Browsing: Meditation

The Best Way to Start Meditating

If someone tells you that meditationizations clearing your mind, it can be difficult to begin. How do you clear your mind, exactly? If, like most people, trying to think about nothing just leads to more thinking, then you can feel less than encouraged as soon as you begin. If you focus on something like the breath, however, your thoughts will more easily fade.

There's a reason why so many meditative practices involve your breathing. It's a strange thing. Unlike your heart rate, you can quickly and easily control your breath. If you do not consciously control it, though, your unconscious mind takes over and breaths for you.

You can think of your breathing – its rate and depth – as being the product of conscious and unconscious thinking. It's a bridge between two minds. Since meditation is all about relinquishing conscious control to your unconscious mind, it's a great place to start.

Even if you simply observe your breathing, you will learn more about yourself than most people do. Your body needs fresh, clean air – and more of it during a crisis. If you notice that you are gulping down oxygen, then your body is stressed. You may feel fine, probably because you've felt this way for a while, but you're burning yourself out.

If your breathing is slow, deep and steady, then it means you are relaxed. Your body is not aiming for a quick hit but is instead making sure that each part of you receives the oxygen that it needs.

This process works both ways. Just as your state of mind affects your breathing, so does your breathing influence your state of mind. Do not think about its current rate or depth. If you want to relax and go into a meditative trance, then slow and deepen your breathing a little bit. Even a small change tells your inner mind that you are in a relaxed state.

Focusing on your breathing gives your mind something to do. If you are new to meditation (or even quite experienced) this will help. Thinking about nothing often leads to thinking about how you are thinking about nothing, which is not helpful. But if you let your breath occupy your full attention, you can clear your thoughts and relax your body at the same time.

If you ever feel bored while paying attention to your breathing, then you're not really paying attention. Take a moment to breath in and out through your nose. Notice the feel of each inhale and exhale around your nostrils. Focus on the minority differences with each cycle.

It does not take long before you are heading into a meditative state.

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What Meditation Has To Do With Small Talk

I know of people who hate small talk. I get where they're coming from, even if I do not agree. Small talk is great. You realize this when you learn that small talk is not a simple exchange of information. Knowing what it really is helps you with your meditation practice.

Rituals are like catnip for your unconscious mind. If you want to meditate, then keep it happy. After all, your unconscious influences your attention and trance state. Meditation is little more than trying to meet your inner mind, so make it want to meet you.

The more a society moves their attention away from material concerns, the more rituals they create. Pay attention during a wedding (which is a ritual in itself) and notice how many smaller rituals they contain. If it's a religious service, you'll spot dozens of them. Every aspect of every religion overflows with precise, repeated sequences of events.

Churches often form tight-knit, supportive communities. The regular rituals play some role in this. The funny thing is that you get these results even with people who are not religious. The ritual matters more than what it's about.

Even socializing has its rules and behaviors. Most of what you say and do with other people has nothing to do with either of you. When you ask how they are, you are not asking a question. It's a greeting. If they cave an accurate answer about how they are, that's usually a faux pas. The correct answer is to smile, give a short response and return the question.

Talking about the weather might seem tedious if you think about information exchange. You both already know the weather and can learn more about it online. That's not what small talk is about, though. It's a ritual where two people suss each other out.

Imagine making a comment about how nice the weather has been. The other person smiles and agreements. That's pretty nice. It's a different feeling if they scoff, roll their eyes and point out that, actually, the weather has been awful, you idiot. The small talk has told you lot, just not about the weather.

Just like socializing and religion, meditation uses rituals of its own. When you close your eyes, get comfortable and draw your attention inwards, it's a precaution and repeated set of instructions. Yes, these steps help you enter a meditative state, but they are not essential. You can meditate with your eyes open and arms flailing if that's easier for you.

The existence of the ritual is more important than its contents. The part of your mind that creates meditative trances loves them. If you want, you can say a prayer to pixie folk as part of your meditation. It's wiser to ground your ritual in reality, though.

Set aside some time to meditate every day. Make it a habit (aka a ritual?) And stick to it. Use mantras if they help or ignore them. Begin by focusing outwards or inwards, but always in the same way. Your ritual might last a lifetime, so put a little thought into it.

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When to Make and Break Meditation Rituals

How many of you dabbled with meditation and then quit? Even if you were getting benefits? I do not judge – it's easy to fall out of positive habits. Whether it's eating right, exercising, reading or delving into pleasant states of trance, life can distract you from your intentions.

