What does it mean to meditate?
There are many ways to meditate, many definitions of meditation and many purposes for meditation.
When I first started to learn meditation, one of my meditation teachers said that it was important to ask oneself why one is meditating. What is meditation for?
Most people are inclined to say they want to meditate to relax and to calm the mind. These are definitely positive benefits of meditation. However, my teacher would say that the purpose of insight and mindfulness meditation is to decrease suffering connected to being subject to cyclical negative psychological states and their consequences. That’s a mouthful!
5 Steps for Mindfulness Meditation
So if you really want to meditate, it helps to first ask why you want to do it. If you want to reduce your suffering, the following instructions may be of help:
First, stop. Make the intention to stop the normal flow of your day, your business, your forward movement or backward movement. Stop what you are doing. Stop for ten seconds, or one minute, or 20 minutes or an hour. It doesn’t necessarily matter how long you stop, just that you do stop.
Second, observe. Observe your body sensations. Observe your state of mind and your emotions. Observe the thoughts that preoccupy you, the ones that drift by and the ones that take hold or cause obsession. Observe them, but let them go. Try to catch yourself merging with your thoughts, and let them take you on a ride. Get off that train. Let it go on without you. Glimpse the spaciousness of no thoughts, even if just for a moment.
Third, breathe. Notice your breath. Get into the present moment through the breath. Calm the body by taking a deep breath. Breathe a little more slowly than usual. Hold at the top of the breath, exhale slowly. Then just watch your breaths, count five of them. In the past we find regret. In the future, we often find worry. But the present is a blank slate. This very moment is calm and spacious. Breath into this very moment.
Fourth, expand your awareness. Notice your surroundings, what’s going on and the context you’re in. Feel your whole being—body, emotions, and thoughts. Inhale awareness.
Fifth, respond with mindfulness. After your 1, 5, or 20-minute mindfulness break, be intentional rather than automatic or reactive.
So to recap, to meditate means to stop, to observe, to breathe, to expand and to respond. This is the sober way.
Try this, observe your results and try again. Meditation is a lifelong learning process, and a way of being in the world. My practice ebbs and flows, along with my learning, but I always return to the SOBER basics with gratitude. If you choose to embark on the pathless path of meditation, you will find many challenges and rewards. You will go nowhere, and everywhere at the same time!
Donna Youngdahl, B.A. CertMFT
Aurora Recovery Centre
Cited from: SOBER breathing space. Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention. (Bowen, Chawla, Marlatt, 2011)