The gate to enlightenment lies before us,
Though we hesitate at the door
Let us draw up a comfortable cushion
And rest it on the floor.
--C.Alexander Simpkins

Getting Ready

Meditation Postures
Fundamental, simple postures are most conducive to meditation: sitting, standing, and lying down. Once you are more experienced, you will find that you don't have to be sitting still to meditate. You will naturally be able to extend the meditative attitude into more aspects of your daily life, such as when you are moving and doing things. But when first starting, you can learn to develop a comfortable sitting posture, aligned with gravity. The following exercise helps you discover a posture and become at ease with it.

Finding Your Sitting Posture
The sitting position is the most common meditative posture. Sit cross-legged on the floor or on a small cushion. If you are not able to sit comfortably on the floor, sit in a chair. Close your eyes fully or partially. Keep your back relatively straight and your shoulders open without hunching forward, so that your breathing passages are clear and your head is straight.

You may place your hands comfortably in your lap, or you might prefer to try one of the traditional hand positions. Extend your arms so that the backs of your hands are over your knees. Lightly touch your forefinger and thumb in a circle, with the other three fingers extended. Another method is to fold your two hands together. Fingertips can be either together or with a rounded space between them. A third method is to place your hands one on top of the other, palms up, with thumbs touching. Find the position that is most comfortable for you.

Now you are ready to find your center. Sway forward very slightly, then back--not so far as to lose your balance, but just enough to feel a gentle shift.. Rock forward, then back several times. Feel the motion as you move back and forth passing through a natural balance point at the center.Gently sway back and forth until you can feel the center point sitting feels most effortless. Next, rock sideways: left, then right. Repeat several times, noticing once again as you pass through the comfortable center. When you have found your center, you will feel poised and relaxed, at one with gravity, sitting more effortlessly than usual.

A Place to Meditate
People often ask, Where should I meditate? The atmosphere of the place you choose can be very helpful, although once you are well acquainted with meditation, you can do it almost anywhere.
At first, find a quiet place to meditate. It may be a quiet room or just a corner of your house. Set up the area with a meditation pillow for sitting or a mat to lie down on. Lighting should be subdued, not too dark or too bright. Some people also like to burn incense or bring in a fragrant or lush plant. Zen tea rooms are traditionally decorated naturally and simply to create an atmosphere of sanctuary. A single flower in a vase and a lone calligraphic scroll hanging on a blank wall are usually the only decorations. Pillows on a wooden floor make up the furnishings. Keep it simple: quiet surroundings to foster a quiet mind.

Nature can be inspirational for meditation. Meditation done outdoors, at a park, in the woods, or perhaps in a beautiful garden can help to bring about a feeling of Oneness. Water can also have a calming effect. The beach, the shore of a lake, the edge of a pond, or the banks of a stream can all be possible sites for a meditation session.

Sometimes people choose to meditate with a group. The commitment and momentum of many people embarking on meditation together, striving for enlightenment, might carry you along. Others prefer solitude and privacy, feeling that the group atmosphere is distracting. Whether you choose to meditate with others or alone is a matter of personal preference. There are many meditation centers and retreats available. They offer from hour-long up to month-long retreats for regular meditation. Yet, your own personal, private experience, alone or with someone may be complete. There are no prerequisite conditions, but one: meditate!

The most important consideration in choosing a place to meditate is that you feel at ease there. Return to the same place each time for meditation. Habit and consistency help. Eventually you will find that meditation flows naturally in your special place.

A Time to Meditate
Whenever we have given a lecture on meditation, people complain that their lives are too hectic and busy already and that they could not imagine finding any time to meditate. They are always surprised to discover that meditation can be done in as short a period as one minute to begin a process! How much time you devote to meditation is a personal matter. Undoubtedly there are wasted moments in your day or evening that you could make use of. A beginner can start off with one or two minutes a day and work up to a half hour, but even ten minutes a day can be effective. The inner mind does not function on clock time the way our everyday consciousness does. Sometimes the deepest meditative experience occurs in a flash. Then again, an insight may evolve over many months of meditative practice.

Meditate at least one time nearly every day. If you are working on something, you should meditate several times during the day. Start from where you are, devoting the time that you can comfortablely fit within your schedule, whatever you can do. But above all, meditate regularly! Be faithful to your practice. In time you will be able to meditate as long as you like.

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