To develop self mastery, meditation is essential practice. In fact, it appears that just about everyone you know is extolling its benefits. And you are eager to join the bandwagon too. However, it is possible to encounter frustration when you first get started. Your mind is in a constant stream of chatter. As such, it becomes impossible to sit still! After a couple of tries, you may even conclude that, “I just cannot meditate!”
I would like to believe that it is possible for the majority of us to meditate. The exceptions would be those with mental health issues. I have come a long way since the days when I had the same complaint myself. In fact, I recall that I would previously give plenty of excuses in not being able to find time to meditate. I would choose to do something else “more productive” than a seemingly passive activity like meditation. Over the years, I would find that the time that I spend in quiet meditation is not a waste of time but rather an investment in clarity. I now meditate almost every morning, save for days when I need to go out early.
Meditation is the way to the emptying of thought. It is a disciplined practice of silence. It allows you to de-clutter your mind of distracting thoughts and negative emotions. Meditation helps you build a bridge for spiritual connection from within. It also assists you in channeling insight and inspiration.
“Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.”
My Meditation Experiences
And yes, there have been several occasions when I slip into deep states of profound peace and bliss easily. Where there is a need for awareness, I have also found myself being able to access subconscious memories of past lives. Don’t be mistaken, however. Not every session results in a jaw-dropping never-before sublime moment of epiphany. There are also several occasions when I have found it hard to quieten my thoughts.
And when I do, it feels as if I am starting as a beginner once again. It would mean going back to the same basic principles on how to meditate. My first attempt in meditation started more than 10 years ago when I was pregnant with my first child. My mother-in-law (currently passed on) accompanied me on a weeklong retreat to Chang Mai in Thailand. I had my first lessons under the tutelage of her friend, a Buddhist monk. Meditation didn’t prove to be life-changing for me back then, but it allowed me to know how a meditative practice of silence can help calm the mind. A few years later, my mother-in-law who had derived much benefits from meditation became a Buddhist nun herself.
Drawing on my personal experiences, allow me to share the following notes on how to meditate. I would like to share tips that have worked for me. I believe that these tips can help anyone who wishes to cross the hurdles of beginning meditation.
10 Essential Tips on How To Meditate – A Beginner’s Guide
1. Let go of wanting. When I first got started, I wanted to have all the experiences that I have heard possible with meditation – states of pure bliss, gaining psychic powers, seeing angels, having conversations with spirit guides and hearing booming voices from heaven. Over coffee, I would listen to these stories told as if they were everyday experiences. My eyes would widen in excitement.
I would forget about the fact that these friends had been meditating for years. Neither were the stories nearly as dramatic as I made them out to be. With overwhelming desire, I wanted what they were experiencing. All the wanting and craving made me so frustrated when I didn’t have them!
This went on for months. I wanted to give up! Well, eventually, I decided to stop all that wanting. And when I started letting go, I found myself going into states of meditative trance easily. It’s also when things starting getting really interesting for me.
Hence, refrain from seeking to attain spiritual experiences that you have heard about. There is no destination to reach. As such, it is a good idea to enter into your sessions without any expectations.
2. Recover on sleep first. This is a tip that I learned from Ajahn Brahm, head abbot of Bodhinyana monastery in Perth, Western Australia. Should you be having inadequate sleep, it’s far better to catch up on your rest first before attempting to meditate. It is hard to make much progress in meditation if you are constantly falling asleep.
3. Meditate in conducive environments. Choose peaceful surroundings. Avoid having loud music in the background or being able to hear a ton of activity going on outside your room. These are distractions that you are better without, especially if you are a beginner in meditation.
While burning incense is not necessary, you may want to incorporate it as part of a ritual. A ritual allows you to honor the time set aside for sacred space. Incense of sandalwood and lavender are great selections.
4. Avoid eating a heavy meal before meditating. After a heavy meal, more blood flow is required for digestion. Blood is diverted from all parts of your body – including the brain – to break down the food in the digestive organs. Consequently, you tend to feel sleepy.
Then again, don’t meditate on too empty a stomach either. You may feel tempted to cut short your sitting time because your tummy is rumbling with hunger.
