Meditation

Young Boy Monk Meditating

Meditation was long considered an activity of monks and new age hippies, but it is rapidly becoming accepted and practised by millions of people seeking greater peace, fulfilment and happiness. It may be considered too difficult, ineffective, or only appropriate for followers of eastern religions.

However, meditation is so important that it should be considered as fundamental to daily hygiene as cleaning your teeth, and it would transform society and the world if it was taught from an early age in school.

First, I define what meditation is, but you can jump straight on below to read about the many benefits of meditation or to learn how to meditate.

What is meditation?

Meditation itself isn’t a technique, but a natural state of being that is experienced when the overzealous, hyperactive thinking mind slows down and one becomes more and more aware of the wonderful, limitless unfolding of deeper, more subtle levels of consciousness.

It is a natural state of thoughtless awareness, of non-doing, of just being. Meditation is like falling asleep; when you create all the right conditions for it and then just let go and do nothing, it happens, but trying to force it to happen doesn’t work.

One can be in meditation sitting in the lotus posture on a Himalayan peak or while walking or going about one’s daily activities. However, for beginners, it’s easier to start by sitting in a quiet, distraction-free place with eyes gently closed.

Buddha Statue and Flower in Garden

What are the benefits of meditation?


There are a huge number of benefits from meditation, and investing even five minutes every morning to meditate will reap great rewards. More and more research is proving that the benefits of meditation are very real and not just anecdotal. Here are a few of the benefits:

  • Enhanced feelings of peace, calmness and well-being
  • Greater ability to concentrate and focus
  • Improved memory and learning ability
  • Higher creativity
  • More patience and equanimity towards others
  • Lowered stress levels
  • Improved immune system function
  • Increased self-compassion and confidence
  • Better relationships
  • Improved general health

Another important benefit of practising meditation is that it improves your ability to do effective creative visualisation, which is a powerful way to enhance your healing, well-being and success in all areas of life.

While these benefits should be enough to convince you to add meditation to your daily routine, people struggle to believe that they will actually benefit while believing that it’s just too difficult.

Meditating Frog

How to meditate – a simple but effective technique

Meditation is easier than you might think. While it’s true that in this modern information age most of us are caught up in incessant thinking and activity, we can all access that blissful calm, like a still forest pool within.

There are countless meditation techniques, but here I will describe one of the most simple, yet universal and effective ones:

Observing your breath

  1. Find a place where you can meditate undisturbed. It is ideal to choose a quiet place where you feel peaceful and inspired to meditate. Find a spot at home that you can dedicate to meditation, somewhere separate from where you work, watch TV, or sleep. When possible I like to meditate outside in a beautiful place like the top of a peak, a forest or a beach. Turn off your phone, close the door, make it your special time for yourself.

    It is easier to meditate if you make a regular time for it each day. Just after you get up in the morning is generally the best time, but if your mind is racing too much with the busy day ahead and you really struggle to concentrate then, the evening might be a better time. Meditating both early morning and evening is even better, with sunrise (or before) and sunset being the best times.

  2. Find a comfortable sitting position. You can sit cross-legged on the floor or on a chair. The important thing is to have a straight back and to be comfortable and relaxed. Use whatever cushions you need to sit on or to put under your knees for support if sitting on the floor.

    If possible, avoid leaning against anything – if sitting on a chair, sit towards the front of the chair with your feet flat on the floor. Just do whatever you need to be comfortable with a straight back. You can rest your hands on your knees, have them clasped together in your lap, or whatever you find most comfortable.

  3. Set a timer so you know when it’s time to finish without having to open your eyes to check on the time. It’s a good idea to start with a short meditation like five minutes a day so that you don’t risk getting bored and giving up.

    Once you get into it you will want to increase it to 10, 15 or 30 minutes so you can go deeper and enjoy greater well-being. Sometimes I’ve meditated for 3 hours or more because it’s so wonderful and amazing and I lose track of time.

    Yogi Meditating in Varanasi

  4. Gently close your eyes. If you wish, you can look up towards a midpoint between your eyebrows with your eyes closed as if looking at the inside of your forehead, but don’t strain or go cross-eyed. Just do it in a relaxed way that feels natural. This helps focus your attention and slow down your restless mind.
  5. Take three deep belly breaths, completely filling the lungs, holding for a couple of seconds and then letting it all out while relaxing the whole body. Keep your back straight while you relax though. Start each breath from your belly, feeling it expand as your diaphragm pulls down, then expand your rib-cage and fill all the way right to the top of your lungs. As you breathe out let your ribcage deflate first and then your belly.
  6. Set an intention for your meditation, but have no goals. Remember, meditation is about the journey, forget the destination, just be where you are in the now. Examples of intentions include themes like serenity, self-healing or healing for someone you love, self-love, sending love or peace out to the world, connecting with your higher self, or simply being fully in the present moment.

