Meditation is a process to relax the mind. It is representative of a way of living in which one is more aware of oneself and thereby has the ability to look beyond oneself and by extension be more aware of one’s surroundings and situations. Meditation is used by people to gain perspective on life and to distance oneself from a situation in order to better understand it. It has been practiced by people since very early times as part of certain religious practices and rituals. There are many techniques in various cultures of the world with different names but whose process nonetheless is to allow the practitioner to gain a higher level of being in which the person is able to be One with oneself and be aware of nothing but awareness itself. While the benefits of this practice are widely known it might get irksome for beginners when they are unable to achieve the blissful state that is mentioned as the end product. It might make them intolerant of their own lapse in concentration and thus discontinue the practice. It is necessary to understand in such situations that all experienced meditation practitioners have been through this phase and had to overcome it to go beyond the initial frustration. Though there are no shortcuts to achieve the ultimate goal we can definitely look into some time-tested techniques that should help you in the beginning.
1. Selection of the spot for meditation
For successful meditation you have to choose a quiet, secluded place where you can meditate without any interruption from external elements. The spot you choose should be shady and comfortable. If it is inside any enclosed areas like your office cubicle make sure you it is airy and nobody disturbs you for the desired time period. If the spot is outside then you have a greater range of options when it comes to selection. A park or a certain favorite corner within your lawns would be recommended. It is okay if there is the hum of a lawn mower or other background noises, as it might help one to concentrate, as long as it not too close and loud. Facilitate your spot such that you are away from moving, heavy traffic and loud honking as it might disrupt your concentration. Also it would prove helpful if you chose a place near a source of water. Note to chose a source of moving water like a waterfall or by a riverside as the sound of moving water comes extremely handy in relaxing and concentrating.
2. Comfortable Clothing
It is necessary to be really comfortable in your own skin when you are going to meditate. Make sure you are wearing comfortably loose clothing. It can be extremely distracting if you are wearing uncomfortable, tight clothes that cling to you and restrict your mobility. If you chose to meditate in your office or any other such place where you are required to wear formal clothing, make sure you take off your belts, open the top collar button to ease breathing, remove your watches or any other hand bands or tight hairbands.
Stretching helps to relieve any sore spots you might be entertaining before meditation. It is necessary to stretch your hand and neck muscles at least, before you meditate in order for you to have a pleasant experience. If possible also stretch the knee and leg muscles so as to be relaxed when you take up the position to meditate. In case you are unable to stretch then you will start noticing the sore spots and tend to concentrate on them and get distracted therefore destroying the whole purpose of meditation.
4. Comfortable position
The popular position for meditation is the lotus or half-lotus position. But you are free to choose a position that you happen to be comfortable in. As a beginner one has the advantage of experimenting with various positions. The lotus position can be difficult to imitate initially so you can try sitting cross-legged or lay down on the ground, or even use a chair. Meditation chairs are available widely, which come in slightly tilted angles so as to achieve a good alignment required for meditation. It is necessary to relax your muscles and sit in an upright position and not slump.
Set a predefined time period for meditation. It is not necessary to sit for long stretches of time in the beginning as it might not be very effective. Though experts suggest a twenty minutes session twice a day for effective meditation and positive results, you can start off with as little as five minutes a day initially. Though you plan to sit for five minutes you shouldn’t be too anxious and check the watch every few minutes or even keep thinking about the passing time. Set an alarm for the required time, probably with a soft alarm tone so as not to startle you to reality.Try to meditate during the same time everyday so as for it to become an indispensable part of your daily routine. For beginners it can be extremely distracting and it is normal to get frustrated when you are unable to concentrate for certain period of time. It would be suggested to notice when the frustration creeps in so as to overcome it.
It is essential to concentrate on your breathing to fall into a trance or a semi-trance like state. It helps to be aware of one’s bodily functions. Try to concentrate on the fall and rise of your diaphragm or your general intake and output of breath. Do not try to regulate the breathing pattern just try to flow along with it. You do not have to be intensely aware of your breathing, instead use it as a technique to help you.
Music has been proved extremely helpful to concentrate. It helps you to relax and flow with the notes. Considerable caution must be taken to select music that does not have very strong beats or sudden inconsistencies in the tone. Select a harmonious melody with low key notes preferably that will help you to concentrate. Use the music to acquaint yourself with the flow of energy within your body and try channelizing that energy.
8. Select a mantra or a chant
It is quite effective when you happen choose a mantra or a chant consisting of a few words that you keep repeating so as to help you concentrate. The chants used frequently include Om that resonates throughout your body, or yam which harnesses the energy of the heart or any other hymn chosen from any religious sect or belief that suits you. Even if you do not want to repeat a hymn, you can select a quote or a sentence that you happened to come across and particularly struck you. It is normal if you lose the rhythm of the chant and drift away, all you have to do is to concentrate and start repeating the mantra once again until you reach the point where you are able to concentrate without effort.
Some people are able to concentrate and relax when they conjure up a certain image in their mind. The image one chooses is totally subjective and can vary from person to person. The image can be of a calm spot like a beach or a forest or a mountain top according to your preference as long as it is a place where you feel comfortable and secure. While there is no general consensus on an image many people have reportedly agreed that the image of a low flame candle is extremely soothing. If you feel you are unable to concentrate with eyes closed you can choose instead to focus on a image outside that is still and of your choice.
Meditation is a long term process that requires devotion and commitment on the part of the practitioner. Do not meditate for short terms and discontinue practice due to its ineffectiveness. You need to practice daily for it to make a visible change in your life. It is usually the case with beginners to stop meditating due to their frustration. It is necessary to understand that patience is gained only through prolonged exposure to your shortcomings and by meditation you understand yourself better and are able to strike a balance in life. The benefits are numerous and meditation is a step towards leading a better life and becoming a better human being.