Meditation is a method for building up positive habits through repetition, like making a new neural pathway and weakening an old one. To do this, it is necessary first to calm down our racing minds in order to make the open space for generating a new, more beneficial understanding and attitude. The ability to calm down is in itself a beneficial habit, but it is a neutral state that can then be the basis for generating either a constructive or destructive attitude. We want to use this state of calm as the open space for generating a constructive state of mind, and for that it is an indispensable preparatory step.
Calming down helps us to deal better with the difficult things that come up in life. Often, what prevents us from dealing with them properly is that our minds are unclear; they are filled with mental wandering due to being tired and stressed. For example, we have had a long, difficult day at work; there is still an hour before we can leave, and there is still more work to do. Focusing on the breath will help us calm down so that we can deal with this challenging situation with a clear state of mind.
- Sit up straight, with your hands in your lap, your eyes half-open, looking down toward the floor and your teeth not clenched.
- Relax the tension in your body, especially your shoulders, mouth and forehead. We can’t calm the mind unless the tension in the body is released.
- Breath normally through the nose.
- In your mind, count rounds of 11 breaths over and again, focusing on the sensation of the breath coming in and out your nostrils.
- Stay mindful of the sensation of the breath and counting (hold on with mental glue).
- Maintain alertness to detect when you have lost attention due to dullness or mental wandering.
- When you detect that you have lost attention, reapply your attention on the breath and counting.
- If you detect mental wandering, gently release the thought, imagining that it passes out of your mind as you exhale, and return your attention to breathing and counting.
- If your shoulders or face have tightened up again, relax them once more.
- At the end, as a transition out of meditation, again just calm down with a quiet mind.
When we are tired and stressed and need more clarity of mind and emotional balance to deal with challenging situations, we need to calm down and regain our mental and emotional composure. Like a computer, we need to reboot our minds. To do this, we need to relax our bodies and focus on the breath, while counting cycles of breath. By practicing this method at home in meditation, it builds up a neural pathway and habit, so that we remember to apply the method when we need it in daily life, and it becomes easier to apply and sustain it.