Meditation is a mental exercise by which one attempts to silence the internal dialogue of the objective"thinking"mind and achieve a deeper level of relaxation and awareness by focusing one's attention on a single point of referencesuch as an object, sensation, or sound (mantra)in order to transcend sensory experience and attain a state of consciousness in which the Self may experience its true nature. Meditation is a practice that has been taught, in one form or another, by many religions since antiquity but has also been practiced outside religious tradition. The exercise in its purest form, as described here, is not associated with any religion.
Not all meditators have a higher state of consciousness as their goal. Some people meditate simply for relaxation, greater clarity, focus, creativity or a more peaceful frame of mind. Others meditate to improve their health. Many medical studies on meditation have proven that it offers countless psychological and physical benefits including improved health, reduced effects of aging, reduced stress and anxiety, lowered blood pressure and risk of stroke, increased intelligence and creativity, improved memory and learning ability, increased energy and sense of well-being, and improved function of the immune system..
How to Meditate
Meditation is a simple technique that has been taught for at least as far back as recorded history. Anyone can meditate effectively without taking an expensive meditation course. Meditation has been described as a technique which requires no preparation, is simple to do, and can be learned by anyone. Although I am sure that many meditation courses put their fees to very good usehelping to make others aware of the benefits of meditation worldwide and funding scientific studies proving the efficacy of meditationit remains a fact that it is just not necessary to pay exorbitant fees, nor any fees for that matter, to effectively learn how to meditate. If you can afford to take a course from a qualified teacher, by all means do so. I recommend it. But after completing the lesson on this page you will, with consistent practice, be able to meditate just as effectively as anyone who has taken a meditation course.
How to Meditate:
- Once or twice each day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon or evening is ideal, spend 20 to 30 minutes in meditation. You can meditate any where you can sit comfortably without being distracted or interrupted. Don't meditate in your bed, and don't meditate lying down, so that you will not be tempted to fall asleep.
- Sit in a comfortable chair with both feet flat on the floor and your hands resting comfortably in your lap, on your knees, or on the arms of the chair, preferably with your palms facing upward although this is not absolutely necessary. It is more important for your hands to be in a comfortable position. If you prefer, you may sit in a cross-legged position on the floor, or in the lotus position or half lotus position. This is entirely optional. Most people find it difficult and uncomfortable to sit for 30 minutes in any cross-legged position without a back rest, so unless you are a yogi, you will probably be better off in a chair.
- Close your eyes, and silently focus your attention on the single point of reference, or mantra, that you have chosen to use as your object of meditation (more on that below.) Just relax, breathe normally, and keep your attention on this point.
- As soon as you become aware that your mind has wandered from your single point of attention or mantra, just gently return your attention back to it. Every time a thought comes into your mind, just return your attention to your point. At times you will realize that you have forgotten all about your point. For example, you will start thinking about something elsea noise you hear in the background, or other thoughts will come into your head; "What are we having for dinner?", "What time is it?", "How long has it been since I started?", "How much longer do I need to sit here?", "I forgot to return that phone call!" etc. As soon as you become aware that your mind has wandered from your pointdon't chastise yourself, this is all a part of the processsimply drop the intruding thoughts from your attention, and again return your attention on your point. That's all there is to it.
- After 20 to 30 minutes, gently open your eyes. Give yourself a minute or so to acclimate yourself to your surroundings again. Stretch if you want to, and then go on about your business. How will you know when 20 or 30 minutes have elapsed? You may occasionally glimpse at your watch or a clock if you want to. You may set a timer if you must. In time you will probably develop a sense of how long it has been and looking at your watch or using a timer will no longer be necessary. You will get better at the technique in timewith continued practice. At first, 20 minutes may seem like a long time. This is because your rational mind is used to a lot of activity. In time this 20 or 30 minutes will seem to pass very quickly.
- Don't worry about doing it wrong. It is impossible to do it wrong, as long as you remember to return your attention to your single point of reference every time you notice that your attention has wandered from it. That's all there is to it!
