Learning how to meditate properly
Meditation is deceptively simple. Yet most of us approach this practice with preconceived ideas about how to do it. So learning how to meditate properly can be hard, but with a few helpful tips, you can avoid pitfalls and save time.
As with anything we want to excel at, it takes dedicated practice to achieve mastery over the basics. And with meditation, the basics can take you far. Spending time on the fundamentals can bring you rich rewards that last a lifetime, in the form of spontaneous access to peace, joy, ease of being, greater focus, and much more.
As we get started, it’s important to remember that meditation can be challenging, and it’s easy to get lost doing it. If you get stuck, the number one rule is this: relax, don’t worry about it, and keep going.
Sometimes, you just don’t know if you are doing it right. When I started my sitting meditation practice about 20 years ago, I can’t tell you how many times I sat there asking myself, “Am I meditating or not? Is this it? Am I doing it right?”
So I thought it might be helpful to share some tips to help you stay on track as you build up the cornerstones of your practice. Pay attention to these sign posts, and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration.
5 Sure Signs That You’re Learning How to Meditate Properly
- Ease of Being
- Freedom from Thought
- Heightened Awareness
- Freedom from Time
To meditate properly, you need to be still. Pay attention and notice how still you are in your practice. If you find that you aren’t moving, like a mountain or a tranquil tree, then you are on the right track. It’s simple, but don’t underestimate the power of being still. Making the noble effort to be still can support your ability to let go of the mind. When you let go of the mind, your awareness is free to become vast like the sky. Over time and with consistent practice, being still will transform from an external physical effort to an inner posture of quiet confidence and resolution. Don’t be tense in this effort, but stay easy and focused.
2. Ease of Being
Deep ease is part of any meditation practice. When we are relaxed, we are free from stress. We can think more clearly and our body enters into a natural state.
When you are sitting still in your meditation, you may be concentrating on your breath, a mantra, your body, or maybe you are allowing your attention to rest on the field of awareness itself. But whatever your practice, it’s important to pay attention to the quality of your awareness. Is it tight, constricted, and pressured, or is it spacious, easy, and alert? The goal is to be alert and at ease.
Too often, as you perform your practice, you may be missing the fact that you are deeply at ease. Perhaps there are thoughts flooding your mind. That doesn’t matter, because You can still be relaxed, even if your mind is active or agitated. Pay careful attention and don’t get tripped up here. Again, You can be relaxed and easy, even if your mind isn’t. Deep ease of being (while being alert) is a sure sign you are on the right track.
3. Freedom From Thought
Many people think that meditation means having no thoughts and achieving a state of consciousness that’s as calm and cool as a still blue pool. No doubt, a quiet mind can be delightful, but it’s not necessarily the goal. You don’t want the success or failure of your practice to depend on having a quiet mind. There’s no real freedom in that.
When we practice, the most important goal is to ignore your thoughts and not make a big deal about anything that passes across the screen of your awareness. Freedom from thought doesn’t mean having no thoughts. It’s much more about an inner posture where we are not reacting to any thoughts – good ones or bad ones. This is subtle, and it is a key part of learning how to meditate properly.
So one big indication that you are meditating for real is when the presence of thought doesn’t move you. There can be lots of thoughts or just a trickle of thoughts, but you don’t really care. None of it is touching you—because you are ignoring the thought stream. When you successfully ignore your thoughts, that is called freedom from thought, and it is a natural quality of meditation. You could even say that this is the heart of meditation. If your thoughts are moving, but you don’t care and you’re not moving, then you’re on the right track.
4. Heightened Awareness
One thing that happens during deep meditation is that you enter into a state of heightened awareness. As a result, you are more sensitive to stimuli in your environment like sounds, smells, etc. And as you sink into this expanded state of awareness, the boundaries between you and everything else begin to collapse.
In this heightened awareness, I find that my hearing expands. I become aware of distant sounds like bird calls, car horns, church bells, and children playing. These sounds resonate inside of me and expand my awareness even more. Take note for yourself—one sign that you are meditating properly is a quality of heightened awareness that expands your senses.
And remember, I’m not talking about the kind of sharpened awareness you get from a cup of coffee. This is more relaxing and altogether different. This means being profoundly awake and deeply at ease at the same time.
5. Freedom from Time
Yogis and mystics have always said that meditation is a state of consciousness that is timeless. When we meditate, they say, we become aware of eternity, and our experience of time and space expands without limit.
Another positive sign that you are meditating properly is when you start forgetting about time as you practice. It’s weird, but sometimes I meditate deeply for an hour, and it can feel like 10 minutes. Try to let go of time and the compulsive addiction to knowing how much time has passed or how much time is left. Very interesting things can happen in your awareness when you forget about time.
But for now, just take comfort in knowing that if you are forgetting about time when you are meditating, you are definitely going in the right direction. This is called freedom from time and it is another natural quality or component of deep meditation.
I have been meditating for nearly 20 years, and these 5 signposts never get old for me. Test these tips for yourself. Do they help? Learning how to meditate properly takes time, energy, and dedicated practice, but I can tell you from experience that the return on investment is immeasurable.