Okay, so you’re all stressed out, your mind’s busier than the Bangkok traffic and you seem to have a perpetual bad hair day. What you need is a little of that meditation magic. Time to relax, calm yourself down and put a glow of happiness on your face, here’s how.
Forget the gurus and yogis, there’s nothing mystical about meditation, just simple calmness, focused energy and mindful thought. Yeah right, easier said than done, try sitting cross legged and squint eyed for longer than 10 minutes. Yup, we know, you’ve already thought about sex five times, ice cream or chocolate a dozen times and your legs ache!
That’s what meditation is all about, conditioning yourself to let go of thoughts of desire and to tolerate discomfort. Phew! It’s easier to go for a massage I hear you say, but be patient; just 10 minutes of meditation a day will soon yield satisfying results. Soon you’ll find yourself coping easier with pressure, more relaxed in your demeanour and mindful of your actions.
There are loads of different styles and techniques for meditation, many connected to religious practice, particularly Buddhism, but meditating is actually based on a simple technique and suitable for anyone.
First, choose a quiet, comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed. Wear loose clothing and find yourself a stiff pillow or two to sit on; this raises your bum above your crossed legs, easing the pressure on them and making it easier to sit in a semi-lotus position. Set your alarm for a 10-minute period. Ready? Okay, wiggle yourself a bit, get comfortable and keep your back nice and straight; that’s it, just like all those Buddha statues. No lying down please, you’ll fall asleep!
Now, close your eyes and relax your muscles. Remain aware of your position and breathe slowly and naturally, gradually lengthening your breath until you count three in and three out. Keep breathing, it’s what’s keeping you alive! This is why you’re focusing on breath, it’s the most basic human activity; forget about every else. Let’s repeat that, forget about everything else.
Just focus on your breath, note the sensation of the breath as it gently enters and exits your nostrils, slightly cool in, slightly warm out. Keep everything else out of your mind. Ok, admittedly this isn’t easy. Dammit, the brain was designed to think! But this is natural, just be aware of the thoughts as they arise, note them objectively and then release them. Be careful not to let a train of thought begin or for the thoughts to set off negative (or unrealistically positive) emotions in your mind; this is what upsets your calmness. Listen to your heartbeat rate for signs of unsettled emotion.
That’s it, nothing to it but practice. Go easy on yourself; if you are a busy and active person or have plenty on your mind, it will naturally be difficult to empty your mind, but be patient. Don’t be discouraged; just keep trying for 10 minutes a day, lengthening the session by five minutes each week until you reach a comfortable length.
The secret of meditation is to remove the unbalanced emotions from your mind by focusing on a settled mindset. Keeping mindful of your breath is the most effective way. Once your mind is settled and calm, it’s much better for dealing objectively with any problems and other thought processes going on in your head. Of course, once your mind is relaxed the body follows.
Oh, one more thing we forgot to mention: painful legs. This is bound to happen if you’re not used to sitting cross legged. Part of the challenge and purpose of meditating is to learn to cope with discomfort by ignoring it or placing it in perspective to greater discomfort. Gradually it goes away if you persist. When your 10 minutes is up, it might feel like you have no legs at all! Gently stretch them out in front of you and patiently wait for the blood to circulate again. If you’re really struggling, you can cheat and meditate seated on a chair.
Good luck, remember, if the Beatles could do it with their heads full of sixties hysteria, then so can you!
Where to meditate in Chiang Mai
The above instruction is a basic introduction, however, more detailed and advanced methods, such as Samatha and Vipassana, are taught at centres in and near Chiang Mai by experienced practitioners. Those with some experience in meditation may prefer to undertake an intensive retreat, which usually lasts 10 or 30 days.
- Wat Phradhatu Sri Chom Tong Voravihara:
Intensive, rigorous course, minimum two weeks, also forest retreat centre. 157 Ban Luang, Chom Tong. Tel: (053) 342 184.
- Wat Ram Poeng:
Intensive retreat course, 30 days. 1 Moo 5, Suthep. Tel: (053) 278 620.
- Wat Phahat Doi Suthep Rajawora Vihara:
Now offers beginner-friendly meditation courses for foreigners lasting approximately twenty-one days, with instruction in English. Suthep Road, Tel: (053) 295 012.