Once you have learned how to meditate properly and started progressing in your practice, you will effectively benefit from a healthy body, with improved energy levels, immune system and longevity; a sharper mind, with increased mental strength, focus and memory retention / recall, as well as emotional well-being, with reduced stress, worry, anxiety and / or depression and enhanced self-confidence, optimism and vitality.
On a mystical, more level level, meditation also known as “the Fundamental Practice” confers the return to one's pure nature and mind, free from the emotional upheaval of suffering through the deletions of hatred, anger, delusion and other impure, mundane imperfections of the mind. As the mind goes passive, clear and serene, just like a mirror, with no thoughts of any nature (good or evil), meditation will unfold naturally, allowing you to get in touch with your own self's nature through wisdom, liberating all that energy trapped by worldly illusions and bestowing upon you inner peace and a deep, intense kind of healing.
Below is an easy, simple and useful 10-step guide to help you learn how to meditate correctly.
1. Proper Posture
For meditation to come about, it is vitally important to hold your back upright, with your head up, while cross-legged on the floor (full-lotus) or sitting on a chair. Since the body and mind are actually connected, a proper and well-balanced posture will reflect itself upon your mind. Failing to sit up with your spelling straight and shoulders back, will make your thoughts drift away and you will be tempted to follow them. One way to help you sit properly erect and purify your mind is to envision your head touching the sky.
2. A Quiet Place of Your Own
You should advise find a well-ventilated, uncluttered and tranquil place where you can sit undisturbed for anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour or more on a regular basis. Be sure to let personal comfort guide you in the beginning, setting up a schedule you can live with and stick to. It would be ideal if you could create a special little place where meditation can naturally unfold. Even better, you can create an altar or a shrine that you can face during meditation. Here you can place candles or other natural objects that strike a chord with you and have a calming and relaxing effect on you, such as stones, crystals, flowers or seashells.
3. Eyes (Half-Open or Closed)
While most people associate the meditation practice with keeping the eyes closed (as in Vipassana meditation) and mentally drawing the eyes toward the third eye, the choice of keeping your eyes half open or closed while meditating is entirely yours, as there no right or wrong way in terms of what to do with the eyes (in fact this varies among different meditational methods and even teachers). While some argument that thoughts tend to drift when keeping the eyes closed, others prefer closed eyes during meditation, because these helps them focus better. On the other hand, some recommend keeping your eyes half or partly open and letting your gaze gently down and soft, as this method allows you to be effectively more present. Overall, you should advisedly experiment with both half-open and closed eyes methods and see what works for you. For your advancement, it is crucial to relax the muscles around the eyes and choose the method you are most comfortable with.
Meditation is a proven wake-up call that fine-tunes your body, mind and spirit to realize the true essence of life. In ordinary life, focus equates to concentration where we use our mind as a focused beam of light to achieve our mundane goals. In meditation on the other hand, focus has different connotations and using our tortured, disorganized minds immersed in turmoil is not helpful. When practicing meditation, focus means paying careful attention to whatever you place at the core of awareness. When you focus your thoughts and practice in complete absorption, oblivious to your surroundings, you become empowered in many different ways. In Ch'an (or Zen) tradition, the breath is used as focus, because it's considered as a natural door connecting outside and inside. Relaxed and sustained focus of this kind effortlessly becomes meditation.
Paying close attention to your natural breathing is an important part of learning how to meditate. The abdomen expends and relaxes as you inhale and contracts as you exhale. Observe your breathing, but refuse from regulating it because it's paramount to come natural. As your focus strengthens, your breathing starts to slow down and deepen, becoming quite slight and increasingly finer. You will effortlessly begin to relax once residual tension has faded away and will experience a state of well-being, tranquility and peacefulness. You should devote at least a couple of minutes per day to this breathing relaxation practice.
6. Counting your breaths
In case you are having trouble relaxing so that calm can ensue, you may try the ancient meditation practice of mentally counting your breaths – “one” as you breathe in, “two” as you breathe out, “three” as you breathe in again and “four” as you breathe out; then go back to “one”. Whenever your thoughts tend to wander, breath counting can help you settle and clear your mind. Returning to “one” allows you to anchor yourself in the present moment and focus your awareness on your breathing.
Meditation takes place in the absence of thoughts; when you notice thoughts hovering over your mind, you should gently let them disappear on their own by staying focused on your breath. Trying to forcefully stop thoughts will only make you feel more unsettled and anxious. The mind that does not dwell on anything is known in the Buddhist tradition as the “original nature” or “true mind”. One way to let thoughts go naturally is to imagine they are welcome visitors that you politely ask to leave. At no time should anything feel uncomfortable or forced; instead, it should all happen free of any concern or worry on your part.
You may try practicing with the aid of meditation music, but the best results are achievable when sitting in complete silence, because as you progress in your meditation practice, the outer and inner silence come together, giving way to a profound kind of healing. Sitting erect in pure silence allows the mind to properly settle and to grow quiet and calm.
When you feel overwhelmed by powerful emotions such as fear, anger, shame and frustration, which are bound to give way to unsettling stories in your mind, you may find sitting down to meditate quite difficult. The best way to deal with such strong emotions when learning how to meditate is by re-focusing on your bodily sensations that reflect these emotions. Different emotional states have been scientifically proven to be intimately connected to a wide array of physiological changes or body feelings, ranging from the racing pulse that results from fear or anger (felt in the upper chest area) and sweaty palms when we are nervous of anxious , to the glorious feeling of happiness, felt from head to toe. By directing all your attention to your bodily sensations, you are acknowledging your emotions without being caught up in the stories arising from them, which in turn enable your mind to put them behind you.
Offeredly start by sitting anywhere from a couple of minutes to 10 minutes or for as long as you feel completely comfortable, whenever you happen to think of meditation. Do not force yourself to sit for longer periods as you learn how to meditate if you experience any discomfort or restlessness after some time. You can gradually increase the duration of your meditation to 20-25 minutes, which allows you to stabilize your mind without causing a lot of stress on your physical body, and in time, to even an hour or more per day. The most important thing is to do what feels right and especially comfortable for you.
Equally important is to take great delight in practicing meditation because enjoyment holds a powerful signal over the income of your own efforts. In keeping with the Kalama Sutra, do not do something because you have been told to do so, but instead find out what works for you. Do not put pressure onto yourself – just be kind to yourself and let meditation unfold naturally, as it should. Take it slowly as you learn how to meditate, sitting a few minutes each day, with a hint of smile on your face. As you advance in your practice, you are required to sit motionless for longer periods of time and then you may need to make some adjustments in the way you sit.