Appendix E

Three Meditation Techniques

1.  Instructions for Focused Meditation

 

  • Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your head and back straight. Sitting is usually preferred so that you avoid falling asleep.

  • Choose a focus object for your meditation: either your breath or a mantra. If you choose to focus on your breath, choose one place in your body (your nose, chest, stomach, etc.) where you can feel your breath coming in and going out. If you choose a mantra, pick a simple two syllable word or phrase that you will silently repeat to yourself, one syllable on the inbreath and the other on the outbreath.

  • Close your eyes and begin to notice your breath coming in and going out, or begin to silently repeat your mantra with each breath.

  •  Soon your mind will likely become distracted. Thoughts may come into in your mind. These thoughts may be accompanied by emotions, positive or negative. Or, you may become distracted by a physical sensation (a sound, an itch, an ache, etc.). You may be distracted for several moments before you realize this has happened and that your attention is no longer focused on your focus object.

  • As soon as you realize that your attention has wandered from your focus object, gently return your attention to your breath or your mantra. Keep in mind that in meditation you are not trying to force your mind to stay focused on your focus object. Mediation is not about force. It helps some people to picture their Awareness as a pure blue sky, and the distractions that arise during meditation as clouds that appear and float by in that sky. When you realize that you have gotten distracted, just let the distraction be as it is, like a cloud sitting in the sky. Don’t try to force it out of the sky. Just gently return your attention back to your focus object.

  • Some people who choose their breath as their focus object find it helpful to count their breaths in order to help focus their attention. To do this, count your breaths from 1 to 10, or from 1 to 100, and then start over again at 1. Each time you realize your attention has been distracted, go back and start over at 1, no matter where you were in the count when your attention wandered off.

  • Try not to be discouraged or think you aren’t meditating correctly when your attention gets distracted from your focus object. It is normal for your attention to wander. It’s part of the process of meditating and it happens to everyone. 

  • You can meditate for as little as 5 minutes at a time, or for up to an hour or longer. You might want to start with meditating once in the morning and once in the evening, for 10 minutes each time. However, any amount of time even once a day can be beneficial. If you can, work up to twice a day every day for 20 minutes each time. This daily practice may take you sometime to develop, so be patient with yourself.

 

2.  Instructions for Mindfulness Meditation

 

  • Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your head and back straight. Sitting is usually preferred so that you avoid falling asleep.

  • Close your eyes, and begin to notice what you are aware of right now. Notice any sounds you are hearing. Notice any touch sensations you are experiencing – the feeling of the chair you are sitting on, of your clothes against your skin, of air blowing on your skin, etc. Notice any smells you are aware of. Notice any thoughts that are going through your mind – memories, thoughts about things you need to do, etc. Notice any emotions you may be feeling. You can stay with noticing any one of these (sounds, touch sensations, smells, thoughts, or emotions), or go from noticing one to another.

  • Soon your mind may become distracted. Instead of consciously remaining aware of these things as they come and go, you may get carried away in thoughts or feelings about one of them and stop paying conscious attention to whatever is arising in the present moment. As soon as you realize this has happened, just gently return your attention to whatever is appearing in your Awareness right now. Bring your attention back into the present moment.

  • If you picture your Awareness as a pure blue sky, and the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that arise in your Awareness as clouds floating by in the sky, in this meditation practice you are just trying to notice each cloud as it appears and floats by, without having your mind wander off and get lost in thoughts about any one of them.

  • Try not to be discouraged, or think you aren’t meditating correctly, when your attention gets distracted. It is normal for your attention to wander during meditation. It’s part of the process of meditating, and it happens to everyone. 

  • You can meditate for as little as 5 minutes at a time, or for up to an hour or longer. You might want to start with meditating once in the morning and once in the evening, for 10 minutes each time. However, any amount of time even once a day can be beneficial. If you can, work up to twice a day every day for 20 minutes each time. This daily practice may take you sometime to develop, so be patient with yourself. 

  • Typically the meditative traditions have new practitioners begin with focused meditation (meditation focused on breathing or a mantra) until they are skilled enough to maintain unbroken attention on their focus object for about 10 minutes before trying this mindfulness meditation. This is because the mind needs to be well enough trained to stay present for at least this long in order for mindfulness meditation to be most effective.

3.  Instructions for Centering Prayer


1.  Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to the presence and

     action of God within you.
 

  • Your sacred word does not necessarily have to be a “holy” word. It is a sacred word not because of its inherent meaning, but because it represents your intention to consent to the presence and action of God within you.

  • Suggested sacred words include: God, Lord, Jesus, Spirit, Silence, Peace, Love, Calm, Faith, Trust, Mercy, or any other word that signifies to you your consent to God’s presence and action within you. What is important is that the word is sacred to you, because of what it signifies.

  • Fix this word fast to your heart, so that it is always there, come what may.

  • Let your sacred word be for you a symbol of your desire to surrender your whole being to God.

  • Once you have chosen your sacred word, do not change it during your Centering Prayer period, because that would be to start thinking again. Use of the same word over time allows it to sink deep within you, and it then becomes able to act as a trigger whenever you go into prayer.

  • Remember that it is your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within you that makes this prayer.

2.  Sitting comfortably with your eyes closed, silently introduce your sacred word as the

     symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within you.

 

  • You should sit comfortably enough that you are not distracted from your prayer by discomfort in your body during your prayer period.

  • Learning to pray this way while sitting normally helps you become able to enter Centering Prayer anywhere – sitting in a car, on a bus or plane, etc. – without being obvious.

  • Closing your eyes during Centering Prayer helps you let go of what is going on in the external world around you during your prayer period.

3.  When you become aware of thoughts, feelings, or sensations, gently return to the

     sacred word.

  • The arising of thoughts, feelings, and sensations is an inevitable and normal part of Centering Prayer. It is helpful to avoid judging yourself when these arise.

  • As soon as you become aware that a thought, feeling, or sensation has distracted you, symbolize your desire to return to God’s presence in prayer by gently returning your attention to your sacred word. Centering prayer is a prayer of focused intention.

  • Gently returning your attention to your sacred word is meant to be done with a minimum of effort, and this is the only activity that is initiated by you during Centering Prayer.

4.  At the end of the prayer period, remain silent for a few minutes with your eyes closed.


Give yourself a few minutes to become aware of your physical surroundings again, and to make the transition back into daily life, bringing the atmosphere of Centering Prayer with you.