With the hectic pace and demands of modern life, many people feel stressed and over-worked. It often feels like there is just not enough time in the day to get everything done. Our stress and tiredness make us unhappy, impatient and frustrated. It can even affect our health. We are often so busy we feel there is no time to stop and meditate! But meditation actually gives you more time by making your mind calmer and more focused. A simple ten or fifteen minute breathing meditation as explained below can help you to overcome your stress and find some inner peace and balance. Meditation can also help us to understand our own mind. We can learn how to transform our mind from negative to positive, from disturbed to peaceful, from unhappy to happy.
Overcoming negative minds and cultivating constructive thoughts is the purpose of the transforming meditations found in the Buddhist tradition. This is a profound spiritual practice you can enjoy throughout the day, not just while seated in meditation. On this website you can learn the basics of Buddhist meditation. A few books are mentioned that will help you to deepen your understanding if you wish to explore further. Anyone can benefit from the meditations given here, Buddhist or not. We hope that you find this website useful and that you learn to enjoy the inner peace that comes from meditation
Why Learn to Meditate
The purpose of meditation is to make our mind calm and peaceful. If our mind is peaceful, we will be free from worries and mental discomfort, and so we will experience true happiness; but if our mind is not peaceful, we will find it very difficult to be happy, even if we are living in the very best conditions. If we train in meditation, our mind will gradually become more and more peaceful, and we will experience a purer and purer form of happiness. Eventually, we will be able to stay happy all the time, even in the most difficult circumstances.
Usually we find it difficult to control our mind. It seems as if our mind is like a balloon in the wind – blown here and there by external circumstances. If things go well, our mind is happy, but if they go badly, it immediately becomes unhappy. For example, if we get what we want, such as a new possession or a new partner, we become excited and cling to them tightly. However, since we cannot have everything we want, and since we will inevitably be separated from the friends and possessions we currently enjoy, this mental stickiness, or attachment, serves only to cause us pain. On the other hand, if we do not get what we want, or if we lose something that we like, we become despondent or irritated. For example, if we are forced to work with a colleague whom we dislike, we will probably become irritated and feel aggrieved, with the result that we will be unable to work with him or her efficiently and our time at work will become stressful and unrewarding.
Such fluctuations of mood arise because we are too closely involved in the external situation. We are like a child making a sandcastle who is excited when it is first made, but who becomes upset when it is destroyed by the incoming tide. By training in meditation, we create an inner space and clarity that enables us to control our mind regardless of the external circumstances. Gradually we develop mental equilibrium, a balanced mind that is happy all the time, rather than an unbalanced mind that oscillates between the extremes of excitement and despondency. If we train in meditation systematically, eventually we will be able to eradicate from our mind the delusions that are the causes of all our problems and suffering. In this way, we will come to experience a permanent inner peace, known as “liberation” or “nirvana”. Then, day and night in life after life, we will experience only peace and happiness.
Generally, the purpose of breathing meditation is to calm the mind and develop inner peace. We can use breathing meditations alone or as a preliminary practice to reduce our distractions before engaging in a Lamrim meditation.
A Simple Breathing Meditation
The first stage of meditation is to stop distractions and make our mind clearer and more lucid. This can be accomplished by practising a simple breathing meditation. We choose a quiet place to meditate and sit in a comfortable position. We can sit in the traditional cross-legged posture or in any other position that is comfortable. If we wish, we can sit in a chair. The most important thing is to keep our back straight to prevent our mind from becoming sluggish or sleepy.
We sit with our eyes partially closed and turn our attention to our breathing. We breathe naturally, preferably through the nostrils, without attempting to control our breath, and we try to become aware of the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. This sensation is our object of meditation. We should try to concentrate on it to the exclusion of everything else.
At first, our mind will be very busy, and we might even feel that the meditation is making our mind busier; but in reality we are just becoming more aware of how busy our mind actually is. There will be a great temptation to follow the different thoughts as they arise, but we should resist this and remain focused single-pointedly on the sensation of the breath. If we discover that our mind has wandered and is following our thoughts, we should immediately return it to the breath. We should repeat this as many times as necessary until the mind settles on the breath.
If we practise patiently in this way, gradually our distracting thoughts will subside and we will experience a sense of inner peace and relaxation. Our mind will feel lucid and spacious and we will feel refreshed. When the sea is rough, sediment is churned up and the water becomes murky, but when the wind dies down the mud gradually settles and the water becomes clear. In a similar way, when the otherwise incessant flow of our distracting thoughts is calmed through concentrating on the breath, our mind becomes unusually lucid and clear. We should stay with this state of mental calm for a while.
