In my last post, I shared with you my meditation story. Today I would like to share with you some tips and answer some questions about beginning your own meditation practice that can feed your soul too.
I feel like the idea of meditation is so glamorous these days, but after doing it for a short while, you come to realize that there isn’t anything glamorous about this, and we lose hope and inspiration. In fact, I haven’t found any of my spiritual practices glamorous. But, I have found them hugely rewarding.
I have answered these questions based on my own personal experiences with meditation. It’s been a process of trial and error. It has been a journey of stripping away untruth to come closer to the heart of it. I am just at the beginning of my journey to myself, and I am so glad to be in this community of others who are taking the same journey. Namaste _/\_.
I find it hard to sit for a long period of time
Which part of it do you find difficult?
If you find sitting in the seated meditation posture difficult – practicing Hata yoga can help to free your body up, by not only increasing flexibility and endurance, but by calming your internal energies and allowing you to just sit.
If you find the mental aspect of sitting for a long period of time difficult, if you feel restless and uncomfortable – Keep doing your spiritual practices. Make changes to your diet, eat more natural, fresh foods, eat vegetarian food (at least in the hours before you meditate) and over time, you will be able to sit still.
I can’t get rid of my thoughts
Why do you want to get rid of your thoughts? This is commonly thought of as the goal of meditation. I have lots to say about this because I think this is one of the biggest obstacles to meditation.
First of all, what are our thoughts?
Our thoughts originate from a culmination of our sensory perceptions. Everything we hear, see, touch, taste is translated into a thought and documented for a brief moment. They are soaked in memory, past pain, reactions to things, judgements, opinions, impulses, compulsions.
Our sensory inputs change constantly, and so our thoughts change constantly.
Our thoughts are just a product of whatever we put into our minds yesterday. It’s just what is inside you, whatever stuff you are going through. Sometimes they can be beautiful, sometimes they can be a mess.
Don’t make thoughts the enemy of your meditation practice. I have come to understand this too. Our lungs produce breath, our kidneys produce waste, our mind produces thoughts (given, this is not the most profound purpose of the mind). Just like we don’t need our lungs to stop working for us to meditate, we don’t need our mind to stop working to meditate either.
As I said, our thoughts are what we have put inside ourselves. If this is an unconscious process for us, if what is inside us needs some inner work, if we are filled with pain, anger, unresolved karma, then our mind becomes like a garbage can, our thoughts are not pleasant, they bring pain, they are annoying, we want to escape from that, and we believe we should stop our thoughts during meditation. We want a break from ourselves.
The thing is, we want a break from not ourselves, but a break from believing that we are these thoughts. “I think therefore I am.” – that’s what we believe right?
Well, I don’t believe this, not anymore. Becoming meditative switches that around. It becomes – I am, therefore I think.
And this is freedom.
So if you want your thoughts to be nice, then we have to feed our mind something good. We have to stop treating our body and our mind like a garbage can of life.
What is good food for the mind? TRUTH. This is a big topic, and elaborating on what to feed your mind may require a post of it’s own!
So, don’t be worried about your thoughts. Don’t try to stop them. Don’t make them an enemy of your meditation practice. Just let them happen. Don’t try to decide which is a good thought and which is a bad thought. Just do your meditation. Over time, these thoughts will quieten down, and change in tone. Why is that? Because meditation will change who you are, it doesn’t change your thoughts.
On the flip side, don’t try to put thoughts into your head too. Don’t try to think differently. You can only think differently about things when you feed your mind something different. You only feed your mind something different when who you are changes, and who you are changes slowly with meditation. Your thoughts have no influence on your life. Who you are influences your life. And when that changes, so will your thoughts.
Is there a form of meditation that is better than the other?
There are many things you can do when you sit with your eyes closed. I don’t believe one is better than the other. One might suit you more than it suits me. One might fit more naturally. Whatever works for you, find it, and stick with it.
How long should I meditate for each day and how do you keep track of time?
For me, a minimum of 15 minutes is beautiful. The maximum is as much as you need. Sometimes I only need 15 minutes. Other times I need a lot more.
