|Learn Meditation; Meditation Manual
Note: This chapter also is a stand-alone Meditation Manual.
Meditation is a practice of quietly listening and noticing. Id.
at 101. It is a patient practice that leads to a depth of personal
knowledge and a sense that life is sacred. It slows the mind. It internally releases "pressure" that may
have appeared to come from the circumstances or problems of life. It leads
to knowledge of the true self, which appreciates and walks lightly among
its "troubles", and which is different from our selfish
The practice of meditation is like practicing piano. You do not play masterfully the first time. It
is the continued practice of meditation that reaps benefits. Do not expect
specific benefits for two to three months.
The result of meditation is liberation. The experience of
the true self goes beyond words. It is such a remarkable experience that
it has been called "the God within" or the Holy Spirit. It is a path gradually ending
loneliness and inner feelings of emptiness, anxiety and sadness.
Many of us are numb to our inner pain, which we only dimly
recognize. After all, the way we have always felt is all we know and provides
us with no basis for comparison. It is our normal state. We resist calling
it "painful" and cannot even know that it is painful until we have an experience
of some other state that we like more.
Discovery of the self (also called "the holy spirit" or the soul) is a deep, beautiful experience. In
that experience, we feel our pain melting. Sometimes it feels like a dark
blanket of bliss descending on the body. Sometimes the experience is like
an explosion of 1,000 suns inside the head. Often it is slow and subtle.
The body seems stiller. Life seems simpler. We begin enjoying things we
thought boring or mundane. We make fresh choices that lift us out of our
ruts. We feel closer to other human beings, surrendering our previous feeling
of being different or strange or "outside."
Setting the Stage
Make the place you meditate and the articles you use for
meditation be special. A room you use regularly should be neat and clean,
a comfortable temperature, and dark. You may choose to use a sleep mask
or ear plugs to enhance the experiences of darkness and quietness. If you
meditate outside in nature, pick a quiet beautiful place, among trees,
in a gentle field, on a river bank or by the ocean. You may also meditate
in any place considered holy. Advanced meditators may select a "frightful
place" such as a cemetery.
There may be special objects that remind you that you are
sitting in the presence of God: a religious symbol (a cross, a candle,
a picture of a person you accept as a model or meditation master, works
of art or statues with deep inner significance). You may use incense for
a special smell and to remind you each day of the meditation states you
previously have enjoyed.
Shower before you meditate. Use a special fragrant oil or cologne.
Say a prayer immediately before you begin. The Lord's Prayer or the Rosary
are possible. You may also choose to read a passage from the Bible or another holy book. Ask God for his grace to fill your meditation. Pick a quiet
time of day and do not be interrupted by the telephone or the door. Early
morning, between 5 am and 6:30 am is an excellent, quiet time, which permits
you to end your meditation by enjoying the sunrise. After practicing for
a while, you may find meditation far more restful than an equivalent amount
In the evening before you meditate, concentrate your mind
and will on the precise time you will rise. Set an alarm clock. Pray for
grace to rise at that precise time. When you do awake at that time, remember
your prayer and cooperate with the grace that has helped you to awake.
What to Do
Meditation may be done sitting or lying down. It is often
best to practice sitting at first because the beginner may be likely to
fall asleep if lying down.
To sit, find a comfortable chair or use a comfortable cushion
to sit on the floor. Sit with your back erect, balancing your head effortlessly.
Let your arms relax at your sides, with your hands resting open on your
knees. In honor of the energy of meditation, you may choose to touch the
forefinger of each hand to the end of the thumb. Have your legs crossed
or, if you are on a chair, have the feet flat on the ground. With practice,
crossed legs will become more and more comfortable. Through the practice
of Hatha Yoga, an ancient form of stretching exercises, you may improve
your sitting and may even learn the Lotus position, which weaves the legs
together and gives greater stillness and stability for sitting.
During meditation, you may be more comfortable if you recross
your legs in the opposite direction or pull your knees toward your chest
from time to time. Your body is not intended to be uncomforable during
meditation. If you are uncomfortable, shift to a more comfortable position
or lie down to meditate. In time, your ability to sit in meditation will
If you choose to, lie down. Find a comfortable place, preferably
on a carpet or rug. Place a pillow under your head and another under your
knees. Let your arms rest on the floor at your sides, palms up. Let your
legs lie flat on the floor and the pillow, with the feet relaxed, the toes
pointing slightly out.
Relax completely. Relax a second or third time. You may choose
to deepen your relaxation each time you breathe out. Be aware of your breathing.
Find a focus for your meditation. Your focus must be something
very special for you. For a Christian, it may be helpful to use the Jesus
prayer (repeating the name, "Jesus" over and over), the phrase "Thy Will
be Done", or the Rosary. Followers of my guru, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda,
use the mantra, "Om Namah Shiviah." It is an ancient Sanskrit mantra that
contains the vibration of a living yogic master in it. It means, "I honor
the Self" (which is not the ego, but is the Holy Spirit). It is a mantra
that is freely given to be used by anyone and, done with reverence, can
bring you closer to the experience of God and Christ and can awaken you
to the vibration of God within your body. It is helpful to receive the
mantra from Gurumayi, who lends her grace to your repetition of this phrase.
Another focus you may use is the breath itself. You may follow
the breath closely, feeling the air moving within you and becoming aware
of where the air is coming from and going to. Become aware of the point
furthest from you that air moves because of your inhalation. Feel the air
move through your own body. Be aware of the deepest place in your lungs
to which the air travels. When you exhale, be aware of the furthest point
from you that the air moves from your exhalation. Experience this divine
process of taking energy into your body and discharging wastes. You may
sense the miracle of the breath and feel humility and gratitude for this
Allow the focus of your meditation to permit you to glide
into a deeper and deeper place. If you reach that place, you will know
it. That is the state of meditation. In that state, you may let your focus
point go and experience meditation. People with a serious habit of high
body activity may wish to use Tai Chi, an ancient oriental art of moving
meditation, to begin their meditation practice. There are many Tai Chi
instructors in the United States.
