A30 How To Meditate: Practical Guidelines concerning how to meditate

There are as many ways to meditate as there are ways to dance. The result of each dance is the same – you come closer to and communicate with your partner – in the case of meditation – the soul. But each dance flows differently. Each meditation spontaneously expresses the inner music of the moment, which is never the same. There are, however, some basic steps which can take you to that union more efficiently. Although these steps can be described and understood intellectually through reading, this dance is one of the whole being; body, mind, emotions and spirit and can only be learned through experience. It is also helpful to have guidance from someone who knows the dance and has performed it often. These explanations and guidelines will not be enough for most to begin meditation. Most would do well to seek out someone who has had experience as a meditation instructor. Once, however, you know the basic steps, then it is up to you to improvise on your own, to learn how to glide like the seagull on the currents of your mind. This mastery will come only through regular daily practice. It is as simple as any other dance. All you have to do is to let go and flow. Here are some general guidelines which apply independently of the type of meditation you are learning or using.

1) Body Position As we have already mentioned, the body should be in erect and relaxed stillness. The spine must be perpendicular to the Earth. The stomach should be empty. A check should be made of each part of the body that it is relaxed and not tense. Check especially the muscles in the abdomen and neck and shoulders. If sitting on a chair, the feet are flat on the ground, muscles relaxed. If on the floor or rug, legs are crossed in either lotus or half lotus position (this enables the back to remain straight for longer periods of time). A pillow under the buttocks is helpful. The arms are resting on the knees with the palms relaxed opened upwards. Check the shoulders to make sure they hang naturally and are not tensed upwards. In this position the body will be of the least distraction and you will not be weighed down by discomforts and tenseness.

2) Movement of Breath The rhythm and volume of the breath are directly related to our state of mind. A nervous or anxious mind produces irregular breathing rhythms. Anger generates rapid, short breaths. In a relaxed state our breath is deep, rhythmical and longer in duration. We may reverse this process and affect the mind through breath control. Relax the abdominal muscles and begin breathing with the diaphragm in long even inhalations and exhalations. Nothing should be forced. Do only what comes easily and naturally. If you are not used to breathing with the diaphragm, then spend some minutes each day on your back practicing this breath. It will develop gradually. With time the breath will be longer in duration; slowly and evenly in and out. There is no need to retain the breath. Keep an even relaxing rhythm. (In later stages of meditation you may be guided to retain breath. This is not suggested in the beginning). It will be necessary to start the process consciously at first with a certain control over the mechanism of breathing. After a while this will take place automatically as you sit down to meditate or relax, just as you are now breathing automatically without thinking. Eventually you will want to learn the “alternate breath” in which we alternate breathing in one nostril (holding the other closed) and then exhale out of the opposite nostril (now hold the other one closed). This technique is described in our book “SELF THERAPY”, but you would do well to have an experienced yoga teacher check your position and method. This technique is a very powerful means of creating balance and harmony in the bioenergy and the nervous systems. Scientific tests have shown that breathing only through the right nostril stimulates the left hemisphere of the brain, and that breathing only through the left nostril stimulates the right hemisphere. Thus, by breathing alternatively through one and then the other nostril, we create a harmonious balance in the nervous system. This corroborates the intuitive findings of the practitioners of yoga, thousands of years ago, who named the technique “that which cleans the energy channels”. The energy channels are directly related to the flow of nerve energy and the quality of mental impulses. Alternate breathing harmonizes, purifies and calms this bioenergy flow in the body and the mind thus creating an excellent inner atmosphere for meditation. Concerning the breathing ratio and its gradual evolution, we suggest that you refer to our book “SELF THERAPY” or to an instructor or person experienced in guiding others in breathing techniques or in meditation. Until you find such a person you can work with one of these simple ratios using whichever suits you most.
a) EQUAL BREATH (1:1) in which the inhalation and exhalation are equal in duration.
b) DOUBLE EXHALATION (1:2) in which the exhalation is double the duration of the inhalation. (For example, if you count to 3 inhaling, then you count to 6 exhaling. Or 4 inhalation and 8 exhalation).
c) TRIANGLE BREATHING (1:1:1) in which the inhalation, the retention and the exhalation are all equal in duration.
d) SQUARE BREATHING (1:1:1:1) in which the inhalation, the retention (with lungs full), the exhalation and the suspension (with lungs empty) are all equal in duration.

Choose any of these ratios which suits you best and breath slowly, counting silently within your mind in order to keep one of these ratios. Have someone check you if you have any doubts. Perform this conscious, slow, rhythmic breathing for about five minutes as a prelude to your meditation. After this five minutes of harmonizing your energy, leave the breath continue on its own without your conscious intervention.

