Practice daily meditation – it is how your God and you are and remain in relationship. If you notice that you are skipping a daily meditation practice, stop and ask yourself what you are escaping from seeing in yourself. Meditation should only be done by people of great courage. Meditation will be a time to see what is true. When you skip meditation “because you are too busy” you are defiling your vocation as a priest and you threaten the equilibrium which is the foundation of your ability to be a good pastor and leader. You are also living an anesthetized life.
Begin your prayer or meditation sessions with stretching your body – open arms, stretch back, stretch neck, open chest, downward dog, hand on door-frame and then turning away from the frame to stretch open one’s chest, etc. When you dismiss stretching as “unspiritual,” you are just being ridiculous and lazy.
Choose the place and the sitting posture with care; shift your butt back in the chair or on the cushion with feet flat (if sitting in a chair), hands on laps, torso slightly leaning forward, head and chin up for good breathing, eyes closed halfway, phones off, no noise, no interruptions.
Begin meditation with good,deep breathing to intentionally over-oxygenate your blood and trick your heart into allowing down to, in turn, slow your metabolism. If you get stressed by thoughts you find hard to easily dismiss, then repeat this breathing session.
Meditation set-up-breathing process: take a deep breath, add three inward-inhaling puffs to expand the lungs to absolute capacity. Hold the breath in to the count of ten and let the body’s blood circulate through the lungs and over-oxygenate the blood, calming the body (happy with lots of oxygen in a society which lives on short, shallow breaths). Then exhale to the count of ten slowly. Repeat this three times.
Counting to ten while holding the breath is really very effective to oxygenate the blood and so calm the body and reduce the heart-rate thereby centering our prayer or meditation. Our brain notices the messages from our body which say that we have lots and lots of oxygen (this is so different from the normal body-state in which so many of us are breathing very shallow breaths due to over-caffeination and stress.) When the brain is being told by the body that there is lots of oxygen in our blood, then our brain gives permission to the heart to slow and then our bodies calm and settle, making prayer and meditation easier to hold. Remember to repeat the deep-inhale exercise three times to begin meditation.
Notice if your hands are open or are in fists (I notice this also when I am about to sleep), hands open on lap, or hands palms-down (introversion and protection) is a good sign. Fists is a sign of deep stress.
Decide on your timing and settle into it without bailing on it too early. Choose timing of 5, 20 or 45 minutes. If you are on retreat, I suggest three two-hour sessions.
When there is a distracting thought, welcome it, give an inner bow to it, do not judge it, then invite it to your inner-waiting-room, where it can wait until your mediation time is over.
And, most important, do not expect from your meditation or prayer, a mystical experience. Just show up.