By Martin Gauthier
Meditating is both easy and hard. It is easy because it requires nothing else but time and a bit of space to practice it. It can be hard to accomplish it without some basic technique and patience. For those who had the opportunity to do so, do you remember when you learned to ride a bicycle? The first real test was to keep your balance and react appropriately as you pedaled along wherever the bicycle would bring you. In other words, you needed attention. Meditation requires just that.
Step # 1: Keep yourself focused on the goal to reach
In his formative years in India, the famous yogi Paramahansa Yogananda met a teacher, Bhaduri Mahasaya, who reminded his young pupil, after meditating for an hour, not to “mistake the technique for the Goal.” There is a reason for meditating. Maybe you want to attain peace of mind, find an answer to a question, elevate your spirit to other dimensions or communicate with your Higher Self. Whatever your objective, it must be on your mind at all times when you prepare yourself to meditate. Call it a mental bookmark.
Step #2: Find your space, inside and outside
I have three main areas in my house in which I meditate: in my basement, in my sanctum and in my bed. I choose one of the three locations to ensure I will not be disturbed for a given period of time. Choose a spot where you will feel comfortable and adorn it with anything that will get you in the proper mood: it may be incense, candles, music or a picture or painting that you like to look at before you start meditating. In any case, it is important that your Self knows what you are doing to prepare yourself for the inner session. This is an important ingredient for success; your soul will know you are placing yourself in a situation to enter your inner space and will act accordingly to ensure you achieve your goal.
Step #3: Get into the right frame of mind and position
Meditation is concentration and the reverse is also true. You can meditate standing up, walking, playing pool or chess, climbing up a mountain or listening to music. It all depends on what you intend to accomplish and how much you put your heart into it. If that goal of yours is to remain focused on what is outside of yourself, so be it. But be reminded that when you are doing so, you are honing your sense of observation and acuity for what is perceived, in the world of effects. To reach the world of ideas, intuition and imagination, you have to tune in a higher realm and go deep inside yourself. To do this, you have to shut off the outside world and there is no better way to do it than to close your eyes and plunge into the domain of silence. The best position to adopt is to sit with your back straight, preferably in a lotus position or in a chair. The reason behind this is not to fall asleep in the process, which is too easy to do when you start relaxing.
Step #4: Breathe correctly
Your goal is set, you found a quiet space, your spine is in an upright position and you have just closed your eyes. You are ready to meditate. What you now have to do is breathe correctly. Most of the time, we do not pay enough attention to this vital function and are engaged in shallow breathing: inhaling and exhaling in a matter of a few seconds, using only the chest area. Deep breathing, which is key during meditation, requires us to fill our lungs entirely, in a smooth fashion, and empty them completely before repeating the process. As you can now understand, breathing can be as much a voluntary and involuntary function. This is an excellent opportunity to use the power of your consciousness efficiently because at first, breathing deeply can certainly make you impatient. To avoid this, use your will to focus on the air slowly entering your nostrils and traveling downwards to fill your lungs; when you exhale, feel the air leaving your lungs and moving outside your body through your nostrils. Keep your attention on the process for a few minutes if you can. If you succeed, congratulate yourself: you have begun meditating. The next phase is crucial.
Step #5: Be your goal
This affirmation can seem very strange at first. But being your goal brings yourself a step beyond the intellectual level and that is exactly where you want to be when you meditate. The first part of this process is to think about your goal. It requires you to fill your mind with whatever you wanted to do before you settled somewhere to meditate. By thinking of your goal, you trigger a process whereas your Self puts you in a mood to explore this thought. But unless you have attained some incredible peace of mind, another thought fills your mind in a matter of seconds; and another. Soon enough, you are dealing with a train of thoughts and comments on a variety of subjects. Your inner voice, your ego’s way of disrupting your peace, has kicked in and is very relunctant to give you the peace you wanted to have in the first place. The only way to move beyond this stage – when you become aware of it – is to go back to your original intent and focus in a way that it fills your entire being. You then become the object of your meditation, you become your goal, whatever it is. There will come a time when your ego will have no space to entertain you with its blabbing and will let you be.
Step #6: Let yourself be
Now that you have achieved your goal, it is time to switch from the active aspect of your meditation to the passive one. You cease to think about being your goal and enter into a bona fide silence of mind. That is very hard to do but it is feasible, do not despair. Even if you think of nothing for a few seconds, pat yourself on the back, you have progressed! The objective here is to enter that space inside where your higher self resides. If you are conscious of this space, you are fortunate. Await for any answer you have been seeking for; it will come to you, either within that precious moment or it could be revealed to you later in the form of insight. In any case, when you feel it is time to stop meditating, do so by opening your eyes, stretch your body and resume whatever occupation you had before entering your private world.