8 Tips To Improve Your Meditation Practice

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Mindfulness is a present centered, non-judging awareness. With practice, you’ll find you are increasingly at home in your life – openhearted, peaceful and clear. This allows a natural connectedness and intimacy with others.

1. Practice daily

The poet Rumi asks: Do you make regular visits to yourself? Whether it’s 5 minutes, 15 minutes or 45 minutes, what matters most is the regularity of a daily practice. It is helpful to have a set time, rather than waiting until ‘you’re in the mood’, and to practice in a quiet, protected environment that is conducive to presence.

2. Attitude is Key

The biggest reason people quit meditating is because they judge themselves for how they’re practising. Please don’t turn meditation into a ‘should’, another domain of self-criticism! Instead, choose to cultivate mindfulness because you care about living true to your heart. At the start of every practise, remind yourself of what draws you to meditate and then set your intention.

3. Pay attention to your posture

When many people think of mediating, they imagine a yogi sitting cross legged on the floor with a poker straight back! In reality you can meditate in any position that feels comfortable to you – including standing and walking. As long as it promotes a sense of alertness, openness and ease. For sitting you might choose to use a chair, kneeling bench or a cushion. Sit up right, in a way that you feel relaxed and alert. Let your hands rest comfortably on your knees or lap. Let your eyes gently close, or if you prefer to leave the eyes open, keep the gaze soft and receptive.

4. Arrive in your body

Scanning your body with your awareness will help you shift out of thinking and connect with vitality, openness and relaxation.  You might begin by bringing a smile to your lips, as this sends a message of ease to your nervous system. Then starting at the top of your head, move your attention slowly downward, relaxing and softening different parts of the body. As you relax, become aware of any sensations or energy flowing through your body.

5. Select an anchor for presence

Your anchor is a ‘home – base’ that you can come back to when you notice that you have become distracted or lost in thought. This will help you fully open to the present and quiet your mind.

Useful Anchors:

·         The Breath – You may choose to pay attention to the sensations of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils, or the rising and falling of your chest as you in inhale and exhale.

·         The Body – You might pay attention to sensations in a particular part of your body – perhaps your hands, feet or belly. Choose an area that feels neutral, not pleasant or unpleasant. You can also combine physical sensations with the  breath.

·         Sounds – Listening to sounds around you as the arise and then fall away.

6. Keeping coming back

While quieting the mind supports meditation, there is a misconception that the goal of meditation is to empty your mind of thoughts. Please don’t be at war with thoughts, instead of judging when you find you you’ve been distracted, bring an interest and friendliness to the shift from thoughts to presence.

When you recognize that you have become lost in thought, gently relax back by returning your attention to your anchor. Allow your anchor to be in the foreground and become aware of your changing moment-to-moment experience.

7. Deepen mindful presence with two key questions:

·         What is happening inside me right now? This will help direct your attention to your inner experience. You might with noting and naming strong waves of experience – fear, sorrow, tingling, tightness.

·         Can I be with this? This will help you relate to what arises with acceptance. After naming an experience (such as tension) you might explore whispering to yourself that it’s OK.

8. Remember kindness

If you encounter difficult emotions such as fear, confusion or hurt offer yourself kindness. You might put a gentle hand on your heart and send a message of care to the vulnerable place inside you. Mindfulness and heartfulness are inseparable: the more you bring these qualities to your inner life, the more they will enrich your relationships and your life.

Rachel x

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