For many beginners, meditation can be difficult, for some practitioners starting off, they naturally manifest into the progression of practice easily, but for most, meditation can be not only difficult but a stressful process rather than being something positive. This leaves many beginners doing endless amounts of research into how to improve meditation practice, sometimes researching so much, it only adds to the stress and confusion.
Here are the main factors that distinguish a lay practitioner from a true yogi!
Body Posture – Everything in meditation practice is connected, the mind is connected to the energy, the energy is connected to the body ect, each aspect of the existence of each individual can influence the effects on one another. For example, the state of the mind can influence the individuals body posture and the body posture can influence the state of a persons mind.
Learning to regulate the body, is the first tip you should take on board when learning meditation practices, if you can regulate the body, even in early stages you can begin to regulate the mind. By regulating the mind allows you to progress deeper into your practice, as you begin to be able to easily begin to tame the thoughts that arise.
By far the best position for meditation is the full lotus, but not everyone has the flexibility to be able to do this. But don’t worry if you cant! for now, you can sit in half lotus and this is the next best position for beginners. I do advise to learn full lotus if you wish to take your practice seriously. By sitting in full lotus, you’re allowing the energy in the body to become more settled and natural, by just sitting in full lotus alone will bring healing benefits, as well as making it easier to settle the mind.
Breathing – Again with the understanding of the important point that each state of a individuals existence can influence the other. So it is important to learn how to regulate the breathing in order to gain good practice By regulating, the breathing you regulate the mind and the body, the mind becomes more settled, allowing the emptiness to manifest more easily and the body becomes less tense, allowing the energy to move more smoothly.
The method of breathing that is most beneficial is abdominal breathing, gentle but deep breathing done through the nose, mouth slightly open, if you cant breath using the nose for medical reasons, then through the mouth is ok, but for doing nasal breathing will bring optimal results.
By doing abdominal breathing, the core muscles will inflate and retract upon the breath, inflating upon inhalations and deflating upon exhalations, doing this for some is natural, for others, simply force this movement by gently expanding and retracting the core muscles. Doing this will force more air into the lungs and will bring a sense of clarity that is much greater than breathing normally.
Regulating the mind – The greatest task for all meditators is overcoming the so-called “monkey mind”, the mind that becomes scattered, overactive and does not seem to want to stay still. It’s a funny situation when you think that by trying to do a practice that is supposed to calm the mind, it becomes more active and then causes you more stress than you had to begin with.
Now to first begin to learn to tame this mind, we need to understand exactly why this is happening, during our day to day lives, we are distracted from the moment we wake up, until the moment we fall asleep. At the moment you take away this daily distraction, the mind is allowed to present itself as it is. The mind was never any more or less untamed, these thoughts that you experience in meditation, were in fact there all along, the distraction of daily life blocks these thoughts from being made aware of, but the fact is they were still there.
Most teachers and writers will suggest meditating on an object, for example, looking at an object to calm and settle the mind, but when you think about this, all this is doing is prolonging the ultimate truth of having to face these thoughts head-on in practice on a later date. If you gaze at an object during meditation, what difference is that from doing other daily life things? why is it even still classed as meditation? All this is doing is classing you sitting down and breathing as a meditation, but the fact is that it is not really any different to sitting down watching tv. You are not allowing the mind to be natural you are only blocking it.
To regulate the mind, you need to become aware of its state, its state is both empty and manifesting at the same time. Like everything in existence, their an opposite, male and female, up and down, night and day, empty and full, this fact of our existence of reality needs to be taken into account when learning to meditate. Because the mind is empty, it is also full of manifesting thoughts at the same time, this part of our nature cannot be taken away, but working with it will enhance your meditation into an advanced level.
Now for the technique of regulating the mind, you want to enter a state of one-pointedness. This is the same principle of meditating upon fixating on an object except, if your object is the mind itself, you are looking directly into the nature of the mind itself, the ultimate goal of meditation practice. To do this, allow the mind to settle into a state of instant presence, not thinking about past, present or future events. Observe your condition at each moment as it passes, you can either do this eyes closed or eyes open, try not to fixate your senses onto anything external, just simply rest in your own condition as each moment passes.
During this you will notice that thoughts begin to manifest, now you want to switch your awareness onto the thoughts as they arise, do not follow the thoughts, but simply observe them and leave them as they are. If you do this correctly the thought will dissapear and then a state of emptiness is experienced, be aware of this emptiness, as thoughts arise and disolve emptiness can manifest, and then soon after another thought will arise and disappear to emptiness. The emptiness is the space between each thought, by staying in a state of instant presence and observing but not following the thoughts, you allow your awareness to become aware of itself, liberating the thoughts as they arise and entering into a state of emptiness.
Now this may take some to time as, right now for most people, the emptiness between thoughts is not a great distance, the length of emptiness will grow larger and larger as you develop this practice, making it easier to achieve emptiness. By looking into the mind itself will calm and abide the mind and allow you to rest in its natural state, remembering not to follow but simply stay present and observe is enough to liberate the thoughts and uncover the emptiness of the mind.
Practice & patience – Making the time to dedicate to your practice is crucial, you can only win it if you’re in it! Without the dedication, the results aren’t going to happen, remember this is not a fast thing for most, so sure that you take your time, be patient with yourself and understand that the quality of practice is more important than duration you spend developing this skill.
Final tip – By using this article as a tool for your own development, you are going to gain the best results, by combining all of the tips into one practice, by regulating the body into a natural seating position, regulating the breathing and searching for the mind, you have an easy to learn but yet powerful form of meditation practice, that will benefit all who choose to learn it!