What Is Meditation

Meditation is the art of looking inward.

When the mind notices itself, concentration is increased and we experience inner peace in the midst of worldly turmoil. This elusive inner peace is what attracts so many people to meditation and is a quality everyone can benefit from!

Have you heard that meditation is good for you?

It seems like every magazine, blog and talk show have mentioned meditation in the past couple of years. Usually how it makes you happier, improves focus as well as your health. There is obviously a growing foundation for the benefits of meditation, but it’s important to remember the fundamental reason to meditate …

growth and development.

Meditation, in its essence, helps us develop both awareness and distance from our thoughts and emotions.

Two Things Happen When We Meditate

First, the perceived space between our ideas and emotions begins to appear. While we may still get annoyed at our co-worker or partner, the usual bite isn’t there.

The strength of the disturbance has lessened its hold on us.

Simultaneously, the clarity of awareness starts to kick in. We begin to notice what is really going on in our own mind.

This steadily decreases in time.

We may remember an incident when we didn’t act so nicely a year ago, then six months ago, then a month, a week — until finally in the moment the disturbances come up, we catch it.

But now we are no longer caught by our thought or feeling.

Now, it is something we can manageably work with. We recognize that being angry or upset has no real value and simply move on.

Meditation helps us create the internal conditions that allow us to develop and work with everything that we are.

Until we recognize that there really are no limits.

Why Do We Meditate?

The Joy of Meditation

Do you remember the last time you smiled so much your face hurt?

That feeling when everything feels so right that it radiates out.

Seeping through your pores and touching every moment.

Every atom vibrating with joy and kept together by love.

This is our natural state.

Completely limitless, without fear, every moment shining with joy and compassion filling our heart. Every thought, word and action being used to benefit others.

This is what meditation shows us.

It doesn’t create anything new in us or take something away.

Instead, meditation helps us have the awareness to see things as they are — and naturally, this is joyful.

And every time you sit down to meditate you get a little taste of this experience.

Bit by bit this becomes your experience of the world.

Then gradually it becomes easier to take this experience off the cushion and into your daily life.

Then your ex calls and your zen is totally blown!

All you have to do is find your cushion, get back to center and let yourself smile again.

Remembering that this joy is your natural state.

Cultivating Your Compassion and Change the World

May all beings be happy!

There are a lot of meditations in the world.

Incredibly powerful Hindu tantric methods that are supposed to give one incredible power over phenomena.

Simple mindfulness techniques.

As well as methods meant to delve into the very depths of the mind.

But what good is sitting on a cloud all by yourself?

What can you do for others if everything you do is for yourself?

This is why cultivating compassion is so important.

Not only does it make sense when we do some simple math and see that there are just one you and countless others.

See also: How to Get the Most from Your Meditation Practice

Compassion Creates Power

In Buddhist Mahayana schools there is an emphasis on the union of compassion and wisdom. That both qualities, fully developed, and working in equal parts creates highest functioning.

Because if one has all the greatest insight in the world, and laser sharp wisdom that always sees things as they are, but lacks compassion — you become cold and distant.

Always with your nose too high and looking at everything from your perch of wisdom, you quickly become useless.

RELATED CONTENT: How to Make Meditation a Habit

On the other hand, those who can’t wear white shirts because their heart is bleeding everywhere are equally useless. Crying every time the wind blows doesn’t benefit anyone.

By cultivating these two together, compassion is an incredible power. If wisdom points to what needs to be done, compassion gives you the power to do something about it.

You see this with protesters all the time.

One can debate until the end of time how effective the act of protesting is, but you can’t deny that it generates energy. It brings attention to a cause and empowers people with compassionate hearts.

This is the power compassion can bring.

The power to bring about change in ourselves and the world.

How Meditation Works

The twists and turns of the mind are endless an require bravery. Learn how meditation works and exploring the depths of your mind can be an adventure full of unexpected experiences.

Strap on your fearless hat and dig in!

Working with Disturbing Emotions

Have you ever gotten one of the backhanded compliments?