This is why, if you're new to meditation, I recommend creating a meditation ritual.

Habits and rituals are similar creatures. Maybe a habit is showering and getting dressed each morning, whereas a ritual is more complex. If you ignore the surface flourishes, they both boil down to the same process. You perform predictable actions to get predictable results.

Your morning habits guarantee that you're dressed and smelling fresh when you leave. Your meditation rituals ensure that you easily enter a trance.

This is why most meditation coaches recommend that you set some space in your home. Only use this to meditate. Make it nice and comfortable. If you like mantras, think of a mantra. If you like music, choose some appropriate background tracks. This all becomes part of your ritual. Your inner mind sees that you're in your comfortable nook, listening to the right music and thinking the right thoughts, so it must be time to meditate.

It's great if you're starting out. I still recommend it even for more advanced meditators. But, if you really want to take your inner skills to the next level, you should break your rituals. Meditate at strange times and places. Focus inwards while listening to loud noises or silence. Enter a trance using different mantras or none at all.

You know the benefits of meditation. It's one of the best things you can do, whether you want to improve your mood, resilience, physical health or enjoyment. Having a ritual is great because it makes you more likely to gain these benefits. Breaking the ritual helps you apply them to every part of your life.

If you can only meditate while in your designated spot … well, that's better than never doing it. Even better, though, is being able to enter that state at will. Anytime, anywhere. If work becomes stressful, you want to mindlessly relax without having to leave your desk. If you are on a cruise ship halfway round the world, you want to still be able to enter a trance.

Meditation rituals are excellent springboards. They can become shackles, though. To truly integrate this practice into your life, learn how to create meditative states under any conditions.

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The Not-So-Secret Technique for Meditating Anywhere

Meditation is incredibly beneficial. It's some of the best training you can give your mind. It directly enhances your focus and mindfulness, which in turn improve everything from mood to memory. Any task that uses the brain (which is every task) benefits from regular meditation.

If you find it difficult to clear your mind, you're not alone. Do not use that as an excuse to give up though. Difficult things matter – they filter out the uncommitted, leaving only those with enough elf-discipline to continue. Be thankful that it's difficult, otherwise no one would appreciate it.

Do not use the difficulty as an excuse to struggle, though. Meditation isolates clearing your mind. It does not involve stressing over whether you're clearing your mind well enough. All it requires is that you simply be.

This is why I recommend focusing on your breathing. It occupations your attention without inviting thinking. It brings your mind and body in sync. There's also the benefit of relaxing you. Simply pay attention to your breathing and it tends to slow and deepen. This puts you in a better state of mind for meditation.

And when you begin to realize how engaging, engaging and humble your breathing can be, it changes the way you see the world. When your breathing fascinates you, there's nothing in this world that falls benefit your attention.

There's another benefit to training your mind using your breath. This benefit supercharges what meditation does for you. It deepens and improvements your practice, skipping over years of study (if you're dedicated, that is).

Are you ready for this secret?

I'm serious. This will sound simple but it's not. This will make the difference between you succeeding with your practice and giving up. If you take it to heart, you'll start reaping all of the benefits almost immediately. Anyone who ignores this will have to spend years working to catch up to everyone else.

Okay, the big secret is …

You can breathe anywhere. Your breath follows you.

Not impressed?

You should be.

When you learn how to use your breath to anchor your awareness, you can meditate in traffic. Or while talking with someone. Or while writing. If you want to bring a little calm, focus or mindfulness to any task, then you can use your breathing.

You can even use it while struggling to meditate. If your mind keeps wandering, then focusing on your breath will help you. It's the best way to recover from your mind wandering, whether you're meditating or living your normal life.

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Don’t Lose Yourself In Meditation

The meditative trance is a wonderful experience. It should be part of your daily routine, if it is not already. It opens yourself to new parts of your mind. Your thoughts and your body align and come under your conscious control. You can not meditate too much.

Exception … well …

Sometimes you can go deeper than you're ready. There's nothing wrong with this, of course. If you're one of those people who worry about being stuck in trance, you can relax. Anything that happens, you can reverse. In fact, often the trick is in keeping the changes.

But deep meditation can feel disorientating. It's a strange experience that might by physical. In this case, it's usually a form of dizziness.

