Browsing questions on Quora, I have realized that there is a lot of confusion about meditation and spiritual practices. Yes, everyone is free or feels entitled to answer questions, and most people have good intentions, but without sufficient knowledge and understanding, we may easily confuse those looking for guidance.
I will try to bring here in this article many points that we need to take into consideration when we look into mediation practices.
First of all, we must understand that even though we came from the same source, we are different, unique. And the attribute that makes us different is, first of all, our experiences. Imagine one human being born in the middle east and other in America. Experience is totally different. More than that, the influence of community and society can be a significant factor in forming one’s uniqueness.
Religions could be a factor that instigates us against each or bring up the notion that we are better than others.
If we choose to be born into a wealthy family may have a different impact than growing up in a poor family.
All of these experiences and the environment may affect our consciousness and bring us different ways or make us believe in society and its leaders or take a religious path and put our faith in God.
I have always imagined a life like a tree we build as we go. Every day we make a decision, and we create a new branch. Every choice we make may bring us a unique experience, and in the end, we may be able to collect the fruits of our tree.
With all this said, let us return to mediation. Let us pick two different experiences of two people again. Both would like to start looking into meditation as a tool for self-achievement.
And here, I have noticed that in western societies, where meditation becomes increasingly interlaced with society, all the teachers try to bring out its benefits.
I heard so many times that meditation is excellent for health, relaxation, stress, or depression, and people loving these ideas are starting those practices. Many fail from the beginning because they do not realize we need practice and patience. Others are successful in achieving the task of mental health.
But this is not the role of mediation. Looking more to the east, we find that meditation practices were meant to connect with a higher consciousness. We can call it God, Source, or anything we want to. But that is what the mediation is for. Everything else is the residual effects of mediation. Mental health, physical health, tranquilness, or inner peace are only the side effects.
All of those happen when we mediate and return to the pure consciousness that we used to be. Because when we do so, all the so-called problems of the physical world are revealed as being nothing but mind-created issues. We understand that all the contradictions, debates, and competitions are only obstacles to our spiritual development.
However, since western societies put more accent on science, and promote the idea of an atheist-humanist human being, no teacher, if they want to be successful, will bring God into the picture. Once they do so, their audience will diminish considerably.
The one who wants to learn and practice meditation must be open-minded and more than that open-hearted. These are the conditions for using meditation as its true potential.
Now let us talk about the practice. To practice, we need patience because, like anything in life, we need to work hard and have the patience to achieve our goals, whether in science, sports, or perhaps meditation techniques.
As I have mentioned, this is the main reason a vast percentage give up after trying a few times.
We often hear the expression: “This is not for me; I cannot do it. I have tried, but it does not work.”
Another reason many people who think about mediation do not even start is that they use their minds to find an excuse. On that matter, we hear: “I do not have time” as the most popular excuse. I even heard someone saying that “I am too busy; I will start meditation when my kids go to college.” In fact, we are stuck in physicality, and as long we have a feeling, an intuition that there is something more we need to explore, we ignore all of it and move in the same direction that goes nowhere.
So, the first lesson in meditation is to start and have patience. Simple, isn’t it?
How do we do meditation? The idea is straightforward. We must stop the thoughts from coming in, and more than that, we must stop entertaining those thoughts.
As a physical being, I am thinking and saying it is impossible. I cannot stop thinking! As a spiritual being, the story is different.
To stop the river of thoughts moving to our brains, we need to find a little distraction, and the first thing we will learn in meditation is to focus on breathing: breathe in and breathe out. With that said, we use a bit of our imaginative brain. Let us imagine that we see the air coming in and then coming out. Surprisingly, we realize that fewer thoughts come to us. Intuitively we know all of this. How often do we see people panicking and hear that we need to breathe in and out to calm down? Well, this process that science calls the transfer of oxygen is more than that. It is a transfer of energy that balances our bodies. Yes, science tries to explain everything in the language they know, saying we give more oxygen to the brain and, consequently, relax our body. The brain stimulates the production of relaxing chemicals, and we relax.
But what if we stop thinking about explaining everything in scientific terms? Because once we try to explain everything scientifically, we bring the brainiac thinking again, and we defeat the mechanism of mediation.
Breathing in and out is an easy step in pursuing meditation. Some of us still have some difficulties, so then we tell them to count from one to then which each breath. And again, counting distracts us from thinking.
Now, the timing. How long should we do meditation every day? It is one of the most popular questions. Some wish to have a fixed number of minutes or hours, but it is not like that. When we start, we must be consistent and not give up. Let us say we start with five minutes a day is excellent, but we should not skip. That is very important. Then the more we do it, the better we become at it. In a short period, we increase the time to ten minutes, twenty, or thirty minutes. We become better and better every day, and with more extended practice, we start to get the real benefit: our spiritual connection.
The last step we need to follow is to experience and practice different techniques. We may use white light visualization, a series of repetitive words (mantras), or images of loved ones. All of these are later techniques that we may learn. The thing is that we do not have to use all of them at some point. We must use the one that resonates with us. Some of us may be listening to relaxing music, Tibetan gongs, or someone giving guided meditation. Whatever suits us, we will use it. That is the best rule.
Another thing I would like to talk about is meditation posture. Should we try to use those yoga positions? Should we sit or lay down? The answer is that we must use the position that is the most comfortable to us, with the condition that it shouldn’t be so comfortable that we will fall asleep.
The last piece of advice about meditation that many asked is if we need a teacher. Well, some of us need a teacher, and others may get inspired by videos over the internet. It is up to us, and we must be honest with ourselves. How do we progress? If we consider our progress is within our expectations, we can keep doing it. If not, we can always look for an instructor, teacher, or master.
And about expectations, I would like to say that we should not have any ambitious ones. Mediation must go within a natural process. I know when we start, we may want to experience what masters or gurus experience, but again, patience is a virtue. Even after years of meditation, we may not become the experts we want to be, but it does not matter; only practice matters.
There are still many things we can discuss in meditation, but I will stop here tonight. I will try to post another article later with a more advanced view and techniques we can use.