The Simple Guide to Meditation


You may be thinking that meditation is too esoteric or requires special training. Those assumptions about meditation are not true. Anyone can learn to meditate. Meditation is remarkably simple in principle. A “guru” does not need to teach you how to do it. You do not need a specially chosen mantra. This article strives to distill meditation to its simplest form. By breaking meditation down in plain English, you will be able to begin a meditation practice.

One of the challenges of meditation is knowing if you are doing it right. Another challenge is trying to describe the process of meditation. There really is a lack of adequate words to describe how to direct your consciousness a certain way, and how to recognize when you achieve a meditative state. And to be honest, no instructor can tell you if you are doing it right because the instructor cannot be in your head.

With practice, you will be able to recognize if you had a good meditation session. So really you learn to meditate by practicing, and you must teach yourself how to improve. In time, you will be able to distinguish nuances in your sessions. It is sort of like learning to tune a musical instrument by ear. At first, you cannot hear the subtle beats caused by two pitches being slightly out of tune. But with practice, you learn to home in on the sound.


Meditation requires a quiet environment. Distracting sounds, especially people talking, can pretty much ruin a meditation session. Even if you can find a private room to meditate, sound can leak through thin doors. That is why I recommend using earbuds and playing some sort of masking sound. A masking sound can be like the sound of the ocean. A good masking sound does not have distinctive audio events. It should be rather monotonous. Nature soundscapes can work well as a masking sound. In-ear earbuds already serve as ear plugs, and when combined with a masking sound, most exterior sounds will be blocked. This will allow you to create a space for meditation without it being a quiet space.

Meditation also requires a gentle signal to tell you when to stop. When you are deep in meditation, perception of time can change a little. If you are thinking about how long you should meditate and when you should be stopping, that thinking can diminish your ability to meditate. A timer with a gentle alarm tone will help solve this problem. You will be able to stop thinking about the duration of your meditation.

A smartphone can provide both noise masking and serve as a timer signal. That is what I do, and I find I can meditate just about anywhere. A timer app can be used to alert you when your session is over. Try to pick a gentle alarm sound. An abrupt alarm sound can shock you out of meditation. That could generate some anxiety about anticipating when the alarm will go off, which again, will prevent you from getting deep into meditation.

You also need to be comfortable while meditating. You need to be comfortable, but not so comfortable that you could fall asleep. I do not recommend laying down. When lying down, there is a good chance you will fall asleep. We have all seen people meditating in the crossed leg lotus position. When first starting out, I do not recommend this position for the simple reason it is uncomfortable. The discomfort will be a distraction. Just sitting in a chair with straight posture and your hands on your thighs will do.

How to Meditate

Close your eyes and take three deep breaths. With each exhale, find excess tension in your muscles and direct focus to relax those muscles.

Continue to breathe deeply and slowly. The depths of your inhales should stabilize to about 75% of your initial deep breaths. Your breathing should be deeper than normal breathing, but not excessively deep. Your breathing rate should also stabilize to be slower than normal breathing. Deep breathing will naturally slow your breathing rate.

Once you are breathing deeply and slowly, direct your mental focus on maintaining the rhythm of your deep breathing. Focus on every aspect of your breathing. Focus on maintaining the same depth of inhale. Focus on the feeling of release and relaxation from the exhale.

As you focus on your breathing, your mind will wander to other thoughts. Once a wandering thought enters your mind, do not let the thought chain into other related thoughts. Instead, just let the thought go without any extra processing or judgement. Return your mind to focus on your breath.

Thoughts will continue to enter your head. This is normal. Each time a thought enters, gently return your mind back to your breath. Continue this until your timer goes out.

Initially, I would start out with a five-minute session. Eventually work up to 15-minute sessions. You should try to meditate once a day. Experiment with a time of day that works. Once you find a good time, stick with that time. You should not try to meditate within 30 minutes after eating. The early process of digestion impacts meditation.

That is all there is to meditating!

Are you Doing it Right?

So, when you focus on something very monotonous like your breathing, your mind enters a different state. It is not asleep, but it also is not the same as normal consciousness. It is like you put your mind into a low power state. When your surface thoughts calm down and quiet, you can start to sense the low-level background noise of your brain. When I start to drift into a meditative state, sometimes random, distant memories can surface. That is when I know my higher-level concision is letting go. You start to become aware of lower level activities that normally are masked by your higher-level consciousness.

You can focus on anything that is monotonous. It does not have to be your breath, though the breath is the easiest, and I think most effective. You can focus on monotonous sounds, or sensations in your body, or a phrase you repeat in your head. I have tried all of that and keep returning to focusing on my breath.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, there really are no words to describe what a proper meditative state feels like. All I can say is you have to keep practicing. You will develop the skill of knowing the difference.

The Benefits of Meditating

When just starting out meditating, you must take it on faith that you will get better at it, and that there will be some benefit. It will take a few months of practice before you start sensing any benefit. And even if you are a seasoned veteran of meditating, the benefits are subtle. The benefits can turn on so gradually as your practice improves, that you may not notice anything happening. After meditating for six months, stop for a week, and then start back up. When you start back up, you will be able to perceive the benefits.

Meditation will help you feel more relaxed and less stressed, give you better attention and focus, and will help you sleep. Meditation will also help you with self-control to change your behavior. I consider those pretty serious benefits.

I wish you the best of luck on your meditation practice. I do believe if you stick with it, meditation will grow to be an important, valued tool in your life.

Copyright © 2020 by Jeffery Lewis. All rights reserved.
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