Understanding the true nature of meditation can take many years of practice and study. Meditation can no more be taught than sleeping can be taught. You can have a wonderful air-conditioned room, a large, comfortable mattress and an absolutely peaceful atmosphere, but, in spite of this, you may not fall into sleep even though you need to. There is no technique for sleeping, it just happens. In the same way, meditation happens by itself. Serenity of mind and entering into silence requires daily practice. A person who learns the basic principles of meditation thoroughly will be able make a progress over time by continuing his/her studies and thus ensure success. Before beginning meditation, it is best to have the right environment and attitude. When one meditates, one’s physical health and mental state should be conducive to introspection. Many of the most difficult obstacles disappear if an inviting environment for meditation is created.
Guidelines for Meditation
The following remarks are practical points that address the basic principles for meditation. They are primarily aimed at beginners, but even the most experienced meditator will find them useful to review.
1. Regularity of practice, place and time is very important. Regularity conditions the mind and reduces its activities to a minimum of time. When sitting for concentration, it is very difficult to focus the mind, which tends to jump from one thing to another. Establishing a regular time and place for meditation can train the mind to quickly enter a peaceful state, similar to how a conditioned reflex is a learned response to a specific stimulus.
2. Early morning, before sunrise, is an ideal time to meditate as the atmosphere is believed to be infused with a special energy. The preferred time is Brahmamuhurta, between four and six o’clock in the morning. During these quiet hours, after sleep, the mind is more clear and unencumbered by the stresses of the day. Fresh and free from all worldly concerns, mind can be easily molded and concentration occurs effortlessly. If it is not possible to meditate at this time, another time can be chosen when the mind is not involved in daily activities and is predisposed to calmness. The most important thing is regularity.
3. Reserve a room for meditation. If it is not possible, separate with a curtain a corner of another room and do not allow anyone to enter there. It is important to have a designated space for meditation that is free from other distractions and associations.
4. It is not mandatory to adopt the traditional padmasana position, known as the lotus posture, while meditating. Instead, any other comfortable, cross-legged position can be used as an alternative. This creates a stable foundation for the body and allows for the flow of energy to be directed and focused, rather than dispersed in all directions, creating a triangular circuit of energy flow. As the mind becomes more focused and concentrated, the body’s physiological processes, such as metabolism, brain waves, and breathing, will gradually decrease. This slowing of these processes is a natural result of reaching a deeper state of concentration, and it is indicative of the mind becoming more calm and settled.
5. Before you begin, command your mind to remain quiet for a specific period of time. Let go of the past, present, and future and focus on the present moment.
6. Make a conscious effort to regulate your breathing. To oxygenate the brain, start with a five-minute practice of deep abdominal breathing. Then gradually reduce the intensity until the breathing becomes imperceptible.
7. Breathe rhythmically. Take a slow breath in for three seconds and exhale for three seconds. By regulating the breath, you can also regulate the flow of prana, the vital energy in the body. If a mantra is used, it is necessary to coordinate it with the breath.
8. At first, let the mind wander. It will jump from one thought to another, but eventually it will concentrate as the prana concentrates.
9. Avoid forcing the mind to calm down, let it happen naturally. This will produce additional brain waves that will affect the meditation. If the mind continues to race, detach yourself from it and observe it as if you were watching a film. It will gradually quiet down.
10. Select a focal point where the mind, like a bird that needs to rest, can rest when it becomes fatigued. Individuals who have a more analytical mindset should focus on visualizing the object of concentration between the eyebrows. Those who are more emotional in nature should do so at the cardiac plexus, in the center of the chest. Once you have selected your point of concentration, never change it.
11. Concentrate on a mental or inspirational object or symbol and visualize it at the focal point. When using a mantra, repeat it mentally and synchronize the repetition with your breath. If you do not have a personal mantra, the traditional mantra “OM” can be used. Those who prefer a personalized mantra can repeat RAM or SHIAM. Although mental repetition is more powerful, the mantra can also be repeated aloud, if you become sleepy. Avoid changing your mantra.
12. As you continue to repeat the mantra, you will reach a state of pure thought, where the vibration of sound blends with the vibration of thought, and the meaning of the words fades away. By repeating the mantra vocally, you will gradually progress from vocal repetition to mental repetition and then to telepathic language, ultimately reaching a state of pure thought. The state that is reached through this practice is one of subtle transcendental bliss, in which the mind is still aware of the distinction between the self and the external world, yet it transcends the duality of the subject and the object. This state is characterized by a deep sense of peace and contentment.
