6 Tips that Will Help You Dive Deeper Into Meditation
Photo by David Brooke Martin on Unsplash
Simple tricks you can use before, during, and after your meditation
If you aren’t going deep into meditation, you’re most likely thinking it’s because you aren’t practicing the techniques correctly or you’re not good at it.
Both of those reasons are false. Because to have a deep meditation, you need to take certain steps before, during and after meditation that help you go deep. It’s not just about the time you spend on your meditation cushion — it has to do with your life, attitude, mental habits and how you approach your practice.
If you approach your practice as merely an item to be checked off, you’ll not get very far. When it’s time to meditate, you can’t just get up from your desk, sit down to meditate and have a great session.
The “warmup” or the “transition” period is important. Equally important is the transition from meditation to conscious activity. Both these transitions help to train the mind to retain meditative peace and make it easy to access it at will.
Let’s see how you can make these transitions smoother and your meditation practice deeper.
Before: Calm Your Breath
Breath is the cord that ties the soul to the body. Your body, mind, and breath are subtly connected. Influencing one also has an inevitable impact on the other.
When your body is relaxed, your mind is calm and your breath is long and deep. Similarly, when your mind is focused, your breath slows down, allowing you to focus on the task at hand.
In one of the most famous stanzas of the Bhagavad Gita (“Song of the Lord”), Arjuna says,
The mind is very restless, turbulent, strong and obstinate, O Krishna. It appears to me that it is more difficult to control than the wind. — Chapter 6, Verse 34
The “wind” that he mentions is our breath. When we control our breath, we can calm the body and the mind. Conscious breathing helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and downregulate the stress response.
So before you start meditating, take 5 minutes to sit in a comfortable posture. If your legs, back, or any other part is in pain, use a cushion to support it. Then try to consciously relax that body part. Remember, if the body keeps fidgeting, the mind will keep moving. So it’s crucial to be grounded firmly, yet comfortably in your posture.
Now, start breathing deeply keeping the inhalation, hold, and exhalation to the same count. When you exhale, inhale back again immediately. This is called even-count breathing. (There are many other breathing patterns you can follow but that’s off-topic. Even count breathing is one of the simplest and the most effective).
Start with only 4 counts on the inhalation, hold, and exhalation. Then increase the count if you feel like it. Let the breath be completely relaxed at all times without straining yourself or going out of breath.
As your breath regulates your mind will follow suit. With this, you’ll be much more ready for meditation than if you just plunged into it without any prelude.
Before: To Experience Joy, Meditate With Joy
So often meditation is sold as an austere practice where one has to sit for hours on end rising above pain, pleasure, happiness, and every other emotion. This outlook, I’m afraid, scares away more seekers than it attracts.
The goal of meditation is to find God — and God is not a being with a long, white beard sitting in the clouds. He’s the feeling of ever-new joy and bliss inside us. This is why in yoga, God is described as SatChitAnanda — ever-conscious, ever-existing, ever-new Bliss.
But this joy is not the reward, it’s the solution. When you meditate with joy, you experience joy more fully and frequently.
When the mind is joyful, it automatically becomes calmer and relaxed. Joy, however, is very different from excitement. Think back to a time when you felt grateful, safe, and content within yourself. That’s the feeling of joy which is the exact opposite of emotional excitement.
You can generate this feeling using prayer, chanting, being grateful, living in this present moment, and recalling the joy you experienced in previous meditation sessions.
Whatever you do, the key point here is this — you have to cultivate joy within yourself. Meditation will then puff that smoldering joy into flames of bliss.
Before: Intent to Go Deep
If you don’t intend to go deep in your practice, nothing magical will happen. Meditation just like anything else requires active participation and a relaxed application of willpower.
To affirm your intention, you can practice an affirmation. Here’s a sample affirmation for concentration taken from Affirmations for Self-Healing, by Swami Kriyananda
Whatever I do in life, I give it my full attention. Like a laser beam, I burn from before me all problems, all obstructions!
Using affirmations like this and others, you can develop your willpower and concentration gradually. These are key to having deeper meditations.
During: Don’t Judge Yourself
During mediation, it’s easy to get distracted by the hundreds of things that are going around you. Don’t worry, that’s the experience of every aspirant. The important thing is to not criticize yourself.
Getting distracted is fine. But getting distracted by judging yourself for getting distracted needs to be avoided. Training the mind is difficult and takes time. For most, it’s a lifelong process. So don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself.
On the other hand, know that with every advancement you make, there will be more joy, happiness, and bliss waiting for you.
During: Absorption, Not Concentration
The term concentration usually implies a person with frowned brows trying to crack a problem. What we’re aiming for in meditation, instead, is absorption. When we’re sitting still, absorbed in a meditative state, we automatically feel more joyful and happy.
When a child watches his favorite movie, he’s completely still because he’s absorbed in it. He forgets about pooping, eating, crying, and playing. Similarly, try to absorb your whole being into your object of focus, and from that will emerge everything you’re seeking.
After: Carrying The Meditative Peace
If you want the benefits and after-effects of meditation to truly persist in your life, then you need to take care of how you leave your meditation practice. This is how lasting change is created.
When the timer goes off, get out of your meditation in a relaxed, gentle manner. Don’t frantically rush like a runner on firing of a pistol. Come back to your body, check all your body parts and move them a little.
It’s also good to do something that will help you maintain this meditative peace for a longer time. This includes activities like walking, journalling, doing the dishes, driving, etc. Basically, you want to go for anything that doesn’t require much of your attention.
Walking meditation is one of my favorite ones. It helps to train the mind to hold on to the peace and calmness even while the whole body is moving. By training ourselves in such practices, we can learn to be calm in daily situations that are often challenging.
Retaining this peace for increasingly longer periods of time will make your future meditations deeper and make you enjoy the practice even more.
In summary, here are some of the things you can do to have deeper meditations:
- Before: Calm your breath
- Before: To experience joy, meditate with joy
- Before: Set an intention to go deep
- During: Don’t judge yourself
- During: Absorb yourself in your practice
- After: Learn to carry the meditative peace
As you take these steps, meditation will cease to merely be a practice, it will become a way of life. You will start to see everything in a new light aided by your blossoming intuition. The deeper you go, the deeper you’d want to go. It’s the kind of self-feeding loop you want to get yourself into.