How To Learn Meditation
I am in no way a meditation expert, and that’s exactly why I’m writing this article. Because you don’t need to be a meditation expert to talk about meditation, or to do it. It’s the easiest and the most natural thing in the world. Everybody can do it, and everybody can learn it in five minutes.
You’ll need to practice to get good at it, and that will take more than five minutes, that’s true – but the goal isn’t to be good, it’s to practice. And you can learn how to practice in five minutes, right now.
If you would like to meditate, you don’t need to be a particularly spiritual person. You need no special clothes or incense sticks or sitting in lotus position or anything like that. You can do it everywhere, any time, and three to fifteen minutes a day are enough as a time investment.
What is meditation about?
I sometimes read that meditation is about “disciplining” or “controlling” our mind, but I don’t like this way of putting it. Words like “discipline” and “control” have a hard, rigid connotation that doesn’t consider the great Love and Freedom there is in meditating.
Meditation for me is simply about practicing deliberately choosing what we focus on, in a very gentle and soft way.
Deliberately choosing what we focus on is very important in regards to creating our reality (“We attract what we focus on”) and to reaching our goals (“Always focus on what you want”). Therefore, meditation is a great tool that will help you create the life you want. If you practice deliberately choosing what you focus on regularly while meditating, it will be easier for you to do so in all other situations too.
Aside from training your ability to choose what you focus on, meditating also has other great benefits. I love it. It raises my vibration. It calms me down. It makes me feel happy and relaxed. It allows me to re-center myself and to re-connect with my Soul when I feel a little disconnected or lost. It makes me feel peaceful. It’s a pleasant way to take a short break when I’m working. It clarifies my mind and makes me more creative. I don’t know what effect it has or would have on you, but I’m sure it’s positive too.
Meditating regularly is even better. It has all of the above benefits, but when I meditate regularly those are permanent, not only present when I meditate. It globally raises my consciousness. It also improves my overall awareness for my emotional state. Experiencing a higher vibrational state on a regular basis helps me notice much faster that I’m feeling bad when I do.
I once meditated three times a day for three to five minutes each, every day, for an entire month. It was great! During that month I felt much better, much more centered and peaceful than I normally do, even though the external conditions were more challenging than usually. During that month I also had a few spiritual experiences, including an impressive out of body experience, and I’m sure that’s no coincidence.
How to meditate?
Meditating is very easy. You don’t need any particular ritual, but if you like rituals, then of course you can invent one for yourself. You can light a candle or incense sticks and sit in lotus position if you think that’s cool, but you don’t need to. No need for contorsions or tiring positions either.
You can meditate while walking, sitting on the couch or lying on your bed. It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you feel comfortable. I usually meditate sitting on my office chair with my feet on the desk. I also love meditating while I’m walking or doing the dishes. Meditation is not something highly spiritual, out of this world. Integrate it into your daily life!
Just feel comfortable. Also wear comfortable clothes that you feel good in. If you’re a beginner, make sure you won’t be disturbed. To feel safe and free to relax it’s better at the beginning to know that nobody will come in or disturb you in any way.
I also recommend using a timer. It allows you to immerse yourself in your meditation completely without keeping track of the elapsed time in the background of your mind. You can use a kitchen timer (provided it’s silent when it doesn’t beep), or your watch, an alarm clock, your cell phone, whatever.
How long and how often should I meditate?
As I already said, meditating regularly is particularly beneficial. So, every day would be optimal, or even two or three times a day. But you don’t have to. If you just do it when you feel like doing it, that’s perfectly okay too.
If you’re a beginner, start with two minutes. That’s enough. Then, when you like those two minutes, you can progressively increase your meditation time.
I know some people meditate for half an hour in a row, or even more. This happens to me too sometimes. But I think it’s not necessary to meditate that long in order to feel the benefits of it. Three to fifteen minutes are enough, especially if you do it every day.
Whenever you meditate you raise your consciousness. I’m convinced it brings more to do so for three minutes ten times a day than for thirty minutes only once a day.
Different meditation techniques
Here I’m sharing my favorite ways of meditating:
- Counting Meditation
I guess counting meditation is the easiest way to meditate. If you’re an absolute beginner or a very intellectual person, start with this one.
This is how it works: breathe in. When you breathe out, think “One”. Breathe in again, and when you breathe out, think “Two”. Breathe in, breathe out, think “Three”. In, out, “Four”. Then you start anew: breathe in, breathe out, think “One”. And so on. One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four…
If you start thinking of something else, don’t beat yourself up. Don’t try to control your thoughts in any way. When you notice you were thinking about something else, simply go back to breathing and counting, starting with “One” again. If at some point you suddenly don’t know anymore what number comes next, start with “One” again too.
In the beginning it might be like “One, two, three, one, two, one, one, two, three, four, one…”. That’s perfectly okay. The goal is not not to think at all. The goal is to gently bring your attention back again and again to what you chose to focus on, in this case the counting.
Don’t try to control your breathing in any way either. It’s perfectly okay to breathe irregularly or fast or any way you feel like breathing.
I love counting meditation while I’m walking. Sometimes I count my steps, and sometimes I just think “Left, right, left, right, left, right…”.
- Breathing Meditation
Breathing meditation is the same, except that you don’t count. Instead, you focus on observing your breath. You can focus on how the air enters and leaves your nose. Or you can focus on how the air wanders through your entire body.
