How to Meditate: The complete guide to meditation

howtomeditateIn this complete guide to you will learn everything you need to know about meditation including: what meditation is, where it came from, benefits to meditating, 9 different types of meditation methods, how to meditate, how to create a meditation space, and 20 tips and tricks to successful meditation.

While this guide contains in-depth meditation practices, you can learn how to meditate quickly in 5 minutes or less everyday with this course.

WHAT IS MEDITATION?

Meditation is the practice in which one goes beyond the conscious thinking mind and enters a state of deep relaxation and awareness.  While meditation is prominent in many regions, it is actively practiced both inside and outside of religious context.

HISTORY OF MEDITATION

Prehistoric. The word “meditate” is derived from the latin root ”meditatum” which means to ponder.  Meditative practices are rooted in religious context where ancient civilizations used repetitive, rhythmic chants, and offerings to appease their respective gods.  In moderns times we call these chants mantras.  Mantras are still used in several meditative methods.

Antiquity.  Some of the earliest written records recognize the meditation practices steeped in the Hindu traditions of Vedantism in 1,500 BC.  Slowly other forms of meditation came to light such as in the Buddhist culture of India and the Taoist culture of China in later centuries.  The exact origins of any type of meditation is up for debate although many believe that meditation began in Eastern Asia and was introduced to other cultures via the Silk Road.

Middle Ages.  Japanese Buddhism continued to grow from the introduction of Chinese Buddhism.  This attributed to the growth of Japanese Zen.  Jewish meditation was also growing and changing during this time period to include the Hasidic variations and the Kabbalistic practices.  The Byzantine era lead to Eastern Christian meditative practice of repeating a specific mantra while in one pose.  Western Christian meditation contradicts this because it involves neither a specific mantra nor pose.

Modern Times.  Buddhism became well known and accepted in western cultures while yoga schools popped-up all over.  Instead of focusing on religion, meditation is known for relaxation, stress reduction, and self-actualization.

BENEFITS OF MEDITATION

The benefits of meditation are immense and include reducing stress, relaxing, achieving greater self awareness, and experiencing a higher level of consciousness.  Academic research sometimes struggles with the legitimacy of the benefits meditation brings you but no one can deny that meditation has literally been around for thousands of years.  In addition to the reasons listed above, there are many other benefits to daily meditation.

When you meditate, you reach a greater level of self awareness.  This allows you to know yourself better and analyze who you really are.  Working on yourself from a spiritual level is important because it opens doors into your conscious mind.

Meditating can also improve test scores by increasing your working memory and verbal reasoning skills.  This is a great asset for students looking for organic ways to be successful in school.  It can also help you do better in your job.  Meditation can teach you to be less judgemental, more self-aware of your actions, and to be a better listener when it comes to interacting with your coworkers and clients.  In short, meditation makes you more understanding and compassionate to those around you.

As far as reducing stress, meditation has shown to help patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and breast cancer.  It teaches you how to control processing not only your emotions, but also the sensations you feel throughout your body.  Meditation can also reduce feelings of depression in pregnant women.  Meditating while pregnant often leaves the practitioner feeling empowered and positive.  If you are looking for meditation methods that focus on healing the body, try this “Meditations that Heal” class.

We have talked about the psychological and  physical benefits quite a bit but the spiritual benefits of meditation are also immense.  Besides keeping things in perspective and increasing your self-actualization, meditation can provide you with peace of mind, help you discover your purpose in life, increase your compassion toward others and yourself, increase your wisdom, bring your mind, body, and spirit into harmony, teach you self-acceptance, change your attitude toward life, and teach your forgiveness.  It can also help you create a closer relationship with your God, attain enlightenment, deepen your capacity for love, experience a sense of “oneness”, and let your discover the power of your conscious mind.

9 DIFFERENT TYPES OF MEDITATION METHODS AND HOW TO DO THEM

There are many different types of meditation.  Each type derives from its own rich history and may have several ways to practice it.  The following guide will cover 9 types of popular meditation methods and the most common ways to practice them.

1) VIPASSANA MEDITATION

Vipassana meditation is also known as “insight meditation” and focuses on the close attention to sensation.  This in turn leads the practitioner to see the true nature of existence.  You will focus on “being present” while letting your mind wander.  While the thoughts that enter your mind are to be accepted, you must also remain detached from them.  Some believe that this form of meditation was originally taught by Buddha himself and is the foundation of all forms of Buddhism meditation.  Vipassana meditation is typically found in Southeast Asian countries although it is considered one of the most popular forms of meditation now found in the western world.