Even though breathing meditation is only a preliminary stage of meditation, it can be quite powerful. We can see from this practice that it is possible to experience inner peace and contentment just by controlling the mind, without having to depend at all upon external conditions. When the turbulence of distracting thoughts subsides and our mind becomes still, a deep happiness and contentment naturally arises from within. This feeling of contentment and well-being helps us to cope with the busyness and difficulties of daily life. So much of the stress and tension we normally experience comes from our mind, and many of the problems we experience, including ill health, are caused or aggravated by this stress. Just by doing breathing meditation for ten or fifteen minutes each day, we will be able to reduce this stress. We will experience a calm, spacious feeling in the mind, and many of our usual problems will fall away. Difficult situations will become easier to deal with, we will naturally feel warm and well disposed towards other people, and our relationships with others will gradually improve.
Meditation is a method for acquainting our mind with virtue. The more familiar our mind is with virtue, the calmer and more peaceful it becomes. When our mind is peaceful we are free from worries and mental discomfort, and we experience true happiness. If we train our mind to become peaceful we shall be happy all the time, even in the most adverse conditions, but if our mind is not peaceful, then even if we have the most pleasant external conditions we shall not be happy. Therefore it is important to train our mind through meditation.
There are two types of meditation: analytical meditation and placement meditation. When we contemplate the meaning of a Dharma instruction that we have heard or read we are doing analytical meditation. By deeply contemplating the instruction, eventually we reach a conclusion or cause a specific virtuous state of mind to arise. This is the object of placement meditation. Having found our object through analytical meditation, we then concentrate on it single-pointedly for as long as possible to become deeply acquainted with it. This single-pointed concentration is placement meditation. Often, analytical meditation is called simply `contemplation’, and placement meditation simply `meditation’. Placement meditation depends upon contemplation, and contemplation depends upon listening to or reading Dharma instructions.
Since most of the problems we experience when we are new to meditation come from overstraining at placement meditation, it is important to be moderate and avoid becoming tense from exerting too much pressure. The effort we apply should be relaxed and steady, and whenever we become tired we should rest.
Lamrim: The Stages of the Buddhist Path
In general, any virtuous object can be used as an object of meditation. If we discover that by acquainting our mind with a particular object our mind becomes more peaceful and virtuous, this indicates that for us that object is virtuous. If the opposite happens, for us it is a non-virtuous object. Many objects are neutral and have no particular positive or negative effect on our mind.
There are many different virtuous objects of meditation. By relying upon a qualified Spiritual Guide we open the door to practising Dharma. Through the blessings of our Spiritual Guide we generate faith and confidence in our practice, and easily attain all the realizations of the stages of the path. For these reasons we need to meditate on relying upon a Spiritual Guide. We need to meditate on our precious human life to realize that we now have a special opportunity to practise Dharma. If we appreciate the great potential of this life we shall not waste it by engaging in meaningless activities.
We need to meditate on death and impermanence to overcome procrastination, and to ensure that our Dharma practice is pure by overcoming our preoccupation with worldly concerns. If we practise Dharma purely it is not very difficult to attain realizations. By meditating on the danger of lower rebirth, taking refuge sincerely, and avoiding non-virtue and practising virtue, we protect ourself from taking lower rebirth and ensure that life after life we shall obtain a precious human rebirth endowed with all the conditions conducive to the practice of Dharma.
We need to meditate on the sufferings of humans and gods so that we develop a spontaneous wish to attain permanent liberation, or nirvana. This wish, known as `renunciation’, strongly encourages us to complete the practice of the spiritual paths, which are the actual methods for attaining full liberation.
We need to meditate on love, compassion, and bodhichitta so that we can overcome our self-cherishing and develop and maintain a good heart towards all living beings. With this good heart we need to meditate on tranquil abiding and superior seeing so that we can eradicate our ignorance and finally become a Buddha by abandoning the two types of obstruction.
What is the goal of meditation? Through analytical meditation we shall perceive our object clearly, then through placement meditation we shall gain deeper levels of experience or realization. The main purpose of all Lamrim meditations is to transform our mind into the path to enlightenment by bringing about the deepest levels of realization. The sign that we have gained perfect realization of any object is that none of our subsequent actions are incompatible with it and that all of them become more meaningful. For example, when we have gained a perfect realization of compassion we are never again capable of willingly inflicting harm upon any other living being and all our subsequent actions are influenced by compassion.
