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My First Meditation

My First Meditation

February 07, 2011

Following only basic Vipassana guidance, a first attempt at meditation is a fascinating experience in many unexpected ways.

"For Vipassana meditation, a half lotus is great; a full lotus, even better. Then, you want to find a spot on the floor in front of you – not to focus on, just to aim your gaze at. Now, to begin, we’re going to take 7 deep breaths and then breathe normally, focusing on the breath coming out of our nose – from the nostrils, across your top lip… across your bottom lip, maybe, it depends how you’re breathing. And whenever you find yourself focusing on something else: come back to the breath.



Start with the breath, the air crossing my upper lip. My… moustachioed upper lip. The air’s only coming out of my right nostril. The left one must still be blocked from that strange illness I had last week. The vitamin B complex tablets seem to have fixed me up, though.

Come back to the breath. In… and out, my chest expanding and contracting. The guests in the next room are talking in French. I should study French again. God, I studied it for five years in high school, and it would be so great to be able to speak it properly. Maybe I should ask Fran?oise to teach me.

Come back to the breath. In. Out. I like that name. Francoise. What was the name of that Spanish woman in my second year German class? Ah, Florencia. Beautiful name, Florencia. The way it rolls off the tongue is so pleasing. Florrrrrrencia. If I have a daughter someday, I might call her that. Florencia.

Come back to the breath. The power just cut – the light went out and the ceiling fan stopped. The air in the room’s getting heavier and warmer. It’s okay. The scent of incense wafts into the room from somewhere nearby. Damn, I just remembered, Gavin asked me to bring incense and I completely forgot.

I guess we got some anyway. Next time I won’t forget. Back to the breath. They’re still talking away next door, about a misunderstanding with a taxi or something. Gavin goes and asks them to speak more quietly – he seems flustered… Actually, maybe I am too, because my mouth is becoming damper with saliva – I need to swallow- *COUGH!* *PANIC!* Argh, it went down the wrong way! I can’t breathe! *COUGH* *COUGH*

Back to the-

*COUGH!*Not quite okay yet.


*cough* Nearly there. Clear throat once. Okay. Phew. God, I’m sweating. Tears spilling from my eyes at the choking feeling.

Back to the breath. Focus… Okay now. Feel so much sweat on my forehead, my arms, my neck, but I am still breathing. This is so interesting. I want to go and write about this as soon as we finish. Gavin wants to start writing some stuff down too, it could be a motivation for both of us. I’ll start – yes – start with his introduction, then go through my thoughts while sitting here, the roads my mind sprints down, uninhibited, faster than I can convert them into language – and always keep returning-

-back to the breath. And in… And out... And my eyes are closing halfway… And the patch of light on the floor in front of me is spreading... And I can see exactly how I’m going to write this piece… And the outside of my right ankle is getting really sore


“And… break.”


A few moments of silence.

“So – when you have a break during Vipassana, you might feel a strong desire to keep meditating… and you are of course welcome to do so. You can meditate through the break.”

I didn’t, but I told Gavin that my mind was indeed constantly going elsewhere, and often into the future. Thinking about writing this piece, or about studying French again; thinking about potential events and paths rather than events that have already happened.

“That’s great, great that you’re thinking that. Because of course, the point of it isn’t to focus on the breath, it’s to be aware of how the mind wanders – by always coming back to the breath. It can be quite frustrating, and even get quite intense, to have to keep reminding yourself to do so – that’s quite normal, or at least it is for me. But that’s part of it.”

I then asked him how my posture was. When he said it was absolutely fine, I told him that I still wasn’t very comfortable.

“Well, usually when you start out you want more cushions – that’s why I’m sitting on a rolled-up sleeping bag on top of a pillow. It makes a half lotus or a full lotus easier. Here, try two folded-over pillows, one on top of the other. Sit on that, then tuck your left foot as far under as you can, then your right- ah, that’s brilliant! Yes. Let’s do another 15 minutes.”


7 in, 7 out. Expanding, contracting.

Focus on the breath as it exits my nose. If I visualise my nostrils as I breathe, I find it very easy to focus on them. I’m focusing on an image in my mind, though, and not on the sensation of breathing. So,

Come back to the breath. I just cannot believe how much more comfortable I am with these extra cushions, how I can indeed have my legs tucked under me. I’ve seen people who look like this and wondered how the hell they do it. I want to smile and giggle with joy. It’s always the same for me when I discover I can do, or understand, something that I previously believed I could not, like when I get a yoga pose right. It’s simply joyous. Resisting the urge to laugh with delight is a challenge. Maybe I’m just really easy to please?

Back to the breath. A little deeper, a little shallower. Raising and lowering my gaze. Breathing. In and out, in and out, slower, try to go slower. My heart seems to be beating faster than it should. Slower breathing will slow my heart and keep me from sweating. Wait a moment…

Back to the breath. I can clearly visualise how the finished article’s going to look. It’s going to be perf-

Back to the breath. My brain seems to be onto something else before I even focus. I just did it again!

Come back. Breathe, focus. Bring the gaze closer. If I bring that point on the floor closer to my body, I am closer to forming an imaginary equilateral triangle. It’s always a right-angled triangle, though, wherever my gaze rests. Or is it, now that I’m raised up off the ground like this? Damn, it isn’t!

Back to the… I see what he meant about it getting frustrating, having to keep reminding myself to come back. And back. And back. At least I’m still totally comfortable in this pose. Come on, focus.

Come back… in and out… slower… faster… slower… yes.


