Features such as having a really pleasant surrounding is very beneficial.  Some people love to meditate outside, with nature surrounding them – others have a beautiful place in their home, private and special, and decorated in a way that offers serenity and comfort.  Incense, candles, music … all of these are your choice, but they do enhance your peacefulness.  When you practise meditation you need to have a comfortable seat and a good posture. The most important feature of the posture is to keep your back straight. To help you do this, if you are sitting on a cushion on the floor, make sure that the back of the cushion is slightly higher than the front, inclining your pelvis slightly forward. It is not necessary at first to sit cross-legged, but it is a good idea to become accustomed to sitting in this posture if possible. If you cannot hold this posture, you should sit in one which is as close to this as possible, while remaining comfortable.

Of course, meditation must be something that is enjoyable and so if sitting as above causes you discomfort, by all means adopt your own posture with which you feel the most comfortable.  If you lie down to meditate though, you will invariably find that you fall asleep – hence it is best to take on a seated position.

Lotus Posture

The following seven features of the Lotus posture are:
(1)   The legs are crossed in the lotus posture (yoga). This helps to reduce thoughts and feelings of desirous attachment.
(2)   The right hand is placed in the left hand, palms upwards, with the tips of the thumbs slightly raised and gently touching. The hands are held about four fingers’ width below the navel. This helps to develop good concentration. The right hand symbolises method and the left hand symbolises wisdom – the two together symbolise the union of method and wisdom. The two thumbs at the level of the navel symbolise the blazing of inner fire.
(3)   The back is straight, but not tense. This helps to develop and maintain a clear mind, and it allows the subtle energy winds to flow freely.
(4)   The lips and teeth are held as usual, but the tongue touches against the back of the upper teeth. This prevents excessive salivation while also preventing our mouth from becoming too dry.
(5)   The head is tipped a little forward with the chin slightly tucked in so that the eyes are cast down. This helps prevent mental excitement.
(6)   The eyes are neither wide open nor completely closed, but remain half open and gaze down along the line of the nose. If the eyes are wide open, we are likely to develop mental excitement and if they are closed, we are likely to develop mental sinking.
(7)   The shoulders are level and the elbows are held slightly away from the sides to let air circulate.

A further feature of this posture is the preliminary breathing meditation, which prepares your mind for developing a good motivation. When you sit down to meditate, your mind is usually full of disturbing thoughts, and you cannot immediately convert such a state of mind into the virtuous one you need as your motivation. A negative, disturbed state of mind is like pitch-black cloth. You cannot dye pitch-black cloth any other colour unless you first remove all the black dye and make the cloth white again. In the same way, if you want to colour your mind with a virtuous motivation you need to clear away all your negative thoughts and distractions. You can accomplish this temporarily by practising breathing meditation.

When you have settled down comfortably on your meditation seat, begin by becoming aware of the thoughts and distractions that are arising in your mind. Then, gently turn your attention to your breath, letting its rhythm remain normal. As you breathe out, imagine that you are breathing away all disturbing thoughts and distractions in the form of black smoke that vanishes in space. As you breathe in, imagine that you are breathing in all the blessings and inspiration of the Universe, in the form of white light that enters your body and absorbs into your heart. Maintain this visualisation single-pointedly with each inhalation and exhalation for twenty-one rounds, or until your mind has become peaceful and alert. If you concentrate on your breathing in this way, negative thoughts and distractions will temporarily disappear because you cannot concentrate on more than one object at a time. At the conclusion of your breathing meditation you should think ‘Now I have received the blessings and inspiration of all the Universe.‘ At this stage your mind is like a clean white cloth which you can now colour with a virtuous motivation such as compassion.

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