    Setting an intention is like making a wish from the heart and then letting go and trusting the universe. Whereas a goal is a fixed focus on an outcome and how to get there. After setting an intention, feel gratitude for being able to devote this time to practice meditation.

  7. Observe your normal breath. Breathe normally through your nose and observe the sensations of the movement of air and changes in temperature as the air enters and leaves at the tip of your nose. Or if you prefer, you can chose to observe the sensations you feel as your belly rises and falls. Try each method, choose whichever one you find easier or most comfortable and then stick to it. Just observe closely, with detached curiosity.
  8. Keep coming back to observing your breath. Thoughts will come, and that is totally natural; so when you notice that you have been distracted by thinking, just gently come back to your breath. Don’t judge yourself or get frustrated, but instead feel grateful that you remembered to come back to your breath.
  9. When thoughts come, just observe and let go. We can do this, not by fighting against the mind and getting frustrated, but by stepping back and observing. Trying to suppress thoughts just makes the mind resist more and perpetuates the mind’s ceaseless pattern of creating problems and then trying to solve them.

    Instead, feel grateful that you have noticed your thinking and step back as a witness to your thoughts. Watch them pass by like clouds in the sky without judgement; just let go.

    Something I do, which I find very effective, is to see and feel my thoughts as swirling energy or vibrations that arise spontaneously and are non-different from the vibrations that come from the five senses. These all mingle together as in a whirlpool, which then often simply vanishes into nothingness.

    Watch your thoughts and sensations in a detached way as an interesting phenomenon, rather than following and responding to them. Remember, you are not your thoughts; you are the thinker of your thoughts.

  10. Whatever happens, just accept it. Even if you were lost in thought the whole time, the very intention and practise of sitting to meditate has hidden benefits and it will get easier as you continue to do daily practise. Having a mindset that it is hard, makes it hard. The desire to achieve fast results is also a barrier to success in meditation.

    Even if you only experience a few moments of peace or bliss during your meditation, celebrate that and over time those moments will increase in frequency and duration. The more that you can be in the present moment and simply enjoy and appreciate your time sitting, the faster you will progress.

    ‘Nowhere to go, nothing to do’; just be here now and meditate for its own sake.

Meditating at Sunrise

This simple practise is the best place to start, and it may be all you need. In fact, many, more advanced techniques employ breath awareness. Later, I will discuss some other meditation techniques and schools including:

  • Vipassana (insight) meditation
  • Kriya yoga
  • Self-inquiry meditation
  • Zen (zazen) meditation
  • Mantra meditation
  • Transcendental meditation
  • Sri Chinmoy Centre meditation
  • Guided meditations

In the meantime, set a goal of five minutes of meditation each day at around the same time and just savour the time to sit quietly and go within. Then build up to 15–20 minutes each day or more if you have the time and inclination.

If you meditate for 30 minutes or more then you will reap greater benefits to healing and well-being by going deeper in meditation and staying in that state for longer. However, if you find it difficult to meditate for long and you get bored or restless, it is better to stick with shorter sessions until you feel like you are making progress and reaping benefits. This will inspire and motivate you to meditate for longer.

14 Comments

  1. Sarah

    I meditate in bed after putting the light out. After enjoying various gently moving clouds of light (usually purple) I get a jolting sensation as if I’ve dropped deeper, then drift off to sleep. Great way to empty your mind and fall asleep. Have you tried this?

    • Hi Sarah,

      That’s wonderful! Yes, I also meditate every night in bed before I go to sleep. This beautiful state in between wakefulness and sleep can be produced by Yoga Nidra, which involves progressive relaxation and visualizations. There are lots of guided Yoga Nidra meditations available. It’s a great sign that you see clouds of light – this is often experienced when you go deeper in meditation and can also be accompanied by hearing sounds like a rushing waterfall or a continuous OM and feeling vibrations. I also get those jolting sensations sometimes, like a lightening bolt through the body.

      For my pre-sleep meditation I use brainwave entrainment (binaural beats, isochronic tones etc.) often along with nature sounds or music and guided meditations. I use an iPod-like gadget called a Kasina mind machine, which you listen to through headphones as well as having glasses that flash coloured lights in rhythm to the music through your closed eyelids. That makes the brainwave entrainment even more powerful. Although brainwave entrainment is a powerful way to train your mind to go deeper, ultimately my best meditations are still the silent, unaided ones that I do in a sitting position.

      I encourage you to also give sitting meditation a go if you haven’t already. Then you can sustain it longer and go deeper into serenity and bliss without falling asleep.

      Best regards,
      Tim

      • I used to belong to a meditation group and we would sit in a circle and meditate for around 20 minutes. Very powerful, as you can use the sounds around you – like a buzzing fly – to go deeper. Sad to say, although I know how refreshing it is, finding time to meditate during the day is a challenge. You have remotivated me to make a point of doing this. Thanks.