It can also be mental. When this happens, you might not know where your mind is blank or not. That's shocking the first time it happens.

As I say, these experiences are fine. There's no danger beyond some mild disorientation. Honestly, a good movie should carry a similar warning.

Still, you might not want this. You might be the sort of person who enjoys having stable consciousness at all times. You'll learn to let go of that but, for now, what can you do to prevent losing yourself in trance?

There's a great meditation technique called the body scan. Everyone should learn it. Whenever you're feeling too much in abstract nonsense and want to get real again, this is perfect. And you'll remember more uses as you get better at it.

To conduct a body scan, place your attention at your head and move it down through your body. When you reach your feet, move your attention up through your body to your head.

It sounds simple but there's a lot to it.

If you're new to meditation, this is a great way to occupy your mind without thinking. Your body teems with sensory information that you mostly ignore. If you did not, it would overwhelm you. Still, it's not healthy to ignore what your body is saying for too long. You might be surprised as you reacquaint yourself with yourself.

As your skills develop, it's a great way to tune your focus. You can place your attention on smaller areas. You may experiment with the depth and intensity of your focus. Maybe you'll see how slow you can move your awareness while still keeping your attention stable.

No matter what your skill level, the body scan is a great way to anchor your attention in reality. Your thoughts can seduce you but your body is real. Listen to it and you'll never lose yourself again.

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Don’t Give In To Rudeness

I posted this on my social media several days back, and it sparked some private conversations with some of my friends.

How often do we feel we are entitled to be rude when we are unhappy about something? As if unhappiness is a kind of permission slip to let us behave like brats.

We see this all too often in restaurants when people get so nasty when they do not get what they want. They feel that if money can buy them anything, then they should get what they want. Maybe buying some manners would help solve some of their problems.

I've had on several occasions had to apologize to the wait staff on the behavior of friends or family for their rude behavior. Instead of getting into fights with my friends / family over it, on the right way to be. I prefer to take it privately with the wait staff and apologise on my friends '/ family members' behalf. It is not as if the 'bad service' was done on purpose. Everyone is trying their best, and just sometimes their best is not at your level best.

There are so many ways to deal with bad service, unhappiness over situations or people, and rudeness should not be one of them. It only shows your own lack of character, integrity and self-control. The worst thing is sometimes these rude people are so smug about it, when indeed there is nothing to be proud about.

If we do not get what we want, speaking rationally and normally usually gets more results. I do not believe that any rude person has gotten what they want in the end, they just get a lot of bad social credits.

Why is kindness so difficult to practice? It is just basic. Kindness is the base practice of all religious and spiritual circles, yet people who proudly denounce themselves of a certain religion treat others like they own them. I'm sure you have heard of people leaving their religious institutions after an hour of prayer, only to cuss and swear at someone at the parking lot, because they did not get what they want?

What is the point of that one hour of religious practice? What is the point?

I may sound like I am disappointed in humanity and I am ranting in this post. It is times like these, which makes me re-evaluate my values ​​and check myself on when I have slipped up. We should always learn from other people's mistakes if not, it is a total waste of THEIR mistakes.

Kindness can be a meditation practice. Just keep being kind to whoever and like like cats, dogs, lizards etc. And if kindness is unfamiliar to you, the best thing to do is keep quiet. My teacher used to say, if you can not say anything nice, do not say anything at all. It is good advice.

When dealing with rude people, being kind is the toughest. Just breathe. Take deep breaths and count to 10. And know that you lose control is not worth it. It is not worth sinking down to a level that is detrimental to your own mental and emotional well being. If being kind to others is tough, at least do it for yourself. With practice, it gets easier.

Kindness is truly a sign of strength.

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Ultimate Focus And Awareness

There's a state of mind that sounds corny but is absolutely sublime. Colors are richer, sounds fascinate you and you can sense the air as it caresses every part of your skin. When people talk to you, you hear everything that they say and do not say. It'd be overwhelming if it were not so pleasant.

Have a few moments like this and you'll never doubt meditation's benefits again.

It's a state of hyperconnectivity and hyperawareness. Reality floods your mind in slow motion. You feel everything, which sometimes means you miss the big stuff. That's only because you're tuned in to the tiny things you used to ignore. In time, you learn to integrate the two together.

That's where the magic lies.

If you're confused, that's my fault. It's hard to properly describe this experience. A much better approach is to experience it yourself. It's a great state to be in. Everything seems new, fresh and interesting. A bug crawling across a leaf is capturing while hedonism becomes quaint and irritating.