In the beginning, I never felt I needed more. I was always glad when it was over, so that I could move on to do something else with my time. It was only since last year that I often feel I would like to stay in my meditative state for longer.
I used to set a timer, but try to use a timer that has a soft sound to alert you of time passed. I remember using my regular alarm and being unpleasantly shaken out of meditation I think there are apps available for this purpose. I do not use a timer anymore.
When I doing my preparatory exercises for Surya Kriya, it is recommended to do each pose for 2 minutes. I used to keep my phone near by and check the time, but I found this to be so disturbing and taking me away from being fully absorbed. Now I know that 8 deep inhales and exhales takes around 2 minutes, so I have become more aware of timing internally.
On special auspicious dates where there more energy available to us, such as Shivarathri, Navrathri, full moon evenings – I meditate for much longer.
What do I think about?
Once my eyes close, I usually take a couple of minutes to focus on my breath to bring some space into my body and mind. I then bring my focus to the space between my eyebrows. And that’s it. Thoughts may come and go as they please, but I don’t think. I have a burning question (more on this later on in the post) that I don’t think about, but I feel the question. It’s hard to describe. There’s nothing really special about what happens when I close my eyes. What is special is when I open them and my life changes slowly.
I keep losing focus. Will that change?
By losing focus, I think most of us mean, we get too entangled in our thoughts. Or we are trying to focus on our breathing, but we keep thinking about other things. I believe that will change, at least that has been my experience.
How many times a day should I meditate?
Once again, to draw attention to the difference between being in a “meditative state” and meditating – the goal of this practice is to reach a meditative state, not necessarily to check off 15 minutes a day. If you can live your day with complete joy, freedom, presence and inner power – then you are already everything that being still and sitting can give you. At this point, your life becomes a meditation. This is the flower that meditation can grow.
If that is not your experience today, then sit for some time and see. Later in the day, you may need to do it again.
When is the best time of day to meditate?
The most energy is available to us during the hour surrounding sunrise, and the hour surrounding sunset.
If I can not make these times, then any time is beneficial but I like to have not eaten in the last 4 hours before I sit.
How should I sit?
I usually sit on my yoga mat in Siddhasana with my hands placed palm up at my knees. I bring my palms to the center of my lap, with my right hand resting on top of my left at the beginning and end of the session.
Can I meditate laying down?
I used to do this, but I no longer do. I find it to be more powerful to have my spine erect and unsupported during meditation. If this is difficult for you, you can have your spine supported by leaning against a wall, until you are able to sit freely. Soon, you will be able to. When I used to meditate laying down, I felt it was too uncomfortable to sit for so long and I resisted it, but now I find it not only okay, but important to sit that way.
The only time I meditate laying down is during Savasana after my yoga practice.
Where can I meditate?
It is most beneficial to have a consecrated meditation room, but this is not available to all of us, including myself. In such room, it is important to keep it spacious and beautiful, play sacred sounds/music in the room, to be barefoot when stepping inside, and to only use it for meditation and prayer. This keeps the energy of the room at the highest level.
If this is not available to you, you can create a space for yourself anywhere in your home. You can light a candle with the intention to meditate, you can play consecrated sound for a few minutes before you begin.
Should I listen to music while meditating?
Sometimes I like to begin meditating with music or chanting, but I always like some time of delicious silence.
I recommend Sounds of Isha. You can find their youtube channel here.
I love playing their holy sounds during other times of the day.
Should I chant mantras while meditating?
Mantras are very powerful through using the power of sound. However, for Mantras to be utilized properly and safely, it is important that we pronounce the sounds exactly right. If we don’t pronounce them correctly (produce the right sound), it is just the same as singing a song – which of course sounds lovely, but does not have the energetic impact that we may desire.
This can be difficult for me because of my accent but I am working on it.
If I am not chanting them myself, I like to play them in my home/car and listen.
Some of my favourites:
Aum Namah Shivaya. (Can you tell that I am a Shiva Devotee? 😉 )
Aum Tare – Tara
Help! I keep falling asleep when meditating?