Those little digs covered over with a layer of sugar drive me crazy. You know exactly what their doing but if you say something, YOU’RE the aggressive one.

That feeling right there.

Look at that feeling that starts to come up in the eye.

See how you have an idea of someone else’s idea of you that comes in conflict with your own. Then BOOM!

Anger.

Blame.

Retaliation!

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​We walk through the world filled with a collection of ideas we’ve accumulated since birth.

The things we’ve determined to fit in our ‘Like’ box we want to keep close to ourselves. And everything in our ‘Dislike’ box we do our best to keep away from ourselves.

Then there is a whole lot of space in between we just aren’t aware of. That’s ignorance — and there is a whole lot we have no clue about.

The funny thing is, anything that comes in conflict with our Like-Box gets immediately thrown in Dislike. And you better believe, we are ever vigilant looking for anything that resembles a dislike. Ready to set up the moat around our precious castle and send out the troops!

No Dislike shall pass!

See also: How to Make Meditation a Habit

A New Habit is Formed

And right there we create a habit.

Every time something gets thrown in the dislike-box we program ourselves a little more. Eventually it can become so strong that it appears irrational and can lead to a ‘real’ phobia.

But we are meditators.

We’ve made a decision to work with our mind.

You are not limited by your past, your thoughts and especially not by your feelings. These are all just passing by.

The amazing thing about meditation is we develop both awareness and greater distance from the disturbing emotion.

Gradually are mind sharpens to catch the disturbance as it appears, but we are no longer caught by it. We can then look at, check it, and you’ll see there isn’t anything of use there.

That if we just remove our own idea of ourselves out of the equation the whole drama falls apart.

Romeo and Juliet find new partners and live long and happy lives.

The greatest limit on our own power and freedom is ourselves.

Let yourself free of you and enjoy every moment.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

How to Meditate

Have you tried to sit and not think?

Yeah, it’s not so easy. Unfortunately, that seems to be the more or less what I see around the internet. Here are some fundamental tips on how to meditate.

How to Sit Properly While Sitting in Meditation Posture

It’s funny, one of the questions I hear all the time is, “how am I supposed to sit?”

Since we’re used to sitting in chairs and not on a meditation cushion, this can be awkward at first. There are just a few key things to remember.

A comfortable cushion to act as a wedge to elevate your seat and align your spine helps a lot. This becomes even more important when you start doing longer and longer meditation sessions.

Here is a short video we did with Dr. Nolan Lee:
How To Align Your Spine for Meditation

Obviously we are partial to Kathmandu Yogi cushions, but any solid cushion with a bit of give may work.

Stability is more important than looking like a pretzel.

I’m sure you’ve seen that yogi that’s been doing yoga for ten years easily sitting in full lotus posture (left foot on right thigh and vice versa). While this is a great ideal, most of us can’t manage it.

If you can’t manage the full lotus then sitting comfortably with your left foot tucked in toward your pelvis or right thigh. Then your right foot either on top or in front of the left leg.

Don’t force yourself into an uncomfortable position!

The most important thing is that you create a stable base with a straight spine.

Focus on The Breath Coming and Going

One of the greatest gifts we have is our breath.

It is life.

It is also one of the best tools we have to use to aid our meditation practice. It’s normal to get distracted during meditation. Thoughts will inevitably come up.

There is nothing wrong with this – you’re doing great. It means you are alive. You are a living and breathing human being.

The goal of meditation is not having NO thoughts. It’s to observe and rest in what is.

Thoughts will arise.

Allow them to do so.

Watch them come up in your mind, play around and return to space.

In order to avoid getting absorbed in the rabbit hole of your thoughts and stay with the meditation, use your breath.

When thoughts come up it is natural for you to engage with them.

Once you realize you are thinking and not meditating, don’t scold yourself or panic. Simply bring the focus back to your meditation, back to your breath.

Our breath is like an anchor.

Notice how the breath comes and goes at the tip of your nose.