PRAYER OR INVOCATION

Although it is not absolutely necessary, most meditators prefer to make an invocation, or small prayer, as an introduction into their meditation. These words mentally spoken give a spiritual direction to the mind and lead the mind into a more spiritually oriented state. These words could be a traditional prayer such as the Lord’s Prayer or the Great Invocation. Or they could be whatever you sincerely feel at that moment. You could simply express your purpose for meditating. You could ask for help in overcoming your mind. You could express some beliefs which you would like to strengthen. You could pray for help in your growth process. You could send light or love to people who have need for help. You could pray for world peace. You could ask for protection in your life. Or you could simply resign yourself to the Divine Will asking God to do with you, your body and your life whatever serves His purposes best. You could ask to become a pure instrument of the Divine Will, a source of love, light and harmony for all. You could ask for purification of whatever hinders your manifestation of your inner love and beauty. You could ask for nothing and just express your gratitude for all that you have, including your problems and difficulties which offer you so many opportunities for growth and evolution. Or you could simply have an informal conversation with God, as you would with any other close friend, explaining how you are doing and expressing your feelings. Find your own way to enter into meditation. You do not have to use the same way each time. You do not have to do this at all, but I believe you will find it enjoyable and beneficial. Try it and decide for your self.

THE PROCESS OF MEDITATION

There are hundreds of systems of meditation but the ultimate result of each is the same. They are all different ways to sink into the sea of consciousness, gliding through more and more subtle depths, along the stream of upcoming inner movements, coming eventually to the source of that sea – the point of pure consciousness – the void. The sea is the same, the source is the same, the result is the same. Only the ways to travel are different. Basically that which makes one system different from another is the “object of consciousness” and not the process of concentrating. The process of meditation in all systems of meditation is the same. That which differs is what we choose to concentrate on – we will call this the object of consciousness or object for short. Our consciousness in its purest state is without any object. It is free, unlimited, undefined, unattached to any particular form, result or event. It is the eternal witness for all forms and events. It is divine and free. (In order to understand this more clearly we suggest that you read our book “UNIVERSAL PHILOSOPHY”, as there is not sufficient space here to go into detail concerning this subject). Our consciousness is like the empty television screen or movie screen which is lit up but without any forms appearing on it.. It contains all and infinite possibilities because any form whatsoever can appear upon it. The form which appears on it will be the object of consciousness and when that changes the object will have changed. Thus in meditation we choose an object of concentration which helps us to get free from the incessant, involuntary and uncontrolled flow of thoughts, feelings, desires and impulses which flow through our mind disturbing our inner peace and clouding our clarity of vision. By focusing on this “object” we flow through the layers of the mind into the depths of our consciousness. Some objects of consciousness, which are suggested by the major schools of meditation are; the breath, a word with spiritual meaning (mantra), an inner image, an inner light, an inner sound, the body energy, body sensations, the witness – our consciousness itself or the void. We will discuss each in detail later on in this book. In each case, the light, the word, the breath, being the witness, the image, the sound the body awareness or the bioenergy; each serves as an object of consciousness (a dance partner). By concentrating on, or sensing, this object of consciousness we use it as a type of submarine with which to make our descent through the gross levels of the mind into the more subtle vibrational essence which is the true nature of our eternal being. Each journey we make into the calmness of our soul brings us one step closer to experiencing that same peace in our daily life. It is as if we are dropping anchor to the solid ocean bottom so that we are not tossed around so easily by the winds and waves of life. With time we grow more calm, more centered, more relaxed. It is as if we are building a direct pipeline to the spring of fresh creative energy which lies at the bottom. We grow more intuitive, more creative – more alive. The specifics of your meditation will depend on your teacher and his preferred technique. Hopefully it will be the technique which is suitable for you. The only way to know is to practice it daily for at least six months. You may find that, as the years go by, you will be attracted to other techniques. Or you may stick with the same one throughout your life. Ultimately, it makes no difference – because if you are sincere, serious and regular – any technique will take you there. In the end you will make your own way. It is best, however, not to change your object of consciousness. It must be understood that no two people will experience meditation in the same way. There is no use in comparing meditative experience. Although the place we are moving towards is the same, we are all starting from different places and will logically travel through different waters to get there. Some people will have visions, others will see lights, others will hear sounds, some will have pains, some will have realizations, body feelings, smells, warmth, cold and some will see, hear and feel nothing. Each experience is as valid as the next. The person who has visions is no better off than the one who sees nothing. Furthermore, no one person will have exactly the same mediative experience twice. So it is useless to search after past mediative pleasures. There is never any benefit to try to have experiences described to you by others. In fact, in meditation, there is really no value in trying or searching after anything. Just let go and glide like the seagull, dancing with your object. Some good advice, I heard one time was, “Don’t meditate – let yourself be meditated”.

