The portfolio and writerspace for Al Gentile

Meditation for a restful sleep

King’s Garden, Copenhagen

Below is my (mostly) nightly meditation practice. I find that I sleep more deeply, wake up more restful, and am often less stressed out during the following day.

Try these steps, and see if they work for you:

  1. Find a comfortable sitting position
    • I sit on the ground cross-legged, but there are many different positions you can use. In the cross-legged position, you must be upright, with the shoulders relaxed, and your chin resting downward.The best way to achieve comfort in this position is to use a pillow and prop yourself up a bit. I use an old bed pillow folded in on both sides. Here, you’ll have to try a few different combinations of pillow shape and sitting posture to find a position in which you can sit upright with ease.
  2. Take deep breaths and combine with a good stretch
    • As you breath through your nose, focus on filling the stomach. As you breath more deeply it will fill up to your chest.As I breath, I slowly move my arms from a position at my sides and up, pointing to the ceiling. As my hands meet I hold my breath for a moment, then breath out through my mouth, slowly letting my hands come back to rest at my sides.

      After the third breath, I clasp my hands together and lower then down an imaginary line splitting my body in two. Once my hands are in front of my diaphragm, I rest them palms-down on my knees.

      At this point, begin shorting your breaths slowly. Almost immediately, such common tension points as your shoulders and neck will start loosening. Achieving physical calmness is a prerequisite to mental calmness.

  3. Break down insecurities and expectations
    • This is where the real work begins. First, I try to calm the mind of swirling thoughts as much as possible. Many experts agree one great way to achieve this is to concentrate on your breathing. On Meditation, written by prolific Buddhist teacher Ajahn Chah, suggests focusing on the feeling of the breath passing through the nose, then the feeling of the breath passing out the lips, is an incredibly easy way to “focus on the breath”.Then, after you have found a place of calm while focusing on the breath, start to take stock of your day, piece by piece. Did you complete everything you set out to do? Was there something you missed? Is there something you could have done better?

      It is usually at this point that most people feel the expectations of themselves for that day cause them trouble in their thought process. This part takes practice, but trying to simply understand the above points without holding any feelings towards them helps me lead to true mindfulness and calm.

      Did you complete everything you set out to do? It’s asking yourself the simple question, with the simple answer of yes or no.

      Was there something you missed? Take stock, and think truly about the reasons why. Did you plan on too much for that day? Did something hold you up? Could something have been done more efficiently?

      Is there something you could have done better? Treat this question in the exact same way you would give advice to someone else. Observe your experience as if you were an outsider talking to someone else.

      The real important part of this thought process is to not let the emotions run amok. We all experience self-depreciation thinking about our own shortcomings, but as we have a long life to live, there is more than enough time to improve and evolve. This takes practice, so be patient with yourself.

  4. Exit the meditative state slowly
    • After some time at rest, you are ready to exit the meditative state. I use the way I entered the state in reverse, slowly dropping my hands at my sides, then breathing deeply and lifting up, reaching to the ceiling and often bending from side to side to achieve a really great stretch. I repeat this three times, on the third breath clasping the hands together, and pulling them down a central line in front of myself.

As with all practices, this has to be done repeatedly to truly reach a calm, meditative state. If you are discouraged, ask anybody who practices meditation about how long it took them to achieve mindfulness, calm, and physical relaxation. Personally, it took me about three months of daily practice before being able to consistently reach a point I felt comfortable in, especially when analyzing my expectations—this can be a difficult aspect to deal with, but with time you will start to reach a state I can only describe as blissful.

Try this out for yourself, and start reading. As above, one suggested reading is On Meditation, which I downloaded for free on my iPad through the Books app.

If you have a different nightly meditation routine, I’d love to hear about it and try your method. Leave a link or comment below.


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