In order to meditate effectively, a sufficient degree of concentration is required, and is one reason why this extremely important ability should be practiced as frequently as possible by learning the correct and most appropriate meditation techniques.
Without adequate powers of concentration it will be very difficult indeed to adequately silence the Mind and therefore to achieve anything worthwhile, and so concentration is an ability well worth practicing.
It is very important to meditate sitting in a totally upright position with your spine completely straight. Meditation techniques cannot be learned by reclining or even leaning back in a comfortable chair. If sitting on a chair during meditation it is best to sit totally upright, spine absolutely vertical on a hard backed chair, a dining chair for example, with your legs and knees firmly together and your hands palms down on your thighs.
Alternatively sitting cross-legged on the floor, totally upright with spine totally straight is also an excellent position for meditation. It is not necessary however to formally place yourself into an exotic position such as the full or half Lotus, but you may of course do so if you wish.
It is fine in the very early stages to sit on a pillow to make yourself more comfortable, but never sit with your back against the backrest of a chair or indeed against any other support; your back and therefore your spine must be absolutely straight and totally unsupported. Your hands should be positioned with your palms facing downwards and resting lightly on your thighs.
I am often asked whether it is possible to use meditation techniques while lying down on a bed. Well the answer is yes; it is possible to meditate while lying on a bed, but not always advisable. The main reason for not meditating while lying on a bed is the risk of falling asleep. The bed is associated by your subconscious mind with "sleep", and as soon as you lie down the chances are that your subconscious mind will then automatically place you in the sleep state which of course is not conducive to meditation.
It is however quite possible to separate meditation techniques from sleep by telling your subconscious mind that this is a time for meditation rather than sleep. In order to assist this process it is a good idea to do something differently to your regular sleep time that your subconscious mind can associate with meditation. This might for example be removing the pillows so you are lying absolutely flat on the bed. You could light a candle or burn your favorite incense, the emphasis of course being on safety. Do not burn anything that can be knocked over or could otherwise be a safety risk in any way. The important thing here is to separate meditation time from sleep time in your subconscious Mind. If you can do this then lying down is fine.
Of course you need not lie on a bed. To separate meditation from sleep you can place something on the floor or better still lie down on the hard floor.
I am also asked why it is necessary to keep the spine erect while using meditation techniques. There are various reasons for this. The reason most frequently given is to aid the Energy flow. While this might be true to a point; specifically within the energy meridians of your Energy body itself, we must also dispel one common misunderstanding in that Energy somehow comes down from "above", enters through the crown of the head, sometimes known as the "crown chakra", and then travels down through the body eventually leaving at the feet.
It is of course quite possible, using the powers of the mind, to guide Energy in this way, but it is certainly not "natural". The Source of all Energy is The Source in absolute terms, and The Source is within us and not external to us either above or below or anywhere else. We are all an integral aspect and therefore extension of The Source, and the Source is within, not without.
So when we are drawing Energy into ourselves as for example for healing, we imagine the Energy being provided from The Source which is within. That said, Energy is all around us physically as well, and we can therefore concentrate Energy from around us, and "breath" that Energy into ourselves, thereby accumulating it.
It is a good idea to meditate in the same place and at the same time of day where you will not be disturbed. Although such items as candles, incense and other materials are not at all strictly required, you might very well find them, as with mediating while lying down, to be useful in setting the specific meditative mood and focusing of your Mind on the state of meditation. By using for example certain scented candles or incense, these will become associated with your meditation time and might therefore assist you in reaching the required level of Consciousness and relaxation more quickly and effectively. This is a matter of personal choice entirely.
The next stage in the meditation techniques process is to perform some deep breathing exercises, in order to help you to achieve the required level of relaxation, and to help you to focus your Mind away from mundane matters. Breathing in for a slow count of five, holding your breath for a slow count of five, and breathing out for a further slow count of five is excellent for helping to achieve a good level of relaxation before commencing meditation. Repeat this five times initially, and more if you feel it is beneficial.
While performing the breathing exercises you can also imagine inhaling pure, glowing or sparkling white light, and exhaling through your nose grey light containing any tension or negativity stored in your body.
When you are totally relaxed and use all of your powers of concentration to empty your Mind of all thoughts; only a complete vacancy of Mind should prevail. Should you have difficulty in achieving this immediately at first, you can reach this state of concentration and state of Consciousness in stages over time. It really does not matter how many sessions it takes to achieve the total vacancy of Mind state, but reach it you must in order to be able to meditate effectively, and the sooner the better. The previously discussed concentration exercises are an excellent way of achieving complete vacancy of Mind, and I strongly recommended that you complete the concentration exercises before commencing the formal practice of meditation.
To commence with your meditation assume your chosen meditation position, attain the necessary degree of deep physical relaxation by performing the breathing exercises and then begin to observe your thoughts as they pass through your Mind. It is very important not to participate in these thoughts, tempting though it might be, but to merely be a passive observer, acknowledging the thoughts as they occur but then allowing them to simply drift by without further involvement. Again, it is most important not to attach yourself to any thought and become involved with it. Continue this exercise for as long as you can but ideally for at least ten minutes each day; at least thirty minutes each day being your ideal objective. When you first commence this exercise you might be besieged with thoughts, particularly if you have not practiced the concentration exercises first, and it is strongly suggested that you do, however from session to session the number of thoughts will diminish until they finally become few and far between.
This might well only take a week or might take several weeks or even months depending on your individual circumstances and levels of relaxation, concentration and focus. You can reinforce this process throughout the day by pursuing the same procedure as suggested for part of the concentration exercises, only thinking about what you are doing at any particular moment in time. Do not allow any extraneous thoughts to enter your head and interfere with your current task. For example, if you are driving your car, think only about driving your car and do not allow your Mind to wander to other unrelated matters. The same applies for any activity whether it be shopping, your job of work, cooking a meal and so on. Always focus exclusively on the task in hand to the total exclusion of all other thoughts. This will assist greatly in thought control and strengthen your powers of concentration while practicing your meditaion techniques.
In part 3 of this series, we will discuss the process of meditation itself and what can be achieved during this process.
It is worth noting that during a state of meditation you are in a state of greatly expanded awareness. During your normal, everyday waking state your brainwaves are operating at a relatively high frequency, and you are focused very much on physical matters. This of course is required in order to function safely and effectively in the physical world. This state is not of much use however for communicating with the world within. The more we slow our brainwaves the more we expand our consciousness in the direction of the realms within.
Part 1 Introduction to Meditation
Part 3 Yoga Meditation