How to Meditate on Lamrim
The preparatory practices prepare our mind for successful meditation by purifying hindrances caused by our previous negative actions, empowering our mind with merit, and inspiring it with the blessings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
Geshe Kelsang explains that we all have the potential to gain realizations of the twenty-one Lamrim meditations. As he says,
These potentials are like seeds in the field of our mind, and our meditation practice is like cultivating these seeds. However, our meditation practice will be successful only if we make good preparations beforehand. If we want to cultivate external crops we begin by making careful preparations. First, we remove from the soil anything that might obstruct their growth, such as stones and weeds. Second, we enrich the soil with compost or fertilizer to give it the strength to sustain growth. Third, we provide warm, moist conditions to enable the seeds to germinate and the plants to grow. In the same way, to cultivate our inner crops of Dharma realizations we must also begin by making careful preparations. First, we must purify our mind to eliminate the negative karma we have accumulated in the past, because if we do not purify this karma it will obstruct the growth of Dharma realizations. Second, we need to give our mind the strength to support the growth of Dharma realizations by accumulating merit. Third, we need to activate and sustain the growth of Dharma realizations by receiving the blessings of the holy beings. It is very important to receive blessings. For example, if we are growing outer crops, even if we remove the weeds and fertilize the soil we shall not be able to grow anything if we do not provide warmth and moisture. These germinate the seeds, sustain the growth of the plants, and finally ripen the crop. In the same way, even if we purify our mind and accumulate merit we shall find it difficult to meet with success in our meditations if we do not receive the blessings of the holy beings. Receiving blessings transforms our mind by activating our virtuous potentials, sustaining the growth of our Dharma realizations, and bringing our Dharma practice to completion.
From this we can see that there are three essential preparations for successful meditation: purifying negativities, accumulating merit, and receiving blessings.
If you like, you can engage in these preparatory practices by reciting the following prayers while contemplating their meaning,
Going for refuge
(We imagine ourself and all other living beings going for refuge
while reciting three times):
I and all sentient beings, until we achieve enlightenment,
Go for refuge to Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. (3x, 7x, 100x, or more)
Through the virtues I collect by giving and other perfections,
May I become a Buddha for the benefit of all. (3x)
Generating the four immeasurables
May everyone be happy,
May everyone be free from misery,
May no one ever be separated from their happiness,
May everyone have equanimity, free from hatred and attachment.
Visualizing the Field for Accumulating Merit
In the space before me is the living Buddha Shakyamuni surrounded
by all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, like the full moon surrounded by stars.
Prayer of seven limbs
With my body, speech, and mind, humbly I prostrate,
And make offerings both set out and imagined.
I confess my wrong deeds from all time,
And rejoice in the virtues of all.
Please stay until samsara ceases,
And turn the Wheel of Dharma for us.
I dedicate all virtues to great enlightenment.
Offering the mandala
The ground sprinkled with perfume and spread with flowers,
The Great Mountain, four lands, sun and moon,
Seen as a Buddha Land and offered thus,
May all beings enjoy such Pure Lands.
I offer without any sense of loss
The objects that give rise to my attachment, hatred, and confusion,
My friends, enemies, and strangers, our bodies and enjoyments;
Please accept these and bless me to be released directly from the three poisons.
IDAM GURU RATNA MANDALAKAM NIRYATAYAMI
Prayer of the Stages of the Path
The path begins with strong reliance
On my kind Teacher, source of all good;
O Bless me with this understanding
To follow him with great devotion.
This human life with all its freedoms,
Extremely rare, with so much meaning;
O Bless me with this understanding
All day and night to seize its essence.
My body, like a water bubble,
Decays and dies so very quickly;
After death come results of karma,
Just like the shadow of a body.
With this firm knowledge and remembrance
Bless me to be extremely cautious,
Always avoiding harmful actions
And gathering abundant virtue. Samsara’s pleasures are deceptive,
Give no contentment, only torment;
So please bless me to strive sincerely
To gain the bliss of perfect freedom.
O Bless me so that from this pure thought
Come mindfulness and greatest caution,
To keep as my essential practice
The doctrine’s root, the Pratimoksha.
Just like myself all my kind mothers
Are drowning in samsara’s ocean;
O So that I may soon release them,
Bless me to train in bodhichitta.
But I cannot become a Buddha
By this alone without three ethics;
So bless me with the strength to practise
The Bodhisattva’s ordination.
By pacifying my distractions
And analyzing perfect meanings,
Bless me to quickly gain the union
Of special insight and quiescence.
