How to Meditate
How do you meditate? How can I learn to meditate in a short time?
These two are undoubtedly the questions I am most often asked by friends, family and students. It is not easy to answer this request in a few words and easily – it took me decades to understand and master meditation and its many techniques.
Simplifying this concept into a few essential points has been my main challenge for years. I wanted this practice to be within everyone’s reach so that anyone could embrace the enormous benefits of meditation in their everyday life. Everything I have learned is collected in this guide I wrote for you. Are you ready to discover with me how to meditate? Let’s start our journey!
What is meditation (and what it isn’t!)
If you browse the dictionary, under the heading meditate you will find the following definition:
To stop the mind for a long time and with intense spiritual concentration on an object of thought, to deeply consider a problem, a topic in order to understand its essence, investigate its nature and draw developments, consequences, etc.
To the most inexperienced these few lines seem to express an incredibly complicated concept (and indeed the practical side of meditation is a complete mystery to those who have never experienced it), but they are an excellent starting point for understanding the depth of the meditative process and reasons why it is worth even trying to learn it.
Meditating above all means becoming, evolving, transforming , avoiding emotional stasis and the stagnation of our thoughts. And to do this we must focus all our attention on the present moment , without distractions.
Meditation is just that: focusing on the here and now , without unnecessary anxieties, worries and thoughts. Meditation means enjoying the present moment and disciplining the mind to detach itself from its “autopilot” to contemplate what surrounds us and feel all the sensations that pass through our body in the present.
Many have a distorted idea of meditation. Here is what “meditation is not” :
- Meditation is not a religious practice : although it has been used for millennia in various religious rituals and is akin to prayer in many respects, meditation was born long before religions, and the meditation practice itself is not connected in any way to sacred rituals. The only point in common is the rediscovery of one’s own spirituality , even if totally detached from the religious aspect.
- Meditation is not a method to induce mystical visions or to give us superpowers: however fascinating are the stories of the masters who managed to reach enlightenment (first of all that of the Buddha , who reached Nirvana), these are effects that can only be reached afterwards. a lot of practice and in any case not guaranteed. Meditation should definitely not be approached expecting to be hypnotized or to be able to levitate in the air, because this would only make us impatient and deviate from the true purpose, making our attempts to meditate in vain.
- Meditation is not an occasional practice : to be able to see the first results it is very important to be constant and meditate every day even for just a few minutes, without ever skipping the daily meditation. Patience and perseverance must always accompany you, and I guarantee you that the results will come by rewarding your waiting.
To learn more, read the article on the 9 most common mistakes made by those who start meditating.
Starting from these assumptions, below you will list the seven precious techniques I learned about meditating, easily applicable even by those who have never tried to immerse themselves in meditation before.
7 simple Tips to Start Meditation
“Stopping” is a term that is little or not at all reconciled with everyday life, as it requires that our world of “action at all costs” be silenced. To meditate you have to stop .
So look for the best moments in your daily life to stop the inputs coming from everywhere to your brain.
Do you walk the usual route to work? Turn off the phone and walk without thinking about anything in particular, automatically take the daily roads and you will see that after a few days you will come up with things that have nothing to do with what you have to do – these are also the cardinal principles of walking meditation . This process can be applied to any usual activity you do, even housework.
Focus on your spirituality
We all have a spirit , but often suffocated by all the daily atrocities that overwhelm and oppress us.
Learn to care about words . When you hear, pronounce, read or come to mind a word, analyze it, discover its true meaning, check if it is used in the right way, learn to give it its real value. Here, for example, the term value I just used can be a great example: what is value? What do we value? Do a daily screening on a word of your usual language, a spiritual analysis of that term… you will see how many things will appear different to you.
Stop your mind on an object
We have many things, we would like many more, but do we ever stop and look at what we have? Or for the mere fact that they are our property they lie in a corner waiting to be dusted or recovered from the bottom of a drawer?
Look for an object around you, any one. It can be an object of the house or a personal object: a scarf, a vase, a bracelet … Look at it carefully, touch it, look at the bill, smell it, make it yours and keep your attention on it at least once a day.
When you get home take a moment and let your mind wander as you caress that object.
Consider the essence of things
Capturing the essence of things is essential.
Do you remember that object that you have been observing and touching for a few days? Now try to imagine its origins, how it is made, the materials used, who may have worked and handled it.
As I write this article I turned my gaze on a jar, the transparent ones you buy during travel. Inside, someone, with various layers of sand, has created a truly beautiful landscape to behold, but I think of that sand collected on an overseas beach, of that person who touched it, sifted it, colored it. With an infinite technique and patience he created the sensation of waves, sails, seagulls, sun, sea.