Pose.  To begin meditating in the Vipassana fashion, it is recommended you find a quiet place, preferably outside in nature.  Sit on the ground in a comfortable pose with your legs crossed and your back at a ninety degree angle.  If you suffer from back pain, you may sit in a chair.  Sitting in this position will help bring your body to peace and will allow you to remain comfortable for a long period of time.

Breathing.  Now that you are sitting, close you eyes and focus on your belly.  Breath as you normally would, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.  As you become more aware of your abdomen, you will feel it rise and fall with each breath.  Concentrate on the sensations with the rising and falling of your midsection.  How do the sensations flow from the beginning, to the middle, to the end?  There is fine line between looking for the sensations and analyzing them and just observing them passively.  Be present in the moment but do not over analyze it.

Awareness.  Through Vipassana meditation, you are seeking a deeper, clearer, more precise awareness of your mind and body.  This leads to direct awareness and reveals the truth of our lives.  Practice Vipassana meditation while sitting for an hour each day.  If you wish, you can continue the meditation as you go through-out your day.  End your sitting meditation session by opening your eyes with the intention of getting up.  Again, be aware of the sensations of rising to your feet and eventually walking away.

2) HEART RHYTHM MEDITATION

Heart rhythm meditation is also known as HRM and involves the balance of breath and heartbeat.  The heart is viewed as your “center” in terms of the powerful organ that keeps you alive and the spiritual dwelling of love.  Your goal is to identify with your heart.

Pose.  Place yourself in the royal posture (also known as the monolithic state).  Sit on a chair with your back straight.  Close your eyes and place your hands on your knees, palms down.  Breath as you normally do and practice holding the stillness of your body.

Maintain Stillness.  Maintain your stillness and your breathing as you meditate.  Let your mind wander as it wants but focus on your heartbeat and breath.  Your heartbeat and breath existing in harmony will purify your mind, body, and heart.

3) ZAZEN MEDITATION

Zazen meditation is also known as “Zen” meditation (in Japanese Buddhism) and derives from the practice of sitting meditation.  It is unique to Zen Buddhism and allows you to uncover a hidden awareness within you.  Explore your stillness through sitting.  Meditating will sharpen all of your senses allowing you to observe more of the world around you.  Zazen is a minimal type of meditation and can be practiced for long periods of time.

Pose.  To practice this meditation style, you must be seated.  If you suffer from back pain, there is also a modified position you can use.  There are several different poses you can choose from:

Half Lotus Position – Sit on the ground.  Place your left foot on your right thigh and tuck your right leg under your left leg.

Full Lotus Position – Sit on the ground.  Place your feet on your opposite thighs.  If you cannot reach this position comfortably, spend time stretching your legs over the next couple of weeks.  Never force your body into a position that is uncomfortable as this may cause injury.  If you can accomplish the Full Lotus position, it is considered the most stable of all seated positions.

Burmese Position – Sit on the ground.  Cross your legs and rest both knees on the floor.  One ankle will be in front of the other.  This is considered a beginner’s position.

Chair Position  – Sit in a chair with your back at a ninety degree angle and your feet planted firmly on the floor.

Kneeling Position – Kneel on the floor with your hips resting on your ankles.

Standing Position –  Stand upright with your feet shoulder length apart.  Angle your feet slightly outward, do not lock your knees, and place your hands gently on your stomach.

Once you have selected a pose, rest your arms in your lap (skip this step if you are using the standing poses) with your palms facing up, one on top of the other.

Breath.  Clear your mind and focus solely on your breath.  Close your eyes completely if you need help focusing.  Start counting your inhalations and exhalations until you reach five.  If your mind loses focus do not fret.  Just restart your counting at one.  Keep doing this for approximately fifteen minutes.  When you can reach five continually without the intrusion of other thoughts, practice counting to ten.  With daily practice, you will eventually be able to focus on your breathing without having to count.

Build up.  Start Zazen meditation in fifteen minute sessions.  As you become more accustom to the practice, add an additional three to five minutes to your sessions each week until you reach one hour.

4) HYPNOSIS MEDITATION

Hypnosis as a form of meditation is not a cheap party trick.  Instead, it is a way to achieve deep relaxation and manage daily stressors.  One can perform self-hypnosis when they hypnotize themselves.  Affirmations are used in hypnosis meditation to manage stress and build self-confidence.  Before you begin, you must prepare the affirmations or positive statements that you plan on using.