When I become a pure container
Through common paths, bless me to enter
The essence practice of good fortune,
The supreme vehicle, Vajrayana.
The two attainments both depend on
My sacred vows and my commitments;
Bless me to understand this clearly
And keep them at the cost of my life.
By constant practice in four sessions,
The way explained by holy Teachers,
O Bless me to gain both the stages,
Which are the essence of the Tantras.
May those who guide me on the good path,
And my companions all have long lives;
Bless me to pacify completely
All obstacles, outer and inner.
May I always find perfect Teachers,
And take delight in holy Dharma,
Accomplish all grounds and paths swiftly,
And gain the state of Vajradhara.
Receiving blessings and purifying
From the hearts of all the holy beings,
streams of light and nectar flow down,
granting blessings and purifying.
(At this point we begin the actual contemplation and meditation.
After the meditation we dedicate our merit while reciting the following prayers:)
Through the virtues I have collected
By practising the stages of the path,
May all living beings find the opportunity
To practise in the same way.
May everyone experience
The happiness of humans and gods,
And quickly attain enlightenment,
So that samsara is finally extinguished.
The purpose of contemplation is to bring to mind the object of placement meditation. We do this by considering various lines of reasoning, contemplating analogies, and reflecting on the scriptures. It is helpful to memorize the contemplations given in each section so that we can meditate without having to look at the text. The contemplations given here are intended only as guidelines. We should supplement and enrich them with whatever reasons and examples we find helpful.
When through our contemplations the object appears clearly, we leave our analytical meditation and concentrate on the object single-pointedly. This single-pointed concentration is the third part, the actual meditation.
When we first start to meditate, our concentration is poor; we are easily distracted and often lose our object of meditation. Therefore, to begin with we shall probably need to alternate between contemplation and placement meditation many times in each session. For example, if we are meditating on compassion we begin by contemplating the various sufferings experienced by living beings until a strong feeling of compassion arises in our heart. When this feeling arises we meditate on it single-pointedly. If the feeling fades, or if our mind wanders to another object, we should return to analytical meditation to bring the feeling back to mind. When the feeling has been restored we once again leave our analytical meditation and hold the feeling with single-pointed concentration.
Both contemplation and meditation serve to acquaint our mind with virtuous objects. The more familiar we are with such objects, the more peaceful our mind becomes. By training in meditation, and living in accordance with the insights and resolutions developed during meditation, eventually we shall be able to maintain a peaceful mind continuously, throughout our life. More detailed instructions on the contemplations and on meditation in general can be found in Introduction to Buddhism, Joyful Path of Good Fortune, and Universal Compassion.
Dedication directs the merit produced by our meditation towards the attainment of Buddhahood. If merit is not dedicated it can easily be destroyed by anger. By reciting the dedication prayers sincerely at the end of each meditation session we ensure that the merit we created by meditating is not wasted but acts as a cause for enlightenment.
5. Subsequent Practice
This consists of advice on how to integrate the meditation into our daily life. It is important to remember that Dharma practice is not confined to our activities during the meditation session; it should permeate our whole life. We should not allow a gulf to develop between our meditation and our daily life, because the success of our meditation depends upon the purity of our conduct outside the meditation session. We should keep a watch over our mind at all times by applying mindfulness, alertness, and conscientiousness; and we should try to abandon whatever bad habits we may have. Deep experience of Dharma is the result of practical training over a long period of time, both in and out of meditation, therefore we should practise steadily and gently, without being in a hurry to see results. To summarize, our mind is like a field. Engaging in the preparatory practices is like preparing the field by removing obstacles caused by past negative actions, making it fertile with merit, and watering it with the blessings of the holy beings. Contemplation and meditation are like sowing good seeds, and dedication and subsequent practice are the methods for ripening our harvest of Dharma realizations.
Lamrim instructions are not given merely for the sake of intellectual understanding of the path to enlightenment. They are given to help us to gain deep experience, and should therefore be put into practice. If we train our mind in these meditations every day, eventually we shall gain perfect realizations of all the stages of the path. Until we have reached this stage we should not tire of listening to oral teachings on Lamrim or reading authentic Lamrim commentaries, and then contemplating and meditating on these instructions. We need continually to expand our understanding of these essential topics and to use this new understanding to enhance our regular meditation.
When we practise meditation we need to have a comfortable seat and a good posture. The most important feature of the posture is to keep our back straight. To help us do this, if we are sitting on a cushion we make sure that the back of the cushion is slightly higher than the front, inclining our pelvis slightly forward. It is not necessary at first to sit cross-legged, but it is a good idea to become accustomed to sitting in the posture of Buddha Vairochana. If we cannot hold this posture we should sit in one which is as close to this as possible while remaining comfortable.
