Learn to Meditate – Step 1
A Breath Visualisation Exercise
Read through this simple exercise – with practise you will quickly become familiar with the key steps.
Light the candle on your meditation table and a little of your favourite incense. In your mind prioritise meditation over everything else for the next 10-15 minutes – no phones, no disturbances, no outer world. Think of every moment spent in meditation as a golden opportunity to make progress in your spiritual journey – each attempt is a step forward towards your goal. This will help you to feel sincerity and to value your meditation practise.
Sit comfortably, with the spine reasonably straight to maintain alertness, and with your eyes partly open – not wide open, but eyes half open, half closed. This is called the lions meditation and enables us to better concentrate the mind. If this is too difficult you can close your eyes, but try this method first for there are many advantages to meditating in this way. Meditative music also helps to create a peaceful atmosphere – simple flute music is excellent.
In this exercise we are beginning to learn how to still the mind by concentrating on the breath. If possible it is preferable that you breathe through the nose. Don't be discouraged when the mind wanders or endless thoughts come – at the beginning this is normal.
Breath and mind are closely connected and as you bring all of your awareness into the breath, the mind gradually becomes concentrated and one-pointed. Let everything else fall away – all that exists is the breath, a river of life-energy flowing ceaselessly.
Feel inside the breath the quality or feeling of stillness – if you imagine a small thread at the tip of the nose, the breath is so quiet and calm the thread is barely moving. For a few minutes try to deepen this feeling of stillness, the breath moving very quietly, the mind becoming gradually more calm, the body motionless.
Notice the momentary pause at the top of the breath just before you breathe out, and again at the bottom of the breath before you breathe in, and try to expand that moment of stillness between each inhalation, each exhalation. In this way the breath becomes a little deeper, calmer, slower and prepares us.
Now we can focus on breathing in several different qualities, one by one. The first is peace – as you inhale feel that you are breathing peace into every part of your being. On the outgoing breath imagine you are breathing out anything that is unlike peace – any restlessness, stress, negative thoughts or feelings. If it helps you can imagine the incoming breath to be pure white light, vibrant with purity and peace, the outgoing breathe grey with impurities or thoughts. If you find it easier, simply focus on the incoming breath and the quality of peace – feel a sense of each breath drawing you a little deeper within, drawing you into a lovely inner space. Simplicity is best – the less thoughts and ideas in the mind, the better.
After several minutes feel you are breathing in cosmic energy from the universe, purifying and energising every part of your being. With each breath a river is flowing through you, a river of life force and cosmic energy, displacing tiredness, stress, negative thoughts – imagine you are exhaling the negative qualities, extracting them on the outgoing breath.
Finally, breathe in the quality of joy or happiness. Feel this expanding inside you, flowing through you – imagine even your face is smiling. Again, on the outgoing breath feel that you are breathing out the opposite qualities – any suffering, sadness, problems. Practise this for a few minutes – after some time working with these simple visualisations imagination becomes reality and you will actually feel more peaceful and happy. The more still the mind can become, the more these positive images and qualities can be felt, for these are qualities of the soul itself. They are inside you already – you are simply creating the conditions in which they can be directly experienced. So that meditation is less an act of learning than an act of remembering, rediscovering. It is your own deeper self that you will find.
To finish, simply let your awareness come back to the breath – don't think of any particular quality but simply feel a sense of being at rest inside a very tranquil inner space. The mind is clear and empty like a vast sky - any wandering thoughts that arise are insignificant, a tiny bird crossing the emptiness. Notice the calm flow of the breath – feel a sense of being suspended in the rhythm of each breath and that nothing else exists. How still can you become? Practise cultivating an empty mind, calm breath. When the breath is the only reality, you will feel very peaceful and meditative.
- You can practise these simple breath visualisations each day until your mind becomes more still and add to these one or more new exercises as we progress. Begin with 10 minutes every day and gradually step up to 15 minutes, 20 minutes and upwards as you improve. Don't be discouraged if your mind is very busy – this is a common experience for everyone. Simply commit to your daily practise – the first secret of sincerity! – and gradually you will improve. These initial exercises are designed to quieten the mind – meditation lies beyond the mind in the silence and stillness that practise will cultivate.
- Don't evaluate whether you are doing well or badly – if you're practising, you're doing well! And don't meditate just to have nice experiences – meditate to make progress. Think of the image of a journey – each attempt to meditate is another wonderful step towards the destination of happiness.
- Meditating first thing in the morning is best – you are bringing to the fore all your positive inner qualities and these will flow out into your life, colour the events of your day with the peace, poise, happiness that meditation brings out. Your morning meditation will also give you a deepening sense of the sacred in your life, remind you of who you really are, of what is truly important, and what is not. It is the gateway into insight and self-knowledge, a touch stone to a higher reality and a deeper understanding of everything. By meditating first you have started walking along the right road from the beginning of the day.
- Try to avoid meditating immediately after a meal – at that time the body is often more lethargic or restless. Meditate before your meal, or several hours afterwards, so the body will not disturb you. Don't lie down when you practise meditation either – it's conducive only to sleep!
- Remember to practise your meditation with eyes half open, half closed – at least for some of the time. This will prevent you falling asleep, develop your ability to concentrate your mind more quickly, and enable you to extend your ability to meditate out into your life – while walking, working, sitting in a park or waiting for a bus! In this way you can learn to meditate anywhere – the ability to meditate is inside you everywhere you go.
Next: Learn to Meditate – Step 2.
Return to: Meditation Course – Learn to Meditate Online Index Page.