Setting.  Find a place where you will be undisturbed from the outside world.  Sit down and close your eyes.

Relax.  Relax your body by imagining your stress flowing out of your body.  Feel the tension release from your muscles.

Suggestion.  Say a phrase to help deepen your level of relaxation.  Examples include, “I am feeling more relaxed with every breath I take.” and “The stress is leaving me and I feel peaceful.”

Affirmations.  Once you are fully relaxed, say your affirmations to yourself.  If you need to, mix in the suggestion phrases from above.  Do this for 20 minutes.

If you have trouble with self-hypnosis meditation, try listening to hypnosis audio recordings.  There are many hypnosis audio recordings available online.

5) MINDFULNESS MEDITATION

Mindfulness meditation will teach you how to be alert and give thought and concentration in everything you do.  This will all culminate to a greater self-awareness and lead to a more relaxed physical and mental state.

Setting.  Where you choose to practice mindfulness meditation is important.  The atmosphere should be comfortable and void of any outside disturbances or distractions.

Pose.  Choose a posture that you find comfortable.  You may choose between the standing posture, the reclining posture, the seated posture, or even a walking posture.

Standing Pose – Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your knees slightly bent.  Rest your arms down by the sides of your body.  The posture will take practice to feel balanced in.

Reclining Pose – Lay on the ground on your right side with your head resting on your right hand.  Place your left arm and hand along the left side of your body.  Some may find that this posture restricts circulation or induces sleepiness.  If this is the case for you, try a different position.

Seated Pose – Sit on the ground and cross your legs with one leg folded under the other (half lotus) or with both legs folded (full lotus).  Keep your spine tall and align your head, chest, and hips in a straight line.  Fold your hands in your lap or rest them gently on your knees with your palms up.

Walking Pose – Walk slowly over a small distance back and forth.  Clasp your hands gently in front of you or keep them at your sides.

Focus.  Now close your eyes (unless you are walking) and settle your breath.  Focus inwardly on the different parts of your body such as your legs, hair, nose, ears, toes, etc.  Concentrate on what these parts are, where they are located, what they need, and what they do.  Next, move to exploring the sensations within you.  How do they feel?  With practice, you will be able to release stress and reduce tension.  After you have examined the sensations within you, move your focus to your mind.  Take note of your thoughts, ideas, and dreams.  Take your time to study each thing as it arises in your mind.  Now, let them go.  Empty your mind and become a blank slate.  Finally, examine your consciousness.  What is the state of your mind now?

Mindfulness meditation like other meditation techniques takes time to master.  Do not try to be aware of too many things starting out.  Go slow and let your self-awareness develop in an organic way.  Some find that listening to peaceful music is helpful when starting out with this meditation method.

6) KUNDALINI MEDITATION

Kundalini meditation can be practiced through Kundalini yoga.  This meditation practice is the combination of postures, breathing, and the chanting of your mantra.  There is energy (Kundalini) that lays dominant in the base of your spine.  Through Kundalini meditation, this energy can be awakened.  There are two primary methods to Kundalini meditation, active, and passive.

Active Kundalini Meditation

Loosen up.  Let your muscles relax and your body shake.  Do not force your body to shake but rather feel the energies ascend up through your feet and let go.  You may find that closing your eyes will help.  Let your body shake for at least fifteen minutes.

Dance.  Transition from shaking into full body dancing.  Move as the sensations come to you.  Do not hold anything back.  Dance unhibited for fifteen minutes.

Stillness.  Close your eyes and be still.  You can either sit on the ground or stand with your knees slightly bent.  Observe your surroundings both inside and outside.  Be still for another fifteen minutes.

Lay down.  Lay on the ground and close your eyes.  If it makes you more comfortable, rest you head on a pillow or cushion.  Be still in your movements and in your motions.  Practice being still for fifteen minutes.

7) GUIDED VISUALIZATION MEDITATION

Guided visualization meditation can also be known as guided imagery meditation or guided meditation and involves focusing on an image.  This meditation practice does not derive from ancient spiritual traditions making it unique for not typically being used in spiritual development.  Guided meditation is used to relax your mind and to escape into the world of your imagination.  It allows you to use your visualization skills to imagine a peaceful place and engage all of your senses.  When practicing guided visualization meditation alone, many find it necessary to listen to an audio recording to help guide them.

Setting.  Find a quiet place where you will be undisturbed.  Sit on the ground in a comfortable position and close your eyes.