Don’t control it — breathe normally — notice your own natural rhythm.

Be aware of being alive.

Be aware of your body.

Be present.

Your mind will wander and that’s ok. Just use your breath to bring you back. You may even want to count your breaths.

Counting is another tool that keeps us engaged in the meditation. In fact that’s what malas are used for (they’re not just for looking pretty).

[More on using malas in your practice later]

When you get distracted don’t forget … keep calm and breathe on.

Learning to Visualize During Meditation

How has your visualization been?

Visualizing during meditation can be very new to many people.

A lot of the mindfulness meditations or what you would learn in a yoga class usually doesn’t include visualizations.

These types of practices are often seen in tantric Buddhist and Hindu practices.

Just to be clear, tantra means to weave.

Tantric meditations are meant to develop specific qualities like compassion, generosity or directly experience the state of a Buddha. We are using the meditation to identify and mix, or weave, with these qualities we want to develop.

So when I refer to tantra, I’m not referring to sexual union practices.

Although these sexual meditation practices exist, they are not common and only used by highly developed meditators.

Now that that’s out of the way, back to learning to visualize.

One important thing to keep in mind about the visualizations is that it’s no big deal if you don’t “see” the visualizations.

The key is to “know” that what you are bringing to mind is there in your awareness.

Since in its essence, it is still your own mind.

Still, I know a lot of people would like to be able to see the visualizations better when they meditate.

An Old Trick

First, you get an image or statue of what you are visualizing on.

If it’s a Buddha form, then you would want a quality painting or statue of the historical Buddha. Or whatever the practice is on.

Then take a piece of paper and poke a hole in it with a pencil.

Now stare at the one tenth of the bottom of the image through the hole for five minutes. Gradually working your way up in five-minute increments.

This helps to kind of “burn” the image in your mind’s eye so the details quickly appear when you think of them.

A New Trick

A more modern approach is to use an image on your phone.

You do the same gradual process, but with the zoom.

I haven’t confirmed how well the phone version works yet. If you try it please let me know if it helps with the visualization.

Like I said, the important thing is to you have confidence in your mind’s ability to be aware. Don’t be concerned if you happen to not be the visual type.

The meditations work anyway. =)

How to Make Meditation a Habit

Make a Commitment to the Practice

If you’ve started to meditate for a week or more you already know it isn’t easy! Between sore knees and sore egos keeping on track can easily waiver.

That’s why I want you to make a commitment right now.

Commit to yourself.

My meditation teacher often says, “meditation is mind’s gift to itself.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

Many Buddhist refer to meditating as practice.

But if you’re doing an action, why is it practice? Because in Buddhism, every time you meditate, you are practicing at being a Buddha.

The same is with meditation.

Every time you sit and meditate, you are practicing at being your best self. Daring to imagine yourself without limiting ideas, difficulties or all that noise in your head that keeps you from appreciating every moment of your life.

Until it’s as true as breathing.

That you’ve practiced at being your ideal you so often that there really is no difference. Your inner world is so open and full of possibilities that everything is meaningful.

I honestly believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give the world is a stable mind and this is my gift to you.

Bringing The Practice into Daily Life

Do you know where your awareness is?

Meditation is primarily meant to develop awareness.

Developing that keen sense of how things are. Our view of the world no longer being clouded by our disturbances and funny ideas.

Just a clear awareness that radiates joy …

on the good days.

While the above is true, it takes a lot of practice to recognize our own mind and everyone else’s in its ideal state. That’s why it’s so important to bring your meditation into your daily life.

Why limit your practice to the twenty minutes on the cushion?

Especially when you have twenty-three hours and forty minutes left in the day!

The trick is to try and extend that centered feeling you had in meditation and stretch it out afterward. Holding a clear view in every thought, word and action as you move through the world.

Just like we talked about dropping thoughts and distractions during meditation and re-centering your mind.

Do the same throughout the day.

As the stress rises, the to-do list stretches and a co-worker ate your lunch again — just bring your awareness back.

