All about meditation
Meditation is a vast and fascinating subject. Here, we will cover the most important basic concepts that are useful for your meditation practice.
Here is a video on the origin and importance of meditation by Avi. Avi is an enlightened teacher and founder of Meditation Farm.
Avi’s Guide to Meditation
What exactly is meditation? How to meditate? The art of doing nothing!
Absolutely nothing has passed the test of time like meditation. If it didn’t offer any benefits, it would not have been such an integral part of the human consciousness for more than 6000 years.
There is no doubt that meditation works; yet, why is it that people find it so hard to meditate? What makes meditation so difficult and how exactly do you meditate? Let’s explore the actual mechanism of meditation to unlock its secrets.
I have spent a large part of the last 8 years in meditation; roughly a little more than 10,000 hours. Not the walking and talking meditation, but the actual, old fashioned, sit on the floor, close your eyes and don’t move kind of meditation.
First off – the word meditation: What exactly does it mean?
Actually, it doesn’t mean anything – it’s just another word we use to designate something we don’t fully understand. Just think about this: The word meditation literally means ‘to ponder’. Well, isn’t pondering something we do almost all the time? If pondering is meditation, then everyone is meditating. Well, we know this isn’t true.
In fact, there is no word in the English language that can exactly describe the actual practice of meditation. Meditation is simply a word that comes closest to describing the art of meditation, but it isn’t the same. If the ocean is the actual practice of meditation, then the word meditation is simply the shore. Everyone who has ever spoken about meditation has only spoken about the shore. The actual ocean still remains a mystery.
This is one of the main reasons why meditation is difficult. We cling to the word meditation and forget that what we are trying to practice is something else altogether. The first step in learning how to meditate is dropping the attachment to the word meditation. So, the next time you sit in meditation, just remember that you are not in meditation—Don’t be confused–it gets clearer!
The second step in learning how to meditate is learning how to let go of the idea of doing. After dropping the word meditation, you have to go a little further and drop doing as well. Meditation is not another activity you add to your already busy schedule. Meditation is not something you do; rather, it is something you allow to happen to you.
The importance of knowing the difference between doing and allowing it to happen cannot be emphasized enough. If you think you are doing meditation, then you will always be frustrated. The next time you tell someone, “I am going to meditate” just remember that you have no clue about what you just said. Not knowing how to meditate is the best place to start your meditation. Knowing that you don’t know is important.
The whole problem with most of us is, just because we know the meaning of the word meditation, we simply assume that we know how to do it. We mistake the shore for the ocean and cling to it, blocking the very thing we are trying to see.
So, who can teach meditation?
Almost everyone who has meditated thinks that they can teach someone how to meditate. But if you ask me, very few people can. Meditation is one of the hardest things to teach, because unless you have gone through the journey yourself, you will not be able to address the main concerns of the student.
Anyone can tell you how to sit, close your eyes, and watch your breath. There are a zillion videos and articles online that can tell you how to meditate. The real question is, how many of them can actually teach you how to meditate? How many of them can answer your most important questions?
Here are my 10 golden rules to begin and continue your meditation:
1) Find a good meditation guide and teacher. Your teacher should have personally spent a lot of time in meditation. He/she need not be perfect, but they should be able to guide you beyond the “sit quiet, close your eyes, and watch your breath” phase.
2) Fix one dedicated place for your daily meditation practice, establish a strict schedule, and follow it diligently. Eventually, both the place and the time become anchors to remind you of your meditation. It’s a lot easier to train your mind and body to meditate if you can get into a rhythmic and regular practice routine.
3) Pick a comfortable meditation posture. You can sit cross-legged on the floor if that’s your thing, or you can just sit on a chair with a back rest. The “meditation gods” simply don’t care about your posture, so don’t worry too much about not being able to sit in the lotus posture.
