How not to meditate

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I’m no meditation guru, and I can’t meditate for longer than 2 hours at a stretch. I’m just a humble monk 🙂 My mind wanders sometimes. But I’m slowly getting better – one step at a time. I teach meditation, and I talk about it. And I talk about it a lot. But I see that a lot of people get frustrated (and quit) because they have the wrong understanding. They’re not doing it right, and they think it doesn’t work. Now the question is – are you getting the most out of meditation? Before you learn how to meditate, it’s good to know how not to. And what it isn’t. Are you ready?
Why meditation is necessary

Ever been jet-lagged? How does it feel? It’s because your body hasn’t rested for a long time. Now think about the mind. It doesn’t rest during the day, neither does it rest at night. Because even though the body is resting, the mind is still working. And this happens every day…and night. For weeks, months, and years…

The two main categories of meditation

The first category of meditation is when you focus your mind on something. You visualise a scenario. Sometimes someone guides you through it. You try to engage your mind.

The second category of meditation is when you ignore the mind fully, and engage in something else. Like stare at a candle flame, or listen to a sound – more specifically, a mantra. When A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the Hare Krishna movement and the person who taught millions how to meditate was once told by a concerned student how his mind wandered while meditation, he replied (paraphrased)

Where is the question of mind? You chant the mantra, and you hear. Why bring the mind into this?

I personally prefer mantra meditation, the second category. It’s easier, and works better. For me at least.

Some things you need to know about meditation

If you’re trying too hard to focus, you’re doing something wrong: Meditation is meant to calm you down and make you feel relaxed. If you feel even more drained after meditation, it defies the point of doing it in the first place. Stop trying too hard.

At no stage in meditation will your mind completely stop wandering: Meditation is not meant to stop your mind from wandering. It’s just meant to make you feel relaxed. If your mind wanders, which it will, just bring it back. I’ts OK. The nature of the mind is to think, and to expect it to do something else does not make sense.

You can meditate even whilst walking: Sounds strange, huh? It did to me too when I started. But now, after meditating for at least 2 hours everyday for 6 years, I can tell you that meditation can work just as good even while you walk about. If you do sit down, sit in a reasonably comfortable posture. This means, it shouldn’t hurt when you’re sitting, but at the same time, you should be consciously supporting it. Don’t rest your back against the chair or wall. If you’re walking, choose a path where you don’t need to think of the path. Don’t walk in a busy street. Walk back and forth on a straight path, or walk in circles around a bush.

You can’t just do whatever the heck you want during the day and then just sit down and meditate. It won’t work: The quality of meditation during the 1 hour (for example) you do it depends very much on what you’ve been doing for the remaining 23 hours. Meditation is a lifestyle, not just something you do for an hour a day.

Do you meditate because you’re stressed out? It’s the worst time to do it: If you find difficult to focus your mind on something because you are stressed, you will find it difficult to focus your mind when you meditate as well. Listen to some relaxing music, go for a walk in nature, draw, paint, knit a sweater. Then come back and try again.

The best time to meditate is… before sunrise: According to the ancient yoga system, a day is divided according to the moon phases into 48 minute durations, each known as a muhurta. Two of these before sunrise is the best time to meditate, the yoga philosophy recommends. So that is 1 hour, 36 minutes before sunrise. Pretty early huh? But if you can’t do this, at least do it the first thing in the morning after you’ve taken a shower.

Are you a vegetarian? It helps: Even having garlic slows down your reaction time. That’s why many Boeing training schools don’t allow trainee pilots have it up to 24 hours before their flight lessons. Food has a direct effect on your consciousness. It affects how you think. It is the single most contributing factor to your personality. Get angry often? Feel confused? Stressed out? Life’s a mess? Don’t ask me how it works. Try it yourself. Be a vegetarian.

Don’t just meditate to be calm and peaceful: Trust me, it never works. It’s not a good enough drive, nor is it a strong purpose. Human emotions vary a lot. You will stop doing it after a while if this is your only reason. We should try to go deeper into understanding how everything we do in life affects everything else – and everyone else around us. Life has a higher purpose. Try to find it.

That’s not all. There are a lot more things I have to say. This is only a third of the list. But I’ll speak about them in another post. What are your thoughts? Do you meditate? Let me know in the comments below.

Radha Govinda has been living as a monk at Bhaktivedanta Manor for over 8 years now, and is a musician, motivational speaker and a writer. He likes sharing inspirational stories and wisdom from the ancient East and has a passion to encourage people to take up spritual practices. He holds a Master's degree in Mechatronics and worked in Control Systems engineering for Fluor before deciding to take up spiritual life full time as a monk in 2009. He now travels around the country sharing his experiences with people interested in yoga and spirituality.

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