Meditation is nothing but the training of the mind. It describes the process of getting to a state of mind where there is a stopping of the thought chain (meditative state). The mind is free of all scattered, random, discursive and any other kind of thinking. As such, there are only two ways of getting the mind to stop all active thinking. One way is to wholly focus the mind on one single thing such that there is no space for anything else to show up or the second way is to completely let go of ANY effort related to active thinking so that you experience the meditative state in the blank spaces between thoughts. Here we go over both methods describing different techniques for each. Feel free to choose the technique that appeals to you and try it out for a period of at least a month before you decide that it is or is not working for you.

Getting Started

Posture

Meditation is generally done in a seated position. You may choose to do it lying down, however you run the risk of falling asleep. If you have trouble concentrating, try doing these stretches before you start. When you are ready, take a few moments to get seated in a comfortable position. It is ideal to sit on a cushion or any other soft surface in the cross legged position or in Vajrasana (Diamond or Thunderbolt pose). You can also choose to rest you back against the wall in the cross legged position. If these poses are uncomfortable, it is perfectly okay to sit in any comfortable position or in a chair.Always remember to keep your back straight and chin parallel to the floor. Scan your body from head to toe and release any discomfort you feel. In the course of the practice, try to stay still, however if you cannot concentrate because of the discomfort - you may adjust your position.


Sukhasan or Cross Legged Pose

Vajrasan or Diamond/ Thunderbolt Pose

Chair Pose for Meditation




Reverse breathing

Before beginning any meditation practice, make sure you are in the habit of breathing correctly. At random times during the day, simply keep your right hand on the belly and observe the movement of the belly as you inhale and exhale. Ideally, the belly should bulge out when you inhale and go in when you exhale. If you are following the reverse pattern, that is the belly is going in as you inhale and bulging as you exhale, you are a reverse breather. Reverse breathing needs to be corrected before starting any meditation practice. With your hand on the belly, consciously work on your breathing, gently reminding yourself to expand the belly as you inhale and contract it as you exhale. For the first few times, initiate the movement from the belly, expanding it consciously when taking a breath in and contracting it purposefully as you exhale. Come back to this practice at intervals through out the day and you will be able to correct your reverse breathing pattern in a few days.

Starting the Practice

Take a few moments to get seated in a comfortable pose. Inhale and exhale deeply for a few breaths. Become aware of your posture - sitting straight, shoulders relaxed and back, chin parallel to the floor and palms open to the sky. As you feel comfortable, scan your body from head to toe releasing any tension you feel anywhere and you may start with your chosen technique.


I. Concentration Meditation


Generally concentration meditation is easier for beginners or for those trying out non-guided meditations. In this technique, you focus on a single object such as your breath or the counting or a mantra or an image and keep doing it until the mind gets emptied of everything else. Once the mind is fully focused on the object, you enter a state where you automatically let go of object and the mind becomes free and thoughtless. You may come back to the object of concentration when you notice that your mind has drifted. Beginners may expect to flow continuously between these states during the duration of their practice. When practiced regularly and sincerely, experiencing even a few minuscule moments of thoughtlessness brings about a lot of changes in your day.The success of your practice does NOT depend on how often your mind drifts away, it depends on how quickly and how often you bring it back after realizing that it has drifted.


i. Mantra Chanting

Mantra chanting is the easiest technique of focusing the mind. Of all our sense organs, the sense of sound is the closest to the mind. The mind get easily attracted to sound. Choose a mantra or any other word that has meaning for you.

Some Religious Mantras
  • Om - Recitation on YouTube
  • Hari Om
  • Hum-Sa or So-Hum (Meaning: I am that)
  • Om Namah Shivay-Recitation on YouTube

  • Here is a list of more mantras for beginners
Some Special Words
  • Peace
  • Love
  • Kindness
  • Health

  • .......Any other word you may choose......

Research shows that continuous repetition of any word can initiate the Relaxation Response; it does not need to be a religious mantra. However from our experience, we know that chanting of these ancient mantras carries a certain powerful energy to them that is different from the repetition of everyday words. It may be possible that these sounds given to us by our Yogis have a specific effect on our mind and body, which science has not discovered yet. See Sound and Chanting; Special Mantra or Word.


