Disclaimer: this is not me teaching you how to meditate; this is me sharing some of the ways I have helped myself go into meditation that may be of help to you too.
As a budding yogini, I have went through a phase (and still go through similar phases) where I could not, for the life of me, quiet down my mind and meditate. I was stuck in that phase, unable to do anything about it because I couldn’t really see or understand why my brain -as I now understand- was blocking me from reaching into my mind. It recently became clear to me that sometimes, a human brain will go off and unconsciously build various defense mechanisms to keep you away from tapping into an unfamiliar state; this is partly rooted in fear.
Once I became aware of that and further understood that part of the equation, it was easier for me to stay open during meditation. I still struggle from time to time, but understanding your thought-mechanism makes the whole process a lot simpler to navigate.
Ironically, that sense of awareness improves by meditation and goes around to improve your meditation further so, in a sense, it’s a constant cycle of practice and refinement. You just have to trust yourself and start somewhere to get that cycle going no matter how clumsy and out of tune it may feel at first.
Now seeing that you’re here and you’ve already read this far means that you too want to reap the benefits of meditation but can’t seem to wrap your head around it… yet.
I’m going to share with you 3 techniques to ease into meditation that have helped me in the past and continue to do so. The first method is the easiest one of the three and I would recommend you start with that one and build from there. The first technique could also be used as a build-up for the second, and the second as a build-up for the third in one meditation session.
First things first, it helps to set the mood. Find a quiet place, dim the lights or maybe shut them off completely, light a candle or two, maybe even light some incense, clear the air and shut off your phone; get familiar with the silence as you set-up the room or space you intend to meditate in.
Next, find a body position that you feel comfortable staying in through-out your practice. I personally prefer to sit cross-legged with my back straight against the wall and my palms resting on my lap in a “dhyana mudra” or a meditive-seal, but that’s what works for me, so find what works for you, even if you end up lying down on the ground – there are no rules.
Through-out the meditation you may feel the need to move or you may get “fidgetty”, that’s completely understandable. The more you practice, the less that urge comes up, but when it does, embrace it and adjust yourself, scratch your nose, or stretch your neck but try to do it mindfully, feeling the movement as you go through it.
Close your eyes and rest your gaze, unclench your jaw and relax your muscles, putting almost no physical effort into the meditation; it’s all in the mind. Doing a few breathing exercises beforehand may help you relax better and may help clear your mind a little in preparation for meditating.
- Natural Breath Exploration
Start to bring your attention to your natural breath. Here you’re not trying to control your breath, you just want to observe; notice your natural breathing pattern and get familiar with rise and fall of your chest. Notice the length of your inhales and exhales, are they equal? Are your inhales shallow? Where in your body do you feel the breath? Just the chest or all the way down to your belly? Do you feel it in your throat, in your back, in your shoulders? Does it hurt? Do you barely feel it?
Stay with that, get to know your breathing maybe for the first time ever. Let it be and listen to its rhythm without trying to change it.
Your focal object here is your breath; how your breath moves, where it moves, and how it feels.
If you find yourself wandering or feel restless which I guarantee will happen a lot especially during the first few times, don’t let yourself get frustrated. With a forgiving manner, simply bring your attention back to where you want it be and pick up from where you left off. And if it happens again, then again with kindness, ground back to where you want to be.
It takes time to get used to the inner stillness without unconsciously rejecting it. It’s a process that needs nurturing patience, openness, and persevering forgiveness.
- Breath/Energy Control
Start with 10 grounding breaths. From here, you’re going to start to introduce some alterations to your breathing. If you’re not already doing that, start to breathe into your lower belly, as in, expand the belly when you inhale and draw it in as you exhale to use your full lung capacity and take in as much prana or energy as possible. Take deep inhales and fully emptying exhales, all slow and steady; nothing forceful. Lengthen and slow down your breathing to a calm and comfortable rhythm.
When you feel that your body has mellowed up to the breathing pattern you’ve introduced, you can start to shift your attention to moving the prana.
Start to think of your breath as a moving force and as you inhale, imagine drawing energy up from the ground through your spine and all the way to the crown of your head. And as you exhale, imagine that energy moving back down through the spine and settling into your seat. Keep this going whilst belly breathing, with every inhale imagine the prana flowing up, passing through your trunk and to your crown and with every exhale it flows back down through the same path. Notice how your spine starts to straighten up and your shoulders relax back and down.
Perform this for a few breaths and give it your full attention, bringing your mind back if it strays, focusing on the flow of the breath throughout the body.
With practice, you may be able to take this a little further and through your breath, you can manipulate the energy to flow through different paths within your body. Bring awareness to where in your body you direct your prana without consciously moving that part; simply feel your physical existence and the internal changes it goes through.
Your focal object here is the outline of your physical body; the somatic sheath that exists in between you and the universe.
- Universal Expansion
This approach requires of you to be very relaxed and focused at the same time, so take all the time you need before going into this. Bring yourself down to a poised mental state and take it very slow.
Imagine a flickering light where your heart is; start small. Take time to observe the existence of that light inside of your chest, what does it look like?
Take time to resonate with that light; it is you and you are it.
Slowly and in your own time, allow that light to start expanding. Observe the glow as it expands to fill the cavity of your chest; breathe through it. The light continues to expand from the center of your heart, gradually growing stronger, brighter, and denser.
From here, allow the built-up energy or the built-up light to seep through your skin and continue expanding beyond your physical outline. Take time to notice the glow that gradually envelopes you and slowly draw your attention away from your physical body, as if your body’s outline is dissolving into the light. Allow the light to diminish your sense of body and expand beyond it into the space around you.
You now exist in the form of light, unbound by the body.
Here, as a light, think of fading. Think of your ability to expand even further to unify your existence with that of the macrocosm. Think of slowly merging with the universal light, becoming one with all.
During this, you don’t technically have a focal object. Your focus is on losing your body’s physical limits and existing beyond your physical-self.
All these techniques are ways to help you find stillness. They help you through the concentration phase so that you could effortlessly slip into the meditation phase where you no longer need to do anything. You simply exist in limitless form; unnamed, unlabeled, unrestricted.
Meditation is a very personal form of being, so as much as you are able to, keep it that way. Forget about external influences, thoughts, and conditions and start from a pure internal perspective. It will be very challenging at first, especially with the common rhythm of modern life but it only becomes easier if you practice with presence, so don’t feel discouraged or intimidated; breathe and take it at your own pace.