13. Through consistent practice, duality will eventually disappear, leading to the state of Samadhi or super consciousness. Remember that this process takes time and be patient with yourself.
14. During Samadhi, you will experience a state of bliss in which the observer and the observed become one. This is the state of super consciousness experienced by mystics of all faiths and religions.
15. Start your meditation practice with sessions of 20 minutes and gradually increase the duration to one hour over time. If the body experiences occasional tremors or shaking, control them and keep the energy internalized.
There are different ways to meditate, here are some of them:
The key aspect of the concentration meditation method is focusing on a single point. This can involve techniques such as breathing observation, mantra repetition, candle gazing, listening to repetitive gongs, or rosary bead counting. Mind focus can be difficult, so beginners may start with a few minutes of meditation before gradually building up to longer sessions. In concentration meditation, if distraction or mind wandering occurs, one must redirect attention back to the chosen object. Instead of chasing after your randomly arising thoughts, simply let them go. Such a practice improves one’s concentration ability.
This meditation technique involves observing thoughts and promoting longer periods of concentration. The goal is to simply be aware of one’s mental state, not to engage or judge the thoughts. By practicing mindfulness meditation, you can gain insight into your recurring thoughts and emotions, allowing you to better understand and manage them. With continued practice, you can increase awareness of the habit of categorizing experiences as “pleasant” or “unpleasant.” With consistent practice you can develop and achieve greater balance. Some meditation schools blend concentration and mindfulness meditation in their practice. Teacher variations can lead to different levels of stillness being required in meditation practices.
Alternative Meditation Techniques
There are many other meditation techniques. For example, Buddhist monks practice a daily meditation that focuses directly on cultivating compassion. This involves transforming negative events and looking at them through compassion. Other forms of meditation include moving techniques like tai chi, chi kung, and walking meditation. There is no right or wrong way to meditate, but it is recommended to have a simple ritual every time you meditate. First, you should be comfortable in general. It is recommended to have clothes that are not too tight and to be sitting or lying down in a quiet place. It is also important not to have distractions around you. A person advanced in the practice of meditation could meditate anywhere, however for most of us this is not so easy and it is better not to have distractions of any kind. Falling asleep during meditation is common. Although this is not the goal of the practice, you have to be patient with yourself and explore what your physical body is feeling. Maybe you need to have a more frequent relaxation practice or get more rest.
Something very important during meditation is not to judge what you are feeling, thinking or the emotions that arise. Just observe everything that comes up and don’t get involved. For example, if during meditation images or feelings of a person or a past experience come to you, don’t analyze them or start thinking about why they are there. Just let them come up and watch them, like watching the clouds go by. When these thoughts or emotions arise, simply let them pass and return your attention to the breath, a mantra or whatever meditation technique you are using at the time. The purpose of meditation specifically is not to analyze life, it is simply to understand that beyond that analysis, those thoughts and the conscious mind, there is an infinite field and there we arrive only in silence. The end of the meditation practice is silence and connection with the spirit. You are not your thoughts, nor the identification with those thoughts. So the purpose of meditation is to allow them to flow and let them pass.
During meditation all kinds of physical sensations can arise. The physical body has many ways to relax, so it is common to feel tingly, to feel like crying, or a nice expansive feeling. Feel everything, but don’t analyze it, just let it happen and let the emotions flow. One of the things that make the physical body most ill are energetic or emotional blockages, that is why it is so important that during your practice you let everything flow. There is a divine order that knows how to accommodate everything in your favor, do not hinder this order by wanting to analyze and control those things that are being accommodated in you. Simply observe them and say to yourself, “how interesting”.
Benefits Of Meditation
While relaxation is not the ultimate goal of meditation, it is often one of the positive results. Herbert Benson, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, conducted a study in the 1970s on individuals practicing transcendental meditation. He found that this form of meditation triggers a state of relaxation through the reduction of activity in the sympathetic nervous system. This reduction is an involuntary response that works in opposition to stress-inducing stimuli, providing a sense of relaxation and calmness.
Studies on relaxation have shown short-term benefits to the nervous system as documented since then.
- Slower breathing rate
- Less anxiety
- Less stress
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower blood cortisol levels
- Improved blood circulation
- Lower heart rate
- Improved feelings of well-being