“As you find your seat, relax, and completely be yourself,” says Susan Gwaltney. “Then delight in that feeling.” The key to a comfortable and happy meditation, she says, is to find a comfortable seated posture where you can breathe fully, and then use the breath to keep coming back to the present moment.
Susan is leading a small group of us in a 45-minute Mindfulness and guiding us with gentle reminders to return to our breath, which is now our point of focus. We use it as an anchor to help us when our minds wander, to bring our minds and bodies back to this present moment.
To find our “seat,” she tells us to either sit in a supported chair, or on the floor on a cushion or blanket. I settle on a chair and support my spine by slightly drawing my navel in and dropping my shoulders. I’m trying to stay relaxed and not create tension.
This circle opens my heart center and I feel my breath ease. Susan is teaching us how to keep energy moving up our spines for support, and how the energy then draws down the back, like a circle of energy — all so that we can sit with a straight spine, and open lungs. She reminds us to breathe slowly and fully. “Breathing in through the nose, suspend the breath and then exhale through the nose, relax.”
We then concentrate on our point of focus. With my eyes closed, I focus on my breathing, deep and full breaths. Focusing on a hand gesture, a mudra, or a word or sound, a mantra, is also a great way to practice.
Similarly to the breath, mudras and mantras act as anchors that bring us to the present moment. One mantra that Susan guides us in is from the Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, and it begins with:
Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.
Simple words to say, but as a beginner to meditation, I slowly follow my thoughts and distractions of the day before bringing myself back to the moment and mantra. “We meditate,” says Susan, “so that we are used to being calm and relaxed. We want to create a stable platform for the changes and impermanence of life. One that is stable and undisturbed.”
The meditation continues for about 15-20 minutes and then Susan finishes by ringing a chime and leading us:
Breathing in, I go back to the present moment.
Breathing out, I know this is a wonderful moment. It’s the place where life can be found, where I realize I am alive. I arrive at every moment.
She reminds us, “That this is our meditation practice. To come back home, to the here and now. It’s the practice of freedom.”