Listen.  Listen the the audio and engage all of your five senses around what is being described.  See the bird gliding gracefully through the sky.  Hear the air rush through its feathers with each beat of its wings.  Feel the crisp breeze on your face.  Smell the summer grasses growing the meadow.  Taste the honey suckle that is growing wild.  The more you immerse your senses, the easier it will be to build your self-awareness.

Some people also use guided visualization meditation as a psychological tool.  Once you are immersed in your new surroundings via your imagination, you can be further “guided” and interact with your subconscious mind.  This can also be called lucid dreaming.  If you are in need of some audio recordings for guided meditation, try looking into this meditation class containing guided meditations with a soundtrack.

8) QIGONG MEDITATION

Qigong means to “achieve energy” and stems from an ancient chinese practice.  With Qigong meditation, you will align your movement, breath, and awareness.  With Qigong you will learn to grow and balance your qi (chi), the energy associated with life.  Practicing Qigong will help you reach higher states of awareness and develop your human potential.

Posture.  Find a quiet place and sit on the ground or stand with your knees slightly bent.  Align your body with your head over your spine and your upper body resting directly over your hips.  Find the balance point within the center of your body.  Place your hands in front of you on your thighs palm up or gently clasp in your lap.

Breath.  Close your eyes and breath.  Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.  The breaths should be slow and deep but still natural.

Qi.  Imagine your qi moving throughout your body.  Feel it start in your lower belly and move toward your head.  As you continue to breath, imagine it coursing through the rest of your body.  The ancient Chinese believed there were five major organs: liver, kidneys, lungs, stomach, and the heart.  Focus on each of these organs at least five times.  This will channel your qi to these areas and help the body heal any injuries it may have.

Qigong can be practiced at any time of the day though mornings and end of days are considered to be the best times.  Qigong meditation can be practiced passively or actively.  For active qigong meditation, you would mimic the movements of the Chinese zodiac animals while breathing and imagining your qi moving throughout your body.  Many find that qigong is best practiced in silence or in a natural setting outside.

9) FLOATING FEATHER MEDITATION

Floating feather meditation is a simple meditation technique that is perfect for beginners.  It combines physical posture, breathing, and simple visualization to meditate.  If you find that you like this form of meditation, consider graduating toward guided visualization meditation as mentioned earlier.

Pose.  Sit on the ground or in a chair with your back straight.  Relax your shoulders and close your eyes.

Breath.  Breath in deeply filling your chest completely with air.  Exhale slowly, pushing every last bit of air that you can out of your lungs.  Wait for two beats before you breath in again.  Repeating this breathing cycle for 5 times before continuing on.

Envision.  Pretend there is a small feather on the ground in front of you.  As you inhale it rises a few inches off the ground and then descends back down when you exhale.  After watching the feather rise and fall with your breath for a few moments, take note of its detail.  What color is the feather?  What is its texture like?  There are no right or wrong answers to these questions.  Continue visualizing your feather while breathing for 20 minutes.

CREATING THE PERFECT MEDITATION SPACE FOR YOU

Now that you know how to meditate, learn how to create the perfect meditation space.  Creating a sacred meditation space will provide you with comfort and allow you to take you meditative practices to the next level.  With all things in meditation, there is no right way or wrong way to define your space.  In the end, you are looking to create something that is comfortable to you and conducive to your meditation.

Many people find that it is helpful to have a single object in their meditation space that can serve as a point of focus when they need help concentrating.  This can be a small statue, a piece of artwork, a candle, a plant, a photo of nature, or even a personal little alter.  If you are ever traveling or away from your permanent meditation space, you can take this small object with you.

Decide what you want from your space.  Do you want to be indoors or outdoors?  Should it be comfortable (cushions and low lighting) or more sterile (bare walls and solid ground)?  Whatever you choose, it is recommended that you are removed from the distractions of daily life.  Many also find they like the sound of running water or soft music playing in the background.

If you are pressed for physical space, there are many ways you can incorporate a meditation area into your home.  Consider using the corner of a room, a desk, or even a closet to meditate at or in.  Spare bedrooms and gardens can also be great little sanctuaries.  If you want, personalize your space with things that are meaningful to you like art, knick-knacks, photographs, incense, plants, etc.  These things are different from your single object focal point.

This place will become sacred to you so treat it with respect.  It is okay to deny others entry (physical or metaphysical) into your space.  This is an area of reflection for you so honor it accordingly.

