The most basic form of meditation involves attending to one's breath.
Begin by sitting in a simple chair, keeping your back erect if you can. The more traditional postures are the lotus position, sitting on a pillow with each foot upon the opposite thigh, and variations such as the half lotus (one foot on the opposite thigh, the other out in front of the opposite knee). This is difficult for many people. Some people kneel, sitting back on their legs or on a pillow between their legs. Many use a meditation bench: kneel, then place a little bench beneath your behind. But meditation is also done while standing, slowly walking, lying on the floor, or even in a recliner!
Traditionally, the hands are placed loosely, palms up, one on top of the other, and with the thumbs lightly touching. This is called the cosmic mudra, one of a large number of symbolic hand positions. You may prefer to lay them flat on your thighs, or any other way that you find comfortable.
Your head should be upright, but not rigid. The eyes may be closed, or focussed on a spot on the ground a couple of feet ahead of you, or looking down at your hands. If you find yourself getting sleepy, keep your eyes open!
Beginning meditators are often asked to count their breath, on the exhale, up to ten. Then you begin back at one. If you loose track, simply go back to one. Your breath should be slow and regular, but not forced or artificially controlled. Just breathe naturally and count.
A few weeks later, you may forego the counting and try to simply follow your breath. Concentrate on it entering you and exiting you. Best is to be aware as fully as possible of the entire process of breathing, but most people focus on one aspect or another: the sensation of coolness followed by warmth at the nostrils, or the rise and fall of the diaphragm. Many meditators suggest imagining the air entering and exiting a small hole an inch or two below your navel. Keeping your mind lower on the body tends to lead to deeper meditation. If you are sleepy, then focus higher, such as at the nostrils.
You will inevitably find yourself distracted by sounds around you and thoughts within. The way to handle them is to acknowledge them, but do not attach yourself to them. Do not get involved with them. Just let them be, let them go, and focus again on the breath. At first, it might be wise to scratch when you itch and wiggle when you get uncomfortable. Later, you will find that the same scant attention that you use for thoughts and sounds will work with physical feelings as well.
A more advanced form of meditation is shikantaza, or emptiness meditation. Here, you don't follow anything at all. There is no concentration -- only quiet mindfulness. You hold your mind as if you were ready for things to happen, but don't allow your mind to become attached to anything. Things -- sounds, smells, aches, thoughts, images -- just drift in and out, like clouds in a light breeze. This is my own favorite.
Many people have a hard time with their thoughts. We are so used to our hyperactive minds, that we barely notice the fact that they are usually roaring with activity. So, when we first sit and meditate, we are caught off guard by all the activity. So some people need to use a little imagination to help them meditate. For example, instead of counting or following your breath, you might prefer to imagine a peaceful scene, perhaps floating in a warm lagoon, until the noise of your mind quiets down.
Meditate for fifteen minutes a day, perhaps early in the morning before the rest of the house wakes up, or late at night when everything has quieted down. If that's too much, do it once a week if you like. If you want, do more. Don't get frustrated. And don't get competitive, either. Don't start looking forward to some grand explosion of enlightenment. If you have great thoughts, fine. Write them down, if you like. Then go back to breathing. If you feel powerful emotions, wonderful. Then go back to breathing. The breathing is enlightenment.
Briefly, their locations & energy-directing functions are:
base of the spine... basic survival instinct- self preservation
just below naval... sexuality & pleasure
solar plexus... sensing safe or unsafe condition & power or control
heart... love & compassion
base of throat... communication & practical, analytical thought
at the brow, between the eyes... inner vision & conceptual thought
entering & leaving the body, & spiritual union
ENERGY BODIES... Energy bodies are composed of energy that is subtler than our physical body. These are (starting with the most dense):
supplies energy for the physical body, and forms the energy template on which the physical body is built.
Emotional or Astral body...
for feeling emotion and experiencing the astral plane in dreams and between incarnations.
for the various thinking functions and tuning into the mental plane for inspiration.
Light body or Spiritual body...
for experiencing the higher spiritual worlds.
MANTRA Mantras are words of power, used as objects of meditation. Mantra is from the sanskrit root "man"- to think, and "tra"- to liberate; thus, to liberate from thought.
The sound of a mantra has a vibration designed to produce a specific effect. By attuning to this vibration when we meditate on a particular mantra, that effect is produced in our lives.
Although mantra is an Indian word, these words of power have been used in the mystical practices of almost all cultures.
How often should I meditate?
Optimum results come from daily practice - once or twice daily. However, you may choose to meditate on an as-needed basis.
How long should my meditations be?
it depends on your capability and opportunity to meditate. If you are just beginning meditation and wish to practice regularly, it's best to start meditating 10 to 15 minutes once a day. After a while, you may want to increase that to 20 minutes once a day, or 10 minutes twice a day.
What time of day is best to meditate?
Any time of day is good. It is best to have a specific time that is your meditation time. At first, though, you may find it helpful to experiment with various times to see if one particular time of day consistently produces more enjoyable meditations. If you are having trouble finding time to meditate, do it first thing in the morning.
What should I be experiencing when I meditate?
The possible experiences when meditating are unlimited. They can range from extraordinary to ordinary; from blissful to boring; from peaceful to turmoiled; from astounding insight to incredible nonsense; There may be periods of no thought and periods of myriad thoughts; you may feel energy flowing or energy blocked; you may feel tired and foggy or quite alert. All of these experiences are alright and perfectly normal. The point is to accept whatever occurs in meditation.
Meditation experiences tend to be based on cycles of "clearing" and "clarity." During periods of clearing - when we are releasing accumulated psychic toxins - experiences tend to be more thought-filled and not seem very deep. At times when there is less clearing, there tends to be more clarity and depth, and fewer thoughts. It is important to remember that both poles of this cycle are necessary and valuable parts of a larger process of profound growth and transformation.
At times in meditation I experience a state that feels a lot like sleep,
but it's not exactly sleep. What is it?
This state of consciousness has been called "Yogi Blackout" or "Yoga Nidra." You have slipped into a deep state of awareness, but your inner senses are not alert enough at that time to experience this clearly. With continued meditation you will gain more clarity at this level of consciousness.