Meditation

Meditation is not as impossible or foreign as most people believe it is. Basically, you try to step away from your thoughts and just see what you are thinking. You are not trying to stop thinking, that would be an exercise in futility! You are training your mind to focus. Your mind follows patterns that have been established for years, ways of reacting that you probably don't even recognize you are doing. But, if you can distance yourself, much like you may watch yourself in a dream, you begin to notice consistent ways you react to situations in your life. If you are aware of those reactions, you can better decide if they are the best way to act. If not, you can choose to change them. Meditation is a very subtle practice, but with persistence and patience, will reward you with a much calmer and positive outlook on life.

How to meditate

Just choose a quiet place, sit straight and still, and pay attention to each breath going in and going out and nothing else. (Sitting on a folded blanket is often more comfortable, or you can sit in a straight-backed chair). When you find your mind wandering off, as everyone does, just gently bring it back to the breath. Try not to get upset with yourself or discouraged - with practice it gets much easier.

If you find watching the breath difficult after heartfelt attempts, you can try repeating to yourself a mantra or any uplifiting word. Or stare at a candle. More active temperaments may prefer walking meditation - walking slowly in a straight line or circle with the focus on the breath or the feeling of each foot touching the floor.

Five minutes at a time is fine to begin - it is the concentration and not the time you are after. Practicing 5 minutes everyday is much better than 30 minutes once a week.

Classes

Meditation is often practiced alone, but sitting with a group is a different and wonderful experience. There you will find like-minded people, experience different styles of meditation, and can ask questions or find more resources to further your personal practice. There are Zen mediation classes held Wednesday evening at 8:30 and Sunday at 8:00 am at Rubber Soul.

Links

Meditation in Athens - a site that lists where different meditation groups meet around town.
Athens Zen Group
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Insight (or vipassana) meditation
If you're not meditating, are you really doing yoga?
Demystifies and explains some of the more popular styles of meditation from Yoga Journal.