Getting Started

Initially you can start by repeating the mantra loudly on every exhalation. Do not be in a hurry, remember to inhale completely between two chants or else you will be breathless in a few chants.Do not be shy, chant with surrender, giving your best to the chant. You need not be extra loud or fast or chant in an extra sweet voice, just chant in a relaxed manner, simply for the sake of chanting and nothing else. If you have never chanted before, you may feel self-conscious initially; ignore the hesitation and continue with your practice. In a matter of 3-4 days you will get over your discomfort and start to enjoy the chant. To begin with, chant loudly for at least 30-40 times and you will automatically feel the chant becoming internal, after which you may continue to chant mentally. When you find yourself getting distracted, try chanting loudly again. Initially, you will find yourself constantly sliding between the chant and your thoughts. Do not be discouraged by this, keep persevering and you will see much improvement in a month's time. You can even start by having a simple 5 min pure mantra chanting practice in the morning and then increase the time gradually to 10-20 minutes.


Over a Period of Time

With practice over a period of time (a month or more), you get so absorbed in the mantra that you naturally move into a thoughtless state of meditation. Mind is blank yet totally alert and awake; a wonderful state beyond words. However, you may also experience days when the mind simply refuses to be silent. Do not despair.The mind and the mantra have an agenda and rhythm of their own, respect it and persevere with your practice. If you are looking for some variation in your practice, you may try some of the other techniques mentioned here and compare how you feel. Remember, higher the overall number of times you chant the mantra, higher the chances of the mantra getting embedded in your subconscious mind and the easier it gets to quiet the mind with each subsequent chant.You may also continue mantra chanting in an informal way during your day.When you are driving or travelling or simply waiting, try chanting the mantra mentally instead of active thinking or reaching for your phone.


Note: To those who have had no prior experience with yoga or meditation, mantra chanting may sound completely foreign and strange. In our experience, for beginners, mantra chanting is a much easier way of quietening the mind than the other methods. Once you start chanting, you get over the strangeness very quickly.



ii. Breath Counting

Another technique of Concentration Meditation involves focusing on your breath. Simply focus on the act of inhalation and exhalation and begin counting. On the first exhale you may say the number 10 in your mind, next exhale is 9 and so on until you come to the number 1. Repeat again from 10 to 1 for as many times as you can. If you lose count at any time, start from 10 again. You many create any variations of this technique such as counting from 1 to 10, or saying 1 on inhale and 2 on exhale or going all the way to 20 etc. As far as possible, keep it simple and stick with one or two variations at the most. Do not try complicated algorithms as our goal is to empty the logical mind, not to engage it. Most important instruction is to come back to the counting as soon as you realized you have drifted. In the beginning it may seem like you are making no progress at all, that the monkey mind is getting better of you each time. However persist with the practice and soon you will find that you are able to focus for longer periods of time during the practice as well as in your daily life.



iii. Candle Gazing

Candle Gazing is yet another powerful technique of Concentration Meditation. In a darkened room, light a candle so that the flame is at your eye level. This technique involves staring at the candle flame, without blinking your eyes for long periods of time. This meditation is excellent for the health of the eyes as well as for clearing out your mind and also for improving your focus. The rationale behind this meditation is that when you stare at an object for a long time, that is the only sensory input going to the mind. As the mind does not receive any new sensory input and as we consciously shut down the process of reactive thinking during that period, the mind does not have much to do and it automatically quiets down.


Before beginning any meditation practice, make sure you are in the habit of breathing correctly. At random times during the day, simply keep your right hand on the belly and observe the movement of the belly as you inhale and exhale. Ideally, the belly should bulge out when you inhale and go in when you exhale. If you are following the reverse pattern, that is the belly is going in as you inhale and bulging as you exhale, you are a reverse breather. Reverse breathing needs to be corrected before starting any meditation practice. With your hand on the belly, consciously work on your breathing, gently reminding yourself to expand the belly as you inhale and contract it as you exhale. For the first few times, initiate the movement from the belly, expanding it consciously when taking a breath in and contracting it purposefully as you exhale. Come back to this practice at intervals through out the day and you will be able to correct your reverse breathing pattern in a few days.

We suggest performing this meditation in 3 steps.

Before Each Step

Begin in the seated position with your eyes closed and head bent. Become aware of your breathing, gradually open your eyes and deliberately blink 10-12 times. Slowly observe the floor next to you and raise your gaze up along with your head.