I am in contact with his time, with his places and this object transports my mind to other civilizations, through space and time.
If you can and get all this from an object, imagine when you will get to the essence of people!
Investigate the nature of things
We have learned a lot about food . We know how to read the labels, the origins, the calories, we know that it is essential for our health, for our life, but do we know how to savor it? Do we understand its origins beyond the label?
Take a fruit, hold it in your hands and do the reverse path, think about the tree, the earth, the sun that ripened it, the care that was needed in the previous months for the cycle to be completed. Now eat it, savor it slowly, think that this taste will turn into energy and you will be able to appreciate and taste what was a banality until yesterday.
What we have done so far is very little if you think about it. It didn’t take your time, it didn’t affect your habits that much. No one has noticed anything, while one day after another through these constant exercises you have learned how to meditate and you have approached awareness.
Think about the consequences
Once awareness is achieved, it comes naturally to think about the consequences .
Every action, every word, every gesture, every single or company choice inevitably leads to consequences. Consequences that can be positive or negative and which in turn will trigger increasingly complex mechanisms.
It is not easy to understand this advice, especially it is not easy to follow it, but those who want to approach meditation know that it is a long and painstaking job to investigate within ourselves.
Think about the consequences that can derive from your response, from a stance, from your gesture.
I’m not suggesting you don’t, just think about the consequences first. Sometimes it can help to empathize, put yourself in the shoes of whoever is receiving your response or gesture, and think about how you would feel if you were in their place.
Look for harmony
We all know the tremendous annoyance of chalk screeching on the blackboard or those deafening whistles that come out of loudspeakers while setting up an audio system. They are inharmonious sounds , the traffic noise is inharmonious, the people shouting are inharmonious and I could go on indefinitely.
We need harmony , we need it like medicine.
So we have to learn how to create it.
Find your own place, where you feel good. Create it at home, in a corner of your own, or if you love to walk, choose a forest, a river, in short, a place where you can strip off all the superstructures and spend some time in peace and harmony. Prepare a tea, surround yourself with elements that can create well-being and try to spend at least 10 minutes a day freeing your mind from everything that has happened to you. Do it only for yourself, it is a must.
Because in order to give you must first find out what you own.
Once you have completed these seven steps, mastered them and made them an integral part of your days, your spirit will be ready for meditation.
Now that you understand how to meditate and what is the state that your inner self must reach, it is time to start the journey towards real meditation: in this article you will find other 5 meditation exercises to prepare your body even better and your soul to undertake this path in the best way. Don’t worry, we’re almost there. While these exercises may seem repetitive and unnecessary, and even if you will be tempted to start meditating as soon as possible, know that they are all valuable lessons to assimilate that will make your meditation much more effective in a short time.
The 8 Main Techniques for Meditation
You will be curious at this point to find out which are the most common meditation techniques , and above all which is the most suitable for you. Here is a brief summary, which you can learn more about in our article dedicated to the 8 main types of meditation .
Zen Meditation (Zazen)
Characteristics: breathing and stillness.
Origins: 6th century AD.
Benefits: awareness, self-control and better observation skills.
Find out more about Zen meditation >>
Characteristics: recitation of a mantra
Origins: 15th century BC, introduced in the West in the 1950s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Benefits: inner harmony, tranquility, peace and awareness.
Find out more about transcendental meditation >>
Characteristics: awareness of breathing
Origins: 6th century BC
Benefits: elevation of spirituality, more enlightened vision of the world and of life itself.
Find out more about vipassana meditation >>
Characteristics: observation, concentration and awareness of one’s actions.
Origins: branch of vipassana meditation developed in the 1970s.
Benefits: total self-acceptance, defeat of pain through complete awareness.
Find out more about mindfulness meditation >>
Characteristics: recitation of the typical mantra
Origins: Hawaii and Polynesia, indefinite year
Benefits: healing of inner wounds, improvement of the ability to forgive and gratitude.
Find out more about ho’oponopono meditation >>
Characteristics: concentration during the physical movement of the body
Position: dynamic, practiced while walking
Origins: conceived by Buddha during his years of awakening
Benefits: reorganization of thoughts, greater productivity, renewed dynamism and concentration.
Find out more about walking meditation >>
Characteristics: solicitation of the chakras
Origins: brought to light for the first time by Markandeya
Benefits: opening of the chakras and awakening of the kundalini energy with all the resulting benefits (sense of serenity and peace).
Find out more about kundalini meditation >>
Characteristics: free release of one’s emotions on a physical level.
Position: dynamic, with unrestrained body movements.
