Five Meditation Techniques for Living in the Present
Meditation has become an essential tool for many living fast-paced lives simply because it is a wonderful daily practice that helps one relax and find inner peace – not by escaping from one’s challenges, but by acknowledging them and overcoming them through inner awareness… something I choose to call ‘Grace’.
Yet meditation is not a linear path, and thus not easy, as most find out when they begin! After all, the purpose of meditation is to look at your own life directly, without judgment, and without victimising yourself or demonising others. It is an immense challenge to face your own demons, and shine the light of your own consciousness on them in order to rise above your own suffering.
Meditating is truly the journey to understand your True Self. It is nothing less than taking a vast and sacred journey through your own Himalayas, both the deep valleys and the highest peaks.
Whilst there is no substitute for having access to an expert – someone who’s walked through the path of fire, so to speak, you can start to meditate on your own. After all, all you need is your own body, mind, and breath.
Today, we’re sharing five meditation techniques from renowned Zen Buddhist Master, Thich Nhat Hanh. often called ‘Thay’.
1) Mindful Breathing
Deceptively simple, you just focus on your breath in a relaxed way, without any effort,, or ‘pushing’ or ‘forcing’…
“Please, when you breathe in, do not make an effort of breathing in. You just allow yourself to breathe in. Even if you don’t breathe in it will breathe in by itself. So don’t say, “My breath, come, so that I tell you how to do.” Don’t try to force anything, don’t try to intervene, just allow the breathing in to take place….What you have to do is be aware of the fact that the breathing in is taking place. And you have more chance to enjoy your in-breath. Don’t struggle with your breath, that is what I recommend. Realize that your in breath is a wonder. When someone is dead, no matter what we do, the person will not breathe in again. So we are breathing in, that is a wonderful thing…”
Meditation brings your mind back to the present by being there with your breath. Breath is the lasso that harnesses the mind.
“This is the first recommendation on breathing that the Buddha made: When breathing in, I know this is the in-breath. When breathing out, I know this is the out-breath. When the in-breath is long, I know it is long. When it is short, I know it is short. Just recognition, mere recognition, simple recognition of the presence of the in-breath and out-breath. When you do that, suddenly you become entirely present. What a miracle, because to meditate means to be there. To be there with yourself, to be there with your in‑breath.”
According to Thich Nhat Hanh, concentration is a great source of happiness. Concentration simply means focusing on something, whether it’s your breath, a flower or a body part.
You could literally point your focus on anything, and as long as you keep that focus, you are practising mindfulness.
Buddhist monks tend to use a candle flame. If you get distracted by your thoughts, simply return your focus back to the object. You can start this for one minute and then keep on increasing the time as you get more practice.
“Anything can be the object of your meditation, and with the powerful energy of concentration, you can make a breakthrough and develop insight. It’s like a magnifying glass concentrating the light of the sun. If you put the point of concentrated light on a piece of paper, it will burn. Similarly, when your mindfulness and concentration are powerful, your insight will liberate you from fear, anger, and despair, and bring you true joy, true peace, and true happiness.”
3) Awareness of Your Body
This is the technique Thich Nhat Hanh recommends to use to get in touch with your body. All it involves is a body scan where you turn your focus to each of your body parts one by one.
Thich Nhat Hanh says that this is powerful because we rarely experience this in daily existence. Our body is ‘here’ but our mind is elsewhere.
He recommends this mantra:
“Breathing in, I’m aware of my body.”
When you practice mindful breathing, the quality of your in-breath and out-breath will be improved. There is more peace and harmony in your breathing, and if you continue to practice like that, the peace and the harmony will penetrate into the body, and the body will profit.
4) Release Tension
The next exercise is to consciously release tension in the body. When you start becoming aware of your body, you’ll notice a build up of unconscious tension in different parts of your body.
If you’ve ever had a good massage, you’ll know that you suddenly become very aware of all of those painful ‘knots’ that are there that you didn’t notice before. Where did those energy blockages come from?
The stresses and strains of life… or, better said, ‘resistance’ to ‘what is’.
Therefore, it is very important to learn how to release the tension in the body.
Thich Nhat Hanh explains:
“So next time you’re stopped at a red light, you might like to sit back and practice the fourth exercise: “Breathing in, I’m aware of my body. Breathing out, I release the tension in my body.”
Peace is possible at that moment, and it can be practiced many times a day — in the workplace, while you are driving, while you are cooking, while you are doing the dishes, while you are watering the vegetable garden. It is always possible to practice releasing the tension in yourself.
5) Mindful Walking
Remember the first technique? When you practice mindful breathing you let breathing take place without effort. You simply enjoy it. The same thing is true with mindful walking.
“You don’t have to make any effort during walking meditation, because it is enjoyable. You are there, body and mind together. You are fully alive, fully present in the here and the now. With every step, you touch the wonders of life that are in you and around you. When you walk like that, every step brings healing. Every step brings peace and joy, because every step is a miracle.
The real miracle is not to fly or walk on fire. The real miracle is to walk on the Earth, and you can perform that miracle at any time.”