Anybody can learn how to meditate. With practice, meditation becomes an integral part of one’s daily life. Not every meditation session, however, results in an excellent meditation: sometimes it is exceptionally great, sometimes it is average and at other times it is outright unsatisfactory.
But if meditations do not turn out to be great, no problem. There are a few things one can do to increase the chances of experiencing an elevated state of consciousness, which sometimes eludes even the most experienced practitioners. While making various adjustments to technique, posture and other aspects of the meditation process are important, stepping back and taking a sincere look at one’s lifestyle choices may provide just the right mix of ingredients to ensure successful meditation outcomes in the longer term.
Even if you are not able to implement any of the recommendations that follow, it is still better that you continue to meditate, even if suboptimally in your view, than not meditate at all.
Here’s a troubleshooting guide to help you make adjustments to your daily practice:
1. Rest. While an obvious one, if you are tired, sleepy and irritated, your meditation practice will suffer. Make sure you make the necessary adjustments, while continuing your meditation practice.
2. Vibration. Everything around us is an interplay of energies, as they say, and meditation practice is not immune to them. Good energies will enhance your practice, while bad energies will detract from it. This refers to the place where you meditate (without doubt, meditating in a busy corner of a street will be difficult), but also with whom you meditate (meditating with happy and inspiring people who have meditation experience is most desirable).
3. Comfort. Being comfortable throughout your practice is essential. Your posture, your breathing, your eyes and the rest of your body must all be relaxed. It is better to stop your practice and make the necessary adjustments rather than continue to experience discomfort.
4. Physical activity. While not related directly to your meditation practice, daily physical activity in the form of workouts or long walks will keep your body healthy and your mind cheerful. Swimming, running or other forms of regular workouts and diet are ultimately your best insurance against disease and premature ageing. Without a healthy body, meditation is close to impossible.
5. Diet. The definition of a healthy diet has varied over centuries and across nations, but it’s essence has not changed. A balanced vegetarian diet has emerged as the winner when it comes to providing the essential nutrients in an easy-to-assimilate form and without creating toxins. It has been the experience of many meditation practitioners that a meatless diet provides for a calmer mind and less overall aggressivity, while being conducive to working with subtler forms of energies that advanced meditation practices necessarily require.
6. Toxic substances. It goes without saying that toxic substances are better avoided. It is not just because things like tobacco, recreational drugs and alcohol create dependency on them. These substances steal the very things one develops through meditation, such as natural sensitivity to the surrounding environment, intelligence and true fulfillment. In fact, those meditation practitioners who may have experienced in the past the so-called “satisfaction” through the use of these substances unequivocally agree that the fruits of meditation far surpass the fleeting pleasures and the accompanying side effects of these toxic stimulants.
7. Regularity. This is probably an overlooked, but utterly important aspect of meditation. Even when one does not feel like meditating, it is important to at least give it a try, perhaps for a somewhat shorter period of time than it is normally the case. Such persistence and regularly will pay off handsomely in the long term. Like a physical muscle that must be trained, meditation works on when one does it regularly on a daily basis.
8. Concentration. Concentration exercises lay the foundation for the advanced meditation practice. They usually involve the uninterrupted and fully absorptive focus on a given object, form or idea to the exclusion of anything else. If you want to burn paper through the magnifying glass, you must first ensure the sun’s ray are concentrated to achieve the desired effect. One can concentrate, for example, on a small black dot on a white background, on the tip of a burning candle flame or on a flower. At the beginning, concentration exercises can be done as the main daily practice. Later on, they can be done for a few minutes before the meditation practice itself. It is important that eyes be kept relaxed at all time.
9. Purity. This refers to cleanliness of the body, but, even more importantly, to purity of thought and action. Purity can be achieved through regular concentration and meditation practice, but also through a conscious choice when it comes to cultivating enriching relationships, reading inspiring material, expressing truthful ideas, engaging in virtuous actions and frequenting good places, etc.
For more articles on integrating meditation into the present-day lifestyle and for more information on starting a meditation practice of your own, visit www.GenevaMeditation.ch.