These days it seems that just about everyone has tried meditation, if not just given it a “spin”. What with all the many benefits and promises that come along with it, who wouldn’t? Even skeptics, businessman, and doctors are meditating these days, and even the American health care industry, with its tendency to avoid natural solutions like the plague, is recommending meditation as a legitimate means to manage and improve one’s health and emotional well-being.
But even though meditation is so widely known as a healthy and positive thing, and even though so many people have tried it, it is still not as common to meet someone on the street who regularly meditates. In fact, a staggering amount of people who try meditation will drop the practice before it even becomes a practice to begin with.
Why is this? There are a lot of reasons. For one, our minds have been heavily conditioned by society to do the exact opposite of meditate. Instead of silencing and centering our awareness within, we are all very accustomed to letting the mind run rampant, racing from thought to thought, and finding stimulation from “external” content and entertainment. When a mind that has been so heavily conditioned to run this way begins to reverse this process through meditation, one runs into a great deal of resistance.
It also just takes time, plain and simple. It can be multiple weeks, or even months, before one really starts to “get” meditation, and can begin to feel like they are reaping the results they want. It’s not because it takes this long for it to be good to you. It’s more that it takes this long to go deep enough, to be centered enough, and to understand the practice enough to really notice what effect it is having on your consciousness.
Thus being said, I want to share some tips with you that I’ve learned on my own journey as a now 11-year meditator that have helped me significantly in getting more profound results, both during meditation and outside of meditation in my daily life. These are for both advanced meditators and beginners alike, and many of them will do a world of good for the person who is struggling to even sit down, or the person who feels like they are not getting any results with meditation.
#1: Start Small
A mind that is not used to meditating, and even a mind who has gone incredibly deep in meditation, but has not meditated in a while, simply cannot maintain focus without building up to it. You can think of it just like a muscle. I learned this in two ways myself. First I learned just how easy and dramatic the results can be from starting with short amounts of time and slowly building upon that. Second I learned that you cannot take a 1-2 month break from disciplined meditation and expect to get the same results from sitting for a half-hour or more.
The muscle needs to be built, or re-built. It is completely unrealistic and not helpful at all to expect to just be able to force yourself to sit through a long meditation without building your focus. This is most likely to make you feel discouraged, or like you can’t focus enough to get the results you want. Ultimately, sitting and forcing yourself to focus when its just not coming for a half hour is a total waste of your time, and you aren’t going to come out of that session feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, or centered.
So start short! Literally start with 2 minutes, once per day. Give that a week. Then move to 5 minutes once per day. Do that for at least a week, maybe even 3 weeks. Then move to 5 minutes 2 times per day for a few weeks, then do 10 minutes once per day, then 10 minutes twice per day, then 15 minutes once per day. Experiment a little, but don’t ever push yourself past the threshold at which you lose focus.
When you do it this way, you not only give yourself a more pleasant experience, but you learn to develop your will and focus in keeping a clear mind. Pay attention to that. Notice when you begin a meditation with a strong intention and ability to remain focused, and notice when that strong intention and willpower wanes. This is just like a muscle, and when it wanes, just let it, and be done with it. You will find that doing it this way allows you to stay focused longer and longer, and also to enjoy a surprising amount of depth and rejuvenation from even your short 2-5 minute meditations.
#2 Watch the Waves
The Buddha was known to recommend watching your thoughts as if they were clouds passing by in the sky of your awareness (not a direct quote). This was good advice, as it acknowledges that it is not always possible, or necessary, to completely STOP your thoughts. One insight that is gained from meditation is the impersonal nature of thoughts. We can become so accustomed to thinking that our thoughts are ourselves. Even if we do not quite buy into that, it is all too easy and common for the awareness to grab onto a thought and become attached to it, absorbed in it to the point that it begins to give rise to emotional reactions, and other correlated thought patterns.
Thoughts are very much like waves. When you watch them carefully, you can even begin to notice the space that precedes the next thought, as it begins to form in the space of your awareness. It starts as a desire to think, then develops into the formation of the thought, then peaks as it grabs your awareness, and then lowers back down to be replaced with the formation of another thought. In the moment that the wave is building, we have the choice whether or not be “grabbed” by it, we can jump on that wave and ride it if we want, which results in us losing our meditative focus, and often times gives rise to more absorbed thinking and any emotional energy that may be associated with the particular thought that has occurred.
So just watch the waves, beginning to build, rising, falling, and forming into new waves. Be aware of how impersonal it can be. Notice that you cannot truly know or anticipate what the next thought is going to be as you are watching in this way. This is an easy perspective to practice that puts you directly into an experience where you learn the truth about your own mind. You may find that you are not actually even the thinker of thoughts at all.
#3 Count the Spaces BETWEEN the Breaths
Counting your breaths is a very commonly known method, but it is rare to hear advice to count the spaces between your breaths. This is a whole different experience, and puts the focus of awareness on a different energy.
In yoga, the highest attainment is Samadhi, a breathless state where one achieves an experience of total union and oneness with all that is. The breath is very close to us, and is an incredibly valuable tool that we can use for personal growth, meditation, healing, etc. But when it comes to having an experience of total stillness, even the breath is movement, action, creation. The spaces between the breath give glimpses into the emptiness of our nature, the space of just being, the context from which creation springs. This is our source, and focusing on the pauses between the breaths gives you an experience of it.
Make sure when you do this that you are not breathing unnaturally, or intentionally prolonging the spaces. Just breath comfortably and observe.