HOW TO MEDITATE

We still haven’t discussed how to meditate. As I have mentioned, this would be best learned from an experienced meditator. But there are some helpful hints no matter what method you choose. Having placed the body in the right position and breath in proper rhythm, you can begin to take one of the possible “dance partners” as your object of consciousness. Begin to focus on the object. Do no force your concentration. Be gently focused, amused with it as you would be focused on an interesting T.V. program. When we force our mind to concentrate, it reacts as would an unruly child. It has been said that the “mind is like a wild drunken monkey stung by a bee”. You can imagine how much such a monkey would jump and move around. The more you force it, the more it will react. On the other hand, if you leave your mind completely free, you will never learn to guide and control it so as to get free from it. Most beginner meditators have a tendency to try too hard. So let your concentration be natural and gentle like watching a program which interests you. You have full concentration without forcing or effort. The mind will become attracted to other thoughts, feelings, desires. It will think about the past and program the future. It will create complicated dialogues, scenes and situations as it focuses on whatever it is concerned about. At times it will be overcome with images and sounds which seem totally unrelated to yourself and your interests. Every time we discover that the mind has left the “object”, we gently with love, patience and understanding bring it back to the object. It will leave again. Again with patience, again with love, again with understanding we bring our mind back to the object. This may happen hundreds of times in our 20 minutes of “concentrating”. Even after a hundred times, we forget the previous hundred and again with patience, love, understanding and perseverance bring our mind to the object of concentration. You will begin to experience a relaxation of body and mind systems and will commence sinking into the mind. Thoughts will come and sounds outside you, and bodily discomforts and you will be on the surface of the mind thinking again. When this happens it is absolutely self defeating to worry or become frustrated or feel that you cannot meditate. This is a perfectly normal part of the meditation. Just accept that you have been seduced by your thoughts or other distractions. Let go of the thoughts and let go of any feelings of failure and simply begin to dance with your object again. Naturally place your attention on the object and let the process begin again. This requires very fine balance of control and letting go which will come with time. The extreme of forcing the mind to concentration so that the mind defies relaxation through its own intense effort is useless. The other extreme of allowing random thoughts for a half-an-hour is an equal waste of time.. It is a dance of controlled letting go or spontaneous concentration which will develop gradually. Whenever you find yourself distracted, simply relax and begin again as if for the first time. Thoughts and other inner impulses like sounds, images, pains, sensation of temperature, feelings etc. are all, for the most part, the expression of released tensions or energies which have been previously stored in the mind and body. The process of meditation begins to untie these stresses and release these energies so that they may float to the surface in the form of thoughts, images, pain, heat, etc., and be released. So we must allow them a certain room for expression, especially in the beginning. Do not hold on to them and do not try to stop them. Simply feel that you are an empty vessel and allow them to pass through you. Watch impartially and begin to place your attention on your object again. With time and practice the overall content of thoughts and distractions in meditation will diminish – although there will always be cycles of more thought consuming meditations. They should be accepted as necessary stress-releasing experiences which make the deeper meditations more possible. Having moved through the levels of stress we come to the dance of the soul. This is the dance which takes place upon the eventual arrival to the point where the object of consciousness becomes so subtle – so vibrational – so pure – that everything becomes still. In other words, after some time of dancing with the object, a certain stillness will command, in which not only will the thoughts disappear, but also the dance partner. The object is no longer our dance partner, no longer the object of consciousness. The object of consciousness now is consciousness itself, our soul. The manifestations or symptoms of this state are subjective to the individual – a sense of expansion (no space) – a sense of eternity (no time) – a sense of complete stillness (the void). There is often a feeling of bliss. Often, especially at first, this experience is so unusual that we immediately become overjoyed about it; or fearful of it; and are hence no longer in it. We think, “Now I am transcending – Hey, I ‘m doing it – this is beautiful”; and we ride these wonderful thoughts right back up to the surface again. For some the absolute stillness and lack of familiarity becomes so terrifying that we rush to the surface gasping for anything familiar to fill our consciousness with. Then we begin with the “object” again continuing until we feel our time is up. With experience we will be able to accept the normality of this state of pure being and sustain it for longer periods of time. Let the meditation go on as it will for whatever time it feels comfortable. At first it may be useful to check the length of time, so that you begin to create an inner alarm clock which you can set when your time is limited.As we have already mentioned, a reasonable schedule for the first years is 20 minutes twice a day. Once in the morning before the daily activities and again before the evening meal seems to be a popular rhythm among meditators. Always wait a few minutes after ending the meditation before getting up. Your metabolism, will have dropped and it might be a shock to the system to exert yourself immediately. Let your activity grow slowly. The most important suggestion to a person starting meditation is BE REGULAR. If you lack discipline you will make up any excuse – time, noise, no space etc. There is no such thing as a lack of time – there is only a lack of priority and motivation. The day has 24 hours. We are talking about a total of 20 to 40 minutes. Once you have disciplined yourself, it’s not a tragedy if you miss one here or there. But do not let missing a meditation become a habit. Some will be able to find time only once a day. If this is the case, at least be regular with this once a day.

