How to meditate? I’ve been asked this question on a number of occasions now, so I decided to write a post about it. Some folks have just a general idea of what meditation is, and sense that it can be helpful, but don’t really know how to go about doing it. I was in this same boat a few years back, and it took me a while to really hone down what works for me. So first off, what is meditation? Meditation is basically a tool for clearing your mind. The mind/brain is an extremely powerful machine, but like all machines it needs to be flushed out every now and again otherwise it runs hot, and has danger of overheating. We experience this as racing thoughts, followed by emotions. In general these racing thoughts consist of worry, self-doubt, and judgement. Often times, we are literally having an argument in our heads, or replaying a past event and thinking of the numerous ways we could have handled it better. Unlike constructive planning, or brainstorming – worrying, regretting, and self-doubting are useless and self-defeating.
Meditation helps us to clear all this muck, so we can have an open slate to start each day. We become more attuned with our intuition and the creative part of ourselves. We are also more able to discern what we truly want for our lives versus what expectations may have been placed upon us by our parents or society.
Here are the steps to meditation:
- The first step to meditation is to realize that we are not our thoughts. We are that higher awareness that is able to witness our thoughts. Have you ever caught yourself running a particularly useless or destructive thought in your head and realized “holy shit I’m being crazy”? That higher perspective is you.
- Pick a quiet place to sit or lie down where you know you will not be disturbed and silence your cell phone.
- Set a timer between 10-20 minutes (I prefer 20). Relaxing instrumental music is optional and may help to let your mind know that it’s time to chill out. I personally use audio of a bell (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sM_9YA_zkGE) – this helps keep me focused and prevents my mind from wandering too much.
- Focus on your breath. Simply pay attention to your in and out breath. This is THE most important part of your meditation practice.
- When thoughts arise, do not push them out, but simply drop them and refocus on your breath. Do not follow your thoughts, it’s an endless rabbit hole. Do not judge your thoughts either. Simply refocus your attention on your breath and clear your head. What you may eventually notice is that the thoughts that spontaneously arise become less destructive and useless and more constructive and inspired.
- After your meditation, write down any particularly inspired thoughts that may have arose. These may be messages from your higher self (or universal intelligence as some people call it). But keep your meditation practice for clearing your head and focusing on your breath as opposed to a brainstorming exercise. Keep brainstorming exercises as a separate practice.
- Repeat daily. Clearing your metal slate is essential. I generally do 20 minutes of breathing meditation in the mornings. Several times per week I’ll supplement the breathing meditation with a 10 minute “gratitude” meditation either directly following or just before bed. The gratitude meditation is simply taking mental inventory of all the things I’m grateful for in my life.
- Be aware of your thoughts and emotions throughout the day. Being aware of your thoughts and emotions keeps the “gunk” from building up in the first place. Just as during meditation, do not try to push out thoughts/emotions or suppress them. Be the open space of awareness that allows everything to arise then drop away with your breath. Realize that there is no need to chase each thought down the endless rabbit hole. You are pure awareness, and you are in control.