20 TIPS AND TRICKS ON HOW TO MEDITATE SUCCESSFULLY

As noted above, there are several methods and techniques to meditation you can try.  Regardless of what type of meditation you choose to do, there are tips and tricks that can help you be successful.  The following is a list of 20 tips and tricks to help everyone from beginners to seasoned veterans get the most out of their meditation sessions.

1) Go the distance.  While many people practice meditation at different points in their lives, very few people actually stick with it long-term.  To really see how meditation can be beneficial in your your life, you must practice it consistently.

2) Make it official.  The best way to ensure long-term dedication is to carve out an official time each day to meditate.  Enroll in this course to learn how to create a solid daily practice of meditation.

3) Find support.  Going at it alone can be hard.  Find support in your meditation through a friend, a meditation center, or even by writing in a journal.  Having a support system will help keep you on track with your meditation goals.

4) Your breath.  Slowing your breath will lower your heart rate, relax your muscles, and help focus your mind.  Start your meditation sessions off right by mastering your breath.

5) Be proactive.  When you find yourself wanting to skip on your meditation sessions to sleep in or to gain some extra time in the day, recommit to your meditation schedule.  Read about meditation to re-energize you about the importance of this daily practice.  If you are willing to stop making yourself a priority, what else are you sacrificing in your life?

6) Physically relax.  Before you begin meditating, try some active and passive stretches to loosen your body up.  Remaining still for long periods of time requires physical effort.  Stretching will help you prepare for this.

7) Be the owl.  Meditating at the end of the day will also allow you to clear your mind before you close your eyes.  Many find that they are able to sleep better when meditating before bed.

8) What’s your reason?  Meditate with a purpose.  This will help you focus and stay engaged when you feel your concentration waning.

9) Be the rooster.  Get the most out of your day by meditating first thing after you wake up.  You may find that your mind is more relaxed and that it is easier to focus.  One way to accomplish this is just to get up an hour or so earlier each morning.

10) Let go.  It is normal for doubt to creep up on you while you are meditating.  You may be thinking; “Why can’t I concentrate?” or “What is the purpose of this?”  Acknowledge these feelings and learn to let them go.  If you have trouble letting go, try taking a meditation course focused on stress relief and finding inner peace.

11) Partner up.  While many preach that meditation is an individual endeavour, try doing it with a partner.  You may find you feed off each other’s energy and return to your physical world stronger as a whole.  Talk about how you both will meditate before hand to avoid any distractions.

12) Mix it up.  There is no right way to meditate.  Try different things and learn what works best for you.  Meditating is a personal journey and it may take awhile to find what you respond to.

13) Stress not.  Not all meditation sessions are all roses and butterflies.  However it is going, do not stress about it.  If it sucks today than let it go.  Stick to the time you have set aside and do your best.  You may find that you are not always mentally prepared to meditate in the beginning and that is okay.  The time during the day will pass anyways so try to make it count.

14) Pay attention.  Pay attention to your body while you are meditating.  Concentrate on each part individually gradually working your way up to your body as a whole.

15) Focus point.  Some find that closing their eyes during meditation is more distracting than keeping their eyes open.  If this is you, consider using something like a candle or a plant as a focus point while you meditate.

16) Become a regular.  Like your bed signals sleeping or your desk signals working, pick a  meditation location that signals meditating.  Meditating in the same spot each day will help cement this idea.  Make your area special if you would like by adding candles, soft music, or comfy cushions.

17) Take note.  If something just is not working for you, take note and adjust whether it be mental or physical.  You may find these tiny changes make all the difference in your meditation session.

18) Expand your knowledge.  Learn more about different types of meditation by doing some more research.  Try reading books on meditation about the benefits, history, and different methods.  Instructional books can also be a great resource.  If you are more of an active learner, listen to an instructional CD or audio recording.  Videos are a great resource of information too for those looking to learn more about meditation.

19) Do not disturb.  Safeguard against distractions by making sure that your meditation setting is void of outside disturbances.  Even little things like the starting of a car, the beep of a text message, or the rumble of a dryer can pull you out of your deep state of relaxation.

20) Be present.  Instead of thinking about coulda, shoulda, woulda or always worrying about the future, be present in the moment.  This is a key take-away from meditation that you can use in your everyday life.

If you have enjoyed this comprehensive guide on how to meditate, consider continuing your meditation education with this course containing both video and audio instruction.  Enjoy yourself and remember to be present in the moment.