Meditation is more than putting on a calming guided meditation or soothing music to de-stress and relax your mind. To be a successful meditator, you have to know how to systematically quiet your mind and where to focus your attention.
Relaxing the mind is not the final goal of meditation but a prerequisite to achieving a higher goal. The real goal of meditation is to identify with who you really are—the blissful Self who is the silent inner observer of all the experiences of your life.
To go within requires a fair amount of preparation and understanding. Without this, you will not be able to hold the inner silence. You can start by preparing your meditation space and body for your practice.
Dedicate a quiet space for your spiritual practice that is used only for prayer, spiritual reading, contemplation and meditation. The energy of your sacred space will build up through your daily practice and make it easy for you to quiet your mind when you go there.
Find an armless chair with a firm cushion and straight back where you can sit cross-legged or with your feet flat on the floor. Or, create a seat using a low cushion or folded towel or blanket.
Keep your back straight and in alignment with your head and neck. Relax your body, especially your face, neck and shoulders. Place your hands in your lap palms up, one on top of the other or on your knees with the palms up or down.
Withdraw from outer perceptions
Sit very still and gently close your eyes.
Now prepare yourself mentally for your practice.
Resolve to be serious about your practice. Tell yourself that you will sit still for the duration of your practice and will not be distracted by sounds or smells. It could be for ten or fifteen minutes or longer if you are able.
Give up your everyday concerns and focus fully in the present
Your plans, worries and cares will all be right where you left them after your practice. For now, give your full attention to meditation.
Surrender to the divine
Dedicate your practice to any symbol of the divine that you resonate with. Invoke its grace and blessings so that you will be able to check the wanderings of your mind.
Withdrawal in steps
To bring your attention to the deepest core of your being—your Self, begin by calming down your breathing and then detaching from your emotions and thoughts.
Start taking slow, deep breaths. If you are a beginner, don’t force or strain to breathe in this way. Stop and relax if you start to feel dizzy or light-headed. Then continue breathing as comfortably as you can.
As you still your body and regulate your breathing, you will begin to relax. You may notice that some emotions start to rise up such as sadness, anger, or anxiety. As soon as you are aware of them, focus on your breath and release them as you breathe out.
If they are strong and stubborn, call upon the divine to free up your heart. Keep the breathing even and deep as you do this. Stay calm. You will find that as you ask for help, it does come, and you will begin to feel lighter and calmer.
Memories of the past and plans for the future
As you sit still and slow down your breathing, you will find that thoughts from within will start to disturb your mental peace. Memories of the past or plans and anxieties for the future may come up.
Stay calm, focus on your breathing and turn your attention to the real you, the inner observer of your thoughts.
Remember, if you can see the thoughts, they are separate from you and cannot affect you unless you identify with them and make them real. Your thoughts are powered by your awareness and engagement in them.
When you focus your awareness on being the witness of the thoughts, they die away from lack of attention.
This is a very simple, but powerful technique of quieting your thoughts.
Affirmations and chanting OM
To ensure that the momentary silence is sustained, and to prevent negative thoughts or worldly concerns to rise up, fill the silent space with affirmations and chanting a mantra.
I am the detached inner witness of the thoughts
I am pure Consciousness. In me there are no thoughts.
Thoughts have no power over me, the silent inner Observer
Mentally saying any one of these affirmations, coupled with the practice of turning your awareness to being the observer of the thoughts will calm your mind considerably.
But the silence in the mind will likely not last and thoughts will start to creep in again. When they do, start chanting a mantra. The easiest and most powerful mantra is Om.
Om is a Sanskrit word that represents the Truth, or Ultimate Cause of creation. Chanting Om is also the medium with which we connect to that Truth. The vibrations of Om are powerful and have a profoundly calming influence on the mind.
You can synchronise your breathing with the chanting of Om by breaking up the two syllables, “O” and “M”.
Breathe in slowly and mentally chant Ooo. Hold the breath in for a second or two. Breathe out and mentally chant mmm. Hold the breath out for a second or two. Breathe in and continue chanting Om in the same way for a few minutes.
You may consider chanting Om out loud if you find your mind is especially busy. Breathe in, hold your breath in for a second or two and then slowly chant Om. Hold the breath out for a second or two, then breathe in and chant again. When chanted correctly, Om produces a long resonating sound like the pure musical tone of a tuning fork or a large bell.
Whether you chant it mentally or out loud, try to elongate the silence in between. The silent pauses between breathing in and breathing out are where you will arrive at a thoughtless meditative state. It may be for a fleeting few seconds, but this is being one with Om, the divine cause of the world.
You can read more about Om and listen to it in What is Om and how to chant it.
The positive vibrations of affirmations and the chanting of Om will purify the inner space and negate all extraneous thoughts.
Ending your practice
Continue holding the silence between the chants of Om until your mind starts to fatigue.
Slowly withdraw your focus from the chanting and place it on your breath. Observe and feel the rising and falling of your chest while breathing. Now bring your focus on your body sitting on the meditation seat.
When you are ready to end your practice, slowly open your eyes. Start to move and stretch to ease your body.
This method of meditation comes from the spiritual writings of Vedanta. It takes your awareness progressively from the external world into the deeper layers of your personality and finally into the inner silence.
The silent inner witness is the Self, your real nature. Practising identifying with it in meditation will not only quiet the thoughts during your practice but will extend the inner peace into your daily interactions.
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