I remember falling asleep initially and thinking that I must have gone so deep into my meditation that I fell asleep.
But sleeping is being unconscious and meditating is not about becoming unconscious. It’s about having a heightened consciousness and awareness. So it is best not to sleep during meditation.
Are you meditating after eating a meal? It is best to meditate on an empty stomach. I meditate before breakfast, or before dinner. A full stomach makes you dull, heavy and lethargic.
Are you meditating laying down? Try switching to sitting upright and unsupported – it is much more difficult to fall asleep in this posture.
I feel itchy and uncomfortable when I meditate
When this happens to me (and it definitely does. A lot.) I try just to acknowledge it, and see how long I can wait before succumbing to it. And then I would adjust myself so that I am more comfortable and I don’t worry about it. I don’t make this an enemy to my practice either. I know that over time, some day, my body will learn.
Should I visualize things?
When I first started experimenting with meditation, I definitely did this a lot. Would I do this again? Probably not. Visualization strengthens your imagination, and while that is not a terrible thing to do, I realize now that that is not essential to my meditative state. I want to strengthen my inner grace, my connection to God, not my imagination.
There are only a few select times in which I use visualization, where I find it to be very beneficial, but perhaps that is a post for another day!
Should I use affirmations?
An affirmation only works if you feel it in every cell of your body. And then it is no longer and affirmation but an intention. And I believe intentions are more powerful than affirmations.
For me, affirmations often felt like questions to myself. Like…”I am loved…right?” or “I am love…right?” and I wait for my internal self to agree with me, or disagree, as it may.
The only affirmation (though I am not sure I can call it that) I sometimes use during meditation is “I am not my mind. I am not my body.” And this is more a focus of my meditation rather than something I would repeat to myself.
After my morning meditation, I spend a couple of moments holding my intention and prayer for the day. I use the one I shared in this post.
Does yoga count as meditation?
The highest form of yoga is meditation. So yes, absolutely, if you approach your yoga practice with the same reverence and of sitting still with your eyes closed. I still end yoga practice with meditation. Beginning with Savasana followed by seated meditation.
Meditation with a burning question
Sometimes I am in my meditative state with a question. I often do yoga with a question. The first time a burning question came to me was last year during yoga. My question is; Who am I?
I didn’t look for this question. I wasn’t looking for a question to ask. I didn’t even think about having a question to ask. One practice the question just entered my heart, or emerged from my heart (I’m not sure which) and it hasn’t left yet.
I still have this same question, it hasn’t changed. I haven’t lived my answer yet. This lights a fire in my practice. I am looking for ways to let this question, this desire, to leak into my day.
It is a giant burning questionmark of a question, and it has made my entire life blurry in a wonderful way. It is not the same as “what should I make for dinner tonight?” or even “Where would I like to be in my life in the next 5 years?” I feel like this is the most important question I have asked myself.
Even the question and the desire it creates, makes me cry.
Do you have a question? What is your question?
If you don’t have a question, maybe your question for right now is….what is my question? 🙂
Watching the sunrise from within you
I think that an important lesson I learned was that meditation is not the destination. Meditation and being in the meditative state is a tool for you to witness something beautiful about yourself. Once the seed is planted, if you give it the right environment, sunlight, water, slowly this level of consciousness can leak into your day, into your week, and then into all aspects of your life, and that is when your life truly starts to transform. That’s when who you are changes. That’s when you become your highest self.
Sadhguru shared a beautiful insight into meditation and enlightenment. He said that enlightenment is like the sunrise. You can’t create the sunrise, you can only watch it happen. And this is what I understand about meditation. There is nothing you can “do” about your meditation practice. All you can do is go inwards and watch what happens. Watch the sunrise from within you.
I have tried to answer all the questions that have come to my own mind during my journey with meditation. Have I missed something important? Let me know and I will do my best to answer based on my own experiences so far.
In another post, I would love to share with you some simple but transformational yogic practices you can try at home.
Thank you for reading, and I wish you the very best!