We look at some basic aspects to consider when you are starting out or in!), including how to find the right method for you; when to meditate, where… and more.
Let’s look at the practical aspects first…
Which method to choose?
There are many techniques to choose from (Maneesha has a repertoire of something in the region of 500!). Our website provides a varied and growing selection of meditations for all phases of life. See Meditation Methods. In addition, look through Osho’s Meditation: The First and Last Freedom or Pharmacy for the Soul.
We are all unique: a method that suits you may not work so well for your friend and vice versa. Not only that: a method that works for you now, you may well outgrow some months down the line, just as a method that doesn’t ‘fit’ you might suddenly seem just right a year later.
There is nothing sacrosanct about meditation techniques. They are simply scientifically devised ‘tools’ with which to experiment. So feel free to try out different methods until you find one that clicks with you – more than once. For example, if you like the sound of certain technique, try it for a week. By the seventh day you will know whether it feels right for you. See also Choosing a Meditation Method.
When to meditate?
What works for your personal lifestyle? For example, if you only have the evenings free, OSHO Dynamic would not be appropriate: it’s specifically designed to wake up the whole body-mind system! Also factor in how long you have each day: an hour? Forty minutes?
If you are doing a method that requires you set aside a certain time of your day, try to keep that time only for your meditation. Then it becomes a part of your natural rhythm. It is just like establishing a gym routine: your body-mind becomes familiar with the routine and will support your practice.
If you are choosing a passive method, such as Vipassana, opt for when your energy is highest. Some of us are ‘morning people’; others start to wake up in the evening. You will be less likely to fall asleep if you meditate either before a meal or at least an hour after you’ve eaten.
For how long?
Though this site features a bunch of techniques in ‘Meditation Methods‘, it is not suggested that you change your meditation on a daily basis. That would be like drilling for oil: if you drill a few centimetres here, and a few over there, then try a third place, you won’t achieve anything. Choose one place and ‘drill’ there, constantly and regularly, and your meditation will have greater impact.
So, once you’ve found a method you feel a resonance with, practise it regularly for 12 weeks (it takes that time to penetrate the unconscious). Then, if you feel to, continue with it; alternatively drop it, and experiment with a new method.
Choose one, at the most two, techniques to do on a daily basis, and best to have one active and one passive. Continuity is important. Unlike when you are on a diet and it’s OK to forget to stick to your regime for the occasional meal, unless you have come to the point where the meditation has completed its work in you, to miss your meditation is to undo the weeks of work you have already done.
It’s like heating water: up to 99 degrees it is still water and if you stop there it will cool down and you will have to re-heat it. But if you persevere to one hundred degrees, then the water takes a quantum leap and is transformed into vapour.
‘The same happens with meditation,’ Osho points out. ‘You go on accumulating it; it is cumulative. You do it every day – you go on accumulating a subtle energy in your being. It comes higher and higher and higher: ninety degrees, ninety-nine degrees. If you stop even then, it will disappear. It will be dissipated because the whole life is non-meditative and it is easily destroyed.
‘The whole world is non-meditative. The people you will be meeting, working with, talking to, are all non-meditative. When you carry a high energy, people who are not that high simply suck you – unknowingly. It is just as if there is water – it will start flowing downwards. All energies move downward. People are just like valleys. It is natural that your energy starts flowing towards them. Their level is lower than yours.
‘Hence regularity is very very significant. Otherwise you create something and if you think “Now I have created enough; I am feeling very good’, for a few days you will feel good, but then again the energy will be lost.” ‘
Where to meditate?
Many methods – and again Breath Watching is relevant here – do not need any special place or time. And for those that do, though it is not strictly necessary it can be helpful to set aside a certain place in your home, perhaps a corner somewhere, just for meditation. (Of course, if you are travelling or being moved from home to hospital or from ward to ward, you will need to adapt the meditation you practise accordingly).
At home you might use a cushion, a particular chair or meditation stool. You might also like to create a particular ambience there by having a vase of flowers, or perhaps some fragrance, a candle or an image. It’s advisable NOT to meditate in your bed. That’s associated with sleep and meditation is about waking up!
Is music needed? What about incense?
