Meditation Q&A: How Do You Meditate?

by Nneka Kelly

I’d love to begin meditation. I’m just not sure how to start!

An entire post dedicated to the starting of it would probably be great for people. I imagine this is one of (if not) the hardest part!

Well Dave, let’s jump right in and learn how to meditate!

Guided Meditation

Guided meditations are a great place to start because you can focus on a voice outside of yourself. Some guided meditations take you through a scene, usually a nature scene. Some guide you to clear your chakras. Others might lead you to a meeting place with a Spiritual Guide or your Higher Self.

For a guided meditation, the key is to give your complete attention to what is being said in the audio. Image and sense everything that is being said. Be completely present to the moment and mentally follow the instructions of the voice.

During a guided meditation, your mind may drift from what is being said, just as it might drift during a conversation. You might find yourself in anticipation of the next step. Gently bring your attention back to the voice and to the moment.

Guided meditation empties your mind and gives you a clear object of focus. Some guided meditations allow for a period of silence at the end so that once your mind is empty you can have the experience of being aware of Spirit. If these moments aren’t explicit at the end of the meditation, make the time to do so.

You can start with Kara-Leah’s guide to 10 free guided meditations.

You can start with this guided meditation.If anyone has any other resources, feel free to post them in the comments or email me. I’ll update the post with them.

Journaling

Journaling is one of my big 3 meditations (chanting and silence, being the other 2). It’s not a typical meditation practice because journaling has the stigma of being a preteen, “dear-diary”, hobby, but it is very effective. I recommend journaling as a meditation practice when you are in crisis or if you are having a hard time quieting your mind in silent meditation.

When I journal as meditation, I do a stream of consciousness writing. I set aside 30 minutes and I empty my mind onto the page. All the jibber jabber (that’s a technical term) is blurted out. Eventually, all the crud that’s hanging around in my head is cleaned out and something switches internally. Soon, what is penned is coming through me.

A more structured way to approach journaling as a meditation practice is automatic writing. The book Conversations With God is a perfect example. You write a question, then sit and wait for the answer. Initially, it will be tough to determine if the answer is coming from Spirit or if the message is still clouded by the veil of your thoughts. If you need answers to questions, you could start off with the stream of consciousness journaling to empty your mind, then start asking the questions when you feel the switch.

Active Meditation

You’re probably thinking, “Active meditation. Oxymoron.” However, if you’re not into sitting around and you absolutely must have movement, active meditation is the way to go. Athletes often describe their experience while they are engaging in their sport as being “in the zone.” This place where they say they are no longer in control, they are just in the flow. What do you think that flow is?

Even if you’re not an athlete, you can engage in active meditation. You can start with some traditional methods like yoga, or Tai Chi, or you can go with a simple walk, or gardening.

Typically, when you think of meditation, there is an image of sitting and being silent. In that version, you are more likely to experience going into a vortex. In active meditation, you are more likely to experience falling away and becoming one with everything around. You become so present to what you are doing that you move with it. You are in a dance with Spirit. Fully awake, aware, and conscious in a physical and spiritual sense.

You are living in the world and you are fully aware that you are the stuff of It.

Silent Meditation

Silent meditation was the first method I learned. Maybe I’m biased, but I think it’s the simplest. It doesn’t require any accouterments like prayer beads or affirmations. It just requires that you sit still.

Before you begin, set a timer for 20 minutes. For silent meditation, you find a comfortable place to sit. It can be on the toilet seat in the morning if that’s the only space you can find. Once you are sitting, continue to breathe as you normally would, but begin to observe your breath. Feel the air passing into your nostrils, down through your throat and into your lungs. Follow it as it makes the trip out.

Once you are following your breath, begin to breathe into your belly. You can try it now. If you are beginning, put your hands on your belly. As you breathe in feel your hands raise off your belly and as you breathe out feel them come in. This is sometimes called belly breathing or deep breathing.

In silent meditation, you focus on your breath. If your mind drifts, and it probably will, bring it gently back to your breath. Once you bring it back, you might find that you are no longer belly breathing. Slow the pace of your thoughts, breathe into your belly, and bring your attention back to following your breath.

