To meditate ultimately means to stop thinking long enough in order for the ego to disappear (see also Ashtanga Yoga). When learning how to meditate, we need to accept the nature of mind and not let our ego get in the way. So don't make the mistake of frustrating yourself by focusing mind too fast on just one boring object. Light some insense or use some essential oils to unify the sense of smell and purify the environment, removing disturbing energies. If you are feeling particularly stressed, you have the option of doing some relaxation excercises in advance of your meditation, mostly asana and pranayama excercises. To meditate thus means to temporarily drop all attention from the world outside, from what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow. Mantra meditation is one of the most popular meditation techniques known in all cultures and it is definitely a great way to learn how to meditate. Gradually the singing should be more simple and monotonous and we should drop the bell or whatever else we have added to fully engage mind.
During this phase it is advisable to center your attention somewhere in your body, otherwise you give mind an excuse to wander about the body and report on all kinds of things felt there. One thing which works for many people during this phase is to visualize the syllables of the mantra and thus engage not just the brain hemisphere that works with sound, but also the other hemisphere that works with images. At some stage in learning how to meditate, you will experience that thoughts come less and less frequently.
When that is done, there is only one thing left to do : to reduce the strength of your focus without losing the object.
However far or deep you get, when the time to meditate is over, or the mala is finished, try to keep entirely still for a moment.
For mantra meditation, it is very helpful to chant the mantra inside or out loud whenever you dont need your mind for anything else.
Find a quiet undisturbed place in your house to meditate and set up an inspiring and vibrationally uplifting meditation space or altar. Over time, while practicing in this same environment, the atmospheric vibration will change and become very uplifting. At this point it can be helpful to repeat the mantra Om several times, at first out loud and then gradually mentally. Now that you are comfortably in your steady posture in your meditation space, you should make a sankalpa, or resolve, commanding the mind to be quiet for a specific length of time – this will give a powerful instruction to the subconscious mind. Along with your deep breaths, start counting two or three seconds as you inhale and two or three seconds as you exhale to establish a perfectly rhythmical pattern.
Once your mind starts to calm down you should select a focal point, or lakshya, to concentrate on.
Many people have asked how they are supposed to keep a regular meditation practice going while they are travelling. There are several things you can do while travelling to maintain the regularity of your practice. If your schedule is such that you will be spending the entire day in transit, the next best thing is to sit comfortably in your seat wherever that may be. Never meditate to the point of mental fatigue, strain, or boredom… If you feel joy in meditation, stop meditating when the joy begins to diminish. On the other hand, make an effort to meditate a little longer at least once a week… Gradually you’ll break the habit of thinking you can meditate only for short periods.
As a general guideline, I suggest you try to meditate at least half an hour twice a day — in the morning after you get up, and in the evening before going to bed. At the same time, don’t stop meditating altogether with the excuse that you have other things to do. Be regular in your hours and practices of meditation… It is a good practice to meditate at the same hours every day. We develop intuition, Paramhansa Yogananda said, by prolonging the peaceful aftereffects of the meditation techniques… After meditation, don’t strip your mental gears by plunging hastily into outer activity. As a focus for your devotion, you may find it helpful to set up an altar in your place of meditation. A helpful practice also, if it pleases you, is the burning of incense as a devotional offering. Yet in each technique the process of meditation is also not different in its general approach. To stop thinking is of course not easy, yet it is also not difficult when correct understanding of the process of meditation is applied with sufficient time and patience.
And neither make the mistake to keep changing your focus : just gradually move towards the essential objective of being softly but firmly focused on one tiny simple thing only. Typical here is the corpse pose combined with simply slowing down breath or even stopping breath for a few seconds between inhalation and exhalation. If you dont fix that somehow, you are only giving mind a million excuses for stopping the meditation prematurely. That way, whatever doubt mind may produce, your ego will want to stick to this promise, because if not it will feel dissatisfied with itself afterwards. The powerful effect of the sound syllables on both the conscious mind and the subconscious mind is a great help. People that are just starting to learn how to meditate will put most time into the first easy phases, and less time into the later, more difficult phases.
By singing as beautifully as possible, putting some emotion into it, feeling love for the divine, any mind will be interested to assist.