You should enter this state. I'm struggling to tell you why, so I'll move onto how.

Your body floods your mind with information. One of the roles of your unconscious mind is to block and monitor this stream. This is why you do not feel the shirt on your back but if it ant bites you, you feel it immediately. Anything important or predictable demotes itself to your background awareness. Your conscious mind is then free to focus where it chooses.

The first step to hyperawareness of the environment is awareness of the self.

You can focus on individual parts of your body. Pay attention to your hands or your lower back. Notice everything this part of you tells you. If you're new to meditation, this is a nice warmup.

Then you can expand your awareness to cover more of your body. The key is to avoidraining yourself. How much can you notice while remaining relaxed in your mind?

You can increase your coverage by practicing this over time. The more you focus on large parts of your body, the more you'll absorb each time. If you want to speed this up, alternate between broad areas of focus and focusing on a single part of your body.

In time, your awareness grows to encompass your entire body. Some people find this easy while others take months of training to reach this. Whatever is right for you is right for you.

Once you get to this stage, or at least close to it, shift the exercise. Instead of seeing how much of you your attention captures, see how long you can hold this awareness. Noticing your entire body takes a lot of mental energy, focus and discipline. It takes even more when you keep your attitude calm, relaxed and accepting.

Hold your awareness for as long as is comfortable.

The aftermath of this state is indescribable. I tried to capture it in words and struggled. All I can say is that, if you can become aware of your entire body, noting your environment becomes trivial.

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Bully Yourself Into Better Meditation

Meditation does not work unless you are kind to yourself. Many would-be practitioners go astray because they're mean to themselves. They judge. Nothing they do is good enough. They're failing at something. Comments like these have no place in your inner dialogue at the best of times. It's doubly true when delving into your unconscious mind.

But there is one technique from the art of bullying that makes your meditation smoother and easier. In fact, if you apply this in your life, it resolves pain and even makes you a better negotiator.

Ignore your parents and teachers with this one, because it's the ancient art of name-calling.

Labeling is powerful. There's a reason why schoolyard bullies resort to name-calling. It captures a lot of malice and condemnation in a nice little package.

I do not recommend doing that to anyone, especially yourself.

But when you label things with a neutral mindset, rather than a malicious one …

Well, I'm a big fan of taking tools of evil and using them for good.

During your meditation, you might notice discomfort in your body. Maybe this discomfort was always there and you're now noticing it. Then again, maybe it's from how you're sitting. If adjusting your post helps, then do not wait for my permission to do so. Physical comfort matters a lot when meditating.

If it does not go away after a quick shift or a little wriggle, though, then you resort to name-calling. Friendly name-calling, of course.

With a calm, unjudging and neutral mind, label the sensation. If it feels like a prickle, simply think 'prickle' towards it. If it's a burning, try that instead. Do not worry about accuracy or precision – your attitude is much more important than picking the right label. If you want to keep it simple, use one of three labels: comfort, neutral or discomfort. Anything in your body is going to be one of those.

You might observe the sensation for a moment longer. Or maybe you'd rather move on straight away. Either way, do not dwell on it. You've labeled it, so move on.

This works with physical pain, so long as your attitude is truly benign and accepting. It also works with social pain. If someone objects to your offer, label it in a calm way. “You seem concerned about our prices”, delivered with genuine calm, is more effective than any amount of pleading, bargaining or backpedalling.

Bully your distractions with kindness and they'll leave you alone. Guaranteed.

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Access Your Inner Mind by Ignoring It

Most meditation workers (myself included) will tell you to direct your attention inwards. But here's the thing – where's the fun in doing the same thing each time? There are no wrong approaches in meditation, only those that are less likely to work. So why do not we try to do the opposite of what everyone recommends?

If you struggle with meditation, then listen closely. The opposite of common wisdom might be exactly what you need.

I'm being a little dramatic. There are meditation coaches who recommend this technique. What I find interesting is that it's more common in the self-hypnosis community. Most things that work for one, work for the other, but the two groups do not share notes as often as they should.

When you combine the best techniques from self-hypnosis and meditation, you access your mind in a whole new way.

What is this technique that's the opposite of what most coaches teach?

Instead of focusing inwards on yourself, focus outwards.

