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Everyday Meditation
Tobin Blake : Meditation Day 1

Meditation Day 1

Excerpted from Everyday Meditation
by Tobin Blake

We are going to begin our hundred-day journey together with a simple exercise. The meditation for today is a form of zazen, already briefly discussed. If you are just trying meditation for the first time, it may seem more like an exercise in futility than anything else, but I promise you that there is a point to it. Try not to judge any of the meditations that follow, but simply practice them to the best of your ability. We are not so much concerned with the specific meditative practices as with the state of mind they lead to.

If this, or any other practice, seems a bit pointless, keep in mind that the simplest meditations are often the most effective. Ideally, we want to use techniques that are not overly complex so that we can gain a sense of the internal peace that lies beyond the meditative procedure. Using heavy, complicated meditations is like overspicing a meal. Delicate flavors can easily be ruined by a heavy-handed chef.

  1. Two times today, morning and evening, find a quiet space where you can be alone for five to fifteen minutes (or longer if you are more experienced), and adopt a comfortable seated position.
  2. Begin by taking several deep, cleansing breaths, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. During this initial sequence, make sure you are inhaling fully into the base of your lungs so that your abdomen expands with each in-breath like a pregnant woman's belly; likewise, exhale completely, squeezing the diaphragm to push all the air, and carbon dioxide (waste), out. Try to think of the lungs as a sponge. You need to really squeeze them to clear them out.
  3. Next, as you continue to breathe deeply, with each out-breath, feel your muscles begin to relax from head to toe, focusing on one body part at a time: head, face (especially your jaw and brow), neck, and shoulders; arms, hands, and fingers; torso and hips; then your legs, feet, and toes. Allow any stored tension to drain away; then take a moment to survey your body and try to relax any areas that are still holding tension. When you start to sense the beginnings of relaxation, let your breathing return to normal. This whole relaxation sequence should take no more than about two minutes.
  4. Now, begin counting your inhalations and exhalations silently to yourself. For instance, on your next in-breath, think "one." And then as you exhale, think "two." Inhale, "three." Exhale, "four."
  5. Continue counting your breaths in this manner without allowing other thoughts to distract you from this simple practice. When you reach "ten," start over from "one." Also, whenever you realize that you have stopped counting and started thinking, gently but firmly return to the practice of counting your breaths, beginning from "one."

This is the entire practice, which should be continued through-out the duration of the meditation period. Set a timer, watch, or alarm to keep track of the time, or just open your eyes briefly to check the time. When you are finished, open your eyes and take a moment or two to readjust to the outside world, allowing the lingering sense of peace to stay with you. An important goal of meditation is to learn how to transfer the peace of your meditative practice to real-world life and its stresses. •

Next: Meditation 101 »

© 2012 Tobin Blake. All rights reserved.

Updated 1/20/14