What follows is a simple and easy-to-remember set of information and guidelines to meditate effectively. Let us ask three questions on meditation here: what, why, and how. We need to know what we mean by meditation and why we do it before we ask how we should meditate.
What is Meditation and Why do we Meditate?
Meditation is a mental exercise in order to strengthen the mind and the mental skills. A skill is an ability to do something. By mental skills we usually mean thinking, feeling, and willing. Underlying these three skills, we have three other skills – memory, awareness, and focusing attention. Meditation is primarily to improve these three skills. Once we have better ability to remember, focus our attention, and to be aware, we will be able to think, feel, and will better.
A skill can be maintained and improved by regular practice. If we need to develop the ability to focus and be aware, we need to practice these skills regularly. Without the ability to focus our attention, our mind will be filled with involuntary thoughts or inner chatter. With regular practice of focusing our attention, we can get rid of the chatter, and make the mind clear. With a limited awareness, our world will be very small. We can improve our awareness by sharpening our senses, and our world will get larger. Similarly our ability to remember can be considerably improved by practice.
How should we Meditate?1. Free the Mind by Relaxing the Muscles
This is the very first thing to be done in any meditation session. Usually we keep our nervous system connected to our muscles to react to any emergency situation that might occur at any time. When we relax all the muscles in our body, we withdraw our mental energy from the motor nerves, and we let our mind free. We have to sit somewhere calm and quiet making our subconscious mind believe that we are fully safe. Then we may relax our muscles one group at a time, and finally all the muscles at once.
2. Improve the Skill of Paying Attention
We can improve our ability to focus our attention by consciously keeping the attention on something—a sight, a sound, a feeling, or an activity. A simple way might be to pay attention to breathing. If the mind wanders to thoughts, just be aware of it, and slowly the mind gets cleared of all thoughts, and stays steady.
3. Sharpen Awareness by Focusing Attention on Senses
We expand our awareness by focusing our attention on our senses. We become aware of our surroundings with our five senses. By focusing on each of our five senses in turn, we can expand our awareness.
Sit somewhere calm and quiet. Pay attention to an object in front of you. Close your eyes, and try to see it in your mind as clearly as you can. Open your eyes and look at the object again, and then close your eyes and try to see the object in mind more clearly. Now pay attention to the sounds you hear; try to hear all the minute sounds that fall on your ears. Now pay attention to your sense of taste; consciously taste with your tongue inside your mouth. Now pay attention to your sense of smell; consciously smell with your nose. Finally pay attention to the biggest sense organ – your skin. You may feel your body part by part beginning from the feet, and later you may feel the whole body at once. Finally, you may also try to withdraw your attention from all the senses.
4. Sharpen Memory
In order to improve your power of memory, you may consciously force your mind to remember things from the past. You may sit or lie down, and try to remember the events that happen to you from the time you wake up that day.
All these together need not take more than ten minutes at one time. But doing it regularly once or twice everyday is the key to success.