5. Release the “I must”. When I try too hard, I would usually find it difficult to meditate. I would be applying excessive mental energy by willing myself to sit. My thinking mind would insist that “I must”, “I should” and “I ought to”. Eventually, instead of experiencing peace, I feel irritated and tense.
Now that I recall such times, I laugh at the hilarity of them all. More progress can be made if we learn not to build each moment into a crescendo of resistance.
6. Allocate time to meditate. This point is also about not fighting the moment. Obviously if your mind is preoccupied with 10,001 things to do, then you will find it hard to feel settled. The idea is to make time and space for meditation. Since meditation is an investment in clarity, then it is important to make it a priority.
When mediating, bring your full presence into each moment. Be at peace with being where you are. Not in the past and certainly, not the future. Know that other things can wait until your session is over. You may want to start with 15-20 minute sessions.
7. Relax first. It may be hard to relax in a split moment, especially if you have just been doing a ton of stuff prior to your meditation session. Get into the mood for meditation by relaxing first. Ideas include taking a warm bath, listening to some light background music and making a nice drink for yourself.
Should you still encounter difficulty, using some tools and techniques may help for a start. You may want to try using binaural beats. I don’t use them nowadays but have found them useful previously in the past. More information on “binaural beats” can be found by clicking on the banner image below…
8. Avoid making the process painful. Meditation is not meant to be a painful exercise. While it is a disciplined practice in stilling your mind, it is not necessary to institute strict requirements such as sitting on bare wooden floors, meditating for hours, waking up at 3am to meditate and so on, in order to learn how to meditate. .
As a beginner, it is best to manage your expectations. You may just give up too soon by putting yourself in too much struggle. Hence, sit on a cushion if it makes you more comfortable. Nonetheless, try your best to maintain your posture by keeping your back straight.
9. Maintain focus first. To contain a wandering mind, it helps to choose something to focus on at the start of the meditation. Some people like to use beads, others the candlelight. However, I prefer not to rely on anything external. I use the breath.
Breath meditation has numerous health benefits. When you bring attention to your breath, you breathe more deeply and slowly. You bring awareness to the life sustaining activity of your body. The process helps you to relax your heart and lowers your blood pressure. You also become more energy efficient.
As you allow yourself to be fully present while maintaining focus, you would eventually find yourself slipping into the gap between thoughts. Within the expanding space of nothingness, you experience pure awareness.
It is within the thought-to-thought gap that insight arises. While insights are also thoughts, they arise from the source pool of pure intelligence. An insight provides illumination from the dark.
– Abundance Alchemy: Journey of Gold
10. Refrain from self judgment. So your mind has trailed off for the umpteenth time? And you are feeling frustrated with yourself about not being able to focus on your meditation? Don’t get caught up in self reproach.
Wandering off is very normal. It is the mind’s habit to keep busy with thoughts. However, please know that keeping busy does not necessarily lead to intelligence or awareness; especially if you are mired in thoughts that are unhelpful, limiting and unnecessary.
Through meditation, you are allowing your mind to take a break. With endless processing going on, it is in need of a vacation too. Hence, without any self judgment, bring your attention back to your breath and continue to sit.
Gain Clarity With Deep Meditation
A constant stream of chatter prevents us from experiencing the world as it-is. Much of our thoughts are not about the here and now. Through meditation, we learn how to observe – without filters, emotional bias and subjective opinions. We become less caught up in the emotional content of our stories. We break out of habitual negative thinking.
Truth is realized with the awakened eyes of clarity. In the process, we experience who we really are. And consequently, we become empowered to manifest the most extraordinary life for ourselves.
“Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.”
— Hans Margolius
Share Your Experience
Share how your experience with meditation has been. Is there any tip that has worked for you? Offer a word of advice and encouragement to beginners who would like to meditate but who are facing challenges.
May you find yourself in the loving embrace of pure awareness,
P.S. Don’t forget to send love and healing to the Japanese, while meditating. 30% of all proceeds for the month from the downloadable copy of my book will be donated to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami 2011 Relief. Click here to download an instant copy now!