Choose vision or hearing. Place your attention here. Use your mind to discern the shape and pattern of everything you're aware of. Focus on everything you see or hear. Open your mind, lower your defences and let the information pour in.

Once you lose yourself in the outer world, it's as if you lose yourself in your inner world.

And the best part?

You can meditate with your eyes open. You can do it while walking around. Heck – although I do not recommend this – you can do it while driving. The environment is rich, so drink it in and lose yourself among it.

Enter a trance by really seeing color. Journey into your mind by following specific sounds. Let your consciousness dissolve as you gaze up at the clouds.

In other words, ignore your mind and you will enter it.

This process goes some way towards countering a common concern. Some hard-core meditators disengage from the world. The outer world can no longer compete with their inner experience, so they withdrew.

It's a shame and a waste. A good conversation with an experience meditator can literally change your life. The more you explore your mind, the more you see things differently. And what could be more valuable than a new perspective?

Paying attention to your surroundings, as a way of entering the meditative state, ties the two together. You can enter a trance and experience the world at the same time. And, in fact, you should.

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I Meditate In The Sauna

During a call that I had with Errol Campbell, he said that he had not been able to use the sauna the day before due to a minor problem at the hotel nearby. He went on to say that he meditates when he uses the sauna.

I thought that this was different, with it being something that I had not thought about doing before. The reason he mediated in a sauna was that the heat would keep his mind busy, thereby allowing him to connect to himself.

Another Experience

A little while before this I was in Stockholm, Sweden, and my friend Peter had a portable sauna that he used. He did not mediate while he was using it, but he had done a lot of mediation it he past.

When he lived on at monastery, he said that he used to mediate for a number of hours every day. This allowed him to develop a strong connection to the universe, yet he gradually lost his sense of self in the process.

Looking Back

I had meditated when I first got on the path around fifteen years ago; This was a time when I was reading books about Buddhism and Jewish mysticism. After this, about two years ago, I started mediating while listening to SNGoenka.

I found that listening to him helped to keep my mind focused; the trouble was that some of the stuff he came out with made me laugh. As a result of this, I would often lose concentration.

The Signs Were There

Through hearing Errol and Peter talk about mediation, it was as though I was being encouraged to get back into it myself. I ending thinking that it would be a good idea to see what it would be like to mediate in a sauna.

In the beginning I had music on, but I soon realized that I could not concentrate with it on and turned it off. Once it was it off I was able to focus on my breathing and my thoughts started to settle down shortly after.
The Contrast

It was not until after I got out of the sauna and got back home that I realized how effective it had been. My mind was no longer as calm; it was filled with thoughts and ideas about different things.

Through having very little going on in my mind, it had allowed me to see how busy my mind usually was. What was going on in my mind was just a combination of what I had been through and what I knew – there was nothing new.

Final Thoughts

I started to think about how important it was to get out of my mind and to connect to my body. It was clear that mediating would allow me to relax and to develop a stronger connection to myself.

So, if you are able to use a sauna, I would definitely recommend that you see what it is like to mediate in one. And, if this is not an option, you can still mediiate without being in one.

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The Lazy Way To Find Joy, Courage And Motivation

Everyone wants more of the good things. Happiness, love, charisma, success – which is your desire? Maybe you chose all of them.

Do not worry, I'm not about to tell you the evils of desire. If you meditate long enough, you'll either discover that truth for yourself or you will not. Either way, me telling you is not going to help things. Instead, I'll tell you something much better.

Those things that you want more of?

Meditation will help.

You'll unlock great energy, creativity, serenity and anything else you decide to want. Best of all, it's easy. It's as easy as closing your eyes.

Now, when I say 'easy', that assumes that you're meditating regularly. That part takes discipline. Keep it up because here comes yet another benefit of the practice.

When you scan your body with your awareness, you surprise yourself. Your body hums with billions of signals that you consciously ignore. If you paid attention to everything, all the time, it would be a little overwhelming. With training, you can increase what you pay attention to, but there's always something that vanishes from your awareness.

If you have not surprised yourself yet, give it time. Your body is a hive of fascinating activity.

As you scan your body, you find a few areas of discomfort and a few neutral regions. When you turn your attention in an accepting and perhaps forgiving way, the discomfort eases. Labeling the discomfort in a non-judgmental way soothes it too.

And neutral sensations often give way to other experiences. Perhaps what felt neutral was really a chaotic and intriguing blend of comfort and discomfort. Or maybe it was masking something new, something harder to classify.

