Here are some thoughts on meditation I would like to share with you. :)
To prepare well is to make sure that disruption is avoided and that your experience is as qualitative as possible. First, make sure that you are not hungry, and that you've been to the bathroom
Be sure that will not be disturbed. If necessary, tell people in your household that you are having some alone time, and that that needs to be respected. I understnd that this is not always possible, although usually there is a way. For example, if you are a minor with christian parents, say that you wish to pray. After all, meditation is akin to communion with the divine and not at all far off from praying.
Take care that you will not be disturbed by sound. I have used relaxation CDs in the past simply to blend away external sounds that might startle me. In shallow meditation it's quite easy to get distracted. Deeper into meditation this happens less. I am fortunate that I live in a quiet place, and I am soothed by the sound of the weather and my windchimes.
Be sure that you have a consistantly pleasant temperature.
I like to have some kind of a wash before meditation, from a long bath, to a simple ritual of washing my hands. This is a ritual that over time teaches us that the time is sacred, which further deepens the quality of the meditation.
Meditation can be practiced in sitting or lying positions. Because of my years I tend to choose to lie down. I lie on a two seater sofa with my feet up. The important thing is that you are comfortable, and that you won't develop strain during your meditation that may distract you. I don't fall asleep, as is the usual warning for lying down. I will explain why this is later on.
I recommend shaking yourself out, maybe jumping about a bit, or dancing, and/or simply grounding, to rid yourself of excess/nervous energy so that it will be easier to relax into your meditation.
You have jumped about, and now you are lying down and comfortable. Now, I have heard so often in instructions on meditation, "First, clear your mind". To me this is totally absurd. Clearing our minds is what we end with, not begin with. It is the meditation that clears our minds for us!
If you are anything like me, your thoughts are yabbering away nineteen to the dozen when you begin meditating. This is fine and normal. You have just come out of a place where this is the norm. The meditation is the journey away from this. Let yourself breath normally, take some vigorous breaths, maybe through the mouth, there is plenty of time for everything. Be in a state of readiness!
Our thoughts, all piled on top of each other are our child. We , are the parent. Every mother, and possibly every child, knows that however fantastic a parent one might be, sooner or later we all need a cup of tea! Now, a good parent will have their house in order so that they know that they can have their cup of tea in peace and their child will be perfectly safe.
The child will protest! Yes! Those thoughts saying "Look at me!Listen to me!". And here is where the parent takes command. The parent says "Now I am focusing on my tea. I will be with you in half an hour". She knows everything will be just fine.
The cup of tea is the breathing. This is the seat of command. A writer named Ouspenski likened the human to a horse and carriage, a driver, and the master. The horse and carriage is the body, the driver is the mind, and you are the master. You are not your thoughts! "I think therefore I am" becomes "I am".
Now that you are lying down, and have let what comes naturally, come naturally, focus all your attention on your breath. The trap here is thinking about the breath. Little will be achieved this way. Rather, ignore the thought and become the noticing. The awareness.
Realise your breathing in every way. Is it warm? Cool? Can the air feel solid? To me, feeling is a very good way to say 'shush' to the thinking. Solid air.
There is no need at all to try to change the way you are breathing. All that is necessary is that you are paying attention to it. The whole point of the exercise is that you are being aware of your own vitality, and that is why you will not fall asleep. If you do fall asleep it's because you stopped noticing your breathing. Sometimes the child wins!
Every two minutes the child will pull on your arm, and you may momentarly be drawn into it, but, as soon as you realise that this has happened, get back at the helm, your breathing. It does get easier. Like the putting the toddler to bed technique, - take her to bed and close the door. Get back to your cup of tea.
Sometimes, an anxiety will crop up that you can't ignore. This is where awareness of both your command, and your child, simultaneously, come in. Recognise the anxiety, but keep your priority on the breathing. Let the anxiety flow, let the parent (the breathing) be a reassuring strength. Like a loving association. You will see that the child is reassured and will drift off. This compounds, with practice, to put a solid core in everyday situations in normal life. The practice really does pay off.
In the way that panic spreads in a group, so does panic in a person. As above, be the claming reassurance.
People who suffer anxiety or other medical problems can be bothered by a fast heartbeat that can interfere with meditation -
I have found that the way round this is simply to accept it. Acknowledge that the heartbeat is rapid, but also say, "it's ok, I've got this" from your breathing strength position. Sometimes this is another case of your child (thoughts) being reassured and the pace of your heart will accordingly slow down. Sometimes it just is. This works for moderate pain too.
If you have an itch, scratch it!
During the practice, the more times you have returned to your breathing, from child distraction, the slower and deeper your breathing will become. And the less the disturbances will be. The child feels safe now, you can really focus on your cup of tea!
Take great notice of the out breath. Really observe how long it takes for the out breath to truly, naturally, gently, end. Take a moment to notice what happens between the end of the out breath and the beginning of the inhalation. Try the same the other way round. These tiny moments can really help to push us into the stillness.
Now listen. Feel. Like the layers coming off an onion, you are at your tender core. You are so close to your subtle body. Feel with your whole being, feel if it extends from you, how far it goes. Does it connect to anything?
When you have reached this point, where sometimes you are barely breathing and are in absolute stillness, that can be enough. You can stay like this all day if you wish. Take time to look also, this is a time where you may see visions.
This is when "I think therefore I am" has become "I am therefore I am".
Now you can go to your calm blue ocean, or forest, or maybe practice some AP. These notes are designed to help you get to that place where your mind is clear. Where your child is at peace.
It takes time for a child to build up trust. But, prove to be dependable and strong, reassuring yet resolute, and you will both be very happy together. :D