Learning How to Meditate
Meditation is a technique that allows you to train your mind to control emotions and thoughts, and become more aware of self. It helps you elevate to a higher level of consciousness, which in turn relaxes the mind and allows you to look at the worldly things and experiences with enhanced wisdom and objectivity. The positive effects of meditation on emotional, mental, and physical health are well-recognized worldwide.
Basics of Meditation and Key Elements
The Dalai Lama says that the way to gain the most from any doctrine is to incorporate it into your daily life. Meditation, too, is most effective when it is performed in the right way on a regular basis. There are key elements that help make meditation successful:
Right time: The right time for meditation can vary from person to person. Some find meditation easiest to perform just before sleep time, while others like meditating early in the morning. However, it is best to have a consistent schedule for your meditation — both your body and mind will benefit most from meditation if you have a disciplined and fixed schedule.
Right physical parameters: The environment, attire, and posture for meditation is also important and should be in accordance with the comfort of the subject. It is also important that the place of meditation is silent, clean, and uncluttered. Meditation clothes should be comfortable and loose and should allow you to maintain the meditation posture with ease. The Lotus posture is most recommended for meditation.
Right frame of mind: When commencing meditation, the mind should be cleared of all conscious thoughts as much as possible. This does not mean that you stop thinking, which is almost impossible to achieve. The right frame of mind is achieved when thoughts flit across your mind without disturbing your state of calm.
Object of focus: This can be a word, mantra, or a mind picture that you can concentrate on. The object of focus helps bring your mind back on track when thoughts interrupt your meditative mind state.
Meditation is a good way to de-stress every day. A simple meditation involves being consciously aware and relaxing muscles from head to toe. The object of focus helps retain concentration as you continue to meditate. Keeping your eyes closed helps keep distractions at bay, making mental relaxation effective and complete.
How do I stop the random thoughts that flood my mind when I start to meditate?
When learning to meditate it is important to not try to stop these thoughts but to let them just flow. When you try to stop them, you end up focusing on them, and this will stop the meditation process. Try to focus on the gaps between the flowing thoughts.
Establishing a routine for meditation once or twice every day will train your mind to carry out the process with fewer distractions day after day. Begin meditating for a few minutes and gradually extend the time as your control over your mind grows.
Popular Meditation Techniques
There are many techniques of meditation, but some are more popular than others. Transcendental meditation (TM) is one such technique that has been researched and studied extensively. It involves the utterance of a mantra or phrase repetitively throughout the duration of the meditation to help the mind focus. It is simple to learn and is very effective. TM regulates blood pressure, decreases anxiety, and helps resist drug or alcohol cravings.
The complete focus on breathing during yoga is also a form of meditation. Yoga practitioners sense an increase in awareness levels immediately after they complete a session. Taoist meditation techniques, too, focus on the breath. There are two main components here: jing (calm) and ding (concentration).
Some other popular meditation techniques include walking meditation, loving kindness meditation, vibrational meditation, Vipassana, and movement meditation. The technique that suits one practitioner may not be effective for another. Choosing the technique that you can perform with greatest comfort and ease is important. It is advisable to start meditating under the guidance of an experienced practitioner or teacher.
Resolving Common Problems During Meditation
Meditation cannot be mastered instantly. But with time, you can and will be able to carry out meditation without mental or physical disruptions. Keeping this in mind helps you stay encouraged and positive during the initial stages. In the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, an acknowledged meditation expert, “If we hope to go anywhere or develop ourselves in any way, we can only step from where we are standing.”
Many beginners complain of pain or numbness in the limbs or a prickly feeling in the toes and fingers after they sit in meditation posture for a while. These problems usually pass as the practitioner gets into the habit of maintaining the meditation posture. Those who experience severe discomfort can opt for a more comfortable position, such as sitting on a chair.
Distracting thoughts are another common problem. Avoid making a conscious effort to “not think.” As the thoughts come, bring your mind back to your object of focus gently but firmly. With time, the number and frequency of such distracting thoughts will diminish. When you have learned to relax and open your mind, you can achieve advanced learning abilities that can be valuable in your research and understanding of paranormal events.
B. Alan Wallace, practitioner and teacher of Buddhism, explains that mastering meditation is a process and not an event. He says, “Like a good crop, good meditation cannot be forced, and requires cultivation over time.” (Tibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up: A Practical Approach for Modern Life)