Getting Back to Basics

Summertime, an' the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin' an' the cotton is high …
One of these mornin's, you goin' to rise up singin'
Then you'll spread yo' wings an' you'll take the sky
Summertime lyrics by DuBose Heyward and Ira  Gershwin

"Enlightenment is not some good feeling or some particular state of mind. The state of mind that exists when you sit in the right posture is, itself, enlightenment."
Shunryu Suzuki in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Now that summer is here, the days are long and the outdoors beckons. The livin’ is easy and it is easy to get lazy. This is a good time to take a look at our meditation practice and get back to basics. Take stock of your meditation habits and determine if you have been doing what you would like to be doing.

How often do you meditate? Any time meditating is better than none, but a basic recommendation would be to work up to 20 to 30 minutes of meditation practice twice a day. Beginners may find twenty minutes too long. So start out meditating for five minutes and extend the periods gradually.

How is your posture? Maintaining a correct meditation posture requires attention and discipline. You may sit on a firm cushion on the floor or in a chair, but it is important to keep your back straight. The spine should be fully extended, so your head should be drawn slightly upward from the back and your chin should be tucked in gently. Your head is a heavy weight on a flexible column of bone and muscle, so it will tend to drop forward and cause your spine to slump. If you keep your head up and your shoulders back, you won’t slump and you won’t fall asleep either.

Meditating with eyes closed can draw you into sleep, so it is best to keep them partially open. Fix your gaze at a spot on the floor several feet in front of you.

What to do about breathing? Breathing and consciousness go together. If you stop breathing for long, you lose consciousness. If you breathe with awareness, you will find your consciousness heightened. There are many different breathing practices in the broad realm of meditation. For the sake of simplicity, you may just let it happen, but be aware of it. Turn your attention to the breath coming in and the breath going out. You might think of it as breath rising and breath falling. Rising…falling. Rising… Falling. Observe the process. When your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath.

Meditation need not be complicated or mysterious. It can be the simplest thing that you do, and it may be the most profound.

If you would like more detailed instructions, try these links:

Zen Meditation: The Seat of Enlightenment

Meditation and Mental Culture

What Is Meditation? By Sri Swami Shivapremananda

Practice of Meditation from a book by Sri N.Ananthanarayanan.

Duke Meditation Group: Quick Guide to Meditation

To the Meditation Archive Menu

To the current Meditation of the Week


© 2002 Tom Barrett