The practice of unwavering focus on an object is called meditation. The object that a beginner or a veteran meditator chooses varies from person to person.
There are infinitely many objects to choose from. Some of the most common one’s are; an idea, an image, a sound, a word, a mantra, the process of arising and passing of thoughts in one’s mind, the arising and passing of physical sensations in one’s body, the breath etc.
Meditation increases a person’s level of attentiveness, depth of character and empowers him to take control of his own life.
You can read two more articles on this website pertaining to the topic of attention.
This article is for meditators that have just begun sensing the need for some form of meditation in their lives.
Listed below are 10 easy rules that a beginner can follow, if he wishes to progress in this path.
CONVICTION: BE THOROUGHLY CONVINCED
When all other methods have failed and one has come to realise that the only way out of his misery is to “know thyself”, he turns inwards.
Here the person is utterly convinced that the only way to happiness is meditation upon the self.
Since the “self” as such is an abstraction, he chooses a more concreate object to meditate upon, such as his breathing pattern.
Thus, the first rule is to be convinced, that meditation is the only way out of misery. Only then will a person follow through, to being regular and focused in his meditation practice.
POSTURE: CHOOSE A COMFORTABLE POSTURE
Meditation is best done in a posture involving an erect spine. So, choose any posture that suits your comfort.
But make sure that whatever posture is chosen, the body is allowed to relax, with the spine straight as a staff.
One can meditate while seated cross legged, on a chair, standing upright, walking or lying down. But for a beginner the best posture would be to sit crossed leg or on a chair.
ROUTINE: DEVELOP A ROUTINE
Meditation, essentially as a process empowers one to put a leash on his mind. The mind does not like that.
The mind wants its own autonomy. So, it always plays tricks by coming up with excuses to not sit for meditation.
For example, it will remind one of some unfinished business the moment he gets ready to sit for meditation. This tendency of the mind has to be overrun by conviction and a strong determination.
Setting up a routine helps in doing so.
What you can do is set aside twenty minutes before going to work and another twenty minutes after coming back, for seated meditation.
Fix the times for meditation and stick to it. It will be hard for the first few months but it gets easier with time.
OBJECT: CHOOSE AN OBJECT OF MEDITATION
It’s very important to choose an object of meditation that suits you. The mind needs to be constantly reminded to be aware of the object every second or so in the beginning.
But, with more and more practice, one can fix his awareness on the chosen object for long unbroken durations.
PERSISTANCE: TRY, TRY AGAIN, YET AGAIN
When one sits to concentrate on the object of meditation, one unknowingly gets swept away by arising thoughts.
The thoughts can range from being about fantasies or anxieties about the future, to happy or sad memories of the past.
Either way the job was to be aware of the object, in the present moment. But, since the awareness has not matured, it got overrun by unruly thoughts.
One should not get disheartened by this. Whenever he realises that he has been swept away by his thoughts, he needs to calmly and patiently bring his awareness back to the chosen object.
After a while he will find that his awareness has wandered off again. Again, he would need to bring it back to the object.
Its exactly like taming a wild animal. No matter how long it takes, there will come a time when the wild animal will be completely domesticated. Similar is the unruly mind.
The leash would be your awareness.
ENVIRONMENT: A QUIET PLACE, NO PHONES, NO DISTURBANCES
When a seed sprouts up into a little plant, it needs all the rearing and caring that it can get. It needs water at regular intervals, it needs to be protected lest it gets eaten by animals and it needs the perfect soil and ample sunlight.
But after some years the plant grows up into a mighty tree. It doesn’t need anyone to take care of it then. Rather it becomes a source of very pleasant shade on a sunny day, it bares juicy fruits for everyone to enjoy and it serves anyone and everyone without any discrimination.
Similarly, with meditation. In the initial stages, a meditation practice needs a quiet place, a place with minimal disturbances and consistent effort.
When in the initial stages its very necessary for the practitioner to be mindful of every disturbance capable of hampering his meditation practice.
But as time goes by and the meditation practice yields the fruit of a perfect purified awareness, the person becomes a beacon of calmness, joy and happiness for all the world to enjoy.
MIDDLE-WAY: DON’T BE TOO HARD OR TOO SOFT, IN PRACTICE
The constant mention of unwavering focus might cause the practitioner to try too hard to concentrate on the object of meditation.
That is not the right way. Meditation, as a process involves elimination of stress and strain, from and on, the mind and the body, at every step of the way.
Therefore, if at any point, one finds that his meditation has become a source of stress in his life, he should stop. It means he is trying too hard. He should start again and try hard enough to simply be aware, but not to strain his mind.
On the other side, lies the danger of giving the mind a free pass to run amok. That too should not be done. Awareness has to be directed only at the intended object and not allowed to be hijacked by the unruly mind.
This is known as the middle path. The path to enlightenment.
ALERTNESS: BEWARE OF THE TRICKSTER
As, it has already been mentioned, the unruly mind is a trickster of the highest order. Your meditation practice should be earnest enough to make you capable of being alert.
Alertness lets one know that his mind has started scheming again to disrupt the next meditation sitting he is to do. The very act of knowing that the mind is scheming puts an end to all schemes.
Here’s an analogy.
A thief is planning to rob a house. The house appears empty. He thinks he will enter through the back Door.
He starts to climb the fence, when suddenly, through the gazed window, he sees a light being switched on.
The thief immediately dismisses all his plans for the night. The owner is home tonight.
This helps in a long and disciplined meditation regime.
COMPASSION: BE GENTLE IN LIFE AND MEDITATION
You are sitting in a meditation hall with other fellow meditators. Your mind is not laying still. Its running here and there into all sorts of things.
And what’s more, the person on your right is coughing away to glory. Oh !! the disturbance. The anger swells up like a torrent.
In such a situation be gentle on yourself and the person you are next to. Know that his coughs are disturbing you only because you are disturbed by your own inability to concentrate.
Accept the reality of the moment. Accept your inability to be aware of the object, in the present moment. Acceptance brings calmness.
Being calm, start again. And you shall notice that his coughs do not disturb you anymore.
EQUANIMITY: NEVER BE TOO HAPPY, OR TOO SAD
And at others, you feel like a worthless lump of human plasma, when it doesn’t. In either situation, it is extremely important to be calm.
Not to dance in joy when meditation is good, or to slump in sadness when its bad. The experiences while in meditation, like everything in the world, are impermanent in nature.
So, its advisable to act accordingly.