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Top Ten Questions Everyone Asks About Meditation

Concentrated meditating confident girl sitting on the floorLots of good advice in an article by Tara Healey on the top 10 questions that everyone asks about meditation. Some edited excerpts:

Q: Should my eyes be open or closed?
A: There are no hard and fast rules. Try both. If open, not too wide, and with a soft, slightly downward gaze, not focusing on anything in particular. If closed, not too hard, and not imagining anything in particular in your mind’s eye.

…While meditating, we don’t have to fight off distractions like a knight slaying dragons. If your dog or cat comes into the room and barks and meows and brushes up against you or settles down on a part of your cushion, no big deal. Let it be.

Q: Is it possible I’m someone who just *cannot* meditate?

A: When you find yourself asking that question, your meditation has officially begun. A lot of people wonder that… Meditating is not a race to perfection.

Q: If I have an itch, can I scratch it?
A: Yes, however, first try scratching it with your mind before using your fingers.

…Try being with an unpleasant or even painful physical sensation for a moment or two before moving to eliminate it. Over time, you may find you need to do this less often.

…Experienced meditators know that trying to stop thought is like trying to stop a steamroller with a feather. To accept that the mind is always thinking, even when we’re not aware of it, we have to admit that we’re not in complete, conscious control of ourselves at all times.

Q: Is there one right way to meditate?
A: People think they’re messing up when they’re meditating because of how busy the mind is. We get caught in the trap of thinking that meditation is supposed to be giving us a whole new magical device, like they sell on late night television: “Get NewBrain. It does all the thinking for you, except better!” But, nope, it’s just the good old human nervous system and brain. So, when we find that meditation acquaints us further with our same old brain and its same old ways, we’re convinced we must be doing it wrong. We want that shiny new thing.

…Getting lost in thought, noticing it, and returning to your chosen meditation object — breath, sound, body sensation, or something else — is how it’s done. That’s about it. If you’re doing that, you’re doing it right!

…Don’t become frustrated, resulting in meditation becoming the fad toy for you that ends up on the shelf once it loses its newness. With greater confidence comes a greater willingness to pledge more and more minutes to practice.

…Mindfulness practice can strengthen our natural instinct to see when active engagement will only run us into a corner—after all, the world isn’t always in need of a better mousetrap.

…If you find yourself consistently falling asleep during meditation, you may not be getting enough sleep. Meditation is important. Sleep is also important. In fact, meditation can help you notice when you’re skimping on sleep or exercise or not eating well. Maybe it can spur you to check into whether there’s something in your life you can cut back on. (Spoiler: There’s a good chance it involves the Internet or your so-called smartphone.)

…Examine how boredom feels in your body, especially if it spills over into feelings of anxiety and fear. Don’t struggle to find an explanation for it all. Simply let the feelings be there. This may be incredibly hard at first, like lying in bed and trying to will yourself to go to sleep. But in the same way that nobody ever lies awake forever, it’s equally true that boredom, anxiety, and fear will inevitably mellow and fade.

…Each time we notice we have engaged a thought and we release it and return to the breath we strengthen the muscle of concentration and focus. In this way, you gradually steady the mind, and each time you notice the thought and let it move on, you learn a little bit more about the workings of your mind, and the relentless voice in your head is slightly less wild.

Topic: Meditation. Am I doing this right? Top 10 questions. Mindfulness practice