Your single point of attention or "mantra":
Your single point of reference or attention can be your breathing; an object, sensation or idea; or a syllable, word or phrase that you silently repeat over and over to yourself. The latter is known as a mantra. Below I will describe three points of attention that you can use. Choose any one of these three, and use that for your practice of meditation. Choose whichever one of the three that suits you the most. It doesn't matter which one you use, as long as you use one of them. If you want, you can try each one for a week and then decide which one you like best. If you want to do this, I recommend that you try them in order as presented below. After having tried each one for a week, then decide which one you would prefer to use. If you can't decide, then choose one anyway. It really doesn't matter which one you choose:
Focus on your breathing:
Observe your breathing, as you inhale, and exhale. When your mind wanders just return your attention to your breathing. As you become more relaxed, your respiratory rate may slow down naturally, but don't try to change your breathing. Just observe your breathing as your breath normally and naturally.
Focus on the "So-Hum" mantra:
This is a mantra that I learned from one of Deepak Chopra's books and it is one that I recommend to you. If you know of another that you would prefer to use you may use that instead. As you inhale, silently say to yourself the syllable "Soooo" extending it the full length of your inhalation. Then as you exhale, silently say to yourself the syllable "Hummmmm" again extending it the full length of your exhalation. Keep your attention on this mantra throughout your meditation session, returning your attention to it every time you notice that your mind has wandered from it.
Focus on a point on the center of your forehead, between and just slightly above your eyebrows:
The point that I am talking about is located just slightly above the midpoint between the inner ends of your eyebrows. It is also known as the Ajna chakra and the "Third Eye" because it is associated with the pineal gland and intuition, or the ability to perceive that which the physical senses can not. The more we put our attention on something the stronger it becomes, so putting your attention on this point will increase your intuitive ability. The Ajna chakra is also known as the Master chakra, because it controls all the other chakras. When you begin your meditation session, firmly touch this point with your finger. Once you remove your finger you will notice that the residual sensation of the touch will remain on your forehead for a while. It is this sensation that is your point of attention. When you put your attention on this sensation it will grow stronger. With practice you will be able to feel this sensation quite strongly throughout the entire session. Do not keep touching this point, because you want to develop your ability feel it even without the sensation of touch. In fact, don't touch it again after the initial touch at the start of each meditation session. If you no longer feel the residual sensation, then just imagine that you do. If you don't feel anything, then just keep your attention on the point anyway. With continued practice you will get better at discerning this sensation. As with all meditation techniques, every time you notice that your mind has wandered from this point, just gently return your attention back to it again, and see if you can pick up the sensation again without touching the point again. After you become experienced with this technique, it will no longer be necessary to touch this point at the beginning of your meditation session. All you will have to do it put your attention there and you will feel the sensation.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How often? Meditate once or twice a day. For most people this means once in the morning and once in the afternoon or evening.
How long? Meditate for at least 20 minutes each session.
What if I don't have time? Then make the time! There is little if anything that you could do with that time that would be more beneficial for your long-term happiness, success, fulfillment and well-being. The time you spend in meditation will be returned to you multiplied many times over, through increased energy, improved efficiency, better quality sleep, less sickness, etc.
What if I fall asleep during meditation? Treat falling asleep as another way of losing your point of attention or mantra. When you become aware of it, simply return your attention to your point again. However, realize that when you are sleeping you are not meditating, so it is not desirable to be falling asleep or dozing off during your meditation sessions. That is why you are not to meditate on your bed or while lying down. You do not want to associate meditation with sleep. Likewise, you should avoid meditating late in the evening or close to the time when your body is winding down for sleep. If you keep falling asleep during your meditation sessions, you are probably not getting enough good quality sleep at night. Allow yourself more time to sleep. If your sleep is often of a poor quality, you will find that in time your practice of meditation will lead to a much better quality of sleep, so hopefully dozing off during your meditation sessions will eventually cease.
What outcome should I be looking for? Don't try to anticipate any outcome. You will do better if you will simply enjoy the journey, without anticipating the destination. Concern yourself only with being fully in the present moment. Each meditation session should be looked upon as an end in and of itself. Meditation gives you a perfect opportunity to practice the extremely powerful "Law of Least Effort"i.e., the way to accomplish more is by doing less. The more we try to accomplish something, the more resistance we meet. All you need to do is meditate for 20 to 30 minutes once or twice a day, and your life will unfold naturally like the blooming of a lotus flower.