With practice, this beginner meditation will hold the mind steady even during periods of stress.
A well-trained, stable, and focused mind is an asset in every sphere of life, and essential for any spiritual endeavor. The practice below will develop your concentration, clarity, and inner stability, by providing a single object as the resting place for your mind’s awareness—the universal mantra soham. Practice daily at about the same time, starting with 10 minutes, and gradually increasing to 20–30 minutes, or longer.
Begin by training your body to be still and comfortable in a sitting posture. When the spine is erect with the pelvis, chest, and head vertically aligned, the breath becomes smooth, and the mind alert and relaxed. Sit on a chair, or cross-legged on the floor with a cushion or a folded blanket under the hips. Use enough support to lift the hip joints slightly higher than the knees. This minimizes the effort needed to keep the lower back from rounding.
Close your eyes and mentally draw a circle of light around yourself. The circle separates you from the world of daily life—both the outer world of perceptions and activities, and the world of your familiar preoccupations and thinking patterns. With this intention, see yourself sitting inside this circle of light. It delineates a space in which you can contain your awareness; let it protect you from disturbances, distractions, and mental dissipation.
Feel the entire body sitting comfortably still, release any unnecessary tension, and pay attention to the movement of the breath. Refine your awareness as you feel the breath become smoother and more subtle, expanding from the solar plexus into the limbs on the inhalation, and releasing back to the solar plexus on the exhalation. Be aware of the touch of the breath everywhere in the body.
Making sure the body and breath stay relaxed, focus your attention at each of the following energy centers, moving systematically through the body and inhaling and exhaling once at each point: eyebrow center · throat center · right shoulder · right elbow · right wrist · each of the right fingertips, starting with the thumb · right wrist · right elbow · right shoulder · throat center · left shoulder · left elbow · left wrist · each of the left fingertips, starting with the thumb · left wrist · left elbow · left shoulder · throat center · heart center · navel center · center of the pelvis · pelvic floor · center of the pelvis · navel center · heart center · throat center · eyebrow center.
Now rest your attention at the eyebrow center. Feel the ebb and flow of the breath through the inner space of the whole body, while maintaining your focus on the eyebrow center. Sense the vibration of a slow wave of breath. This vibration is the mantra soham (pronounced so-hum). Hear the sound so on the inhale, and the sound ham on the exhale. The breath is subtle and slow, so let your concentration be fine and sensitive, becoming more and more one-pointed, and gradually drawing deeper into the mind. Rest in this awareness as long as you like.
To finish the practice, gradually return your awareness to the flow of the breath in the body, the physical presence of the body, and the space around you. Remain aware of the breath and your inner connection as you release the body from your sitting posture. You may want to open your eyes into the palms of your hands, massage your face, and stretch your arms and legs before getting up.
adapted from Yoga International, by Sandra Anderson, Summer 2009
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