There are so many different techniques to meditate and I enjoy exploring them all. I am yet to be able to enjoy app-based meditations, but I love Thich Nhat Hanh's breathing techniques. These guided meditations are especially helpful after a long walk or a workout when your focus needs to be diverted from action to the present moment.
India is the birthplace of meditation. The Bhagavad Gita, written over 5000 years ago, describes a simple way to meditate in the form of third eye meditation so you can connect with your true self. The spiritual giant Paramhansa Yogananda introduced meditation to the west in the early 20th century. Yogananda's Third eye and Om meditations remain among the most powerful and basic forms of meditation available today. Other spiritual leaders such as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced Transcendental Meditation where you meditate by chanting a mantra, Eknath Eswaran's Passage Meditation also follows a similar concept. In passage meditation, you repeat a passage from a book that you like.
Over the past few months, I have been finding Swami Mukundananda's visualization meditations to be very beneficial. You focus your attention on your interaction with a personal form of God (Krishna or Christ). You visualize the form of God you prefer and meditate on serving him/her. Tara Brach's mindfulness meditations are also excellent.
However, I prefer visualization techniques that use breathing. Essentially a mix of mindfulness meditation and dynamic visualizations. I have also learned that it is better to end your meditations by rubbing your palms and gently placing them on your eyes, face, and shoulders.
We also need to first overcome the inertia of thoughts. The best way to do this is not to forcefully bring your attention back to a mantra or to your breath when the mind wanders, but to allow the thoughts to flow freely and not to react to them. Don't let your thoughts distract you. Just let them do what they are doing. Watch with an observer's eye. This is the first technique – The Observer.
The second technique (The Spark Within) utilizes the knowledge from the Upanishads (5th century CE) that tells us that each of us has a thumb-sized soul or divine entity, that is a part of Brahman, the overall architect of the universe. Upanishads even mention the location of this divine spark - just behind the heart. You can call the architect - God. Alternatively, if you are a pantheist, you can describe it as the primordial energy that powers the entire cosmos. If you are more scientifically inclined, you might call it the source of the big bang, the beginning of all things. The Spark Within technique activates this power source inside you.
I hope at least one of these techniques resonates with you and helps you increase the power of your meditation.
Technique 1 (THE OBSERVER)
1. Find a quiet, clean place in your house or in a garden or park.
2. Sit down in a comfortable position with your spine straight. If needed take support by placing a small pillow behind your lower back, where your spine meets the hip. Or lean against a chair that is straight or a tree trunk. You can also fold your legs if you have the space in padmasan or ardhapadmasan or simply place them on top of each other.
3. Close your eyes and take at least 5 deep breaths, inhale from the nose and exhale from the mouth without opening it much. Just enough to let the breath out. Do this as slowly as possible. The idea behind this is to prepare you to go into meditation and connect you with the present moment.
4. Resume normal breath, keep it slow and with your eyes closed bring your gaze to the point between the eyebrows. Do not strain your eyes or the muscles. Focus on the breath in and out, from the nose, go slow, as slow as possible. If your thoughts wander let them wander do not resist. This is the inertia of thoughts it will slow down if you do not put the force of your thoughts behind them. Just like a ball comes to a stop after rolling on the ground for a bit. Do not push the ball of thoughts with your mind. It will stop on its own. Do not acknowledge any thought do not react to it. It just is. Let it be.
5. Move your eyes if you feel the strain and focus on your breath for a few minutes. If you want you can count 101 breaths, 1 breath is in + out, count them 101 times. If you feel it is too much, start with 21, 51, 71. Keep moving your eyes if they get strained of focussing on the point between your eyebrows. Let the thoughts come just don’t interact with them. Maintain the pace of your breathing as a musician keeps the time on a metronome. Don’t try to be very specific, just say to yourself that I will keep time.
6. As you complete the final count, take a deep long breath and let it out of your mouth. Gently move your body, slight movements only, to prepare it to come back to the outside world. Keep your eyes closed.
7. Rub your palms together to generate heat, when they start feeling warm, place them on your eyes gently and move them across your face, your shoulders, chest, stomach, knees and thighs. Open your eyes with a slight smile on your face.
Technique 2 (THE SPARK WITHIN)
1. Same as above
2. Same as above
3. Same as above
4. Resume normal breath, keep it slow and with your eyes closed bring your thoughts to your body. Start from the eye level imagine you are inside your body and are looking from inside out.
5. You start at the eyes then move to the nose then to the mouth then you float around in the neck bouncing of against the walls of the neck playfully. With a slight smile. You are the size of your thumb, shaped like a water droplet, playful like a child. Not worried about the consequences of playing around moving things inside this giant massive body that has this big machinery running. All these systems and processes you encounter on the way below your neck, its like one of those school trips you took to a factory when you were young.
6. From the neck, you move to the chest and you see your heart beating, your lungs pumping. Everything is moving at the pace of your breath. Just behind the heart, you see something else. It is a very bright white light that is glowing behind the heart. Like a white incandescent bulb in a massive dark room. It is just there, lighting up the entire area behind the heart that is how you can see things clearly. So, you move closer to it. It is very inviting. You come face to face with that power source, the spark, white no larger than your mini self – it is also as big as a thumb but so bright. Pure white. It notices you and you know that is not tied to any place it can also move the way you can move freely within the body. It comes towards you and touches you. You also turn white and merge into it.
7. Together with the bright white spark behind the heart you both start becoming bigger and your bright white light starts flowing inside your body starting from the chest and moving upwards to the neck to your face your ears your nose, your mouth your forehead and your brain. Everything lights up and you can see everything turning bright white getting purified washed in this bright white light. Then you move to the stomach to all the organs in there, your liver, your kidneys, your stomach, your pancreas your entire digestive system. The light fills the entire body lighting it up from the inside. Your thighs, your knees, your feet.
8. Your entire body is glowing. You are smiling. Everything inside is white, bathed in this pure white light. A slight smile shows up on your face as you take one more trip floating throughout your body from head to chest to stomach to toes and then make your way back to your home. Just behind the heart. Everything is illuminated.
9. You come to rest behind the heart, now one with the spark. You are like a bright flame on a fresh candle. Gently move your body, slight movements to prepare it to come back to the outside world. Keep your eyes closed.
10. Rub your palms together to generate heat, when they start feeling warm, place them on your eyes gently and move them across your face, your shoulders, chest, stomach, knees and thighs. Open your eyes with a slight smile on your face.