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Musings 1 - Basics
by WolfWhyt

Or: Are you sure you know how to breath?

This series of lessons is a basic study in meditation. The first couple lessons will cover some basics of meditation, mainly focus and relaxation. The next several lessons will then delve into meditation and building the mental landscape. Meditation is one of the easiest ways to connect to your subconscious and train your inner brain. It also lets you connect to deeper levels of your inner self in a different way. It is also an excellent form of relaxation and rejuvenation.

However before we actually get to meditation, we're going to first go over some of the basics. The prerequisites you might say. In order to meditate, you must be relaxed (yes, you need to be relaxed to meditate and meditate to relax), and the easiest way to relax is very simple: breathing.

We all breathe, its just slightly required for life, but we don't all breathe correctly. Take a moment right now and close your eyes. Don't change anything, but just feel how you breathe, feel how your body moves while you are breathing in and out. Which part of your body moves most when you breathe? Your shoulders or your stomach?

Your stomach should move the most when you breathe in. This movement means that you are using your diaphragm to breathe, which is what its meant for. If your shoulders are moving more, this means that you are trying to use your intercostals and other muscles in your upper torse to breathe. The intercostals are small muscles that run between your ribs. They are there to be used to aid your breathing, but are not meant to be the main muscles used in breathing. By only using these accessory muscles, you are using only part of your entire lung volume.

You should also breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. This is recommended for many reasons depending on what you are studying. It also makes sense physiologically. Breathing through your nose, removes small contaminants from the air, warms the air and humidifies it before it reaches your lungs. All of these allow your lungs to work better and since this is what your nose is setup for, go ahead and use it.

To fix these mistakes, find a comfortable chair and 10-15 minutes of time. Just sit down in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Place a hand on your stomach, right over the navel. As you breath in through your nose, breath down and let your stomach expand. Make a conscious effort to move your hand that's resting on your stomach. Keep your shoulders level, they should move very little as you breathe in and out. Breath out through your mouth, letting your stomach and hand drop back to a resting position. Once you can do this, sit back and just breathe. Breathe at a slow rate that is comfortable to you. Make sure you continue to breathe down through your diaphragm during the entire time.

Many of you have probably heard of square breathing, this is where you breathe in for a set count, hold the breath for the same number, breath out for the same number and hold for the same number before repeating. I have heard of both 3 and 4 count square breathing. When I was taught this breathing exercise, I was actually told to use a 3 count square breath. However, I found myself concentrating too much on the count and actually breathing slower than was comfortable for me, which resulted in my needing to break the rhythm to take a deep breath every so often. Because of this difficulty, I personally do not recommend square breathing and instead make the recommendation for a slow steady rhythm. Feel free to try the square breathing if you'd like, but do not feel compelled to use it if you are not comfortable with it.

Do this exercise twice a day. Start with 5 minute sessions (or longer if you're comfortable) and work up to 15 minute sessions. I personally recomend one at midday and one later in the evening.

The other prerequisite to meditation is focus. You must be able to hold your mind still and focus on only the visualization you are using with your meditation. To get the most of your meditation, your mind should remain fixed on the meditation and not float off on tangents or different topics.

This is possibly one of the hardest things to be honest with yourself about. You muse be willing to put aside pride and competetiveness and simply be honest. This is the only way you will truly advance.

The exercise to increase your focus is very simple and can even be done during the breathing exercise. Simply clear your mind and count your breaths. Think of nothing but the next breath you are about to take. Stop counting when you think of anything else, clear your mind and start counting again.

When I first started this exercise, I could barely get to 1. Over the course of several weeks though, I was able to increase my focus so that I can count much higher now. I say that to show that everyone needs work on some things. Simply be honest with yourself and use these exercises to increase some basic abilities. These will help you not just in meditation, but in many other areas of your life as well.