THE PROCESS OF UNSTRESSING

Occasionally, one may feel a bit unsettled or uncomfortable after a meditation. This will happen at times when a large amount of inner stress has been released and is still in the process of leaving the system. One solution is to sit or lie down for a while with your attention on the parts of the body where you feel the most sensitivity, tension or pain. Relax and allow your attention to float onto the next part of the body which is blocked. Soon the tension will disappear, and you will feel fine again. We have already briefly mentioned this process of unstressing. As it is a common experience to many but not all beginners, let us discuss it a little further. Not being able to deal consciously with every stress, with every event, or with every feeling of fear, hurt, injustice, pain, guilt or rejection we tend to hide these feelings in our subconscious mind. This allows us to deal somewhat effectively without present needs and responsibilities without being overwhelmed by these negative feelings. This, however, is something like sweeping the dust under a rug so that we do not see it and so that no one else sees it. Although it does not show, the dust is there. Another example would be that of a house in which there is a fire in the bedroom. Imagine that you live in a house in which there is a long corridor between the living room and your bedroom where you have also stored all of your valuables and whatever is important to you. Imagine also that one day you find that there is a fire in the bedroom, but that you do not feel that you have the ability to handle this fire at the present and you close the door and ignore it and pretend that there is no fire. Gradually the fire burns its way into the corridor and still you ignore it and pretend that it does not exist because it pains you to realize, or believe or admit that it exists. You feel ashamed of this fire and it makes you feel inferior, weak, hurt and out of control. Thus we pretend that there is no fire and that all is fine. But how long can one go on pretending before the fire gradually burns its way into all the rooms of the house destroying it entirely? The bedroom and the corridor represent our subconscious mind which have many valuable resources for living our lives and which are also a connecting link with our inner or higher self. The fire is the sum total of negative feelings which we cannot handle and we keep locked in the subconscious. As long as these unresolved feelings are locked within us, they will destroy our nervous system, immune system and endocrine system from the inside just as the fire will destroy the house from within. These feelings will destroy more than our health, however. They will undermine our feelings towards ourselves, our feelings and relationships with others, our success in our various endeavors and, most of all, our happiness and inner peace. Thus, it is absolutely essential that we not be afraid to open that door to the subconscious and begin to allow that fire to evaporate out into the atmosphere. We can then remove the debris which exists within and which fuels that “fire”. This process of letting these subtle tensions out is called unstressing. Each person experiences it in another way. We have already mentioned some possibilities; pain, discomfort, unpleasant emotions, greater sensitivity towards others’ negative feelings or behavior, feelings of fear, or lack of control. We may feel more cold or heat in our bodies. We may find that we have a greater need for sleep or have some sleepless nights at first. No importance should be given to these and other symptoms of stress release. If you have some doubts, however, consult your doctor or meditation instructor. Most meditative experiences in these first days are the result of energies which are being released from the subconscious. Some experiences may be pleasant and others unpleasant. Our attitude should be to witness both the unpleasant and pleasant with the same detachment. Do not give a lot of importance to various visions, even if they have spiritual content. They are not the goal of our meditation. Observe them with an accepting attitude. Also try to have the same accepting attitude towards any unpleasant experiences. These experiences usually last only a few weeks or months at the most. If they continue on beyond this period of time, seek guidance. There are some things however which you can do in order to create a state of balance during this process of change.

GUIDELINES FOR SAFE PASSAGE

1. Do not meditate more than 20 minutes at a time twice a day. If the symptoms of unstressing are too much, then cut back to once a day until they are reduced. If they still continue, cut the period of time to 10 minutes once a day. If they still persist, then stop meditating and seek guidance from an experienced meditation instructor. Do not let these words of caution frighten you. Less than 1% of the people who start meditating have such reactions. They are never actually harmful to the person, but can be annoying and disturbing to him and his family. In the end, however, he will be “cleaned” inwardly with much more mental clarity. He will be grateful that he has passed through this process. For safety’ s sake, however, we prefer that people not push this process of unstressing to an imbalanced state so that they can continue to conscientiously perform their responsibilities towards themselves, their families and the society in which they live. Thus, this is not cause for alarm, but simply for logic, discrimination and balance.

