So you’ve learned how to meditate and has been diligently putting it into practice for some time.
Thanks to your consistent daily practice, you can now focus better and is also more aware of what’s running through your mind most of the time. That means less hotheaded reaction and less stress for you when conflicts arise because you’re able to return to your breaths and find your center quicker than before.
You may even start to appreciate things which you usually take for granted, and begin to relish life at a slower pace and with a more upbeat perspective.
You’re amazed by what 20-minute of sitting each day has done to your life. And now you’d like to take it further and build on top of the foundation you’ve quietly laid for many months.
In this article, you’ll find the tips you need to deepen your meditation practice and raise your consciousness to the next level. Dive right in when you’re ready!
1. Make a Cast Iron Commitment
The commitments you need to invest in a one-day local course versus a seven-day retreat in India are different. Likewise, if you want to meditate deeply, you’ll need to put in more time and sacrifices in order to spend more time on the cushion. You may have to wake up earlier in the morning, cut down after-work drinking with your colleagues, or watch less TV at night. If you’re not living alone, you may also need to discuss your decision with your family or the persons you’re living with so that they’d understand, and respect, what you’re planning to do.
2. Sit Progressively Longer
Imagine your mind as a river that gets deeper and deeper as you go farther and farther away from the bank. For most beginning and intermediate meditators, the first 10 to 20 minutes of meditation is like taking the initial steps into the river and paddling in the shallow waters. In order to go farther, you’ll need to give yourself more time to ‘swim’ into the deeper ends of consciousness. If you find it difficult to sit for a prolonged period all of a sudden, extend your meditation time progressively by adding ten minutes to every session. Aim to meditate for an hour or more every day.
3. Relax the Body Before Meditation
A stiff shoulder, a tensed body or even hunger can be a source of distraction. It will be immensely useful if your body is totally relaxed before you begin to meditate. This allows you to go into a meditative state faster. Do some yoga poses or allow yourself some time to calm down before starting meditation proper. Eat at least one hour before meditating. A light snack just before meditation is fine.
4. Use a Mantra
Repeating a mantra is a very good way to bring you deeper into a meditative state. If you’re a Christian, you can use the ancient prayer word Maranatha, which means “Come, O Lord!” Say the four-syllable word either softly or silently to yourself with full attention after every exhale. If you’re a Buddhist, there are many mantras you can use, such as the one recorded in the Heart Sutra. Just choose one that appeals to you most. If you don’t have a religion, your selection gets even wider. Practically, any positive word or phrase that means something to you, like love, I am light or carpe diem (seize the day), can be used as a mantra.
5. Anticipate Nothing
No matter what you hope to achieve with meditation, when you’re sitting, let go of all your wants and goals. Allow what you want to come spontaneously and effortlessly. Anticipation will only get in the way by creating unnecessary tension that blocks the flow of your meditative experience, and leads to disappointment that kills your motivation to meditate. Unlike other aspects in life where the harder you push yourself, the higher your chances of succeeding, the reverse is true when it comes to meditation. The more you let go, the ‘more’ you’re likely to get. But of course, even this very notion has to be given up when you’re in the thick of meditation.
6. Forget Who You Are
As you sit for longer period of time, the likelihood of getting distracted, bored or impatient will inevitably increase. So it’s important to return to your breaths or mantra again and again as if your life depends on it. Remind yourself to simply sit. Not sitting and thinking about your unfinished project; not sitting and planning for your next meal; not sitting and replaying the argument you just had with your neighbor. Just sit and breathe, or repeat your power mantra. You can do the other things after your meditation has ended. In fact, it’s useful to temporarily forget who you are during meditation. Let go of your identity, your unfulfilled dreams, your unmet desires, your beliefs, your body, your distant past, your imaginary future, and whatever that fills your mind. Be the unborn.
7. Don’t Be Afraid of the Unknown
When your meditation practice deepens, you may encounter new experiences which could come across as either blissful or frightening. Usually, it’s frightening not because of the content but by virtue of it being new to us. Humans are easily alarmed by the unknown, and it’s the same in this case. Whatever ‘extraordinary’ sensation or imagery you may face, don’t panic. If it’s something pleasurable, don’t try to hold on to it either. As mentioned in #6, what you need to do is simply to sit resolutely, concentrate on your mantra or breaths, and let the experience pass through you like a cloud. Any other things, no matter how wonderful they are, are only distractions.