        • Yes, that is a paradox that even after experiencing how refreshing and wonderful meditation can be most of us still struggle to make time to keep up a regular daily practice. It’s great the you went to a meditation group and I’m happy that I have re-motivated you! Thanks for your reply and all the best with your meditation!

  2. Hello! This was a fun read. It was also enlightening. In your post I found the answer to putting a stop to the thoughts that pops into my mind for no apparent reason. This is something that i find interesting and I am giving thought to trying out “meditation” and adhere to your explanations. I will let you know how it comes out.

    • Hi Ruby,

      That’s awesome! I am so pleased that my post has inspired you to give meditation a go. Give it a good chance and keep trying. If you have trouble with being overwhelmed with thoughts or boredom, keep doing it regularly. Often people give up just before success comes, though in saying that, we shouldn’t aim for a goal of peace or no-thought with gritted teeth. Just sit, create the nice conditions for peace and enjoy the process of sitting to meditate. The mind is tricky and the more you fight it the most it resists. Just let it be and observe its restless activity in a detached way as if you are separate from your thoughts (which you are in fact), then it will begin to slow down.

      Wishing you wonderful success in your meditation.

      Tim

  3. I began meditating about a year ago to help deal with a chronic illness and all the stress that goes along with it. It’s been a tremendous addition to my self-healing arsenal.Like you said, I started at just 5 minutes and slowly built my way up to a bit longer. I think doing it every day is the critical thing, even if it is only 5 minutes. Thank you for your post; I learned quite a bit!

    • Hi Hillary,

      It’s great that you have been meditating daily. Like with most things, consistency and regularity is the key to success. I’ve been meditating off and on since my teens, but with a lot of gaps. For me too, it was chronic illness that spurred me to get back into meditation. I’m glad you learned something from my post. I will be writing more about meditation in the coming weeks.

      Best regards,
      Tim

  4. G’Day Tim

    A really interesting post mate. We live in such a fast paced world where instant gratification is almost demanded.
    Learning to meditate, or at the very least slow down to reflect, would be a good start in mending some of our problems.

    • Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for commenting. Yes, I think that the more people meditate, even for a few minutes a day, the more sane our world would become. The good thing is that many people are starting to wake up and ask themselves what is the good of all this rushing around and seeking after new thrills. Meditation and mindfulness help us slow down and appreciate so many of the simple things in life that we normally tend to skip over. One of my favourite movies was the Matrix and I often liken the way we are so plugged in to the system, having lost connection with ourselves and with nature as being stuck in the Matrix. We have the choice to take the red pill or the blue pill. The difference in real life is that taking the red pill of meditation and mindfulness, the new reality is much more wonderful than the one we have been accustomed to.

      In the words of Eckhart Tolle who wrote The Power of Now, “The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly — you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you. All the things that truly matter — beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace — arise from beyond the mind.”

      Best regards,
      Tim

  5. Elektra

    Great post Tim! I’m generally interested in personal development and meditation is one of the things I would like to master at some point. It is no easy task though, my mind is always so busy 🙂 I found that guided meditation works best for me as I have the guiding voice to focus on. I’m trying every day to spend at least few minutes in meditation. It relaxes me and clears my busy mind and somehow makes my thought more organized afterwards.

    • Thank you for reading my post Elektra. I always love to hear about people who meditate and who are interested in personal development. There is a growing community and interest in these things and we live in an exciting time. We also live in a high speed age of information overload so a majority of people struggle with busy minds. I am totally with you on that as I have always had a busy, intellectual mind, so I think if I can do it then anyone can. There are many excellent guided meditations available now and I am going to be writing about them soon and presenting some of my favourites. I follow guided meditations regularly and they are very helpful, but overall I find the silent meditations are the deepest and they have a different subtle quality. Pranayama (yogic breathing techniques) done before meditating can be a powerful way to quiet the mind and get into a deeper meditative state. I will be posting about these later also.

      Best regards and enjoy your daily meditation practice!
      Tim

  6. jCamden

    I never really believed in the power of meditation until a few years ago. I’ve always been a get up and go person and I’m always always rushing from task to task to get things done. My mind is always racing and I have to have a job that continually challenges me to reach beyond my borders and learn more. I didn’t think I could meditate without getting bored or restless but I’ve found it actually helps me to be able to focus more to take just a few minutes two or three times a day to relax and let my mind calm itself. The tips you’ve given here are excellent ways to get into meditating and really get the benefits from it!

    • Tim

      It’s great to hear that you make time in your busy schedule to meditate and that you are reaping the benefit of more focus. It’s one of those things that can be hard to motivate ourselves to do, but just a few minutes a day improves our concentration and more than makes up for the time invested. I’ve always had an over-active mind and I was amazed that after some practice even I was able to go into deep meditation. Then the meditation becomes something we want to do more of, not just for the benefits, but for the beautiful tranquillity and lightness we feel during the practice itself. Thank you for your comment.

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