4) Pick a simple and easy-to-practice meditation technique like watching the breath, mirror, or candle light. Don’t worry too much about finding the perfect technique. Meditation is 99% you and 1% technique. Any technique will work as long as you are willing to work with it.
5) The ideal meditation duration is between 30 to 60 minutes in one sitting. It might be a little difficult to sit for 30 minutes initially, but you should be able to push through the initial difficult phase with a little determination. Watching movies is easy; meditation isn’t. If you are looking for immediate relaxation in meditation, you will be disappointed. Always remember that meditation is not a sprint; it is an ultra-marathon.
6) Make meditation an absolute priority. If your meditation is even the second most important thing in your life, you will give up after a while. Figure out a way to constantly keep in touch with your meditation practice. Read books, follow meditation teachers, join meditation communities, attend programs and retreats – do whatever it takes to stay in touch.
7) Have fun. Just because meditation is hard, doesn’t mean that it has to be dry, dull and boring. Meditation is a great adventure. In fact, it is the greatest of all adventures; what can be more exciting than diving into the depths of your being to know life fully? Having fun with your meditation and keeping it light is very important.
8) Meditation is a battle against your mind. Your mind will never fully like, appreciate, or approve of your meditation, and you should be totally ok with this. The single biggest thought you have to ignore if you’re going to succeed in meditation is, “My meditation isn’t working”. Your mind will find a million reasons to try to convince you that meditation is a waste of time – do not give in.
9) You have to be a little selfish in order to succeed in meditation. After all, meditation is the only thing you do that is 100% directed toward your own personal wellbeing, happiness, and transformation. If you are too much concerned about the opinions of people around you, it becomes difficult to meditate.
10) Aim for the highest goal in meditation. The ultimate purpose of meditation is self-realization or enlightenment. It just doesn’t matter whether you get there or not. Aiming for the greatest possibility in meditation will, at minimum, keep you motivated. Relaxation, peace of mind, awareness, intelligence, clarity, and confidence are all byproducts of meditation; none of these can be the actual goal. Aim for the highest and keep practicing; everything you get along the way is a bonus.
I’d like to share my personal journey into meditation, which will give you some useful insights into this amazing adventure.
My life can be divided into three very distinct parts: Life before meditation, Life during meditation, and Life after meditation. The difference between these three phases is so big that many a time I have wondered if my story is even the story of just one person. It almost feels like I have lived three very different lives, barely strung together by a few random memories.
Life before meditation:
Words that define this phase of my life: Weak, hungry, confused, lonely, sad, curious, lustful, embarrassed, scared, and painful.
My childhood is filled with a lot of painful memories; my parents’ broken marriage (in India this is a super huge deal), struggling to find a foothold for survival, constantly moving around, noisy and crowded places, unfriendly neighbors, greedy relatives, broken relationships, and so many more.
Survival was the most important thing on my mind for those first 24 years. Almost everything I did, from the subjects I chose in college, to the job I took, to the place where I lived, and everything else was about just one thing: Survival. I had not even begun my quest to understand life. Then one day everything changed. The day I decided to take meditation seriously, my life changed completely.
Life during meditation:
Words that define this phase of my life: Effort, determination, passion, learning, adventure, exploration, seeking, struggle and euphoria.
Considered as the birth place of meditation and spirituality, Indian culture is filled with ideas of meditation; it’s in school books, childhood stories, mainstream movies, and at home. In one sense, meditation is everywhere in India, but in reality, it is nowhere.
Although the idea of meditation exists, nobody takes it seriously, and parents shudder in fear at the thought of their son or daughter choosing a spiritual way of life. Indian parents want their children to be either doctors or engineers; meditation as a career or a lifestyle choice is an outright sin.
I had always been curious about meditation. Something about a person sitting absolutely still, with eyes closed, doing nothing, fascinated me. It was through sheer luck that I picked up the habit of meditation. I had always been a voracious reader, and somewhere, hidden in some book, the idea struck.