My chest has started tingling. Oh my God, that’s extraordinary. I’ve never felt anything like this before. Back…

The tingling feeling is spreading out from the centre of my chest. I want to start laughing again. It’s something completely new and different, and it feels great.

Back… no way, I no longer want to keep coming back to the breath! This is an incredible sensation. I never expected anything like this. It’s wonderful.




Nope, no break, not yet. I’m gonna stay right here, grinning like I did aged 6 when I learned how to ride a bike. I feel the tingling begin to subside. I suppose it’s because I’m focusing on it. I bring my right hand to my chest, expecting to feel a warm, resonant vibration, but there’s nothing – and the tingling quickly dissipates, leaving me ever so slightly disappointed…

…but utterly inspired.


Much later, as I write this, I realise how difficult it is (and how much focus it would take) to recreate that visualisation I had of the perfect article. I am incapable of recreating the feelings I had through words on the page, at least for now.

Overall, however, my first meditation was a completely satisfying experience, better for having no expectations and not trying to live up to any rules or ‘right way’ to do it. I can easily see meditation becoming part of the routine of my life. The highlight was certainly that otherworldly tingling at the end and I hope to experience that again, but as Gavin points out, the more I focus on recreating that, the less likely it is to happen. So, as I continue to practise and learn, there’s only one thing to remember:

just come back to the breath


  • Suryanarayana Chennapragada
    Suryanarayana Chennapragada
    09.03.12 06:53 AM
    Several setbacks in meditation are due to habitual patterns of thinking, talking and behaving. Any change in these entrenched patterns meets with conscious and unconscious resistance. The mind finds all kinds of excuses to prevent any change from the status quo. I can certify from my experience over last 9 years that ‘Focusing on breathing’ at bed time and immediately on waking up, both the times, lying in the bed, eyes closed, is a simple strategy, to subtly reduce the resistance to change. Practicing this technique for a few weeks or months, lays a strong and sustainable foundation for meditation. I found that the focus on breathing can be dramatically enhanced by using the fingers to track the breaths. One mode is to use the tips of the fingers as described below.

    **** TIP MODE: Touch the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger. Breathe in and out three times, counting in the mind, every time you breathe out. During the first out breath count ‘one’, second out breath ‘two’ and during the third out breath ‘three’. Repeat the same steps at each of the next three finger tips. When you are at the thumb, place the tip of the index finger at the base of the thumb and breathe three times. Then switch to the other hand and repeat the same process. Continue practicing, switching the hands. You will feel its calming effect, by the time you complete 4 to 6 hands, which takes 2 to 3 minutes. You can use this mode, anywhere and anytime to avert potential stress or dissolve built up stress!****

    For five other modes of ‘focusing on breathing’ – Segment mode, Counting mode, Feeling mode, Staring mode and 911 modes, please visit this page

    I have been using ‘focusing on breathing’ technique throughout the day, using one or more of the modes. During my daily meditation, initially, I count my breaths in sets of three and when the mind becomes less distracted I switch to my mantra. After about 9 years of meditation, and simple stretching, I now feel like I have a new mind and body!
  • Barnaby Haszard Morris
    Barnaby Haszard Morris
    20.02.11 03:34 PM
    Thank you everyone for your comments! I'm just glad that I seem to have portrayed a lot of people's experiences accurately. I always felt like there was such a mystique surrounding most writing about meditation, so I sought to simply report exactly what happened without any embellishment. Hopefully it encourages more people to try it!
  • Guzmán
    10.02.11 09:45 PM
    Jiddu Krishnamurti telling a joke...

    “There are three monks, who had been sitting in deep meditation for many years amidst the Himalayan snow peaks, never speaking a word, in utter silence. One morning, one of the three suddenly speaks up and says, ‘What a lovely morning this is.’ And he falls silent again. Five years of silence pass, when all at once the second monk speaks up and says, ‘But we could do with some rain.’ There is silence among them for another five years, when suddenly the third monk says, ‘Why can’t you two stop chattering?”

  • Geeta Singh
    Geeta Singh
    09.02.11 02:05 PM
    very nicely described , i liked it!! thanks for sharing!!
  • nandita prakash
    nandita prakash
    08.02.11 08:06 PM
    hey i too have had a similar experience buddy. could relate to it so much
    very nice technique- stream of consciousness.outstanding work. cheers to u sweetheart. i too would soon write about my tale about out
  • R-A-J
    08.02.11 07:32 PM
    (Florrrencia !!!) Great read. Really liked the way u (must pay maid tomorro....) interjected the various (Ahhh!! Project update tomo!!! Got more work...) thoughts that take away ur focus from ur (wonder how flowers get their colors...hmmm...) meditation. (must plan 4 dinner tonite ...) Great one, NRI... LOL!:)
  • uma.a
    08.02.11 07:07 PM
    Loved this post so much.A little bit yoga,a little laugh and a little message.
  • arpana
    08.02.11 02:04 PM
    Vippassana-lovely-a blissful feeling, i am looking forward for it.
  • Marika
    07.02.11 09:03 PM
    Lol I think this is the funniest post I've ever read when it comes to meditation. But you know, it's darn true. I'm meditating for a few years now and these intruding (and weird at times) thoughts are difficult to keep away from the mind. Easier said than done!

    Marika from" rel="nofollow">meditation techniques
  • Nandhini
    07.02.11 12:12 PM
    Absolutely a realistic post! Every one in the beginning passes these stages. Your words can give a whole lot of inspiration to the beginners because I see 9 out of 10 beginners give up during this stage. I loved reading!

    Good wishes!

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