It’s a bit more difficult because it’s all about feeling and the mind has nothing to say. Again, don’t try to control your breathing or your thoughts. When you notice you’re thinking, don’t resist it. Acknowledge the thought, let it go in peace, and bring your attention gently back to your breathing.
- Presence Meditation
I totally love this one. Presence meditation is about focusing on being in the here and now. The goal is to be fully present and aware of what’s happening inside of and around you.
First, feel your inner body. This means, feel your body from the inside. Feel the energy in your feet. Then in your legs. When you’re able to feel them, go up, though all your body, till you feel the inside of each part of your body. Then you can feel your whole body as one single energetic field. Concentrate on this feeling for a while, going deeper and deeper inside your body. (I learned this in Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now, you can read more about the inner body in this fabulous book if you’re interested).
Now that you have built your inner awareness, turn your attention outwards and observe what’s going on around you. You’re hearing the sounds, smelling the smells, feeling your body touch the chair you’re sitting on, etc. Maybe some emotions will surface too.
The point is to not react to any of this. You simply perceive it. Observe it, but don’t react to it in any way. Accept it peacefully. And always keep a part of your attention on your inner body.
As usual, no control, and when you drift, bring yourself backvery gently.
I love the Presence Meditation when I’m doing simple things, such as washing the dishes, doing the laundry or cleansing the windows. It would be perfect if I could be in such a state all the time!
- Love Meditation
Love meditation is especially good when you feel unloved, lonely or disconnected. But you can also practice it every day for no particular reason. I use it very often to send Love to others.
Take a little bit more time for this one. Sit or lay down, breathe slowly and deeply through your nose into your belly, close your eyes, and focus on loving yourself. Don’t do it with your mind, don’t think about reasons for loving yourself. Depending on your dominant sense, find a way to express your love for yourself without thinking.
For example you could imagine how you are smiling at yourself and gently hugging yourself. Or you could visualize yourself surrounded with a bulb of shining green light. (Green is traditionally associated with the heart chakra. I always use it as a symbol for Love because it’s my favorite color. If you don’t like it, it doesn’t matter. Just pick any other color that you like and are able to associate with unconditional Love.) Alternatively, you could remember a song with a loving vibe that you like and imagine humming it for yourself. Or recite some kind of loving ritual prayer, like “May I feel safe. May I feel loved. May I be happy. etc.”. Dunno, get creative. You need to find something that you really resonate with.
Same as with the other meditations: if you have unwelcome thoughts, let them go in peace and gently go back to concentrating on loving yourself. Do this till you feel deeply accepted and loved by yourself.
After you’re comfortable with loving yourself, extend this feeling of Love to others. Focus on some person that you have no issues with, and send Love to him or her in the same way you were sending Love to yourself. Hug them or visualize them in loving green bulbs or recite your love prayer for them. Feel how you love them, how your heart is connected to theirs and your Love flows from you to them. Love is infinite, you can never run out of it. Share your Love.
Start with people you are close to and have no problem with, then gradually expand your love to friends, acquaintances, colleagues, to people you don’t know at all, to people you have conflicts with, and to people you hate. You can include animals, trees, plants and inanimated objects as well.
I have noticed that when I regularly send Love to someone I have some problems with, those problems tend to disappear!
In case you don’t feel comfortable with loving yourself to begin with, practice only the first part of the meditation till it feels natural to you to express loving and nurturing feelings towards yourself. If you don’t truly love yourself, you cannot truly love others.
- Mirroring Meditation
I particularly enjoy this one, it’s a lot of fun! But you need a partner to do it. Here is how it works:
The passive partner does nothing at all except for breathing. That’s a perfect opportunity for him or her to practice one of the other meditations.
The active partner mirrors his or her partner’s breathing. Let’s say you are the active one. Then you try to follow exactly your partner’s way of breathing. This means you have to focus on your partner and copy him or her. He or she should not help you in any way, for example by breathing particularly slowly or regularly! It’s your job to follow the other person no matter what she or he does. That’s the fun of it.
Of course you can pick an unknowing passive partner too. I totally love doing this with Minnie. Minnie is the cat I share my home with. She loves to sleep on my desk (especially exactly on the most important papers I’m just reading). When she’s lying around like this, I often do the mirroring meditation with her. But sometimes I also pick random innocent victims on the bus, in a shop or at the library and follow their breathing, when they happen to be close enough for me to hear and see them breathe.
In case you lack empathy and would like to have more of it, you could start with practicing this meditation as a fun way of aligning yourself with others.
- More meditations
There are countless other meditations. You can focus on observing and labeling your thoughts, or on focusing on some object (like a candle). You can use music to meditate, either as a relaxing background while you practice some other meditation, or as the object of your focus. There is plenty of meditation music on youtube. You can find many guided meditations out there too. Another idea is to google Vipassana meditation.
If you’re interested in a book about meditation, I recommend The Three-Minute Meditator by David Harp & Nina Feldman. It is simple, unpretentious and down-to-earth. It explains how to integrate meditation into your daily life, and contains many interesting meditations, visualizations and much more. I discovered the mirroring meditation in this book, although it has another name there. I really like this book.
So. You can start right now. I wish you a lot of fun, O Great Meditator! :-)