At some point in the meditation, your mind will go blank. You won’t really be concentrating on your breath, but you won’t be thinking either. And you’ll be fully awake. You will drop into stillness. This may not happen the first, second, or even tenth time, but it will happen. Don’t go in chasing it or wanting it. You’ll also find that the moment you recognize yourself in that place, you will be out of it.

Summary

Guided meditations, journaling, active meditations, and silence are only a few of the techniques you can use to meditate. The keys to any meditation are:

  • Focus or mindfulness,
  • Emptying the mind, and
  • Awareness of Spirit/the Universe/God/Consciousness

It does not have to be a complex endeavor where you have to light your incense, and position your candle just so, then have melodic soothing sounds in the background, and a deity in front of you (although it can be). It can be as simple as being where you are, releasing your thoughts, and remaining open to the Presence.

Update: The 10 free guided meditations link is no longer available. However, you can do this guided meditation.

In Spirit,
Nneka

This article is part of the Meditation Question and Answer Series. For other articles in the series, you can visit the introduction post.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

mervyn August 8, 2007 at 8:45 am

I am really enjoying your thread on meditation. Your writing is growing. Keep up the journey.
dad

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RIck Cockrum August 8, 2007 at 12:17 pm

You’ll also find that the moment you recognize yourself in that place, you will be out of it.

That is sooo true, Nneka.

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Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker August 8, 2007 at 6:11 pm

I hadn’t recognised my journaling as being a form of meditation. You are right. It is. Thanks.

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gayle August 9, 2007 at 3:43 pm

Hi Nneka,

Two things that really helped end the “meditation frustration” for me:

1. Don’t fight your chattering mind. When a thought arises, acknowledge it and then let it go. Don’t let it turn into a conversation. And if you have 100 thoughts, just note them all and let them all go – it’s ok to have Monkey Brain for awhile.

2. A Zen saying: “When sitting, just Sit, when walking, just Walk.” Made me realize that I don’t have to try so darned hard. Just relax already! *LOL*

One other thought: Thich Nhat Hahn suggest that every activity, when done with Mindfulness, is meditation. This is a very useful thought! Check out his wonderful book, “Peace is Every Step”. I’d add the Amazon link, but it’s huge. Just search the title.

Best,
gayle

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Nneka August 9, 2007 at 4:04 pm

Hi Dad, thanks for the encouragement and feedback :-)

@Rick, indeed it is, but it’s so darn annoying.

@Patricia, thanks for stopping by. It truly is a matter of intent.

@Gayle, thanks for adding the point about not fighting your chattering mind. Resistance is futile when it comes to meditation. I’m reminded of the line in the movie Enough. “It takes more energy to miss than to hit.” If you let your thoughts miss, they will run out of steam.

In Spirit,
Nneka

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joe August 9, 2007 at 5:39 pm

I enjoyed reading very much. My first method of meditation was silent meditation as well.
Go on with your work – it’s worth!

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Nneka August 14, 2007 at 9:28 am

Hi Joe, thanks for the compliment and for taking the time to share your thoughts.

In Spirit,
Nneka

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tak-kun August 20, 2007 at 1:53 am

hey i have a question does incense hlp with meditation at all??

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R. Randall Schroeder August 29, 2010 at 5:44 pm

I also think guided meditations are good to get started. I have one on my site that free to use, if you have interest?

Meditation is one of the most valuable disciplines I know.

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meditation April 13, 2011 at 4:55 am

Muraqaba is a kind of meditation that helps mankind to learn about his souls and inner self. Once a man gets full understanding of this topic he can control his soul. Apparently it seems that a man doing a Muraqaba id just sitting with his eyes closed but closing the eyes does not fulfill the requirement. In reality Muraqaba is the process of deep insight into the inner soul (batin) of the body and has no link with the outside world (zahir).

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JMA April 16, 2011 at 4:21 pm

I think as we effectively learn how to meditate, we have a better chance of finding success with the different methods we use. While I love to sit and close my eyes in the a dark room, I know others will benefit from having soft music play.

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