My journey into meditation began with a lot of reading. Reading as much as I could get my hands on concerning meditation has been the most stable anchor to help me to stay in touch with meditation, and develop a regular practice. Reading not only kept me motivated, it also expanded my understanding of meditation.
Since the day my meditation began, I’d say that I’ve read a little more than 2000 books. Ya, I know, that’s a lot of books. But this is all I did for four years: Read, meditate, read, meditate, read, read and meditate. I loved every moment of it.
Meditation is as much about understanding as it is about practicing. In fact, meditation is simply another word for a “deeper understanding of life.” Every step you take in the direction of understanding your life for what it is, you take a step closer in meditation.
Survival during meditation. I quit a well-paying financial analyst job at Thomson Reuters to find time to do nothing. Well, actually there is a lot of difference between doing nothing and meditating, but as far as the world is concerned, it’s all the same. You can imagine the confusion my family members were in – First off, I refused to get married (another super big deal in India), then I quit my job. They still haven’t wrapped their heads around this.
People always ask me, how is it that you managed to survive without a steady job? What was such a big concern during my growing up years was the least of my problems during my meditation years; survival was the last thing I was worried about. Now, for the first time in my life, I was thrilled about living.
I did whatever bare minimum I could do to survive, and the rest of the time I was simply ecstatic about how much I was learning about myself. Meditation was opening doors that I didn’t know even existed. It was changing me from inside out. It was systematically replacing all my childhood pains and frustrations with a pleasant light.
The greatest lesson I learned during my four years of meditation is that we are here to live, survival is simply not our concern; existence takes care of that for us. I was amazed at how little it took to survive.
Now, every time I hear someone talk about their survival problems, I simply internally laugh and think to myself, “How loosely people use the word survival!”
Most people are not as concerned about losing their life as much as they are concerned about losing their way of life. If only you can totally internalize this statement, most of your fears will simply vanish.
My four years of meditation were undoubtedly the greatest years of my life – I would not trade them for anything.
Life after meditation:
Words that define this phase of my life include: Bliss, peace, joy, happiness, wonder, ecstasy, love, compassion, connection, meaning and purpose.
Four years of intense meditation had completely turned me inside out, quite literally. I could see very clearly that everything that was happening outside and around me, somehow, had their origin within me. I was no longer a victim or a mere spectator of life; I was participating in everything that was happening in my life.
The moment you start seeing things from inside out, everything changes. It becomes impossible to blame circumstances, hate people, hurt someone, or get unnecessarily frustrated about things. A deep sense of peace and certainty envelopes you. The way you see things changes, the way you move changes, the way you think changes; everything you do acquires a quiet, calm, and stable poise.
Life begins to unfold around you in slow motion. You will begin to feel at ease, even in the most chaotic of places. External noise will not disturb you, change in temperature will not bother you, changing light doesn’t affect you. All the small things that usually contribute to your daily disturbance simply vanish. Meditation somehow magically makes life so much more livable and enjoyable.
You might be wondering why I talk about meditating for four years. Those four years were the phase of seeking and searching for that perfect zone of bliss within myself. At the end of four years of intense meditation, I had found what I was searching for. Once I found it and knew how to get back to it, I no longer needed meditation. I do still sit for several hours on a daily basis; that internal space is so beautiful that you can’t stay away from it. You will know what that is once you find it; it’s beyond me to put it in words!
To conclude, I cannot imagine my life without meditation. Everything I am is because of meditation. All I want to do for the rest of my life is teach people how to meditate.
Meditation for inner peace
We’ve all heard the term “meditation” many times in our lives. The word probably brings up images of monks, bald heads, temples, incense, crossed-legs, and all that. Well, it turns out that meditation is a lot simpler.
To know what meditation is, or what meditation can do for you, simply close your eyes for one minute and notice what’s going on in your mind. Make a note of how many different thoughts pass through your head in one minute.