#4 Surrender the Illusion of Control
One of the main reasons why people have such hard time achieving mental stillness is because they think that their thoughts are necessary to help them survive, succeed, and solve problems. We are constantly planning for the future, and rehashing the past as a reference point. There is a great fear in the human ego that if it doesn’t think incessantly that you life will fall apart, that things will go wrong, that you NEED to be thinking in order to defend yourself from the constant onslaught of life itself.
This mentality is deep within us all, and you cannot imagine the level of release and relaxation that comes from releasing it, along with an experience of mental silence, and the realization that your little thoughts are not the thing that holds your life together at all.
There is a very useful technique that you can use at the beginning of your meditation to fall into this state of release and surrender. At the start of your practice, bring to mind your depiction of divinity, whether you call it God, or have a particular saint or enlightened being, or any other representation of Divinity. As you feel the attachment to thoughts, planning, or rehashing the past, imagine these thoughts and distractions as gifts and hand them over to Divinity. As each one rises in your awareness, hand it right over to Divinity and rest in knowing that Divinity has it all handled for you. You can even ask Divinity to take care of it for you by saying, “I give this over to you, and trust that you will provide a better outcome for this situation than I can.”
And the truth is it will. Not only is this great for meditation, but great for life in general. We are not really the ones who steer the boat. We just think we are. But all this controlling ironically works against us and pushes us against the stream, rather than aligning us with the flow.
#5 BE COMFY!
This tip really can’t be overlooked in how important and essential it is. Remember, what you are doing is sitting still for a decent amount of time, and centering to the point that you are no longer absorbed in your external perception and senses. One of the keys to a really rejuvenating and successful meditation is being able to forget about the body, and there’s no way you’re going to forget about the body if you are uncomfortable.
Wear comfortable, loose clothes. Pay attention to the temperature, taking care that you won’t get too cold or too hot in the middle of your practice. I really like to have a blanket. I’ll even use a light one in the summer, because it gives me a feeling of being cozy, safe, and ready to stay in one place (this is probably more of a mental thing that physical thing, but it works!) Also, a chair that is both incredibly comfortable, and able to keep your spine straight is one of the most valuable investments you can make in your meditative practice. If you choose to go the route of a yogic posture, make sure to try out a meditation cushion before you buy it to make sure your legs and back can be as relaxed as possible.
Also, you will almost double the power of your meditative practice by stretching first, and doing a very light yogic routine, if not just one posture that bends the spine backwards, and then one posture that bends the spine forwards. With the way Yoga is taught these days, many people don’t know that one of the main purposes of all the different postures and body movements in Hatha Yoga is to prepare the body for meditation.
#6 Cleanse the Body and Eat Raw Living Foods
I got into meditation long before I got into eating healthy and cleansing. About halfway into my very first full body/colon cleanse, I was absolutely shocked at how much easier it was to meditate, and how much more profound the experience was.
There are a lot of reasons why cleansing and eating raw foods is an aid to meditation. For one, eating healthy gives the energetic system a stronger vibration, and better flow. For two, eating healthy ensures that the body feels good when you are meditating. There are no stomach complaints, no pains or aches, etc. This is essential.
Even more than that though, cleansing the body removes calcium and other contaminant buildup that collects around the pineal gland. The pineal gland is a very critical factor to attaining deep and profound meditative states. In many esoteric trains of thought, the pineal gland is said to be “the seat of the soul”, and one of the most important organs of the physical body. It is very much a gateway into the higher realms of consciousness.
I highly recommend doing an intensive and strict 2-week colon cleanse to anyone who has never done one. This will actually cleanse the whole body, and really sets the energy body right, as digestion is also a critical key to having healthy energy flow.
#7 Use Brainwave Entrainment!
Brainwave entrainment is truly a miracle in the world of meditation. The fact that any average person can put on a pair of headphones, close their eyes, and enter an immersive alpha brainwave state, or theta, or even delta, without any prior meditative experience is truly amazing.
In EEG readings of traditional meditators, even 5-10 year meditators are most commonly found to remain in an alpha state, varying in degrees of depth. Some are more able than others to make it deeper to theta. Buddhist monks, living in monasteries with decades of experience meditating all day have been found to be able to produce delta and gamma brainwaves, but this is very uncommon, and is truly the hallmark of decades of daily disciplined practice.
So when you consider that you, whether you are experienced with meditation or not, can also enter any of these brainwave states, and remain there without having to hold any undue concentration, you really begin to see the value of this technology. Using brainwave entrainment as a tool for meditative progress is undoubtedly a “shortcut” to mental, emotional and spiritual evolution.
Not to mention it is incredibly good for the brain. It synchronizes the left and right hemispheres, allowing for whole brain functioning, and stimulates the formation of new neural pathways, along with the production of many pleasurable and healthy endorphins and neurochemicals like serotonin, HGH, melatonin, and dopamine.
For more information on brainwave entrainment, or to purchase some of the most potent and powerful audios on the market to date, click here.
Meditation may take practice, and patience, but it is one of the most rewarding and healthy things that you could possibly do for yourself. The greatest experiences come from regular practice, so my last tip for you would be to make sure you practice daily, even if you feel like you are going nowhere. Even on the days that you reeeeeeally don’t want to, make sure you give yourself at least 5 minutes to sit.
The benefits of meditation have been proven scientifically, and spoken of for centuries. This is one of the common denominators of all spiritual practices and approaches to self-help. There’s a reason for this!
So no matter where you are right now on your path, take advantage of these tips and see how far they can take you! Be an explorer of your own mind!