The seven features of Vairochana’s posture are:
(1) The legs are crossed in the vajra posture. This helps to reduce thoughts and feelings of desirous attachment.
(2) The right hand is placed in the left hand, palms upwards, with the tips of the thumbs slightly raised and gently touching. The hands are held about four fingers’ width below the navel. This helps us to develop good concentration. The right hand symbolizes method and the left hand symbolizes wisdom – the two together symbolize the union of method and wisdom. The two thumbs at the level of the navel symbolize the blazing of inner fire.
(3) The back is straight but not tense. This helps us to develop and maintain a clear mind, and it allows the subtle energy winds to flow freely.
(4) The lips and teeth are held as usual, but the tongue touches against the back of the upper teeth. This prevents excessive salivation while also preventing our mouth from becoming too dry.
(5) The head is tipped a little forward with the chin slightly tucked in so that the eyes are cast down. This helps prevent mental excitement.
(6) The eyes are neither wide open nor completely closed, but remain half open and gaze down along the line of the nose. If the eyes are wide open we are likely to develop mental excitement and if they are closed we are likely to develop mental sinking.
(7) The shoulders are level and the elbows are held slightly away from the sides to let air circulate.
A further feature of Vairochana’s posture is the preliminary breathing meditation, which prepares our mind for developing a good motivation. When we sit down to meditate our mind is usually full of disturbing thoughts, and we cannot immediately convert such a state of mind into the virtuous one we need as our motivation. A negative, disturbed state of mind is like pitch-black cloth. We cannot dye pitch-black cloth any other colour unless we first remove all the black dye and make the cloth white again. In the same way, if we want to colour our mind with a virtuous motivation we need to clear away all our negative thoughts and distractions. We can accomplish this temporarily by practising breathing meditation.
When we have settled down comfortably on our meditation seat we begin by becoming aware of the thoughts and distractions that are arising in our mind. Then we gently turn our attention to our breath, letting its rhythm remain normal. As we breathe out we imagine that we are breathing away all disturbing thoughts and distractions in the form of black smoke that vanishes in space. As we breathe in we imagine that we are breathing in all the blessings and inspiration of the holy beings in the form of white light that enters our body and absorbs into our heart. We maintain this visualization single-pointedly with each inhalation and exhalation for twenty-one rounds, or until our mind has become peaceful and alert. If we concentrate on our breathing in this way, negative thoughts and distractions will temporarily disappear because we cannot concentrate on more than one object at a time. At the conclusion of our breathing meditation we should think `Now I have received the blessings and inspiration of all the holy beings.’ At this stage our mind is like a clean white cloth which we can now colour with a virtuous motivation such as compassion or bodhichitta.
Meditation is a practice of quietly listening and noticing. Id. at 101. It is a patient practice that leads to a depth of personal knowledge and a sense that life is sacred. It slows the mind. It internally releases “pressure” that may have appeared to come from the circumstances or problems of life. It leads to knowledge of the true self, which appreciates and walks lightly among its “troubles”, and which is different from our selfish ego.
The practice of meditation is like practicing piano. You do not play masterfully the first time. It is the continued practice of meditation that reaps benefits. Do not expect specific benefits for two to three months.
The result of meditation is liberation. The experience of the true self goes beyond words. It is such a remarkable experience that it has been called “the God within” or the Holy Spirit. It is a path gradually ending loneliness and inner feelings of emptiness, anxiety and sadness.
Many of us are numb to our inner pain, which we only dimly recognize. After all, the way we have always felt is all we know and provides us with no basis for comparison. It is our normal state. We resist calling it “painful” and cannot even know that it is painful until we have an experience of some other state that we like more.
Discovery of the self (also called “the holy spirit” or the soul) is a deep, beautiful experience. In that experience, we feel our pain melting. Sometimes it feels like a dark blanket of bliss descending on the body. Sometimes the experience is like an explosion of 1,000 suns inside the head. Often it is slow and subtle. The body seems stiller. Life seems simpler. We begin enjoying things we thought boring or mundane. We make fresh choices that lift us out of our ruts. We feel closer to other human beings, surrendering our previous feeling of being different or strange or “outside.”