Notice how many of those thoughts are sheer nonsense, and how many of those thoughts are simply rewinds of thoughts you have seen innumerable times. Wouldn’t it be nice to go beyond this constant disturbance of the mind to enjoy a perfectly peaceful and quiet moment? That’s exactly what meditation can do for you.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a way for you to systematically quieten your mind so that you can really relax. Every night our bodies relax totally, so why shouldn’t our minds be able to tune out and relax the same way?
For those of you interested in such things, the word “Meditation” originates from the Latin word meditari, which means “ponder,” and yes, meditation is a sort of pondering. The meaning of the word isn’t as fascinating as the actual practice though….
Meditation is a simple and beautiful way of exploring our life. It is one of the most scientific ways of getting rid of our daily stress & anxiety. Apart from offering the practical benefits of helping us to stay calm and relaxed, meditation also opens up pathways to our rich inner life. Initially, meditation is a challenge, but later it becomes a great source of relaxation. Eventually, it helps us to answer some of the most important questions we have about our lives.
If you want to pick up just one new habit that can totally transform your life, choose meditation – you will not be dissapointed.
The best meditation posture is one where you can relax easily without falling asleep. Any posture that can help you to relax and stay awake at the same time is a good meditation posture.
Meditation posture need not and should not be complicated. It is not necessary to sit in the traditional cross-legged position. You can comfortably sit in a chair and even use a back rest. If your legs aren’t that flexible, you can sit with one leg folded in and the other hanging down…off the couch, or the swing, or a chair… depending on where you are.
Sit in a comfortable posture with your spine erect but not stiff, and keep your head slightly tilted upwards to avoid falling asleep. You can place your hands on your lap.
Always remember that the best meditation posture is one where your body is relaxed and your mind is alert.
Begin slow, with controlled, even, breaths. Watch each breath as it flows in and out of your body. If a thought comes into your mind, just let it go and continue to watch your breath. After what seems like every other breath, keep bringing your mind back to your breath.
Seriously, watching your breath without your mind wandering is the hardest thing you will ever do–ever! Even experienced meditators have to keep bringing their minds back to the breath.
Watching the breath keeps you in the moment and helps to keep you from engaging with the constant babble of your mind.
When thoughts ramble across the stage while you’re attempting to watch your breath, let them go. Don’t entertain them, and certainly don’t argue with them; it’s almost like the mind wants us to be distracted from meditation.
Avi says, “Meditation is quiet and the mind is noise.” That’s easy to see if you will just close your eyes for 30 seconds and make note of everything your mind thinks of while your eyes are closed. It’s amazing just how much of it is nonsense and re-runs!
The objective of meditation is to be fully aware but fully relaxed. With continued practice this gets easier.
The first time you meditate
The first time meditation experience is like no other experience you have ever had. be prepared to be agitated and disturbed. Do not look for relaxation the first time you sit in meditation, you will be surely disappointed. Rather, focus on the process and the technique.
Let’s say you are practicing “watching the breath” meditation. You will sit in a comfortable position and then begin to watch your breath. You will wonder which part of the breath to watch, but it really doesn’t matter whether you are aware of the breath that is coming in, going into your lungs, or exiting your body; just watch the breath and that will keep you in the moment.
Here’s where the mind kicks in: It’s going to ask you questions like, “What are you doing?, why are you doing this,” and then it will remind you of eleven other things you should be doing rather than wasting your time sitting. Just notice how active your mind gets when you sit quiet and watch it.
You have to let those thoughts flow down the stream, and then you have to go back to focusing on the breath — in and out, in and out.
If you got into trouble in the 4th grade, here’s where your mind will bring that back up; just let it go. Come back to the breath.
There’s probably a song playing somewhere in the background as well; just ignore it. That’s part of the clutter that you’re trying to step away from. If you didn’t get into a comfortable position to start with, this is when your legs will let you know they aren’t comfortable. Your back will start hurting if it’s not supported properly, and something will itch.