Step 1

Observe the bottom of the candle and slowly take your gaze up and keep your attention on the outer edge of the flame. Keep staring at the outer edge of the flame in a gentle, easy way. Try not to blink, if tears form in your eyes - let them flow. If you feel burning sensation in the eyes, try to bear the discomfort and inhale and exhale through it. Continue for a period of 1-5 mins as is comfortable.

After Each Step

Slowly close your eyes and observe the after image that you see. Keep on focusing on the after image for as long as you can. You may see various colors, various images or nothing at all. Continue focusing for a period of time. This exercise of focusing on the after image is very good for improving your focus and attention span. After a period of 1-5 minutes, slowly rub your palms together, make cups of your palms and press them over your eye sockets. Do not touch the eye balls. Gently press and release along the eye sockets and bend your head down. You may take your hands away and stay in the eyes closed, head bent position for a few moments.

Step 2

Follow the instructions mentioned in Before Each Step above. Slowly raise your gaze up the candle and take your attention to the wick of the candle. Keep staring at the wick, observing the color, stability and texture of the wick in a gentle way. Try not to blink, if tears form in your eyes - let them flow. If you feel burning sensation in the eyes, try to bear the discomfort and inhale and exhale through it. Continue for a period of 1-5 mins as is comfortable. Follow the instructions mentioned in After Each Step above.

Step 3

Follow the instructions mentioned in Before Each Step above. Slowly raise your gaze up the candle and now slowly take in the entire candle. In a gentle, soft focused manner, observe the entire candle - the solid wax at the base, the liquid wax on top, the dark, short, stable wick, the wavering flame, the colors of within the flame and the halo around it. Inhale and exhale through all of these, becoming aware of the entire candle as a whole. Follow the instructions mentioned in After Each Step above.

After step 3 is done, you may sit in silence for a few minutes with your head up and eyes closed, simply focusing on the breath and the silence in your mind. You can also choose to chant the mantra Om 5-11 times. On this page is a guided Candle Gazing meditation conducted in a different style.

Note: This meditation can be done with any other object, not just the candle. You may choose an image that you like or an idol of your favorite deity or any other object and focus on a few different parts of that object during the various steps of the meditation. The reason the candle is recommended is because it is an ideal object of focus in a dark room so that there is not much other sensory input going to the eyes. Another metaphysical reason is that it is assumed that when you stare at an object in a thoughtless, blank way, there are no words, attitudes and judgments even that come between you and the object and the energies of the object and your energies get intermingled over time. You may be subconsciously inspired by those subtle qualities of the object that attract you (e.g. as the soft, gentle manner in which the candle illuminates the space around it) and transmute that quality into your life by becoming a mentor or a guide to someone else. For this reason, it is suggested that you choose an image that has a higher significance for you or an idol of your favorite deity.


II. Open Awareness Meditation


Open awareness meditation involves keeping the mind open and empty. It can be likened to assuming the stance of an open sky where thoughts are like clouds that float in and out. Generally, for beginners, open awareness meditations are possible only with guided meditations. One needs to fine tune their awareness to a very subtle level where they can actually observe a thought float in, maintain a position of not reacting or to it and then observe it floating out. In variations of this method, we gently vary our attention from sensation to sensation (e.g. focusing on the breath to focusing on the feel of air on your skin), cultivating a sort of open and loose awareness to our surroundings. Once you get used to keeping the mind open and loose, meditation automatically happens in the gaps between your thoughts.


i. Walking Meditation

For those who have had zero exposure to yoga/ meditation, Walking Meditation is a great way to gradually cultivate the art of meditation in their daily life. Our modern life styles are such that we are always on the go; the concepts of sitting on the floor, sitting still for an extended period, not doing anything at all may seem very strange in the beginning. Walking Meditation provides a great option of overcoming this strangeness. Walking Meditation is a kinesthetic practice and many people find it much easier to engage the mind and the body in this way.

You may choose a 20-30 minute time frame for your Walking Meditation. Throughout the walk, consciously avoid thinking or if you find yourself caught up in any thoughts simply bring your attention back to your breath. During the walk, systematically focus for two minutes each on the (1) sensations in your feet as you walk, (2) your breath, (3) the sensations of air or wind on your skin, (4) the sounds you hear and (5) the sights you can see, and then do it over and over through your walk. Try to go deeper inside each sensation, for e.g. when observing the sensations in your feet as your walk pay attention to how the sole of your foot rolls when you walk, when do the toes touch the ground, how does the motion feel inside the heel and so on.Overtime, as the practice grows on you, you may notice that sometime during the walk your mind automatically shifts into a thoughtless yet alert state, where you are not actively thinking of anything but are fully engaged with the mind, peaceful and acutely aware of all the sensations around you. In such a state the mind is said to be open and loose; one may term such a state to be the goal of an open awareness meditation.

