathe in, feel the sensations that arise.  Breathe out, feel the sensations that pass away.  When you can feel your breath moving in your body evenly and deeply, let your body be an anchor for your mind.  Let your body be a refuge holding your life because it already is. Stay with this breathing practice for as long as you need.  Sitting 5 minutes each day quietly, actually helps your mind function better.  It is creating new neural straits that acknowledge all mental states instead of hiding from them.  Over time, this Shamatha Practice helps us meet all of our emotionally and mental states with kindness, wisdom and curiosity.  This is mindful neural plasticity in action.

Take time each day to feel, breath, move inwards and listen. If you need support, please attend one of the Sunday meditation and mindfulness classes at Moksha Yoga NDG.

In Metta, Allison Ulan