It’s okay to shift positions if you aren’t comfortable, and it’s okay to scratch that itch if it’s driving you crazy. This is all a learning process and you’ll figure out which positions are most comfortable for the amount of time you spend sitting.
You can use a timer when you first begin sitting, just to avoid interrupting your meditation to look at the clock. Don’t stop before the timer goes off!
Your first time meditating is probably going to be very frustrating, but it does get better. It’s just like learning any new skill; the first few times you do it you’re not so good at it. Eventually, you become more comfortable and can go deeper. “Deeper” is when you can actually sit with no thoughts — it’s an amazing experience.
The regular practice of watching the breath and to keep coming back to the breath again and again is really just a way to get away from the mind. Once you’ve practiced getting away from the mind enough, there comes a time when you’re able to use it like a tool whenever you want and put it away when you want to just be.
Trust the process.
Ideal Meditation Duration
As with any sort of practice, the more you do it, the more you’ll get out of it, whether it’s a musical instrument, a hobby, a sport, or meditation. To begin with, sit for at least 15 minutes per session, two times per day. Mornings and evenings are great times to meditate; the house may be quieter and you can easily grab time from the beginning or the end of the day until you get hooked on meditation and give up other things to make time for it. Read “How to add meditation to your day” to get some inspiration for making time to meditate. Here are some thoughts from one of the volunteers at Meditation Farm:
I started out with one hour per day, first thing in the morning, all at one sitting. I’m a morning person so I got up an hour earlier so I could still keep up with my busy schedule during the day. After sitting for one hour per day for a few weeks, I decided to add another hour, last thing in the evening. Evenings are the hardest for me, because I tend to fall asleep–a meditator’s worst enemy is sleep!
After several more weeks of 2 hours per day, I added 2 more hours; I got up another hour earlier (4:30 am) and sneaked in another hour right after lunch. Now, I’m up to 4 hours of meditation per day and I am sleeping 5-1/2 hours each night (had been an 8-hour-per-night sleeper my entire life). This schedule works great for me, but everybody can tweak out their own schedules.
What to expect from meditation?
As explained in the article, “”, you’re not going to see results immediately. It’s taken many years for your mind to accumulate everyone’s garbage, so it’s not going to change overnight. If you give meditation an honest effort for at least one hour per day you should start to see some results in a week or two, and the more you practice, the better it gets!
Meditation touches all aspects of our lives, since our minds are involved in every aspect of our lives. You will learn how to stop, won’t get angry nearly as often as you used to, you’ll become more aware of your surroundings, and get by on less sleep. Yes, meditating during the day does rest the body so you don’t require as much sleep. It’s not an even hour-for-hour trade, but it definitely makes up some sleep time.
Meditation eventually has a positive effect on virtually every aspect of our lives. Some of the changes that can be experienced early on include:
Reduced stress (Mayo Clinic)
Reduced anxiety (Health.com)
More self control and discipline
Kick bad habits and pick up good habits
Able to get along with other people better
Feel “more in charge” of your life
Meditation as a way of life
Meditation is not a journey to an end. Meditation is a journey through life. As a matter of fact, if you get distracted by some pre-conceived end result, your mind has already won!
Your mind will constantly taunt you into thinking that you don’t know what you’re doing, and you’re wasting time. Just keep meditating. What you’re trying to do is to quit letting the mind have control of every moment of your life; to learn how to use it when you want to, and keep it quiet the rest of the time. The more you sit and watch your thoughts, the lesser they come around. Avi says “Trust the process.”
We’ve got a great online meditation program designed to teach you how to meditate to improve every aspect of your life. For both beginners and more advanced meditators, Avi teaches us how to meditate no matter where we are, and he explains in simple language how meditation improves our lives in every way.
Along with meditation, we’ve got to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is simply being in the present moment–that’s it. No thoughts, no judgements, no planning or ruminating, just being in the moment.