During the walk, it gets very amusing to watch how frequently our mind drifts off in its own thoughts and what an effort it is to get it back to the breath, just to have it wander off again! Be patient with yourself and keep with the practice. You will see much improvement in your ability to focus with 2 weeks of sincere and regular practice.

Note:It may prove to be difficult to be completely thoughtless during the Walking Meditation or retain the open awareness state for a longer period. The reason is that as we walk, the scenery and sounds around us change and provide new sensory input to the mind. The genie of the mind which has been idle in the past few moments grabs hold of this invitation to begin anew its work of churning thoughts and memories. For those who wish to cultivate a serious meditation practice, the technique of Walking Meditation is best used as a stepping stone to or as an add on to their formal meditation practice.


ii. Body Scan Meditation

Body Scan Meditation is best practiced in a lying down position with a guided meditation audio. It can also be practiced in a sitting position or any other position. It is a wonderful way to relax and completely let go of all thoughts, feelings, sensations and sink deeply into the body. Many people report feeling lighter after a Body Scan Meditation. This technique involves focusing on each body part, inhaling and exhaling through it, simply observing it as it is, not thinking anything about it and gently letting it go out of your awareness as you gradually move to the next body part. If you do get any thoughts at all (e.g. " I need a pedicure"), simply observe the thought and try NOT to react to it (e.g. Do NOT react to the pedicure thought by thinking - "Let me make a appointment for Tuesday").

Typically you start the Body Scan Meditation with a few deep breaths and focus from the toes up, all the way up to your head. Or you may start from your head and go all the way to your toes. Hereis a wonderful guided 30-minute Body Scan Meditation and this is a 19-minute audio that you can practice by yourself.

The Body Scan Technique grows on you as you practice. Initially, you may find yourself falling asleep during the practice. Try to stay awake and slowly you will notice the effects of the practice. Each body part learns to relax itself under your direction and you will find that over a period of time, you are able to practice this technique in any position and in any setting.

Body Scan is a deeply relaxing practice and it allows you get connected with each body part, accept it and relax it. One may claim that the goal of a Body Scan Meditation is to train the mind to be able to switch easily between a narrow focus and a wider, overall context as we focus on the little toe in one moment and the overall body in the next. This skill helps in decision making, in learning to let go and learning to avoid getting stuck in our narrow view of the world or situation.


iii. Breath Meditation

The Breath Meditation is a classic mindfulness technique which involves gentle focus on your breath. It is the simplest, purest and one of the oldest techniques used. In our experience, it is by far the hardest technique around. For beginners, we recommend that they try this meditation with a guided audio. The breath is intimately connected with the state of the mind. We experience this many times - when we are nervous or excited our breath is short and shallow, when we are sad, we breathe in long sighs. The idea behind this meditation is that we use the breath to modulate the state of the mind. When the breath is even, calm and balanced, the mind also follows into a similar state.

This meditation is best done when sitting down, however it can be done in the supine and or any other position as well. Make sure you are comfortable and can breathe fully and freely (loosen any tight clothing, belts and jackets). Simply observe your breath, do not manipulate it. As you start paying attention to the breath, it starts becoming calm and smooth. Get completely involved in the act of breathing, observing how your belly moves, chest expands, cool air enters your nostrils as you inhale and how the belly and chest contract and warm air leaves the nostrils as you exhale. As you get completely involved with the breath, the movement of the mind ceases and you move into a meditative state. Here is a 10 minute guided Breath Meditation that you can do on your own.

Note: Any activity or chore can be turned into a meditation by doing it mindfully. Those who are unable to sit in one place can incorporate meditation in their lives informally by observing the sensations in their hands, their breath and in their body as they go about their exercise, brushing their teeth, walking, cooking, interacting with others or any other activity. Mindful stretching is a great way to get the mind into the meditation zone. You end up feeling relaxed and loose. You may try doing these stretches mindfully.


At y2lStudio, we conduct all of above meditations as a part of our morning Happiness Booster sessions.


See


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