What if the sensation is a pleasant one, though?

Well, the same rules apply. Observe it and accept it. Do not rejoice in finding something comfortable, as this condemns the rest of you. But maybe you can allow a brief glimmer of satisfaction.

And if you're looking for something in particular – joy or courage or whatever – then see if any is present here.

Be calm as you examine your sensations. You're not a kid teething apart his room as he looks for his favorite toy. You're more like a swimmer trying to enter a lake without creating ripples. Use a soft touch – your thoughts are delicate.

Whatever sensation you want more of exists somewhere in your mind. If it did not, you could not imagine it well enough to know you want it. And any sensation in the mind also exists somewhere in the body. So, with patience and finesse, explore your body and find it.

There are two ways to become stronger in this technique. One is to search without thought and effort. If you do not find anything, there's no disappointment because you did not lose or fail. If you find it, there's no crowing over your triumph. The other approach is to look for what you seek in discomfort too. Perhaps your joy lies buried under a thin layer of unpleasant sensations.

You will not know until you look.

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Wean Yourself Off Reality

If you want to enter a meditative state, you can do it quickly and suddenly. If you know how to do that, then you can probably skip the rest of this article. This is for the rest of us. Let me share a technique to draw your attention inwards, even when your monkey mind is chittering out of control.

It's a simple matter of weaning yourself off reality. It's like easing into a warm bath, only the bath is your normal state of mind and you're relaxing yourself out of it.

The meditative trance state is strange and unusual. And so very normal at the same time. It's difficult to describe – partly because it's so different each time, partly because words do not cut it. A common experience, though, is experiencing the present moment without the usual mental clutter. It's either like seeing the world for what it is or what it is not.

When familiar things – the sight of grass, for example – seem exotic to you, is that because you're seeing it for the first time? Or that you're mind sees something else?

It's not always easy to say. It sure feels like your slipping from reality – your normal reality, at least. And it's a pleasant sensation, even though it might not sound like one.

Does every trance come with a twisted view of familiar things? Not at all, but if you are experiencing this, you're definitely in a trance.

Which brings us to the technique.

If you experience everything as you always do, you may or may not be in a trance. So if everything seems usual and reality is in its place, then focus on one of your senses. Isolate them from each other.

A great way is to close your eyes and focus on the sounds around you.

Or maybe you'd prefer to pay attention to your sense of touch.

Your brain is very good at stitching your senses together. It knows that the orange thing, the hot thing and the crackling thing are all the same object – a campfire. Thank goodness, as without this you've struggled to navigate the world.

But it's okay to switch it off for a while. Focus on one sense and one sense only. Stay connected to the outside world as you wean yourself slowly off it.

Your senses may feel strange when you dedicate your entire mind to them. That's okay – that's how you know it's working.

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Let’s Talk About Trance, Baby

One of the problems with learning to meditate is that there are a lot of abstract ideas. It's hard to follow advice when it consist of things such as loosen your thoughts. How do you do that? What tells you whether it's working or not?

Two major hurdles that most practitioners face are not knowing what to do and not know if they've succeeded.

A meditative trance usually feet normal. If you're expecting otherworldly experiences from the start, you might get discouraged. That's assuming you can even follow an instruction as vague as 'release your attachment'.

Have you experienced either obstacle? If so, keep reading. I'm about to share a simple exercise that is measurable and puts you into a meditative trance.

When you focus on your breathing, your attention draws inwards. If you do not enter a trance, then you've at least set the stage for it. In time, your meditation practice can consist of nothing but mindful breathing. When starting out, though, it helps to go beyond it.

The next step is to deepen your breathing. Use your diaphragm and the muscles around your core to steadily inhale and exhale. Aim to keep the flow of air continuous. Smoothly draw the air deep into your belly.

If you find it difficult to breath like this, then you probably have tension in your abdomen. Spend the next few weeks practicing. Keep your posture good and your stomach relaxed as you breathe with your diaphragm.

For anyone used to gulping shallow breaths into their chest, this alone is worth the time. You'll think clearer and have more concentration than ever before. You'll simply feel better.

And there's more.

Once breathing like this is automatic to you, aim to slowly extend each breath. It should be easy to add a second to each inhale and exhale.

If you feel short of breath or tense, then trust me when I say that that is not the point of this exercise. Chances are that you're tense or trying to slow each breath by too much. Dial it back and relaxed. Slow your breathing in an easy way.

