If you are new to meditation or are hoping to tweak your practice to bring it up to a new level then you are in the right place. Meditation can be difficult to begin because we get caught up on trying to force the thoughts out or to attain a certain feeling, but it does not have to be so difficult. Here are five ways that you can improve your meditation practice today.
It is easy to give up, to throw in the towel and say “I can’t do this”. You will not be great at meditation the first time, perhaps not the first twenty times, but you will experience moments within each session of meditation that give you such clarity and peace; and the more you do it the more of such moments you will experience. Even life-long meditators will have off days, where no amount of cushion sitting, eye closing and mystical chanting sounds can help. Do not let this be your un-doing. Persevere, truly and try your best to not beat yourself up in the process. Some days you will blow it out of the water and know thyself deeply, opening your mind to universal wisdom, and some days you won’t.
Non-judgement takes a wee bit of practice, but removing labels is a great place to start. Instead of calling a meditation session successful, or a flop, focus on what part felt good for you. Having ten minutes to yourself, a cool breeze that you became aware of, the awareness of yourself as seperate from the thoughts, or simply another opportunity to practice? If you cannot focus on what felt good, simply removing the negative words around your meditation session and accepting it as it is will help you to practice non-judgement. The best part of becoming aware of judgement and reducing it around meditation is that you will find yourself practicing non-judgement in other areas of your life.
Meditation is not a way to quiet the mind, it is a way of entering the quiet that is already there. – Deepak Chopra
2. Use Your Body
I love to use this technique at the start of my meditations but it is also useful if your mind starts to wander. Begin by bringing your attention to your physical body. Put your attention on your toes and ankles, feel their weight and the surface on which they rest. Work your way up your body with your calves, and then your hips and belly. Bring your attention to each point of contact with the floor beneath until you reach the top of your head. This process does not take long but it usually relieves the mind of over-thinking and it helps to bring you right back to the here and now. Beginning or ending your meditation with this technique will help you to bring your mindfulness into the rest of the day.
Many folks believe they have to have a complete absence of thought in order to have a great meditation session. Firstly such a state is not possible. There is a space between you and the thinking mind and through meditation you can learn to extend the gap between thoughts. However eventually thoughts will resurface and with this the practice of allowing. Be accepting of all thoughts, be welcoming and allow these thoughts to come and go peacefully. Do not attach yourself to any of them, simply witness their presence and allow them to float through without forcing them out or becoming one with them. This can take a little practice but only in accepting and welcoming things as they are can you be free of them.
A great benefit to allowing thoughts without attaching to them is that you may recognise your true self for the first time. You are not your thoughts, and you don’t have to believe all of them. You can experience the mind as a useful tool, and yourself as working the tool. On the flip side to this, some people have moments of inspiration during meditation. By allowing all thoughts to pass on through without clinging to them or forcing them out, a gem may appear between the gaps of silence. Many folks have experienced a flash of cosmic inspiration to drive their next brilliant idea.
The goal of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts, it’s to stop letting them control you.
4. Focus the Monkey Mind
The mind can be a tricky, you can have a long pause between thoughts one moment, you breath in and out, this feels good, then before you know it the insidious thinking begins and you’re trying to work out how you can talk to your mum about the latest drama of life. The mind is a powerful tool but when it is absorbing 100% of your attention or driving you to live outside of the present moment it becomes harmful to you. However you can learn to focus the mind, by giving it a task. The mind is happy when it is occupied, by focusing on your breath your mind will have its point of orientation. For me, focusing on breathing was never very successful, but music was. By giving my mind a focal point of external sound it relaxed in a way I didn’t know it could.
Music such as binaural beats can make a big impact on your brain waves and help to relax the anxious mind. Binaural beats works through the consistent beat at the correct brainwave frequency, which helps to create a trance-like state and a sense of oneness. The binaural part, refers to sending two different frequencies, one to each ear to create this state. One I’ve found useful is the Pure Binaural Beats – Alpha, Theta, Gamma and Delta Brainwave Entrainment – Music for Meditation. This meditation music truly deepens the meditative state and gives the mind a new area of focus. Chanting is another great tool to focus your mind. You can either chant along through meditation music chants (I’ve listed my favourite below) or you can create your own. Developing a personal mantra to chant will help you focus that monkey mind. Any word or expression will do, preferably no more than two syllables then chant it out loud as you meditate. If you have tried other meditation music with little benefit, chanting can be just the thing that makes the difference to your practice.
5. Practice in the Good Times and the Bad
Much like tip number one, it is important to practice meditation in both the good times and the difficult ones. Not every day will be easy and that is the whole point of meditation. Through this practice you will find a calmness and a deeper wisdom. This will free you up to have the same external experiences but the way you respond will be different. Before meditation you might find sitting in traffic very anxiety producing or spending time with a particular family member to be draining. After meditation you will most likely find yourself in traffic again or potentially in the same room as this family member but now you are able to seperate yourself from your thoughts or emotions. You can have freedom from at least some of the suffering reaction that you had previously. Now you may find you can relax in such moments or perhaps even laugh at them. So practice meditating during the relaxed days as well as the trying ones and with practice you will find mastery over once difficult situations as you will have changed. To quote the old saying, he who does not go within, goes without.
Meditation Chants to Guide You
This collection is my absolute favourite especially if you want to have something different to guide your meditation:
Prayer is when you talk to God, Meditation is when God talks to you.