1. Sit with your back straight and your legs "crossed" (see bullet points). First put a cushion under your butt. I just fold a firm pillow in half. This makes your knees come down at a slight angle from your pelvis, which is very helpful for your spine. You're going for "indian style", like cross-legged but with specific feet/lower-leg positions. Options for your lower legs include:
- burmese posture: just put one leg in front of the other; legs not actually crossed (picture)
- half-lotus: one foot comes up to the inside of the opposite thigh; the other goes underneath (picture). Note if you do this or the next one be sure to switch which leg goes on top. I know it's difficult but it's very important for your health later in life
- full-lotus: both feet come up to the inside of the opposite thighs (picture). Once again, PLEASE switch sides from one day to the next, for your health.
2. The point is for your spine to be like a stack of coins - i.e. balanced simply and easily, with absolutely minimal effort from the muscles on your back AND your front to hold you up. Think of a buddha statue, nice and easy (picture). Also, here's a picture of a guy with good spinal posture.
3. Layer your hands over one another in your lap, with the palms facing UP. Doing this opens your shoulders to allow for easy, deep breath. The back of the left fingers resting on the front of the right fingers. Thumbs touch each other gently, so that you could hold a sheet of paper with the thumbs, but loose enough that someone could pluck the paper out easily (picture). Maintain this light touch throughout your sit.
4. Rest your skull on your neck, minimal neck muscles, and gaze softly at the ground in front of you, about 3 feet out. Don't close your eyes, keep them OPEN. Pick a spot and point your eyes there, don't look around. But open your gaze up. Absorb your peripheral vision; see the whole picture at once.
Now you have a discipline for your body. Next is the mental component.
5. Breathe natural, at a relaxed pace, and pay attention to the sensation of breathing. A good mental anchor is to count your breaths. As you inhale don't do anything in particular, just watch the air coming into your lungs. Let your belly expand. As you EXHALE, mentally say a number. Start with "one". Next breath, "two", and so on. Go up to "ten" and then start over at "one". And just repeat that sequence.
6. Empty your mind of all thought, and pay attention to your BREATH. As thoughts come up, simply drop them and RETURN to the breath. You will do this millions of times. The thoughts will bubble up endlessly, that's okay. Just keep dropping them and re-pointing your attention to the breath. If you need to, use each number like a sword to cut through the thought. Having your attention lapse does NOT mean you're failing. It is the act of RE-POINTING your attention that is meditation.
7. Set a TIMER. Always meditate for a specific amount of time; not until you feel "done"; for a specific, amount of time. A good starting amount is 5 minutes. Do 5 minutes each day for a week. If you feel like it, go up to 10 minutes. Maybe 12.
I'm not gonna talk about benefits. DO IT. Meditation is not knowledge; it is exercise. In exactly the same way that lifting weights is not knowledge; it is exercise. Also keep in mind it's a skill, like saying the alphabet backwards. First time it's awkward and difficult. You'll get better with practice. Your goal when you start should be to spend as much time as possible with your attention on your breath; not on what you're going to have for dinner, or the argument with your bartender, or what time you should get up tomorrow, or whatever else. The average beginner will get maybe 10 seconds TOTAL out of 5 minutes of sitting. So don't worry about it if your mind is jumping around like a monkey. That's normal. Just calmly bring it back, again and again and again. When the timer goes off, get up and go about your day as normal. Tomorrow, come back and do it again.
As promised, here are the steps in super-short form once again:
1. Sit with your back straight and your legs "crossed"
2. The point is for your spine to be like a stack of coins - i.e. balanced simply and easily.
3. Layer your hands over one another in your lap, with the palms facing UP.
4. Rest your skull on your neck, minimal neck muscles, and gaze softly at the ground in front of you, about 3 feet out.
5. Breathe natural, at a relaxed pace, and pay attention to the sensation of breathing.
6. Empty your mind of all thought, and pay attention to your BREATH. As thoughts come up, simply drop them and RETURN to the breath.
7. Set a TIMER. Always meditate for a specific amount of time; not until you feel "done"; for a specific, amount of time.