Origins: designed by Osho.
Benefits: better control of emotions, appreciation of silence.
Find out more about dynamic meditation >>
The Posture for Mediation
When we meditate, we need to feel extremely comfortable while maintaining good posture. The most important feature and need to meditate at best is undoubtedly that of keeping the back straight , in order to prevent sleepiness and make energy flow more easily.
To help accomplish this, make sure that the pillow on which you sit to have the rear slightly higher than the front, tilting your pelvis slightly forward (you can find here our guide to buying a pillow meditation). It is not necessary at first to sit cross-legged, but it is a good idea to take this habit to get to the classic position of Vairocana , which is the basic posture of meditation recommended especially for beginners, as it helps mental and physical stability making clearer and more lucid our thoughts.
If you are not in a position to assume this position, however, try to sit in the way that is closest to you, without ever neglecting your comfort.
The seven characteristics of the Vairocana posture
- The legs are crossed in the lotus position , which helps reduce thoughts and improve circulation.
- The right hand is placed in the left hand, palms up, with the tips of the thumbs slightly raised touching gently. The hands are placed about four fingers below the navel. The right hand symbolizes method and the left hand symbolizes wisdom , which come together in the course of the meditative process.
- The back is straight, but not tense, to help keep your mind clear and allow energy flows to flow more freely.
- The lips and mouth are relaxed, but the tongue touches the back of the upper dental arch. This device prevents both excessive salivation and excessive dryness of the palate at the same time.
- The head is tilted slightly forward, with the chin slightly adherent to the neck so that the eyes look downwards, to prevent any state of mental arousal.
- The eyes are half open and look down along the line of the nose. If you keep your eyes completely open you risk developing too many distractions, while if they are totally closed you could otherwise alienate yourself to the point of falling asleep.
- The shoulders are level and wide, but relaxed, and the elbows are set apart from the side of the body to allow the air to circulate better.
A further characteristic of the Vairocana posture is the preliminary breathing , which immerses the mind in the right state and “teaches” the body how to meditate. When we approach meditation our brain is almost always overflowing with inappropriate thoughts, and we cannot immediately convert such a state of mind into the peaceful and serene one we need. A disturbed mind is like a black cloth: we cannot dye it any other color unless we remove all the base black first.
We must therefore clear the field of all negative thoughts and distractions before dedicating body and soul to the meditative process. You will be able to achieve this temporarily by practicing controlled breathing.
Berating exercise before Meditation
When you have settled comfortably on your meditation cushion, begin to become aware of the thoughts and distractions that are going through your mind.
Now gently turn your attention to the breath , letting its rhythm remain normal. Each time you exhale, imagine blowing away all thoughts and distractions in the form of black smoke that vanishes into space.
As you breathe in, imagine instead of absorbing within yourself all the blessings and inspiration of creation in the form of white light that enters your body and is stored in the heart. Keep this vision active twenty-one times each time you inhale and exhale, or until the mind has become peaceful and alert.
By adopting this expedient, negative thoughts and distractions will temporarily disappear, as we cannot focus on more than one thought at a time.
At the conclusion of this preparation you will have to think, “I have now received the blessing and inspiration of all holy beings . ” At this point your mind will be like a clean white cloth, which you can color with the thousand shades that the meditative process will give to your spirit.
If you want to try variations, we have collected five other breathing exercises that you can experiment with in your meditation sessions: there is no one that is better or more recommended than the others, because it is an extremely subjective process. Try them all and find out which one helps you the most to clear your mind and achieve focus.
Meditation as a form of healing
At this point, now that you have learned the fundamentals of how to meditate, you may start wondering what the real benefits are of meditation in everyday life. This is a more than legitimate question, and it is perfectly normal to want to see the beneficial effects of the meditative process even in the short term and to want to “touch them” in the problems we face every day.
At the beginning of your journey you will immediately find a better control of your thoughts and emotions, as well as a more serene mind and free from unnecessary worries. You will notice this by interfacing with your usual commitments and finding that emotions such as anger, nervousness and mental confusion will begin to surface in your mind much more rarely, until they disappear almost completely.
By practicing meditation consistently and perfecting your technique, you can then transfer these benefits to numerous other aspects of your life, from social relationships to your own physical and spiritual health, which can be improved in many ways through specific sessions.
Obviously, meditation is not and will never be an antidote to serious health problems that can only be cured through traditional medicine. Instead, it represents an enormous support and a powerful means of healing for psychosomatic conditions caused primarily by our emotions.
In this sense I recommend our article on the 76 science-proven benefits of meditation .
Wish you a good journey towards finding inner peace!