Preparing the Body and Mind
Stilling the Body, Becoming Aware of the Breath
The first step toward meditation is learning to still the body. This simple training is at the very core of discipline, concen- tration, and developing the will. One way to learn this is to insist that the body remain motionless for a certain period of time. It can be as little as two or three minutes, but it con- veys the idea to the body and the mind that the mind has the power to control.
Try the following right now. Tell your body it is going to sit still—completely motionless except for the breath—for two minutes, no matter what. Close your eyes, and as you sit, observe how the body will often want to respond by moving, coughing, twitching, scratching, blinking, or some such ac- tion that says, “You cannot make me be still.”
If we train our bodies to practice being still for two minutes every day (and this can be done with a simple timer), after a while we can sit still for three minutes, then four minutes, and so on. Eventually, the mind can tell the body to be still for half an hour or even longer. As the mind gradually trains the body, the body will eventually respond more naturally and easily to the request for stillness. In time, you can learn to have a quiet mind while the body is in motion. But in the beginning, it is essential to develop the ability to make the body be motionless (but not rigid), and to be able to hold that immovable state for a period of time. As you are teach- ing the body to be still, you may find that the mind remains active. It is helpful to think of this as a kind of “training pe- riod” in which you are meditating even though you haven’t yet addressed quieting the mind.
Many people assume that they could never learn to keep the body still for long periods of time, say for one or two hours. However, I know of hundreds of people who live what we would call normal everyday lives who have developed the ability to sit motionless for long periods of time. They have the desire and intention to devote their energy to developing this ability. They set aside a certain period of time each day for the practice of meditation.
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