The Four Basic Elements of Meditation

The four basic elements involved in most meditative techniques are a quiet place to meditate, a comfortable or poised posture, an object to focus on and a passive attitude (1stholistic.com).

A Quiet Place

It’s important for you to find a place that will let you be completely relaxed. Try to eliminate as many noises and distractions as possible. Remember to turn off your cell phone - this is your own personal time out for the day from all the stresses in your life. There are many different places where you can practice meditation - your backyard, the beach and a meditation center are just a few. However, a comfortable spot in your bedroom is just as good.

Proper Posture

Maintaining a proper posture is a main component of meditation. Without one, your body might become tense and unable to relax, and you may also experience back pain.

Although meditation is possible in any position, sitting is the most common and the easiest. The key is to keep your spine straight and feel steady and comfortable. If that’s the case, you may think, then why not just lie down? Sitting straight is better than lying down because reclining can easily lead to sleep during meditation. However, if you often suffer from back pain, lying on you back with your spine straight will be the better option for you.

There are several “classic seated poses,” including the lotus posture, the half lotus posture, Burmese posture and Egyptian posture, but sitting Indian-style works fine. Please visit the sites on the resources page to learn more about these positions. [Resources]

Beginners often are most comfortable sitting in a chair, which is fine. If you choose to meditate sitting Indian-style on the floor, a small pillow to sit on might make you more relaxed. Take your hands and place them in your lap, on your thighs or place them together as shown in the picture. To do this, face your palms up, and place the middle joint of your right middle finger over the middle joint of your left middle finger. Then bring your thumbs together so they are almost touching, with barely the width of a piece of paper between them.

An Object of Focus

For Concentrative meditation, the meditator must choose a single thing to focus upon. The gentle inhale and exhale of breathing or a repeated mantra are the most common, but sounds, colors, uplifting thoughts or a religious figure can also be used. "Mantras are words of power, used as objects of meditation. Mantra is from the sanskrit root "man" - to think, and "tra" - to liberate; thus, to liberate from thought." (meditationcenter.com) If you choose to use a mantra, it’s best to use a word with positive and relaxing connotations, like “harmony” or “peace”.

A Passive Attitude

This is the most important element for successful meditation. A passive attitude is one in which nothing has any consequence. External distractions and internal thoughts are recognized but looked at informally and indifferently. “Let them come and go, of no more consequence than small clouds passing across an expanse of sky. (lstholistic.com) When you do find your attention wandering, simply bring it back to your focus object. Remember to stay relaxed. It’s okay to become momentarily distracted every so often. The more often you meditate, the easier it will be to let go of your thoughts.

Now you understand the basic elements of most meditation.

A Simple Tutorial

The following guidelines will help guide you forward in your meditative journey.

Sit in your quiet place in the position that’s most comfortable for you and close your eyes. “Roll your shoulders back and down and gently lift the chest. Keep your neck long and the chin tilted slightly downward.” (Carrico)

Drawing of Tree

“Relax your muscles sequentially from head to feet…. Starting with your forehead, become aware of tension as you breathe in. Let go of any obvious tension as you breathe out.” (1stholistic.com) Do this as you concentrate on each part of your body.

Even if breathing is not your object of meditation, you should take slow, natural breaths. If you choose to use a mantra, you may repeat it quietly or silently as you exhale.

You should plan on meditating for a specific amount of time. Ten to 20 minutes is ideal if you’re just beginning. More experienced meditators may choose to meditate longer. Using an alarm is not recommended. It is better to open one eye and check the time when you feel you are close to finishing.

“After you finish: Sit quietly for a minute or so, at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes open. Do not stand for one to two minutes.” (lstholistic.com)