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Response to Reader Query

June '08

Sometimes I receive a question from a reader that seems to warrant a response of more than a sentence or two in the comment box below each issue of MIDLIFE DISCOVERY. After reading last month’s “In Pursuit of Self-Care,” Kay sent me an email with the query, “How do I begin to meditate?”

Believe me, I am no expert on meditation, but I feel content responding to this question out of my own experience. As you may remember, I embarked on a systematic meditation practice at the beginning of the year. I used a book called the The Presence Process by Michael Brown. He outlines an intense 10-week plan, including water immersion for a few of the sessions, which I actually followed. And if this approach seems to call you, by all means try it. But, in general, I suggest you begin meditating by just doing it.

Get yourself in a comfortable seated, upright position. [I’m not one for hard floors, or chairs, because “comfortable” is the operative word here and hard chairs, or floors are not comfortable for me. But whatever works for you is great.] And then you can begin your meditation by simply closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing. [Again, if you don’t like to close your eyes, leave them open, but do lower them.] As you begin to meditate, you can feel the air move across your nostrils and your belly rise as you breathe in and then sense your body relax and your belly fall as you breathe out. You can let the cares of the day float away, as you continue to breathe easily and relax more and more.

If you are like most folks, your thoughts may begin to wander, and your thinking may even move into the worry stage. Or some background noises may distract you. When you find yourself in the land of thought, or bothered by background noises, simply return to your breath.

As Eckhart Tolle says, in A New Earth,

“Being aware of your breath forces you into the present moment – the key to all transformation. Whenever you are conscious of your breath, you are absolutely present. You will also notice that you cannot think and be aware of your breathing. Conscious breathing stops your mind. But far from being in a trance or half asleep, you are fully awake and highly alert.”

Another question folks ask about meditation is how long should I do it? Why not start with 5 minutes a day for a week or two, and then move to 10 minutes, if that feels right for you. I meditate 15 minutes, twice a day, except when I don’t. There are monks who meditate 2 hours a day, and longer. Whatever works for you is perfect! In addition, I may also stop and meditate very briefly for a few minutes during the day, if my worry wheels start spinning. For me, meditation is very calming. I also find that items, which may have slipped beneath my radar come to my attention during my meditation, so I keep my planner handy.

Most importantly, meditation is a way for me to come home to myself – it just feels yummy. So if you like, why not give it a try?


P.S. Feel free to add to the comment box!


  1. Julie Cusmariu said on June 23, 2008:

    Thank you for sharing this question and answer. I am intrigued by the water submersion and it’s always helpful for me to hear about meditation and the purpose it serves. Practicing presence is always an important reminder for me. It is a beautiful state to be in.
    Thank you !

  2. Kay Flynn said on June 24, 2008:

    Thanks for answering my query! I will try to find time to start meditating, and to practice “being in the present” by concentrating on awareness of breathing!

  3. bonnieleonard said on June 30, 2008:

    Looks like it’s a great summer for self-care: )


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