There are four states of consciousness.
When you are awake, you are (hopefully) aware of what’s going on around you, but not rested. Stay awake for too long and you will feel tired.
When you sleep, you are almost completely unaware of your environment, but when you wake up, you will feel rested.
If you have too many dreams, you say you had a “disturbed” sleep – you are neither aware, nor rested.
Meditation is the fourth state – when you enter a state of meditation, you are fully conscious of your surroundings and feel deeply rested.
While the ability to stay awake, sleep and dream is intrinsic in all of us, the ability to meditate needs to be learned and practiced. However, meditation is just another state of consciousness and it’s as natural to meditate as to be awake, sleep or dream.
For an absolute beginner, there are a plethora of guided meditations available online. Google “Guided meditation with Sri Sri Ravishankar” and you will have a huge selection to choose from. To begin with select any one that’s 20 minutes or less. Once you are used to meditating for around 20 minutes, you can move onto the longer ones.
Prepping for Meditation
For any meditation, it’s great to do a bit of prep. Read this part completely before you begin.
First off, the only time you shouldn’t meditate is when you have eaten a meal. Meditation will lower the metabolic rate of your body and you require high metabolism to digest food. Wait about an hour to an hour and a half after a full meal, and 15 minutes to half an hour after a snack. Of course, if you have just eaten a biscuit or an idli or something like that, it’s ok to meditate right away. You should be feeling light in the stomach before you start to meditate.
Note that, too many sugary treats or extremely spicy food as well as any processed food may greatly hamper your ability to meditate.
Once you are feeling light and easy in the tummy, find a quiet place in your surroundings. Ensure no one will disturb you for the next 20-30 minutes. Switch your phone to flight mode, turn off all notifications on your computer.
Comfort is important. If you are uncomfortable, you will not be able to meditate. You will only continue to experience discomfort. Sit in a nice chair, or lean against a wall – use cushions, pillows, etc to ensure you feel comfortable.
It’s a good idea not to move once you start to meditate. Once or twice if you stretch your legs slowly, then it’s ok. But more than that will mean it will be challenging to get into the meditative state and remain there.
Once you feel you are comfortably seated, switch on the guided meditation you have chosen and close your eyes. Closing your eyes means you are completely cutting off information coming to you from one of the 5 senses. This greatly helps in stilling your mind.
Listen effortlessly to the instructions that are being given – almost as if you are half asleep.
If thoughts or emotions arise within you, that’s ok. Let them be. If you feel any sort of pain or discomfort in your body, that’s alright as well. Don’t try to do anything about it. Let it be.
Just effortlessly relax and let go…
When the instruction to open your eyes is given, take your time and slowly gradually open your eyes.
Meditation and our Brain
When the brains of people who have been meditating for a long time (more than 5 years) were examined through an MRI, various areas of the brain that are known to be responsible for cognition, empathy, learning, memory, regulation of emotions, compassion and having perspective were found to have become stronger. The parts of the brain that dealt with anxiety, stress and fear had actually shrunk!
The next question was that to see these changes, how long should one meditate? The surprising answer was just about 40 days. Beginners brains were scanned and then they meditated for 40 days and their brain were scanned again. The exact same areas had shown visible changes as were present in long term meditators.
Meditation is Easy!
Contrary to what a lot of people think, meditation is not really difficult to do – once you know how to do it. Learning to meditate doesn’t take a lot of time, but it is true that regular practice of meditation (as with all other things in life) will make you adept at it and allow you to reap even more benefit from it.
Guided meditations are a great place to start – but learning meditation formally, in the traditional way, will take your practice and experience to a whole different dimension. The Art of Living offers regular classes to learn meditation. You could learn the powerful Sudarshan Kriya on the Happiness program and/or the gentle, yet profoundly potent mantra meditation technique called Sahaj Samadhi Meditation. The Sudarshan Kriya uses rhythmic breathing to expel stress from both body and mind, leaving you refreshed and rejuvenated and Sahaj allows you to smoothly transcend into deep meditative states.
There are many other schools that teach meditation, but since I have not experienced any of their techniques, it wouldn’t be fair for me to comment about them. I have practiced the techniques taught on Art of Living courses for more than 25 years and have taught the techniques to tens of thousands of people from across the planet and so can heartily recommend them to you.
There are many adventures awaiting you on the outside – traveling the world, river rafting, bungy jumping, roller coaster rides, sky diving, trekking, camping, paragliding – the list is endless. But the real adventure begins when you close your eyes and take that dive inside of you.
Welcome to Yourself!
You can learn to meditate through the Art of Living series of courses – We highly recommend that you do the Meditation and Breath Workshop, the Advanced Meditation Program and the Sahaj Samadhi Meditation Course. Dinesh and I teach all three workshops and you will find schedules on www.inergyworld.com