In meditation, it is helpful to be aware of "the witness."
The witness is the part of you that looks out through your eyes during
your waking life, which observes your dreams and which observes your meditations.
For example, consider what you mean if you say to yourself during meditation,
"I see pulsing blue light." Blue light is the object of that sentence.
It is what "I" sees. But what is "I"? Think carefully. "I see" obviously
has nothing to do with your eyes, which are closed. "I" does not mean your
physical body, which is not functioning in a waking state. Yet, there is
an "I" that is observing the meditation. That "I" has no obvious location.
It has no obvious substance at all. Yet it sees. It witnesses. It may be
called "the witness."
In waking life, the witness is also present. It can see your
troubles and your triumphs, not as the "subject" but as the observer. Thus,
it can see life as a play being enacted for it. Life can become a play
of consciousness -- all the world's a stage and we are merely actors. From
that perspective, even the high drama of our life can have an interest
to it beyond the seriousness that usually weighs us down. We can choose
to see the entertaining side of the "high drama" of our life. We can become
"light" about the circumstances of our life and see the humorous aspects
and the helpful lessons, even of our tragedies. For us, life can become
more of a dance. We can flow with it and experience ourselves as participants
in the dance of life.
Meditation can bring us closer to God, providing access to
the grace of being born again. It has many profound effects, including:
relaxation, simplification of life, ease in making choices, increased openness
to unexpected and creative ideas, increased self-esteem,
patience, increased orderliness, a reduced need to control events and other
people, reflectiveness and flexibility, an increased ability to love, greater
appreciation of life, and more aliveness. It makes life more dynamic and
more interesting and it attracts other people and new opportunities to
The experience of meditation may at first be boring. Often
your ideas will continue racing through your head, producing the same pattern
of thinking you are already sick of. But be patient. With practice, the
space between the thoughts lengthens. You may become more aware of a still,
quiet space that has always been within you, undiscovered. You may even
reach a point in your meditation where the thoughts subside completely
for a while.
Keep practicing meditation with patience. Know that if you
are following the meditation directions, you are doing it right. Your meditation
will never be wrong. It will always be precisely what you need at that
time. In that sense, it is always perfect.
With practice, some of the things you may experience during
meditation are: spontaneous vibrations, visions of beautiful colors that
may not be seen in waking life, beautiful lights, auditory experiences
(unstruck sounds), dream-like visions (some of which carry important insights
with them and some of which may take you to worlds other than the physical
world you live in), a new depth of stillness in the body, a feeling of
warmth and relaxation in the heart area, spontaneous movements of the body,
crying or laughing, the making of spontaneous sounds, moving into body
positions you have never before experienced (spontaneous hatha yoga), feeling
a desire to move as if you are being directed, the experience of deep bliss
and peace, the melting of unwanted emotional feelings and the release of
tightness in muscles. Along with these experiences, life often becomes
lighter and more enjoyable. Emotional depressions last for shorter and
shorter periods of time.
Length of Time for Meditation
Your objective should be to meditate once a day for a full
hour. If you are inspired, you may start immediately at one full hour every
day. However, you can begin an effective practice with just 15 minutes
(a full 15 minutes!) five days per week. Do not beat yourself up for days
you miss. Just wake up 15 minutes earlier than you would and take this
time all by yourself. Pray for the grace to fulfill the goals of your meditation
As a beginner, if you find meditation difficult using one
of the focus techniques described above, you may use music as your focus.
Play the music. Some techniques use soft music. Others use loud music because
it vibrates within the body and helps to overwhelm ordinary thinking processes.
Keep returning your mind to each note of the music. Do not listen to the
melody or structure of the music. Experience it with a "beginners mind"
-- as if each note were a unique moment of experience. Then, just as with
any focus technique, you may notice thoughts, feelings, body sensations,
sights, etc. Just let those things be and keep returning your mind to the
Set an alarm to sound at the end of your meditation time.
Because of the depth of some meditative states (and the risk you may fall
asleep as a beginning meditator), the alarm will help you to end your meditation
and to accommodate the rest of your daily schedule. To help return from
deep meditation, you also may be prepared to play some music that will
engage your attention and heighten your awareness out of the meditative
Questions About Meditation
As you continue to practice meditation, questions may arise
in your mind from time to time. It is helpful, whenever that happens, to
pray for grace to understand the answer to your question. One kind of question
that frequently occurs is how to overcome some fear or other internal barrier
that keeps the meditation from growing deeper. A prayer for grace may often
permit you to go through the fear or melt the barrier.
It also is helpful to ask questions of an experienced meditator
or, for the more difficult questions, of a true advanced meditator or spiritual
master. For simple questions you may send E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or
you may call me, Peter Bloch, at 416-656-9646. For news about MeditateNow, which
has weekly seminars and quarterly retreats, visit my
home page. For links to other information about meditation, try Many
Great Links. For more information on stress
reduction, click over to that page. In addition, if you want
to buy some meditation books or send them to others as gifts, visit the
Remember. You may also request his phone number so you can call Peter Bloch at home.
Good luck with your meditation practice. You have made an
important choice: to begin. Stick with it. Seek reinforcement for your
practice from experienced meditators. You may also want to check
the link for
which offers a new technology called "Holosync" that I find helpful and
that may be helpful to many meditators.
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