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Meditation Instruction

Why Do I Meditate?

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Why Do I Meditate?

Why Do I Meditate?     By Tracy Martorana

I think about this often…why do I meditate?   I have a graphic I use to show people the benefits of meditation and how meditation supports Holistic Wellness (balancing Body, Mind, Heart and Soul).

But do I meditate to lower my blood pressure?  No.  It’s the more esoteric benefits that I gravitate to…mindfulness, awareness, peace & serenity…but to what end?  What do these even mean and why do I care?

I have realized that sitting in meditation, being mindful of the present moment and letting go of judgment, slowly trains your brain to let go.  It’s not so much that I stop caring, but I have begun to realize that my thoughts and opinions are not reality and that in clinging to them and in trying to push them on others, I am causing much of my own stress and suffering. 

In the introduction of The Issue at Hand by Gil Fronsdal, he explains this phenomenon pretty simply:

 “Mindfulness entails knowing what is happening in the present moment while it is happening.  It is a training in how not to be lost in thoughts, opinions, and reactivity.  It is also a training in how to see things as they really are, as opposed to seeing them through the often distorted lens of preconceived ideas and interpretations.” (p. ix)

Learning to meditate is simple, but it is far from easy.  Meditation is about so much more than sitting in silence for 20 minutes.  That is the simple part!  The more difficult part, but also the most valuable, is learning how to take what you learn about yourself in meditation and let it change the way you interact with the world. 

As I have learned to pay attention to my thoughts, as I have noticed the lies I tell myself and the stories I make up in my mind to support what I want to believe, when I notice the patterns in behavior or the reactions to certain people or emotions; as I learn about me, I learn to laugh at my thoughts and just let them go. I have learned to cling less to my judgments and accept that the opposite is also true.  These are gifts I gained in meditation, but it wasn’t until I took what I learned off the mat, that the benefits really started to emerge.

I continue to learn about me and the way tiny little inconsequential things in my past have colored my views on all kinds of things, big and small.  The more I sit in meditation, the more I learn about me and the more I can let go.  The more I can let go, the more I enjoy mindfulness, awareness and peace & serenity. 

This is why I meditate.

Tracy Martorana
Guest Blogger
New Leaf Meditation Project
NewLeafMeditation.org

Tracy Martorana is the owner of Holistic Wellness with Tracy and Tracy’s Teas,in LeRoy NY.  She is a Nutrition & Wellness / Lifestyle Coach, an Herbalist and a Meditation instructor.  Her mission is to teach people how to make healthy choices easy and enjoyable. You can learn more about Tracy, her blog, her teas and her book (90 Days to Holistic Wellness – balancing your Body, Mind, Heart and Soul) at her website: www.holisticwellnesswithtracy.com.

 

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A Short Introduction to Meditation

It is important to remember there are a lot of forms of meditation out there. We teach a simple, stripped down version of meditation that can be done in just 3 minutes a day. 

Before we start: Meditation is not an escape but rather away of authentically living in the present moment. Our mind won't stop thinking during our practice. There is no doing it wrong, there is only practicing in a way that benefits your life. 

The instructions are threefold and deal with our body, breath and mind.
 
Body:
 
First, we sit as still as possible during our meditation. Body and mind are one. A still mind can only develop with a still and relaxed body. Once you start your period of sitting make an agreement with yourself that you will not move. Don’t scratch an itch, adjust your seat or let your posture slouch. Use a timer to create a defined period of practice. 

To be able to sit still, we focus on having good posture. Flexible people can sit in full or half lotus on the floor with a cushion. Others kneel with a seiza bench. Many sit in a chair. The most important thing is that we attend to our posture: straight spine, shoulders back, chin tucked in, mouth softly closed and hands resting palm in palm or on our thighs. 
  
Breath:
 
If we are in an upright-seated position with good posture our breathing should be easy and unencumbered. It is helpful to wear loose fitting clothes, especially something without a tight waistband. Natural breathing feels like it reaches down into our lungs and through our belly. Like a newborn baby whose tummy billows with every breath, a calm body with natural deep breathing should expand down into our belly.
 
We don’t force the breath during our practice. This isn’t a deep breathing exercise. We simply let breathing happen naturally. After sitting for a little while we will notice our breathing slows down and the rhythm of our chest has a soothing quality.
 
Mind:
 
With good posture and easy breathing we turn to the mind. How do we practice? We focus on developing the ability to concentrate and quiet our mind with a simple practice of counting our breath. (Note I said simple, not easy.)

The instructions are basic. Place the focus of your mind deep into your belly. The bottom third of your belly where we can feel the farthest reach of our breath.  Breathe in count one, breathe out count two, in three, out four. When we get to ten we go back to one and start over again.
 
Almost immediately we will encounter our mind’s tendency to run away from being present to the current moment. Each morning when I first start meditating I find it difficult to get to the count of three before distracting thoughts arise. Our practice is to notice that we are thinking, let that thought go in the middle of it and return our focus back to counting our breath.
 
Thoughts don’t stop. Minds think the way ears hear and eyes see. It is in a brain's nature to think. Don’t be critical with yourself. This practice is one of noticing our thinking, letting it go and returning to the experience of breath.
 
With time an ability to place our concentration where we choose develops and from this comes great ease. For some this happens quickly. For others, like me, it is a process that comes after many years of practice. Both are okay. The moment when I first let go of a thought and I am unencumbered, completely present in the moment, I am truly free.
 
May your practice go well!

Warmly,
Anthony 

Anthony A. Cernera, M.Ed. founded the New Leaf Meditation Project in 2014. Anthony started meditating in 2007 and took formal vows as a student of a Zen Buddhist order in 2009. When he isn't meditating, skydiving or playing with his cameras, Anthony is a non-profit fundraiser. He received a Master's in Education in 2014 and continues his research as doctoral student focusing on habit formation and motivation for new meditators.  You can find his writing right here at www.newleafmeditation.org

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