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    Beginning Meditation

    1. The following is a technique to help you to relax, both mind and body. Like most beginning meditation techniques it is a centering practice, and this one is especially designed to support and encourage soothing thoughts and good feelings. Good feelings mean you're coming into your broader perspective, your energy (all three kinds -- physical, mental and spiritual) is coming into alignment and flowing more strongly, and as a result, you're getting stronger, clearer and brighter.

    2. Before you begin, find several thoughts that please you -- we will call these thoughts mantras. Choose some words, some ideas that you find simple and rewarding (the feeling of the thoughts matters more than the thoughts themselves); they can be like your favorite flavor of ice cream -- ideas that make you feel good -- the more pleasant, the better. Try different ones, concepts that have a positive, physically felt appeal to you -- "joy," "softness," "summer," "sea breeze," "warm," "cozy," "pink," "chocolate," "bright," whatever feels good to you.

    3. Now, having arranged things so as not to be interrupted or distracted by anything, sit comfortably and close the eyes.

    4. Wait about half a minute, eyes closed, before beginning. While you're waiting, you might want to notice your present state of mind -- do you feel busy? Relaxed? How would you like to feel?

    5. Now, to begin, introduce the mantra by gently calling it to mind -- allow yourself to dwell on the idea and the feeling of the mantra in a relaxed, gentle, easy way. Don't try to concentrate. Rather, let your mind "play" with the mantra as a soft point of focus, a soothing notion. We're just going for a vague, soft, pleasant feeling here. No need to visualize clearly; no need to concentrate.

    6. If it feels easy to play with the mantra, and it feels enjoyable, and you feel some slight physical sense of relief, of comfort, then you're doing it correctly. Keep going, but keep it gentle, keep it light and easy.

    If you feel the mantra slipping away, don't try to hold on to it, let it go. You can come back to it later. We don't try to concentrate, we don't try to control the mind, just savor the mantra as a vague idea, a pleasant feeling.

    It's all right to physically move to make your self more comfortable. Meditation isn't sitting like a statue. It isn't discipline. It isn't work.

    It's a releasing of resistant thought; it is a sustained, unrestricted flow of mind.1 Done properly, it's pure pleasure, pure joy.

    7. If and when you notice you've been distracted from the mantra by other thoughts, simply center on it once again. Don't struggle -- again, don't try to control the mind. There's no need to resist thought. Just gently favor the mantra. The idea is to cycle: mantra --> thoughts --> mantra --> thoughts, and so on. Return to the mantra whenever you remember to. If the mantra you've chosen stops feeling good, simply pick another one.

    After a while, you should begin to notice pleasurable sensations, lots of relaxation and good feelings. You may get sleepy.

    Over time, you will find it that it becomes easier to stay with your focus, to center your mind. Many people find using a mantra to learn to meditate, especially a good feeling one, allows them to progress more easily than the more common practice of using the breath as a centering device. But good results are really what matters, so use the method or focus that works best for you. The key idea in all centering practices is to gently release all thoughts in favor of one thought.

    8. If you drift off, it's OK -- just start over. Again, meditation is not concentration -- it is a release of mental resistance, a letting go of discordant thought (thoughts that clash). It's becoming naturally absorbed in a pleasant, one-pointed focus. Meditation should mean less mental activity, less thoughts, not more. It's knowing one thing -- simple innocence.

    9. Keep it simple, keep it easy, keep it enjoyable. Keep track of time by peeking at a clock. Fifteen minutes should be enough of a session when you're first starting out.

    10. Above all, be sure to relax and have fun. It should feel rewarding.

    If it's not easy and enjoyable, it's not meditation.

    1"See "Meditation 101" in Longer Articles.

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