This may take practice. If so, then take the time. The slower you build up, the faster you'll reach an optimal breathing rate.

What is the best rate of breathing?

About five to eight seconds to inhale, then the same time to exhale.

If you can breathe at this rate, deeply and in a relaxed way, then that's great. If not, it's something to aim for. Because if you can breathe this slowly and steadily without training yourself and without feeling low on air …

… then you're almost certainly in a meditative trance.

Your breathing and mind are linked. If one is this calm, steady and relaxed, then so will the other be.

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Disengage and Go Inside

Sometimes the world is too much. Crowded shopping centers, traffic jams and incessant thefts of your attention assault you every moment. And sometimes the world is not right. A few obvious changes would make everything better. So what can you do but disengage?

I love people but I do not like being in a crowd. They contain so much energy – adventure, success, connection – but they are hardy soothing. It's hard for me to find focus and serenity.

Or, at least, it used to be.

Even if you avoid crowds, the world is a busy place. You can not always escape the commotion, no matter where you live.

Sometimes you just have to let go to find some piece of mind.

Now, I do not recommend disconnecting from the world permanently. Some advanced meditators make that mistake. Instead of being overwhelmed by their environment, they allow their inner mind to consume them. There's nothing wrong with developing a mental state so enticing that the world does not compete. Just come back every now and then.

And let go every now and then.

The human brain constructs the past and the future with the same hardware. Memories and imagination come from the same place. Most meditation rightly focuses on what's real and what's present. The best meditators, though, can go the other way too.

Your senses ground you to the present. To be mindful is to observe what is happening. But your senses are simply another construct. It's almost the same thing to lose yourself in your senses as it is to lose yourself in a daydream.

Use your senses, by all means. Pay attention to your here and now.

And know how to let go of it.

Your senses are signals. These signals come from your environment but they are not your environment. Your brain is like a painter, reconstructing on canvas what they hear through a static-riddled radio.

Does that sound like it's worth hanging on to?

It is. Until it distracts you.

When you trust your unconscious mind, it's easy to hand over control to it. Let it monitor your environment for you – after all, it's already doing that. Let your conscious mind go. Ignore the signals and let them fade.

They say that reality is whatever remains when you stop believing in it. That makes money and love unreal, and they're both worth having. See what remains of yourself when you remove all that's real.

You might just surprise yourself.

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Slow Is Smooth and Smooth Is Meditative

One of the many, many hurdles on the meditation path is speed. People want to rush things. They want results now. They want to enter an altered state of consciousness now. Hurry it up with the inner peace, would you?

Here's the truth: you do not get results by rushing. The only way to succeed is to take it slow. I mean that it takes time to build up your skills. No one is great at turning their attention in on itself in an instant.

I also mean something else by that remark.

You can think about meditation at the macro level. You develop this ability through skilful practice. This process takes time, no question.

Just like any other talent.

It's also true at the micro level, in the moment.

If you can not clear your mind of thoughts, that's okay. Here's a technique for meditating anyway.

What's the difference between the mind of a monk and the mind of your typical, cubicle-dwelling office worker? The one in the robes is in a state of perfect calm, stillness and tranquility. The corporate drone is balancing a million thoughts. Some are related to work and office politics, others are not.

Really consider it. What's the difference?

Suppose a thought does enter the monk's mind. Is it the same kind of thought that floats through the corporate lackey's mind?

No. You're probably realizing that the monk's thought is slower.

What does it mean for a thought to be slow? Think about your own thinking. A lot of it comes in loops. Maybe you have an unfulfilled dream that makes you unhappy, which makes you want the dream even more. Maybe you're simply noticing something that reminds you of something else, which makes you notice even more of the first thing.

A slow thought is one that moves through the loop slower. You become more conscious of the nature of the loop and how one thought leads to another.

Another way to think about it is having a song stuck in your head. Your thoughts will synchronize to the tempo of the music. If the music slows down, so do the rate of your thoughts.

By the way, this literally happens to me. Any song in my head tend to slow down so much it will become unrerecognizable.

How do you do this? I'll give you a hint: if you start to think “yes! It's working! Look how slow those thoughts are going! Amazing!” then you're doing it wrong. All of your thoughts have to slow down, including those that observe other thoughts.

It's like taking energy out of the system. Everything calms and settles.

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