Setting the Stage
Make the place you meditate and the articles you use for meditation be special. A room you use regularly should be neat and clean, a comfortable temperature, and dark. You may choose to use a sleep mask or ear plugs to enhance the experiences of darkness and quietness. If you meditate outside in nature, pick a quiet beautiful place, among trees, in a gentle field, on a river bank or by the ocean. You may also meditate in any place considered holy. Advanced meditators may select a “frightful place” such as a cemetery.
There may be special objects that remind you that you are sitting in the presence of God: a religious symbol (a cross, a candle, a picture of a person you accept as a model or meditation master, works of art or statues with deep inner significance). You may use incense for a special smell and to remind you each day of the meditation states you previously have enjoyed.
Shower before you meditate. Use a special fragrant oil or cologne. Say a prayer immediately before you begin. The Lord’s Prayer or the Rosary are possible. You may also choose to read a passage from the Bible or another holy book. Ask God for his grace to fill your meditation. Pick a quiet time of day and do not be interrupted by the telephone or the door. Early morning, between 5 am and 6:30 am is an excellent, quiet time, which permits you to end your meditation by enjoying the sunrise. After practicing for a while, you may find meditation far more restful than an equivalent amount of sleep.
In the evening before you meditate, concentrate your mind and will on the precise time you will rise. Set an alarm clock. Pray for grace to rise at that precise time. When you do awake at that time, remember your prayer and cooperate with the grace that has helped you to awake.
What to Do
Meditation may be done sitting or lying down. It is often best to practice sitting at first because the beginner may be likely to fall asleep if lying down.
To sit, find a comfortable chair or use a comfortable cushion to sit on the floor. Sit with your back erect, balancing your head effortlessly. Let your arms relax at your sides, with your hands resting open on your knees. In honor of the energy of meditation, you may choose to touch the forefinger of each hand to the end of the thumb. Have your legs crossed or, if you are on a chair, have the feet flat on the ground. With practice, crossed legs will become more and more comfortable. Through the practice of Hatha Yoga, an ancient form of stretching exercises, you may improve your sitting and may even learn the Lotus position, which weaves the legs together and gives greater stillness and stability for sitting.
During meditation, you may be more comfortable if you recross your legs in the opposite direction or pull your knees toward your chest from time to time. Your body is not intended to be uncomforable during meditation. If you are uncomfortable, shift to a more comfortable position or lie down to meditate. In time, your ability to sit in meditation will improve.
If you choose to, lie down. Find a comfortable place, preferably on a carpet or rug. Place a pillow under your head and another under your knees. Let your arms rest on the floor at your sides, palms up. Let your legs lie flat on the floor and the pillow, with the feet relaxed, the toes pointing slightly out.
Relax completely. Relax a second or third time. You may choose to deepen your relaxation each time you breathe out. Be aware of your breathing.
Find a focus for your meditation. Your focus must be something very special for you. For a Christian, it may be helpful to use the Jesus prayer (repeating the name, “Jesus” over and over), the phrase “Thy Will be Done”, or the Rosary. Followers of my guru, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, use the mantra, “Om Namah Shiviah.” It is an ancient Sanskrit mantra that contains the vibration of a living yogic master in it. It means, “I honor the Self” (which is not the ego, but is the Holy Spirit). It is a mantra that is freely given to be used by anyone and, done with reverence, can bring you closer to the experience of God and Christ and can awaken you to the vibration of God within your body. It is helpful to receive the mantra from Gurumayi, who lends her grace to your repetition of this phrase.
Another focus you may use is the breath itself. You may follow the breath closely, feeling the air moving within you and becoming aware of where the air is coming from and going to. Become aware of the point furthest from you that air moves because of your inhalation. Feel the air move through your own body. Be aware of the deepest place in your lungs to which the air travels. When you exhale, be aware of the furthest point from you that the air moves from your exhalation. Experience this divine process of taking energy into your body and discharging wastes. You may sense the miracle of the breath and feel humility and gratitude for this divine gift.
Allow the focus of your meditation to permit you to glide into a deeper and deeper place. If you reach that place, you will know it. That is the state of meditation. In that state, you may let your focus point go and experience meditation. People with a serious habit of high body activity may wish to use Tai Chi, an ancient oriental art of moving meditation, to begin their meditation practice. There are many Tai Chi instructors in the United States.
In meditation, it is helpful to be aware of “the witness.” The witness is the part of you that looks out through your eyes during your waking life, which observes your dreams and which observes your meditations. For example, consider what you mean if you say to yourself during meditation, “I see pulsing blue light.” Blue light is the object of that sentence. It is what “I” sees. But what is “I”? Think carefully. “I see” obviously has nothing to do with your eyes, which are closed. “I” does not mean your physical body, which is not functioning in a waking state. Yet, there is an “I” that is observing the meditation. That “I” has no obvious location. It has no obvious substance at all. Yet it sees. It witnesses. It may be called “the witness.”