Back to your center point.

Feel the air at your nose coming and going.

Remember, your nature is this always centered, stable and joyful.

Then go back into the world with a clearer view and hopefully a bigger smile.

Take 2-Minutes to Create a New Habit

I think the biggest challenge when trying to do something good for myself is … doing something good for myself!

Creating a new habit can be so difficult!

Like going to the gym or anything else, the benefit comes from continued action.

One of the most powerful methods I’ve ever used is from the book, “The Power of Habit.”

The basic idea of how to most easily create a new habit is to hijack our pre-existing habit loops.

The Habit Loop

QUE – The trigger that starts you on your routine.
ROUTINE – The action you repeatedly do.
REWARD – The pleasurable reinforcement of the habit.

By understanding your own habit loops you can use this new found awareness to start meditating every day.

Let’s say that every time you see a political post on Facebook you don’t like, you immediately click that angry face, then reward yourself with a cat video.

Take the same loop and remove the angry face.

Add a quick two-minute meditation.

Hello, new habit!

At the end of the day, we all want to be happy. So, we should use every tool we have to make that happen!

Getting the Most from Meditation

Thank you for being part of this journey into meditation.

Now that you’ve started meditating here are some steps to get the most of your meditation practice.

Being Thankful and Working with Gratitude

Being thankful is probably the most skillful way to develop and be happy. It requires next to no effort and can have a profound affect on you.

If we’re really honest with ourselves, so much of the wellness/yoga/guru world is narcissistic. Filled with an endless stream of yoga pics and selfies.

Taking every opportunity to show how cool my zen is.

Brainwashing Yourself

Just like we talked about with disturbing emotions, this becomes a habit. Every time that bliss-brag goes out into the world we program ourselves.

We program ourselves to hoard the good impressions.

Keeping it so tight that eventually, it slips from our hands.

Until those good feelings finally dry up.

That is why we work with gratitude and express thankfulness every time we meditate. Even better if we bring gratitude into every aspect of our lives.

By being thankful for the good experiences, opportunities, and joys of others we amplify the good impressions in our mind.

Programming our self to recognize the best in every experience and in everyone around us. Creating an internal joy factory that never stops working.

Create, share and be thankful.

And you will always experience and give the best of yourself effortlessly.

Finding a Community of Support

It’s been nearly a month, how are you feeling?

Have you started to notice any shifts in your perception?

I hope mostly good, but meditation isn’t about om sweet om. It’s about working with our mind and developing into our most true and beneficial selves.

When you start digging into the mind inevitably you start to find some weeds. Strange and sometimes unpleasant habits you may have. Or remembering times when you caused harm or enjoyed seeing someone suffer.

At a minimum, we have had our lifetime to accumulate an infinite range of impressions in our mind.

Both nice and not so nice.

Seek Others on Their Journey

As the awareness of the unpleasant stuff arises it becomes increasingly important to have a support system. Of course, it’s good to have your friends and family available, but it’s especially important to have access to others that meditate.

People in your life that have also started this journey of self-discovery and are actively working through their own experiences.

This can be crucial to keeping yourself on a consistent path as you develop the lifetime habit of meditating.

Whether it’s a group of people that all do the same meditation or a digital family that are developmentally orientated. The key is to get feedback.

Feedback that’s both sweet and sometimes not so sweet.

It doesn’t do us any good if everyone always agrees that you’re the best thing ever. Otherwise, how can you learn when you get funny ideas and start eating nothing but carrots?

Don’t forget that we all need a little help from our friends along the way.

Exploring Different Meditation Paths

Have you checked out different meditation centers yet?

It’s an incredibly wide world to explore. Everything from ancient traditions to far out new age gadgets.

I think people have always been inspired to look inward.

Once the stomach is full and you’re nice and warm, the mind naturally starts to contemplate itself. Who am I? How did I become me? Do I need to shower everyday?

You know, the big questions!

