The fundamental part of my spiritual practice is meditation. Even thought the way I meditate has evolved over the years, I rarely miss my morning and evening meditation practices. You´ve certainly heard about meditation, its wonderful benefits for our minds and bodies and maybe you´ve tried it a few times before or you are a regular practitioner. I would say that there are as many ways to meditate as there are people practicing the meditation. You can find endless resources elaborating on the topic of meditation, however, my intention is to make a practical guide and sort of dumb the whole topic down, so anyone and everyone can meditate, no matter where, how much time they have to spare or why they´d like to try it out.
Meditation is not reserved for Indian gurus and Buddhist monks. It´s a powerful tool for anyone willing to connect with their inner peace and wisdom. Regular practice of stillness will help you to tap into an infinite power of your being and as a result your experience of life is going to shift. These changes in consciousness are different for everyone. I can´t promise you instant enlightenment, but what I can promise is a more frequent feeling of joy, clarity and connection with yourself and others. However, I have to warn you before we jump into practical steps. This is not a magical formula. It´s not like snapping your fingers and suddenly finding yourself in a paradise, where nothing bothers you anymore. It is a practice. You sit down, close your eyes and practice who you are without the constant demands and judgments of the outer world. Meditation creates a safe place for you, where you realize for yourself that you don´t have to believe every thought you think.
So, how do you practice it? Here´s a step-by-step guide to help you set up your own meditation practice:
1. Get ready
- Set aside a few minutes (5-10) every morning right after you wake up and before you start your day and every evening before you go to sleep. If you want to make sure you are going to finish your practice on time, set an alarm clock.
- Before you start, find a comfortable position. You can either sit in a chair with your feet on the ground or you can choose any cross-legged posture that is comfortable for you. One of the aims of the practice is to stop focusing on your body, so choose a position you can sit in for a couple of minutes, without being interrupted by uncomfortable sensations. I don´t recommend lying down, as it´s going to tempt you to fall asleep.
- Your spine should be straight but relaxed. You can rest your hands on your lap (I like to place one hand on the top of the other) but you can also drop them at your sides. Close your eyes.
2. Choose a meditation practice
I am going to explain two types of meditation: concentration and mindfulness meditation.
- Concentration meditation consists of focusing on a single point, which can be your breath, a single word, phrase or mantra. You can choose a word in Sanskrit such as “So Hum”, which translates as “I am”, since it´s probably not in your native language, it won´t trigger any additional thoughts. Some people like to repeat words like “love” or “peace”. It really depends on your preference and what is going to work the best for you. Once you´ve chosen the word(s), you are going to repeat them silently in your mind. Every time you come to realize that your awareness is not focused on the mantra and you´ve started to think about something else, just bring your focus back on the given phrase and start repeating it again. If you are not used to meditation, you may find it challenging to focus your attention on one thing for a longer period of time. This kind of practice helps you to improve the ability to concentrate. It empowers you to choose what you want to focus on, instead of your mind choosing for you. Moreover, you´re going to realize how scattered an untrained mind is.
- Second alternative is a mindfulness meditation. During mindfulness meditation you observe wandering thoughts as they arise in your mind and quickly change from one subject to another. From one dream to another. Each of them tries to pull you into a movie and your mind serves them as a screen. The aim of mindfulness meditation is to observe the thoughts as they come and go without judging them as good or bad and without letting yourself to be pulled into a different movie again and again. It helps you to realize that you´re much more than your thoughts. There is an immovable peace and knowing in the center of your being, which can be clouded by emotionally charged thoughts; nevertheless, it can´t be lost forever. It waits for you until you realize that you can either choose to believe your stressful thoughts or you can live life in peace. Eventually you are going to get in touch with this peaceful place in you and you´ll learn how to stay there for longer periods of time. If you find out that you are emotionally involved in whatever scene of the movie your mind is offering you at the moment, just come back to your breath, remind yourself that your thoughts are not who you are and again become only their observer.
3. Practice and then practice some more
I remember when I started meditating; even three minutes of sitting in stillness were literally painful for me. My mind was all over the place and I thought I couldn´t face what was waiting for me in the warehouse of my mind. By the way, this is the reason we turn the TV on as soon as we sit down to eat breakfast or listen to radio every time we sit in a car. We can´t be alone with our own minds. We try to suppress our thoughts. Meditation allows us to meet our thoughts with understanding. You can´t meditate them down or put them away. Over time you´ll start to notice that your thoughts tend to repeat themselves and you now have the power to work on them and shift the ancient patterns of human mind. What meditation does for me is that every morning I realign my mind with the peace that´s in my heart. I transcend beyond my thoughts to the place of inner stillness and I cease to identify with the chatter in my mind. It´s a sacred time when I´m reminded again every day that the peace and love in my heart are eternal and they can´t be taken away by any outer circumstance. Every reaction eventually becomes our mindful choice.
I hope these tips were helpful and, please, don´t hesitate to share your experience with practicing stillness in the comments section below.
Have a wonderful day,