Meditation Basics

Meditation trains the brain to be more mindful and mindfulness allows us to make better choices.” Gloria Green

If you prefer to listen

Guided Breath Practices

Mindfulness vs. Meditation

People often wonder if mindfulness and mediation are the same thing.  Mindfulness is a state where we are aware, accepting, and non-judgmental as we can be of “what is” right now. Meditation is a method through which we train our brains to be aware and concentrated.   We meditate to become more flexible and tolerant to the present moment. We train to be aware of thoughts arising so we are not jerked around by them.

Sitting Meditation

Sitting meditation opens us to every moment of our life. It teaches us how to relate to life directly, so we can truly experience the present moment, free from our perceptions. We do not meditate to be comfortable. We meditate to have an open, compassionate attentiveness to whatever is going on. We learn to stay with ourselves no matter what is happening, without putting labels of good and bad, right and wrong, pure and impure, on top of our experience.

Why the Breath

We breathe in the present moment, not in the past or the future. It is always with us, 24/7.

What We See
  1. Our mind is going a million miles an hour thinking about all kinds of things, and it just happens without any effort on our part.
  2. When we are spinning off, or hardening to circumstances and people, or somehow closing down to life.
  3. Our tendency to lay a lot of labels, opinions, and judgments on top of what’s happening.
  4. Habitual patterns that limit our life.
  5. Thinking through all the events and to-dos of our life doesn’t provide us with ground and security.
  6. We can handle emotional discomfort and the trials and tribulations of life.
  7. Our resistance to just being here, even to simply enjoying the present moment.
In Out… Meditation
  • Breathing in, I know I am breathing in
  • Breathing out, I know I am breathing out
  • Breathing in, I know I am breathing deeply
  • Breathing out, I know I am breathing slowly
  • Breathing in, I calm my body
  • Breathing out, I feel ease
  • Breathing in, I smile
  • Breathing out, I release
  • In, Out
  • Deep, Slow
  • Calm, Ease
  • Smile, Release

 Look at the quality of attention.  Are we accepting what is?  Or are we judging whether we like, dislike, or can ignore what is happening? Are we covering up our true self with defenses against judgements?

True Self/Defenses Meditation
  • Breathing in, I see my true self
  • Breathing out, I let go of defenses
  • Breathing in I feel my inner goodness
  • Breathing out, I open my heart
  • Breathing in, I feel joy
  • Breathing out, I let go of clinging
  • True Self, Defenses
  • Inner Goodness, Open Heart
  • Feel Joy, No Clinging

It is exhausting wearing a mask or protecting your wall of armor. So it is not surprising that you feel you don’t have the energy to meditate. If you start with an energizing breath, and come back to it when you are feeling lethargic or sleepy, you will find that your meditation actually recharges you.

Energizing Breath
  • Breathe in for the count of 8-10
  • Breathe out for the count of 4

Sometimes we don’t want to meditate because unconsciously we know that an unpleasant thought or feeling is just below the surface. Or because we are too anxious.  We feel restless. Instead of giving in to the urge to quit, see if you can sit through the urge the first time, and the second time. That is when using a calming breath comes in handy. The third time you have the urge to quit, go ahead and end your meditation.

Calming Breath
  • Breathe in for the count of 4
  • Breathe out for the count of 8-10

Meditate in the mindful middle, neither suppressing thoughts nor entirely lost in them. In meditation, we are not trying to stop the thoughts.  That is impossible.  The mind secretes thoughts like the salivary gland secretes saliva. The goal is to be aware of our thoughts. We are training our brains to be aware of when our minds wander. The more you practice paying attention to the present moment when you’re calm and happy, the easier and more effective it’ll be when you’re freaking out. The purpose of meditation is not to be a good meditator but to train our brains to be mindful. 

Feeling Breath Meditation
  • Noticing the sensation of my breath in my body
  • Cool air coming into my nostrils
  • Warm air leaving my nostrils
  • Breathing in my chest rises
  • Breathing out my chest falls
  • Breathing in my stomach expands
  • Breathing out my stomach deflates

Training our brain through meditation enables us to make wise choices. When we meditate, we see our stressful thought patterns. It’s hard to see through the mental clutter. During meditation we see our reactive tendencies. This makes it easier for us to catch ourselves, take a conscious breath and choose a more skillful way to respond in real life. We learn to have a strong back, with clear boundaries and a soft front, that lets in joy and love.

Strong Back, Soft Front
  • Breathing in, I feel my strong back
  • Breathing out, I feel my soft front
  • Breathing in, I grown my spine
  • Breathing out, I relax my spine
  • Strong Back, Soft Front
  • Grow Spine, Relax Spine

Double-edge sword

Training our brain to be aware can help us to be present of all the moments of joy in our lives.  But the flip side is that we are also present of all the moments of sadness.  Through meditation, we learn to be aware of thoughts arising so we can choose where to place our attention.

Counting Breath
  • Count to 5 of 10, whichever works for you. This is not a competition.
  • Counting each breathe I am aware of
  • When my mind wanders bringing it back to counting my breath
  • You can choose to start over at 1 or just begin again where you left off
Square Box Breathing
  • Breath in for the count of 6
  • Hold for the count of 6
  • Breathe out for the count of 6
  • Hold for the count of 6

You can do each of these breath practices in any of the four meditation postures: lying down, sitting, standing or walking. You may choose the lying down posture when you wake up in the middle of the night, or just before you fall asleep. If you are too restless to sit, you may choose standing or walking meditation.

I hope you will practice with some of these breath meditations so you can train your brain to be calm, more aware and to make wiser choices. You will find individual versions of each of these meditations under Mindfulness Tools, Guided Meditations, Breath Practices.