Give Your Mind a Break: Meditate (Part II)

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Hello, I’m Sven Paunovic Babic!

I grew up in several different countries and am currently based in Geneva, Switzerland. I attained a BSc Honors degree in Biochemistry from Imperial College London in 2020. My other interests include creative expression, holistic health, yoga, and Vipassana Meditation. I began a deep self-healing journey around August 2020, which moved me to write about the very Mindfulness Meditation technique I have been using to improve my life!

I hope you enjoy!

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Check out part one of my ‘Give Your Mind a Break: Mediate’ series via the following link.

Part two is a guide on getting started with the type of meditation I personally follow. Vipassana (preceded by Anapana technique in earlier stages) is a Mindfulness Meditation technique which is based on objective observation of the mind and body in the present moment. The technique uses the unmodified (natural) breath as a tool for becoming and staying anchored in the present1.

In the earlier stages, the aim is to train one’s focus, attention, concentration, and discipline to form a solid basis for the following stages. This is followed, in later stages, by greater introspection through direct access to the subconscious, deep self healing through objective analysis of the root causes of traumas, and the subsequent opportunity to actively change the way we respond in uncomfortable situations, leading to the ability to create a new daily reality.

The highest stages reward the practitioner with states of absolute zen which culminate in full enlightenment, where the zen state lasts until the following day’s meditation.

*Always keep in mind, from the very beginning, the intentions to meditate daily and to remain open to whatever the meditative journey may bring, without judgement.*

The beginner meditator’s first mission is to establish a daily practice. Only in exceptional circumstances should a day of meditation be skipped altogether. Maintaining a daily practice does wonders for the focus, attention, concentration, and discipline of the mind and so allows for steady progress towards higher stages.

In the beginning, aim to meditate 10-15 minutes daily, and on especially busy days, when you feel like you cannot fit in such a mediation, remember: ‘two minutes are better than no minutes’!

Getting started:

Set a timer for your desired meditation length and set the intention in your mind to relax, pay attention to your breath without modifying it, and to let go of any judgement that may arise. Aim to simply be aware of your breath, without consciously modifying it. The timer allows you to remove thoughts related to the duration of the meditation, fostering greater concentration on the breath (the object of meditation).

Sit with your back straight, either on a cushion on the floor with your legs crossed or on a stool/ chair without supporting your back on the back rest (as this may lead to falling asleep as relaxation sets in).

Make sure your hips are higher than your knees. To achieve this use an extra pillow or a higher chair, as failure to do so may result in your one or both of your legs going numb/’falling asleep’. Rest your arms comfortably on your lap or on your knees (face up or face down are both alright!).

Close your eyes and breathe completely normally in and out your nose (as if you were reading a book). Begin to relax the muscles in the arms, followed by the muscles of the face with the aim to relax all the muscles in the body, besides those keeping your back straight.

As you relax, bring your conscious awareness to your breath. Do not search to modify your breath, simply be conscious of it. Pretty quickly, your attention will naturally shift from the breath as your ‘stream of conscious thought’ will return. It may be dozens of seconds or even several minutes before you notice you have lost focus on the object of meditation (breath).

Once you become aware that you have lost focus of the breath, instead of getting frustrated or angry that you have ‘drifted off’, give yourself a figurative pat on the back for noticing it! With this new awareness and self-gratitude, slowly and calmly return your attention to the breath. Repeat this until the timer goes off and always resist the temptation to check how much time is left!

Image Source: The Mind Illuminated ‘A Complete Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science’, by Culadasa (John Yates, PhD) and Matthew Immergut, Ph.D, with Jeremy Graves.

Always remember, the only ‘bad meditation’ is one that was skipped, progress is not linear (not every meditation will be better than the previous), be grateful for every time you chose to set aside this valuable time for self-care, try not to judge your meditative experience, and do not get impatient with your progress!

As your awareness and discipline improve, and as your lower back muscles strengthen as a result of consistency, you will be able to, and likely have the desire to, meditate progressively longer! I personally meditate just over an hour daily at this stage in my journey.

For a more comprehensive guide on meditation, I would recommend that you consult ‘The Mind Illuminated’ which is in the references below!

References:
1. https://www.vridhamma.org/What-is-Anapana

The Mind Illuminated ‘A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science’ by Culadasa (John Yates, PhD) and Matthew Immergut, Ph.D, with Jeremy Graves.

Featured Image Source: Karan Bajaj, at karanbajaj.com

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