Out of this drive to understand ourselves better, methods and techniques evolved to help us gain greater insight. Hindu and Buddhist traditions are especially famous for their use of meditation.

Even our modern day mindfulness meditations can find it’s roots in research done on Buddhist techniques.

Be Open. Be Critical.

While meditation methods have long been a part of Eastern culture, it’s said that Franciscan nuns have developed their own techniques that produce similar effects in the brain as some Buddhist meditations.

So there is a lot to experience in the mind.

Sometimes if one is open enough to other religions, Buddhism tends to be the most easily accessible for many westerners.

If you prefer to hold on to your existing religion there are a myriad of meditation techniques like those we’ve used in during this challenge that aren’t specific to any religion.

The key is to go in with both a critical and open mind.

While there are a lot of interesting things in the world, it’s important to check the teacher you receive meditation instruction from. That the teacher does and say the same things, and is someone you want to learn from.

At the end of the day, the Buddha’s advice is sound, “be your own guiding light.”

Making Wishes for the Benefit of All Beings

Have you made wishes at the end of meditation yet?

This single act is one of the most clever developmental “hacks” that you should use every time you meditate.

Sometimes referred to as dedications, the making of wishes isn’t about you.

It’s about everyone else.

While you were meditating you were filling your mind with good impressions. When you’re in that centered and blissful state, your mind is experiencing the best of everything … even if it’s subconscious.

So you’ve done all this work, have this wonderful feeling, now why keep it for yourself?

Give it away!

Give it all away!

We make wishes that all beings can experience such pleasant and joyful experiences. That everyone can experience the most wonderful of everything and quickly develop and help others do the same.

It’s also nice to make wishes for any teachers you’ve had along the way. That they have long healthy lives and can continue to benefit others the way they have benefited you.

Now, why is this such an amazing thing to do?

By doing this it creates a kind of positive impression loop in the mind. Giving away your good impressions amplifies the good impressions!

Very clever, I know.

Even more importantly is this habit of making wishes and dedicating the best of everything to others lets you program yourself.

We can all do with a little brainwashing and tuning your mind toward greater compassion is always a good idea.

So, get the most out of every moment in your life and give it all away!

Everything Is Always Changing So Meditate Now!

Do you look the same as you did ten years ago?

Have the same ideas about the world?

Think the same thoughts?

Obviously, the answer is no. These things are in a constant state of change. Always moving around and becoming something new.

So why do we act like everything will last forever?

That all these conditions have come together that make it possible for us to even think about development. That we in a sense, have such incredible luxury that we can worry so much about ourselves.

When we take a look at the world it’s clear most people on this planet are struggling to survive. Always worrying about having enough to eat, getting sick or fearing for their safety.

And my biggest concern is if there is a Starbuck’s near my meeting today.

Everything Changes

I don’t know about you, but I can’t see the future. What I do know is I’ve been high and I’ve been low.

Sometimes really low.

The only thing I’ve learned I can count on is everything will change.

That’s why it’s so important to take advantage of this opportunity.

When we embark on a path of development like meditation, it’s good to recognize that it is rare.

Very few people really meditate.

Even in Asian countries that are primarily Buddhist, most of the people rarely if ever meditate.

Meditation is such an incredibly precious gift that we know works and yet so few really use it. Hearing about it in blogs and on Oprah; maybe even buying a meditation cushion.

But our meditation cushions aren’t just meant to look pretty — they are meant to be used. Cushions that slowly fade with the last remnants of your neurosis and confusion.

Meditation isn’t something to be kept in ancient books.

It is active and alive!

It changes us in so many ways that we become an extension of meditation. As we grow and develop we become an example of a stable mind.

Because there is no greater gift to the world than a stable mind.

Individual Meditation Guides

how to meditate

how to get the most of your meditation practice

how meditation works

how to prepare for meditation

Featured Yogi Supplies

 

If you can be continuously aware of each thought as it rises, and if you can be so indifferent to it that it doesn’t sprout or flourish, you are well on the way to escaping from the entanglements of mind.
– Annamalai Swami