How to Meditate

Meditation is a mental discipline by which one attempts to get beyond the conditioned, "thinking" mind into a deeper state of relaxation or awareness. There are many different meditation methods.

At the core of meditation is the goal to focus and eventually quiet your mind. As you progress, you will find that you can meditate anywhere and at any time, accessing an inner calm no matter what's going on around you. But first, you have to learn to tame your mind.

Make time to meditate. Set aside enough time in your daily routine for meditating. The effects of meditation are most noticeable when you do it regularly and consistently rather than sporadically.

 

Some people will find a five minute meditation worthwhile, for others, the benefits of longer meditation are well worth the time.

You can meditate at any time of day; some people like to start their day off with meditation, others like to end the day by clearing their mind, and some prefer to find refuge in meditation in the middle of a busy day. Generally, however, the easiest time to meditate is in the morning, before the day's events tire your body out and give your mind more to think about.

Don't meditate immediately following a meal, or when you are likely to be hungry. The body's digestive system can be very distracting.

Find or create a quiet, relaxing environment. It's especially important, when you're starting out, to avoid any obstacles to attention. Turn off any TV sets, phone(s) or other noisy appliances. If you play music, make sure it's calm, repetitive and gentle, so as not to break your concentration. Meditating outside can be conducive, as long as you don't sit near a busy roadway or another source of loud noise. Sit on level ground. Sit on a cushion if the ground is uncomfortable. You don't have to twist your limbs into the lotus position or adopt any unusual postures. The important thing is to keep your back straight, as this will help with breathing later on

You can also meditate on a chair. Make sure your back is straight (whether you lean against the chair or sit free does not matter). Your feet should rest solidly on the ground

 

Any position in which you're relaxed but your back is straight is permissible, even lying down - but be careful that you're not so relaxed that you fall asleep. In warm weather, consider watching the clouds.

Keep your eyes half-open without focusing on anything. If this is too distracting or difficult, close them or find something steady to focus on such as a small candle flame.

Breathe deeply and slowly from your abdomen rather than your chest. You should feel your stomach rise and fall while your chest stays relatively still. Healthy, stress relieving breathing may be done by inhaling for count of 3, exhaling for count of 6, repeat over and over for 15 to 20 minutes. This expels the used air and more completely oxygenates your blood, lowering heart rate and blood pressure. Many high blood pressure patients have dropped their blood pressure as much as 50 points, allowing them to decrease or eliminate the need for medication. This breathing exercise should be done on a regular basis.

Relax every muscle in your body. Don't rush this, as it takes time to fully relax. Do it bit by bit, starting at your toes, and working up to your head, until the tension melts away.

Focus your attention. You may notice that your mind wants to wander, bouncing from thought to thought, making observations about other things. Gently bring your attention back to a single point until it rests there naturally. The goal is to allow the "chattering" in your mind to gradually fade away. Find an "anchor" to settle your mind.
 

Let your attention rest on the flow of your breath. Listen to it, follow it, but make no judgments on it (such as "It sounds a little raspy...maybe I'm getting a cold?").

To overcome verbal chatter, recite a mantra (repetition of a sacred word). A single word like "aum" uttered at a steady rhythm is best. You can recite it verbally or just with the voice in your mind. Beginners may find it easier to count their breaths. Try counting your breath from 1 to 10, then simply start again at 1.

To circumvent images that keep intruding on your thoughts, visualize a place that calms you. It can be real or imaginary. Imagine you are at the top of a staircase leading to a peaceful place. Count your way down the steps until you are peaceful and relaxed.

For some people, focusing attention on a point or object does exactly the opposite of what meditation is all about. It takes you back to the life of 'focus', 'concentration', 'strain'. In this case, as an alternative to the above techniques, some meditators recommend un-focusing your attention. Instead of focusing attention on a point or an object, this type of meditation is achieved by attaining a state of zero. Take your attention above all thoughts till a point you lose all attention and all thoughts.

Silence your mind. Once you've trained your mind to focus on just one thing at a time, the next step is focus on nothing at all, essentially "clearing" your mind. This requires tremendous discipline but is the pinnacle of meditation. After focusing on a single point as described in the previous step, you can either cast it away, or observe it impartially and let it come and then go, without labeling it as "good" or "bad". Take the same approach to any thoughts which return to your mind until silence perseveres.

  • What you do with a silent mind is up to you. Some people find that it is a good time to introduce an intention or a desired outcome to the subconscious mind. Others prefer to "rest" in the rare silence that meditation affords. Read up on the different types of meditation and their purposes.
  • You should be comfortable enough to concentrate, but not so comfortable that you feel the urge to fall asleep.
  • Make some effort to be mindful of your mood and thoughts when not meditating. You may notice that you feel calmer, happier, and sharper on days when you have meditated, and notice a decrease in these qualities when you have not.
  • It may be beneficial to mentally review or replay the previous day at the start of your sessions, if you can do so in a relaxed, passive way. This often happens naturally, and sometimes it's best to allow this to happen, as long as you don't get emotionally wrapped up or let it go on too long before beginning meditation. This procedure is known as "processing" of recent events, and becoming skilled at performing a non-judgmental review of events does much to increase awareness and emotional well-being.
  • The benefits of meditation can be experienced long before the practitioner has been successful in maintaining focus or clearing the mind, simply as a result of the practice.
  • Set aside a specific time each day for meditation, but don't overdo it. If 20-30 minutes in the morning isn't enough, add another session later in the day instead of trying for a single, longer session.
  • It is easy to lose track of time while meditating. Being concerned about time can be distracting to meditation. Some people find it liberating to set a timer and let it be concerned about how long you have to meditate. Choose a gentle timer. If it is too jarring, the anticipation of the alarm can be distracting also.
  • Some people find that praying can be an effective form of meditation, and they believe in meditating, or "praying through," perhaps for hours to find peace. For peace, naturally your prayer would not be "begging," but more like being grateful for your breath and acknowledging your many blessings... rather than complaining.
  • Meditation isn't about getting anywhere or being anything. It's not about quieting your mind, it's about LISTENING to your mind. It's not about obtaining some goal of nirvana or enlightenment or whatever. It's not a self improvement course because you're already perfect just the way you are. It's about you accepting you right here, right now, for this meditation session.

 

  • Don't expect immediate results. The purpose of meditation is not to turn you into a Zen master overnight. Meditation works best when it is done for its own sake, without becoming attached to results.
  • If you find your mind is wandering, try not to scold or beat up on yourself about it. Wandering restlessly is the normal state of the conditioned mind. This is the first lesson many people learn in meditation and it is a valuable one. Simply, gently, invite your attention back to your breath, remembering that you've just had a small but precious "awakening." Becoming aware of your wandering mind is a success, not a failure.
  • Some people find it's difficult to meditate immediately before bedtime. If you're very sleepy, you may find yourself nodding off. Conversely, meditating may energize your mind, making it more difficult to fall asleep.
  • As you meet other people who meditate, you'll encounter a few who will boast about their endurance for long meditation sessions--even hours and hours at a sitting. Don't be tempted to change your practice to "keep up." Meditation is not competitive.
  • Avoid bad dreams: if pleading and begging in prayer is your form of meditation, change that to being thankful and blessing others--in prayer and in life--to help you progress, sleep, and avoid bad dreams, proven by practitioners.