2. Do not seek after experiences. Many beginners, because of their self-doubt and need from some type of proof or self-verification seek after “experiences” in meditation. They feel that a meditation is successful if they see the Christ, or lights, or colors, or shake about or cannot function in “the material world” after their meditation. This has absolutely nothing to do with meditation. Meditation is a process in which we come into harmony with all levels of creation, including the material world, our families, our work and our responsibilities. Seeking after experiences, and talking about them, is just another social game that we play in order to gain recognition from others. We try to prove that we are more “spiritually advanced”. Even if we have such experiences, it is best not to talk about them to others. Let them be our inner treasure, our inner communion with the higher levels of consciousness within ourselves (if in fact that is what these experiences are all about). In many cases they are simply energies which are being released and thought forms which are manifesting. That does not mean that real spiritual experiences, in which we have contact with higher spiritual planes of reality, do not exist. It simply means that few of these first experiences are such, and that even if they are, it is best not to talk about them, unless we want some type of guidance concerning them from our spiritual guide.

3. Learn to analyze your emotions and the beliefs which create them. Learn to become the witness of your emotional mechanisms and to be able to function independently of them when they are extremely negative. Learn to communicate your feelings clearly so that you do not need to suppress what is going on within you. I would suggest that you read the book “PSYCHOLOGY OF HAPPINESS” as a guide to putting your emotions in order before beginning to meditate. The process of the stress release is similar to releasing the pressure from a pressure cooker. When we look at the cooker we cannot tell if there is pressure in it or how much pressure might be in it. If we touch the weight on the top lifting it to one side a small amount of steam will escape. This is stress release. If we take the cap off completely while there is great pressure, then we will have a small and probably unpleasant explosion of steam. This occurred because we did not act intelligently. We removed the cap completely without allowing the energy to escape gradually in small doses. Thus, one who meditates in small doses, 20 minutes once or twice a day is in no danger. Those who have problems are usually those who overdo it. They are victims of our mislead thinking that if 20 minutes is good then 60 minutes is even better. Be regular and act intelligently.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE INTENSE UNSTRESSING

The following techniques will help you to balance and calm your energy if in spite of all these guidelines you in fact are in the 1% of those who have some serious problem.
1. Have frequent contact with water. Take two or three showers a day. In addition wash your hands, face, neck and if possible your feet frequently throughout the day. Let the temperature be that which you feel most comfortable, but finish with a little cold water.
2. Stop meditating until you feel balanced again.
3. Practice deep relaxation techniques with positive imagery. (Unless these too generate too much energy for you)
4. Walk in nature and let its peace flow into you.
5. Find someone experienced in bioenergy massage or spiritual healing techniques to help you balance your energy.
6. Eat whole grains and avoid sugar, drugs and meat.
7. Drink herb teas which have a calming and balancing effect.
8. Sleep more if you have the need.
9. Do dynamic exercises rather than static ones.
10. Work with your hands; preferably with plants.
11. Avoid negative stimuli such as movies or T.V. programs or books which disturb your emotions or create fear.
12. Have warm, affectionate contact with your loved ones.
13. Have faith that all that is happening is exactly what you need for your evolutionary process. Trust in that process and be the witness to whatever is occurring within and without you. You will be much clearer, much freer when this process is over.
14. Engage in various creative activities such as dance, singing, playing a musical instrument etc.
15. Do all of this and simultaneously seek guidance from your meditation instructor.

I repeat that these guidelines should not put you off from the idea of meditating. It is like saying that no one should ever drive because 1% of them might have some problems while driving, so that it is better not to go anywhere. If we are intelligent and use our logic, and do not go to extremes, we will have no problems whatsoever and we will have a wonderful spiritual journey.

SOME KEY THOUGHTS

1. Meditation is a natural process of coming to inner silence.

2. One cannot try to meditate – let yourself be meditated.

3. The process is one of controlled – letting go.

4. Follow the changes which come from within.

5. All meditative experiences will be different – do not compare.

6. The value of meditation lies in its harmonizing of body-mind-soul.

7. Let the inner silence be a springboard for a creative life.

8. Accept responsibility for creating your reality.

9. Accept the ego structure – but become liberated from seeking security outside of the soul.

10. Let go of attachments – identify with the nature of the soul.

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