Mindfulness, through meditation, is gathering momentum in the mental health industry as a treatment that can help in a wide range of mental health problems, particularly depression. I thought I would write a post that explains a simple meditation technique that readers can get themselves started with.

meditationIt is important to sit in an upright position so that you can stay aware and alert and not fall off to sleep. Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground and a small cushion at the base of your spine. Your shoulders should therefore not be resting on the back of the chair. Rest your hands gently in your lap. If this is likely to cause a strain over time, you can place them on a cushion on your lap.

Close your eyes, breath in and breath out. Count one.

Breath in and breath out. Count two.

Breath in and breath out. Count three.

Continue counting the breath until you reach 10, then start again at 1. If you get lost or distracted, start again from one.

Do not try to control the breath; simply be aware of the in breath and out breath and the counting of it.

It’s as simple as that!

For most people, of course, it is far from simple. What happens is that the mind throws up a torrent of thoughts to distract you from your practice. This is perfectly normal. Don’t judge yourself harshly for the thoughts, and try not to get caught up in them. When you do notice you have got caught up in thoughts, this is a moment of awareness, congratulate yourself, and then return to the counting from 1.

For most people about 5 minutes of this is about as much as they can bear. I therefore recommend starting with 5 minutes of meditation every day. Once you are into a routine, and starting to feel comfortable with the technique, you can build the meditation time up to 30 minutes a day.

Don’t try to meditate more that 30 minutes a day unless you are being supervised by an experienced meditation teacher. If you feel that the technique is causing you harm, stop immediately and consult an experienced meditation teacher before resuming.

You will be amazed at the tricks your mind will play on you to stop you from paying attention to the breath. I can’t stress enough how normal this is. Whenever you notice your mind wander, just bring it back to the breath, and continue counting.

In my experience, it takes several months before you start to notice the positive benefits of meditation. It has been describes as like walking in a mist, after a while you get wet, but there is no rain. You need to invest the time to ‘get wet’ and get the benefits.

I would not recommend meditation as a treatment if you are in crises. Failing at meditation will just give you one more thing to worry about. You might be better advised to try another, more direct ‘relaxation’ technique, like a self hypnosis tape or a massage. Of course if you are a skilled meditator already, then your meditation practice will sustain you through a crises, my only concern is for people learning meditation for the first time while they are in crises.

One final thing, don’t try to ‘get’ anywhere in meditation. This isn’t about trying to ‘get’ relaxation, or insight, or calm or anything else for that matter. A meditation spent feeling agitated is just as valuable as a meditation feeling calm. This is about being with your self, and being curios about what’s there.

If you are interested in learning more I can recommend Meditation for Dummies by Dean Ornish MD and Stephan Bodian.

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