In waking life, the witness is also present. It can see your troubles and your triumphs, not as the “subject” but as the observer. Thus, it can see life as a play being enacted for it. Life can become a play of consciousness — all the world’s a stage and we are merely actors. From that perspective, even the high drama of our life can have an interest to it beyond the seriousness that usually weighs us down. We can choose to see the entertaining side of the “high drama” of our life. We can become “light” about the circumstances of our life and see the humorous aspects and the helpful lessons, even of our tragedies. For us, life can become more of a dance. We can flow with it and experience ourselves as participants in the dance of life.
Meditation can bring us closer to God, providing access to the grace of being born again. It has many profound effects, including: relaxation, simplification of life, ease in making choices, increased openness to unexpected and creative ideas, increased self-esteem, patience, increased orderliness, a reduced need to control events and other people, reflectiveness and flexibility, an increased ability to love, greater appreciation of life, and more aliveness. It makes life more dynamic and more interesting and it attracts other people and new opportunities to us.
The experience of meditation may at first be boring. Often your ideas will continue racing through your head, producing the same pattern of thinking you are already sick of. But be patient. With practice, the space between the thoughts lengthens. You may become more aware of a still, quiet space that has always been within you, undiscovered. You may even reach a point in your meditation where the thoughts subside completely for a while.
Keep practicing meditation with patience. Know that if you are following the meditation directions, you are doing it right. Your meditation will never be wrong. It will always be precisely what you need at that time. In that sense, it is always perfect.
With practice, some of the things you may experience during meditation are: spontaneous vibrations, visions of beautiful colors that may not be seen in waking life, beautiful lights, auditory experiences (unstruck sounds), dream-like visions (some of which carry important insights with them and some of which may take you to worlds other than the physical world you live in), a new depth of stillness in the body, a feeling of warmth and relaxation in the heart area, spontaneous movements of the body, crying or laughing, the making of spontaneous sounds, moving into body positions you have never before experienced (spontaneous hatha yoga), feeling a desire to move as if you are being directed, the experience of deep bliss and peace, the melting of unwanted emotional feelings and the release of tightness in muscles. Along with these experiences, life often becomes lighter and more enjoyable. Emotional depressions last for shorter and shorter periods of time.
Length of Time for Meditation
Your objective should be to meditate once a day for a full hour. If you are inspired, you may start immediately at one full hour every day. However, you can begin an effective practice with just 15 minutes (a full 15 minutes!) five days per week. Do not beat yourself up for days you miss. Just wake up 15 minutes earlier than you would and take this time all by yourself. Pray for the grace to fulfill the goals of your meditation practice.
As a beginner, if you find meditation difficult using one of the focus techniques described above, you may use music as your focus. Play the music. Some techniques use soft music. Others use loud music because it vibrates within the body and helps to overwhelm ordinary thinking processes. Keep returning your mind to each note of the music. Do not listen to the melody or structure of the music. Experience it with a “beginners mind” — as if each note were a unique moment of experience. Then, just as with any focus technique, you may notice thoughts, feelings, body sensations, sights, etc. Just let those things be and keep returning your mind to the music.
Set an alarm to sound at the end of your meditation time. Because of the depth of some meditative states (and the risk you may fall asleep as a beginning meditator), the alarm will help you to end your meditation and to accommodate the rest of your daily schedule. To help return from deep meditation, you also may be prepared to play some music that will engage your attention and heighten your awareness out of the meditative state.
1. START STAGE :
Easy steps to start Meditation:
1. Choose a place where you can sit calmly without any disturbance.
2. Sit in any posture in which you can sit comfortably for a longer period, with your hands resting on knees.
3. Keep your spinal column straight ( so that flow of energy may not be disrupted)
4. Close your eyes and try to gaze at the middle of your eyebrows with your eyes closed.
5. Do not force to see any thing, just relax yourself.
6. Flow of thoughts will start coming to your mind which do not arise in normal course. Do not try to stop the flow of thoughts but again try to concentrate and again the flow of thoughts will start and again try to concentrate at the middle of your eyebrows
How to Meditate – Two methods of meditation
People who meditate have long known that this practice has positive health benefits that include improved energy and calmness of mind.