Why is it important to stay in the moment? Well, nothing is happening in the past or the present, so if you’re going to be participating in life, it’s happening right now, at this very moment. Existence has worked very hard to create this moment, so won’t you slow down and acknowledge it?
Most of us spend most of our lives getting ready for something that we’re planning for the future, so we don’t even get to truly experience the experience of life. Our minds take us on trips to tomorrow and back to yesterday (again and again) and keep us from experiencing “now”.
When you notice yourself being taken away from the present moment, bring your focus back to your breath. Your breath is absolutely in this moment, so if you’re watching your breath, you’re in the moment.
As your meditation practice deepens, so will your ability to be mindful in the moment. As of now, most people are only able to stay “in the moment” for a few seconds. That’s okay. As long as you keep reminding yourself to come back to the breath, you’re being aware.
Being mindful and meditating go hand-in-hand. Meditating helps you to be mindful and being mindful helps to deepen your meditation.
Breath is not air, it is life itself. Meditation on the breath is meditation on the life force that is sustaining us. The simple act of breathing can be transformed into a beautiful meditation.
Sit in a comfortable posture, close your eyes and begin to watch your breath. Keep your entire focus and awareness on the breath. Follow the breath as it moves in and out. Travel along the breath. Move your focus along the breath. Pause when the breath pauses, move as the breath moves.
As you continue to focus on the breath, allow all your mental stress and distractions to dissolve into the breath. Allow your daily stress and anxiety to dissolve into the breath. Allow the silent rhythm of the breath to slowly envelope you. Slowly, moment by moment, become the breath.
Although this meditation can be done at any time during the day, it is best suited for mornings. As you wake up to a new day and new experiences, take some time to watch your life force. This meditation can be practiced for anywhere between 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Music is the language of the soul. It resonates and moves the deepest parts of our being. This is why music is transcendental and universal. Pleasant instrumental music can be used to deepen your meditation. Music can become a complete method by itself.
Play some pleasant instrumental music that is not jarring and disturbing. Sit in a comfortable posture, close your eyes and begin to listen to the music. Slowly allow the music to resonate within you. Keep your entire focus on the music, just make sure that you don’t drift away in thoughts. Continue to listen to the music consciously by being in the present moment. Relax with the music and stay alert.
Music allows your mind to relax. It takes away unwanted distracting thought processes to instill a sense of silence and stillness. Allow the music to carry you deep into the depths of your heart. Allow the music to lead you on an inward journey. Stay alert all the time. Every time you drift in thoughts, bring your attention back to the music. Stay with the music and move with it throughout the practice.
Musical meditation is best suited for a quiet, reflective evening meditation. As you begin to wind down your day with some relaxing time, you can begin your musical meditation. Pleasant music allows distracting throughts of the day to settle down to help you to relax easily. You can practice this meditation anywhere between 30 minutes to one hour.
Light has a magical property. It has the ability to draw and hold your attention. There is something in light that draws you to it. You can use this property of light in your meditations without having to worry about closing your eyes. Light can lead the way to your inner life.
Candle light meditation is best done in the evenings when natural day light is either dim or gone. Place a lit candle at about arms length in a way that you can look at the candle flame straight ahead. Sit in a comfortable posture and begin to look at the flame. This meditation is ideal if you are having trouble concentrating while keeping your eyes closed. You can keep your eyes open throughout this meditation. Continue to watch the flame and its gentle movements. Allow all your distracting throughts to disolve into the flame. Stay calm, relaxed and be in the present moment throughout the practice.
Candle light meditaiton is an evening meditation. It is a perfect meditation to end the day with. This meditation can be practiced for anywhere between 30 minutes to one hour. Candle light meditation is extremely effective in helping you to focus and remove distractions. This meditation is ideal for beginners.
Stress-Relief (20 min)
Overcome Fear (20 min)
Listening Meditation (20 min)
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