Q. Do you have suggestions on how to practice contemplative meditation; practical, step-by-step ways to achieve it?

A. I consider contemplative meditation to be a stress reducer and an aspect of spirituality. It involves calmly and quietly pondering a specific idea or concept as compared with concentrating on a specific sound, word, or mantra. It may include Directed, Mindful, Quieting, Stress-reducing meditation forms, as well as some types of prayer. Avoid getting hung up on any “rules” or “shoulds” about your style of contemplative meditation. I can tell you how I do it.

  1. Decide that you will engage in contemplative meditation—say for a period of ten (10) minutes. You may decide to meditate every day or three times a week. Select a schedule that works for you so you will actually do it.
  2. Typically I do some brain breathing first: inhale to a count of four, hold your breath for a count of twelve, and exhale to a count of eight. After three or four of those breaths I decide what body position I’ll assume for this episode of contemplative meditation.
  3. You may have a favorite body position or you may vary it. Sometimes I sit quietly in my recliner, eyes closed, muscles relaxed. Sometimes I stand at the window looking out at the water. Once in a while I even walk along a path in nature, eyes open so I don’t stumble, but keeping one central idea in mind to ponder. (Usually this is something for which I am grateful.)
    Note: I realize that some say that you must always sit on the floor in a yoga position in order to “really do this right.” I laugh when I hear that. With scoliosis syndrome I have never, ever, been able to sit on the floor in a yoga position—so I do what works for my brain and body. Sometimes that may mean lying quietly on a comfortable surface, eyes closed, and muscles consciously relaxed for ten (10) minutes.
  4. Select the idea or concept you will ponder for the period of ten (10) minutes. Whenever your mind wanders to another concept, just say to yourself, “I am returning to the path of contemplation,” and bring your mind back to your chosen idea or concept.
  5. At the end of ten (10) minutes I tell myself: “I am refreshed,” and return to my regular schedule or duties. At times I am amazed at the ideas that pop into my brain over the next few hours related to the idea or concept I was pondering.
    Note:  If you find yourself falling asleep in a specific position (or almost any position, for that matter), then you likely are sleep-deprived. You may want to take a look at that and determine how much sleep your brain really needs in every 24-hour period.
  6. I usually end with two or three more brain breaths.