There are many ways to meditate. They all seem to lead to the same place, so
find one that suits you. Here I describe a classic meditation that is simple and
easy. I also try to anticipate some questions.
A mantra is a sound, word, or phrase that is repeated to yourself. It could be
spoken aloud, as a chant, or silently, as in meditation. Many people think that
the best mantras are sounds which have no clear meaning, and are used as a way
of displacing your usual thoughts and moving your awareness inward. There are
many mantras ranging from words taken from Hindu Sanskrit to Catholic prayer
(especially when "saying the rosary," where the repetition of the
prayer is meditative). If you do not already know of a good mantra to use I
suggest you use "hamsa." This is a natural mantra, being the sound
that one makes when breathing, with "ham" (h-ah-m) on inhalation and
"sa" (s-ah) on exhalation.
Sit comfortably. A quiet place is preferred, but not required.
Close your eyes. Breath naturally. Sit for about one minute before you
begin thinking the mantra to allow your heart and breathing to slow.
Gently bring your attention to your breath and begin to think the mantra,
gently and easily. Just let it come, don't force it. Think "ham"
on the inhale and "sa" on the exhale. Allow yourself to be
absorbed in it.
Allow your thoughts and feelings to come and go with detachment. Don't try
to control them in any way. Just note them, and when you realize that you
are not repeating the mantra, gently return to the mantra. Do not try to
force yourself to think the mantra to the exclusion of all other thoughts.
You may experience a deep state of relaxation but it is OK if you don't.
Meditate in this way for 20 minutes (children for less time).
When done, take about a minute to slowly return to normal awareness. Be
gentle with yourself when opening your eyes or coming to stand after a
meditation. It isn't good for your heart to get up quickly after the state
of deep rest that is often a result of meditation. Note: It is OK to glance
at a clock to time the meditation. **Don't use an alarm timer.**
I have found the following techniques deepen my experience. You will
certainly find your own as well. These techniques are secondary and may be
omitted entirely or added later:
Keep your spine straight, head balanced on your cervical column.
Many people like to pray or do visualization after meditating, while still
in an altered state. Some teachers of meditation are opposed to this
practice while others advocate it. I suggest to do it if it feels right to
you. I do.
As a "pre-meditation" preparation, bring your attention to the
physical act of breathing. Breath naturally and, with each cyle of the
breath, bring your attention to a different part of your body, paying
attention to the changes there as a result of the breathing: the rising and
falling of the chest; the movement of your belly; the sensation of the air
entering and leaving the nostrils; can you feel any movement of your kidney
area? How about your pelvis- do you feel your pelvis tilt at all when you
breath? What do you do between breaths? Is there a pause? If you don't feel
these things it is OK, just consider them, one at a time, and move on. (This
can also serve as a short "centering" meditation that can be done
while waiting for a stoplight to change, or as a short work or study break.)
During meditation your business is simple awareness, nothing else. It is a
time to connect to your inner Source and let go of the things and roles we get
caught up in: work, parenting, concerns and responsibilities. It may be that
your meditation is peaceful, or it may be fretful and full of obsessive thought.
Regardless, daily meditation will have a positive effect on your life.
The benefits are unique for each person, but both physiological and
psychological balancing is common. Some of the benefits of meditation will be
realized quickly, and others over many months, so don't be discouraged.
I recommend that a person meditate twice a day. Before breakfast and before
dinner are ideal. (The digestive system often shuts down during meditation, so a
full stomach may result in indigestion.) Remember, whatever happens is OK. It's
OK to fall asleep or to not become relaxed, OK to laugh or cry, OK to be, or not
to be, in an altered state, OK if the mantra doesn't follow the breath as I have
suggested, or even goes away altogether. What is important is that you have an
*intention* to think the mantra during your meditation. In short, don't try to
control it! For 20 minutes, twice a day, JUST BE!
The most common question I get when I teach someone to meditate is "What do
you mean by "think the mantra, gently and easily"?' My best answer is
an analogy. When you read you take the effort to look at the page, to focus on
the page and the words. And you *intend* to discern the meaning of the words.
That is usually enough and the meaning comes without much effort, yet there is
*some* effort involved. Thinking the mantra is similar in that you direct a
similar level of effort (which is very little, yet it is there) toward thinking
the mantra. You do *not* force yourself, brow furrowed, to think the mantra to
the exclusion of all else. Just let it come, and if that is not enough, then
encourage your mind to think it with a small effort.
If you are tired when you meditate you may fall asleep. Regardless, do not
use meditation as a sleep aid. If you have insomnia, just meditate during the
day and the insomnia will probably take care of itself.
"Sitting comfortably" to meditate does not mean cross-legged. If
that is comfortable for you, you can meditate in that position. However, sitting
with your feet flat on the floor, erect but comfortable in a chair, is just as
good. Don't lie down.
I suggest that you re-read this occasionally, it contains lots of
Consider this to be "shareware." If you find the information in it
valuable please distribute this document in an appropriate manner and make a
donation to a worthy charity in stead of payment. I suggest:
Institute for Attitudinal Studies
PO Box 19222
Alexandria, VA 22230
which is a non-profit educational and spiritual organization.
(I am not affiliated with this organization.)
"Prayer is you talking to God; meditation is you listening to God."
-Yogi Amrit Desai
Copyright 1995 by Gabriel Zappia. Permission is granted to copy and
redistribute this document provided that it remains complete and unmodified,
including this copyright notice.