When Should I Meditate?
Doing it first has many benefits, not least that it sets the tone for your day.
Yogic tradition recommends the times around sunrise and sunset as ideal. This works better in countries close to the equator where sunset and sunrise are relatively uniform. Pick the times that best suit your own schedule.
The effect of meditation is that the connection with creative consciousness experienced on the cushion begins to arise in your everyday life. You can consciously foster this once you’re meditating regularly. You will find that just repeating the word “All” over and over again in your mind, or giving oneself the instruction to “Enter the space between the words”, will be enough to generate an interlude of peace, joy and creativity for you at any time of day.
How Often Should I Meditate?
Ideally, twice daily. You may need to work up to this.
How Long Should I Meditate For?
Any time spent in silent contemplation is better than none. The ideal amount of time to begin with is twenty minutes, but you may be more comfortable starting with ten, or even five. Aim to build day by day, just as you would build the fitness of any other “muscle”.
Build slowly, no pressure. In these matters, infinite patience delivers instant results.
Most experienced meditators like to do at least 20 minutes. After that, if you wish to increase the amount of time you’re spending in meditation, rather than going beyond 30-40 minutes, it brings more benefit to introduce a second session in the evening.
How Should I Breathe?
Breathe in and out through your nose. As you move into meditation, your breath will naturally slow. Don’t try to make this happen. Just notice it. You will also find the mantra in your mind is likely to synchronise with the breath. Again, don’t work for this. Just enjoy it as it arises.
What Posture Should I Adopt?
In theory, meditation can be done in any position, sitting, standing or lying down. In practice, many people find the freedom meditation offers is most easily accessed through a little discipline.
Your body demonstrates your intention to your mind.
Inspiration Meditation can be done sitting in a chair with the feet flat on the floor, or lying flat on your back, or on the floor in the classic, cross-legged seven-point posture. This is a favoured position for meditation because it encourages alert wakefulness.
In all positions, keep your spine straight and your shoulders, neck and face relaxed; your eyes gently closed; your lips in a half smile; your teeth unclenched; your jaw released; your tongue loose in your mouth; the muscles of your face at ease. Make adjustments with small micro-movements to ensure that you are comfortable.
If sitting, your hands can be cradled, one on top of the other below the navel, elbows held slightly out from your body. If lying, keep your arms by your side in a relaxed position, palms turned upwards.
- If you really need to move while meditating, because of pins and needles or a cramp or any other discomfort, that’s fine. Move slowly and quietly, if possible, in harmony with the breath, retaining mindfulness.
- A slight anxiety or wish to move or itch is best observed rather than acted on. It will pass.
- If you find yourself falling asleep during meditation, it means that you are sleep deprived. You will find that regular meditation induces more, or better quality, rest.
- If you need a certain posture, or cushion, or to be with a group in order to meditate well, ensure that you have it. Know yourself. Meet your own needs.
Inspiration meditation Q&A
When you meditate, no matter what technique you use, your thinking mind will produce thoughts. Thoughts are the breath of the mind; we cannot stop them for long. But we can slow them. We can become aware of them. We can learn to observe them.
As you embark upon Inspiration Meditation, lay down all expectations or demands and allow what is to be.
There is no such thing as a bad meditation. Any time spent in silence is (in)valuable, even if thoughts keep twirling throughout. Fold away your judgements — of what is happening in the session, of what should be happening, of what would be better if only… Just observe.
Rather than adding thought to thought, let it all go.
That open, welcoming awareness of what actually is, whether you want it to be so or not, that is the meditative state, that is your creative consciousness surfacing. You enable it to arise by being gentle and easy with yourself. You cannot chase it or force it. You can only allow it to be.
Meditation is a practice, not an accomplishment. The only way you can “fail” is to choose not to do it. And if you don’t do it today, well, just gently bring yourself to practice tomorrow.
Should I Practice Alone or in a Group?
Mental distractions are harder to overcome when practicing alone. For some people, closing the eyes or being quiet produces anxiety and increases mental agitation. In such situations, it can be better to undertake meditation practice — whether physical yoga or sitting meditation — with other people, a group with whom one can feel comfortable and easeful.
Gradually, as we see more and more clearly their roots, the fears and the imaginings will diminish.
I Don’t Always Feel Like Meditating.
No, neither do I. Neither does the monk in the monastery. This is con-mind resisting its own demise.
The thinking part of our brain is astonishingly creative at throwing up reasons why we should give today’s meditation session a skip or, if we’ve started, why we should stop. This syndrome is not unique to meditation. Runners don’t feel like running every day, and every writer knows how washing the floor can sometimes seem preferable to sitting down at the blank page to do what we most love to do.
A runner is someone who runs anyway, a writer is someone who writes anyway, a meditator is someone who meditates anyway.
The good news is that regular meditation minimises the resistance. One of its effects is that it decreases the power of con-mind’s confabulations.
I Don’t Like What Arises in Me When I Meditate.
When you start meditating, you may feel restless or bored, anxious or upset, perhaps even angry or anguished. Meditation doesn’t produce these feelings; quieting the ruminating mind just makes you aware of what’s there, underneath.
This is one of the reasons that we resist meditation. We sense what lies beneath our surface thoughts and feelings, and we’re fearful of engaging with this submerged energy, of finding out what it means, of what it might ask of us. We’d prefer to be busy and distracted, or drunk and disorderly.
Sometimes we find that on sitting, that the monster of the deep turns out to be a cuddly toy. Sometimes, usually when we are most resistant to meditation, it’s not that easy. Something lurks there, a grisly knot of emotion that, yes, is painful.
Stay with it: carry on meditating, holding yourself in the arms of your own awareness as you face the feelings and knowings.
- As you feel emotion rising, don’t deny what you are feeling. Be aware of it.
- Continue to use the phrase, to enter the space, to sound the sound of “All”. These will protect you as you allow the emotion to arise and witness how it feels.
- Be gentle with yourself, insulating yourself with the mantra, as you journey through the experience, keeping your eyes open to what’s arising even if you find tears fogging your vision.
- See the emotion for what it is — but without labelling it or adding to the pain.
- Ride the wave of the feeling in you, observing its beginning, middle and passing. For pass it will, and you will land in the peace that lies beyond, the peace that, in the lovely Christian phrase, “passeth understanding”.
Over time, often a surprisingly short period, you find the feeling has dissolved. It’s no longer there, niggling at the back of your mind or unconsciously directing your decisions and behaviours. You are free.
This is the most common psychological trajectory for those who meditate, but occasionally a person can be swamped by an upsurge of painful emotion: feelings of being violently angry, overwhelmed, out of control or even suicidal, or with physical symptoms of panic. If this is you, or you suspect it might happen, you must seek pycho-therapeutic help and support — whether you meditate or not.
A good therapist will facilitate your understanding of these emergent feelings and how to integrate and process them while protecting yourself from their onslaught. You should also do some F-R-E-E Writing. More on that here.
Meditation practice can continue under such guidance, and in time, you too will come to treasure the peace and freedom that is found in meditation.
I Don’t Like the Idea that Meditation will Change Me.
Meditation does change us at the emotional, spiritual and creative level, much as exercise changes us at the physical level.
Like exercise, meditation makes us stronger, lighter, livelier and more in touch with our own well-being. It also connects us with our innate creative intelligence so that our life decisions become more expressive of the essential, “real” us and less driven by convention or other people’s expectations.
This can sometimes make other people, our friends and family, uncomfortable, but, just as I have yet to meet anyone who regrets the fitness benefits they derive from regular exercise, I have never known anyone to bemoan the creative, emotional and spiritual “fitness” meditation delivers.