Research shows that meditation also increases levels of melatonin, an important hormone that supports the immune system, promotes deep and restful sleep, slows cell damage and aging, improves energy and may even inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Here are two meditation techniques that are based on those used in research studies. For maximal benefit, try to meditate for twenty minutes to half an hour before you go to sleep using the technique that feels more comfortable for you.
1. Find a quiet and comfortable place. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your head, neck and back straight but not stiff. Try to put aside all thoughts of the past and the future and stay in the present.
2. Become aware of your breathing, focusing on the sensation of air moving in and out of your body as you breathe. Feel your belly rise and fall, the air enter your nostrils and leave your mouth. Pay attention to the way each breath changes and is different.
3. Watch every thought come and go, whether it be a worry, fear, anxiety or hope. When thoughts come up in your mind, don’t ignore or suppress them but simply note them, remain calm and use your breathing as an anchor.
4. If you find yourself getting carried away in your thoughts, observe where your mind went off to, without judging, and simply return to your breathing. Remember not to be hard on yourself if this happens.
5. As the time comes to a close, sit for a minute or two, becoming aware of where you are. Get up gradually.
1. Find a quiet place and sit in a comfortable position. Try to relax your muscles.
2. Choose a word or phrase that has special meaning to you and makes you feel peaceful. Or you can try the words “Ham Sah,” a Sanskrit mantra meaning “I am that.”
3. As you breathe in, slowly produce the sound “hammm” as if you are sinking into a hot bath. As you exhale, slowly produce the sound “saah,” which should feel like a sigh.
4. Breathe slowly and naturally. Inhale through your nose and pause for a few seconds. Exhale through your mouth, again pausing for a few seconds.
5. Don’t worry about how well you are doing and don’t feel bad if thoughts or feelings intrude. Simply say to yourself “Oh well” and return to your repetition.
6. As the time comes to a close, continue to be aware of your breathing but sit quietly. Becoming aware of where you are, slowly open your eyes and get up gradually.
A Simple Meditation Technique
Make yourself comfortable, sitting upright, with a straight spine. With your eyes closed, look at the point midway between the eyebrows on your forehead.
Inhale slowly, counting to eight. Hold the breath for the same eight counts while concentrating your attention at the point between the eyebrows. Now exhale slowly to the same count of eight. Repeat three to six times.
After inhaling and exhaling completely, as the next breath comes in, mentally say Hong (rhymes with song). Then, as you exhale, mentally say Sau (rhymes with saw). Hong Sau means ‘I am He’ or ‘I am Spirit’. Make no attempt to control your breathing, just let its flow be completely natural. Try to feel that your breath itself is silently making the sounds of Hong and Sau. Initially try to feel the breath at the point where it enters the nostrils.
Be as attentive as possible. If you have difficulty feeling the breath, you can concentrate, for a while, on the breathing process itself, feeling your diaphragm and chest expanding and contracting.
Gradually as you become more calm, try to feel the breath higher and higher in the nose. Be sure that your gaze is kept steady at the point between the eyebrows throughout your practice. Don’t allow your eyes to follow the movement of the breath. If you find that your mind has wandered, simply bring it back to an awareness of the breath and the mantra.
Some Tips to Help Your Meditation
Controlling Your Breath At no time during the practice of this technique should you make any effort to control the breath. Let it flow naturally. Gradually, you may notice that the pauses between the inhalation and exhalation are becoming longer. Enjoy these pauses, for they are a glimpse of the deep peace state of advanced meditation. As you grow very calm you may notice that the breath is becoming so shallow (or the pauses so prolonged) that it hardly seems necessary to breathe at all.
How Long to Practice The amount of time you practice is entirely up to you but end your practice of the technique by taking a deep breath, and exhaling three times. Then, keeping your mind focused and your energy completely internalized and try to feel peace, love and joy within your self. Sit for at least five minutes enjoying the deeply relaxed state you are in.
Where to Meditate If possible, set aside an area that is used only to meditate. This will create a meditative mood. A small room or closet is ideal as long as it can be well ventilated. Your area can be kept very simple?all you really need is a chair or small cushion to sit on.
Posture for Meditation There are many ways of sitting that are equally good. You can sit either in a straight-backed chair or on the floor in any of several poses. Two things, however, are essential: Your spine must be straight, and you must be able to relax completely.
Eye Position Focus your attention at the point between the eyebrows. This area, called “the spiritual eye,” is a center of great spiritual energy. Your eyes should be closed and held steady, and looking slightly upwards, as if looking at a point about an arm’s length away and level with the top of your head.