Let’s begin my admitting that we do not know what meditation is – Not really. No amount, mixture, formula or layout of words could possibly explain: It is unexplainable. And even if words could explain, we do not currently have the capacity to comprehend them. What meditation isn’t, is mechanical. It is not just something you do, for the action of meditation is the means to an end of itself. If this is over your head, don’t worry. It’s not important, for the end goal and purpose of meditation will come, even (or maybe especially) if you don’t understand why and how. Now let’s move on before I start sounding too much like Alice in Wonderland. Although we can’t explain the magic of meditation, we feel what it is when we meditate. The only way to truly “know” is to experience it for yourself. The following techniques are useful tools you can try.
To utilize Pranayama, begin by sitting comfortably with you legs crossed. Take a deep breath in for five seconds, hold it for twenty seconds and then exhale fully for ten seconds. Focus only on your breath – follow it intently. Eventually your mind will quiet and you can let go of the counting technique. Allow your body to breathe naturally while still keeping your attention on each inhalation and exhalation. It too will begin to fade – let it go. This “nowhere, nothing” zone is meditation.
You can use counting techniques without Pranayama. Make use of counting beads, called malas, which are sacred (and stylish) counting tools. Typically, a mantra is repeated for each bead. Choose a mantra that resonates with you or a word of your choice such as “peace” or “calm” and move on to the next bead. Repeat.
Sounds are also a helpful tool we can utilize. A sound or phrase can be chanted repeatedly to induce a focused inward-facing state. The universal sound of “Om” is typically used. Begin by repeating it out loud for a minute or two and then keep repeating it silently within yourself; Eventually it will fade away. This deep silence is true meditation.
Just as mantras are auditory and utilize sounds, Yantra makes use of visuals. Usually, mandalas are used as an ocular tool. Find a mandala that speaks to you and stare at the focus point (black dot) in the center called the Bindu. You can also choose to use a flame and focus on the wick. Alternatively, gaze at a symbol of your choice and focus on the center of said symbol. After several minutes, go ahead and close your eyes and focus on the visual imprint that remains until everything fades.
There are a variety of helpful guided meditations readily available to us at all times thanks to the power that is the Internet. You can purchase and download a guided meditation of your liking as an aid until you become familiar with meditation and no longer need your training wheels.
Although it’s not very important where you meditate (after all, you’ll be “inside,” and in the awesome “nowhere” zone) but locale is helpful when you’re trying to get “nowhere.” Go somewhere quiet and comfortable with good energies such as nature or your favorite room in your home.
Blanket and Pillow
Lower the chances of distraction by making yourself comfortable. Have a blanket handy in case you get cold and use a cushion under your derrière.
By observing your surroundings you’re increasing your awareness and stilling thoughts. Sit quietly and listen intently. Take a deep breath and notice the scents of the space and the thickness of the air. Is it cool or warm? What ambient sounds do you hear? Begin to journey within by listening to your breath, then to subtle bodily functions – heart beat, blood flowing through the veins, humming inside the ears – until you internalize completely and dwell in the silence of meditation.
Don’t Try too Hard
Thoughts will come and go; it’s inevitable. Do not chase after them and don’t run away from them either. Simply let them pass by like visitors. Think of them as tourists who are only walking by with no intention to stay. Observe them but don’t identify with them. Eventually they won’t be noticed.
Just like exercise trains the body, this trains your mind. It takes consistent practice and devotion. The more you try, the better you become. Imagine it like a work out – It becomes easier each time, but if you skip a few weeks you’ll have to build it back up again.
Take the Time
“You should sit in meditation twenty minutes every day, unless you are too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
– Zen proverb
Many people (including me-from-the-past) don’t jibe with or understand this meditation motto. Upon reflection and personal experience, however, I completely agree. When we are pressed for time because projects are due, for example, it may seem hard to pull away and meditate. It may feel like you are “wasting” that time. Au contraire – You’ll waste more time worrying and stressing about that time and battling mental blockage than you will meditating and then working with a new, better perspective. This applies to everything else in your daily life.
After just a few weeks of meditation, you will notice the transformation. You’ll see your world with new eyes. Just remember not to try too hard, let go, have fun with it and enjoy. It’s so easy it that it can seem hard; we tend to try to make it “something” when it’s actually “nothing.” It’s actually ever-present and extremely subtle. Don’t over-complicate. Meditate.