Then you just start from phase 2 or 3, which may be more difficult, but is really good excercise. Then gradually also the singing should be less loud and perhaps more slow, so that our breathing rate can slow down too. The main places in the body where you can focus are between the eyebrows (the third eye), the heart chakra and the tip of the nose.

This is definitely a difficult step for many, but fortunately also at this stage we still have many options to create the variety needed to engage mind. If we use only sound inside, then mind can more easily disturb our focus by bringing up some image that causes us to start thinking.
At this point, you can further try to simplify the object of your meditation, so that it becomes increasingly calm. Let the mantra be recited by your mind, while you are simple witnessing the mantra, using minimal effort to keep it going.
However, one should realize that a running jump takes you much further than a standing jump. While it is natural to make that mistake at first, try to move towards more regular, daily meditation. The great yogis recommend we practice during Brahmamuhurta, or the hours between 4 and 6 am.
Other times of day are less beneficial but are considered better than not practicing at all.
If your goal is to practice meditation 10 minutes per day, stopping after 8 or 9 minutes gives leniency to the mind and can eventually erode your practice. If possible you should try to find a place that no one else will disturb - whether that is a corner of a room, a part of a closet, or a room set up just for meditation. The resolve could be, ‘I will keep my mind quiet for 20 minutes’, or ‘I will meditate 15 minutes’. You only need to count consciously for a few breaths and the subconscious mind will take over. Kevala khumbaka is the state of natural suspension of breath that advanced yogis experience.
This is usually either the place between the eyebrows (ajna chakra), or in the heart center in the middle of the chest (anahata chakra). They may be on a plane, a train, in an airport, in a car, or a number of places which are not the most conducive to a regular meditation practice. This can consist of something as simple as a photograph of your main deity, your guru, and the Om symbol. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, imagining that you are in front of your main altar. Let periods of intense concentration alternate with periods of relaxed effort and peaceful receptivity. Then you’ll find yourself meditating longer because you want to, and not because someone is nagging you to do so. Remember, there’s only one direction to go that makes any lasting sense: toward your own Self, in superconsciousness. Include pictures on the altar, if you like, of saints, or of images of God, or of infinite light and space. Taking mantra meditation as an example, the following text explains all the practical do's and don't on how to meditate. The lotus posture is ideal, but the half lotus will also do (put the right leg upon the left leg rather than vice versa), as will the simple crosslegged posture. If you have no clear idea what you will do, then you will have to think about it while you meditate.
Mind is literally sung to sleep and this effect is not just felt when singing the mantra out loud, but it is also present when the mantra is silently recited inside. If you feel like it, you can even add the sound of some instrument to it, like a bell, just don't make it too exciting. Accept that to keep mind quiet for a long time works best after letting the mantra work its magic for a while. Your meditation will help you to do that and doing that will also speed up your progress in meditation. It will help to establish the neural pattern of the mantra in your brain and it will stop you from going through the same thoughts again and again. During these early morning hours the mind is very still and the energetic and thought vibrations of the world around us are few, which lends itself to better meditation. It is better to practice 10 minutes every day, than to practice 2 minutes today, 5 minutes tomorrow, 20 minutes the day after that, and so on. When possible you should try to separate this space from the rest of the house with a door or a hanging curtain. It is common practice to set on the altar some photos of your main deity, your guru, or the Om symbol.
Whatever you choose for your sankalpa be sure to finish the resolve to give strength to the mind and set up a good pattern for your practice. In this state your mind will be very calm, because as the breath is calm so is the mind calm. Center your mind in that point, concentrating all of your prana (energy) and attention at that place. Usually more intellectual people will choose the space between the eyebrows and more emotional people will choose the heart center.
Like waves coming in to shore, high intensity will alternate with low intensity in long meditations, and there may be pauses when no waves come at all.
But if you think you’re too busy, here’s something to think about: You can always find the time for something you enjoy doing, can’t you? To develop this habit, it may help to begin with outward activities that don’t involve your mind too much.
You may recall, for example, catching in some fleeting scent a reminder of some childhood episode that awakened a host of associated memories. First, we get a nice calm feeling after the meditation, which we may still experience many hours afterwards.
If we try to forcefully focus mind on the object of meditation, mind gets bored very easily and tries to escape by bringing up all kinds of thoughts and feelings.

If you have more time, other asana and pranayama excercises might help to remove more stress from your body and improve the flow of energy.
Use cushions or some rolled up yoga mat or blanket to support your posture and allow you to relax your legs. For real meditation, it is advisable to let the hand that counts rest on your knee, rather than holding the mala up in front. Mantra meditation is also popular because the mantra can be used in many different ways and is thus very suited to gradually move mind from an entertaining object towards a more simple object. But even people that already know how to meditate quite well, might put some more time into the first phases any day that they are feeling less calm than usual, because of life and all that. Sometimes also mudras (hand postures) are used during this phase, as well as ritual acts like the offering of flowers, water, light, sweet, insense, etc..
The speed at which we recite the mantra is another variable to work with, gradually moving from rather fast to rather slow, as the slower we get, the easier it is for thoughts to move in. The image of a yantra or deity can also be used together with the mantra, especially for people that are good at visualisation (like most artists). Whenever the mantra comes to your mind naturally, at least finish it once - don't break it off halfway or you might damage the neural pattern that you have already created. When you are not feeling particularly disturbed, your meditation will be more effective and it will help to prevent future disturbances. In most of our busy lives, however, a regular daily practice at this time of day is quite difficult to achieve, and so meditating during this time frame is not a hard and fast rule.
As an aid to concentration, it can be helpful to envision in your lakshya a bright white light, your main deity, or your guru. Setting up your portable altar in the hotel room and meditating as much as possible following the 12 points listed above is then possible. Understandably this can be quite difficult, however, the most important thing is to maintain the regularity of the practice - strengthening the samskaras (latent mental impressions) that you will meditate every day no matter what, rather than strenghtening the opposite samskaras that you only meditate when it is convenient and all the conditions are perfect.
Until you can transcend body-consciousness in superconsciousness, it is unlikely you’ll be able to meditate deeply for very long.
It is better to meditate a few minutes with deep concentration than a whole hour absentmindedly.
Incense, when used regularly in meditation, will help to create meditative associations in your mind, and bring you more quickly, therefore, to inner calmness. You might use some meditation music at this stage also, but it must go once you really start to meditate. So, if your knees are not fully touching the floor, put something underneath to support them. With fairly short mantras, it is also possible to synchronize the singing with breath during this phase, though this should be discontinued as you move further inside (focus on breath is rather outside of your inside). For people that are not so good at visualisation, visualising the characters of each syllable as you recite it works best. Whenever you notice that you are (again) thinking something, just drop it and return to the mantra.
Accept that while you are as divine as anything else, to bring out the divine into your entire being requires regular effort.
In the long run practicing every day at 7 am (or some other time) will give you more benefits than practicing once per week during Brahmamuhurta and not at all on the other days. Many people cover the altar with a nice cloth and keep there fresh flowers, incense, a candle or oil lamp, and one or several deity figures according to their religion or practice.
You should coordinate the correct repetition of the mantra on the inhale, and the correct repetition of the mantra on the exhale. The first objective is reached from the beginning, for everyone who gives meditation a serious try without too much care for the result. Will power is a requirement, yet the hard concentration only makes mind's resistance more strong. When we can focus mind on an entertaining version of our object of meditation, the object will start to affect mind, calming it down so it can accept a more simple, calm, less entertaining, more boring version of the object to meditate upon.
Do it long enough and the doing will go along with the doer and you will enter samadhi, effortless meditation (see Ashtanga Yoga). Accept that it is a matter of steady growth, while the only one who can slow down this growth is the one who is impatient with the speed of it. Generally you should keep your hands on the knees or folded together in front of the body to help preserve energy. Try to be a witness of the extraneous thoughts, not being affected by them, but letting them go by as though you are just watching and not engaging with them. Some people don't have a mantra, and it is acceptable for them to use the universal mantra Om. For although five minutes, let’s say, isn’t much for anyone who has developed a taste for meditation, it may be all you feel you can spend in the beginning. Chosing a particularly sanctified place may be very beneficial, but of course it is no requirement.
For some other people it can also be acceptable to concentrate on an uplifting phrase or prayer, coordinating it with your breath.
If during meditation you experience pain in sitting, just allow your body to readjust itself, while you remain focused on the object of your meditation. You brush your teeth, bathe, and brush your hair every day: Why not add to that routine five minutes of meditation?
And once you have found a technique that seems to work for you, use this technique for a long period of time, so that you dont even have to think about what you will be doing and can easily fall into a know pattern of meditation.

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