It’s not an essential requirement; on the other hand some people find that music can help them stay on track when their awareness tends to wander. If you do find it helpful choose ambient music – that is, non-intrusive, instrumental, and non-rhythmic – and keep that track or those tracks only for your meditation. Similarly, if you use a certain fragrance when you meditate, keep it just for this occasion.
Then that music and/or fragrance becomes linked in your unconscious to meditation. By and by, as soon as you hear your meditation music or smell that certain meditative aroma, you will begin to move away from your outer world and to drop more easily and more deeply into the inner one. When you create your own space, with flowers, fragrance and music, for example, you are creating outer props that support your intention to meditate and your practice itself.
How to Dress?
You’ll feel more comfortable in loose clothing that does not restrict the flowing of your energy in any way. You might like to always wear a certain garment each time you meditate. As with your chosen music or fragrance, the more often it is used for your meditation, the stronger will be the association between your clothing and entering your inner world. The garment will become imbued with that energy.
Though you can use all potential disturbances in your meditative practice, especially in the beginning it doesn’t hurt to minimise them as best you can. If you live with others, let them know you are taking some time for yourself, and that you don’t want to be disturbed. You might want to put a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door, or to close or lock the door. Turn off your telephone.
In the sitting methods, or for methods that have a sitting stage, you’ll find it easier to be alert and aware if your spine is erect, because then you are assisted by gravitation. A ‘floor chair’ can be helpful. (See Meditation Chairs)
If the posture suggested for your method is not comfortable – thereby creating a constant distraction – adjust your body so that you can be comfortable without falling asleep. (If you do fall asleep when meditating, no need to feel guilty about it. It takes a little while to learn how to be both deeply relaxed and simultaneously aware. If you constantly fall asleep you might want to change the time you practise to when you are more alert.)
Now, let’s turn to the Psychological Preparation
Remember to enter your meditative practice without the expectation of any result. Just be content to enjoy the time of meditation in itself, for itself. Results will come, but only if you’re not demanding that they do. Remember, demand will create tension in you. Create a climate of receptivity, openness, and relaxation. Then be willing to wait forever.
Take it playfully!
Part of the pleasure package in meditation is not taking things seriously. Be total in what you do and stay playful too. As the Taoists say: Easy is right!
The paradox is that though meditation is a great resource for change on all levels, focussing on getting a result will get in the way. The best approach is to be open and to accept with gratefulness whatever happens – or doesn’t! That easy-going attitude means that you are relaxed – and being consciously relaxed is what it’s all about.
As with any other activity we want to introduce into our lives, meditating does take a conscious intention and a commitment. So, at least initially, meditating is a discipline – just as is flossing your teeth or going to the gym. However, when you begin to feel its benefits, meditating will be something you want to do!
To continue the analogy with working out, continuity is good. If you feel that now you are feeling much better so you’ll stop meditating, that feeling might continue for a few days but then again the meditative energy will be lost – see also above section For how long? [link]. However, if circumstances are such that you have to put your practice on hold, then just pick it up again when you can.
And: the method of Breath Watching you can practise anywhere at any time. For example, waiting in your doctor’s surgery or on a trolley for an operation.
Meditating alone or with others
Meditating with others can be enjoyable. Yet it’s important to be self-motivating – to create and stay committed to your own routine.
Look at it this way: To lose weight you can join an exercise class at gym or a group of fellow weight watchers at a weekly meeting. That support is helpful, but for the rest of the time it’s up to you to eat sensibly. If you want results you have to meet the challenges of each moment’s temptations alone!
Being independent in your meditation will be particularly helpful in situations such as being admitted to hospital.
How to know if I’m making progress?
The great advantage of meditating is that, just as when you work out at a gym, results can become evident quickly. If you practise a meditative method one day, the fragrance, however faint, will be there. Given time, of course, the benefits will become more noticeable. Just as when you take the appropriate medicine your pain begins to disappear, if you’ve chosen the right method for yourself, the result is soon evident. See also Choosing a Meditation Method.
When to stop a method?
Just as different paths can be climbed to reach the top of a mountain, the various methods are designed, in their own particular way, to help you reach the state of meditativeness. The recommendation is to practise a meditation method for three months. It takes that time to penetrate the unconscious. Once this has happened, you might want to continue with it or to start with a new method.
The Urban Buddha
By and by you will be able to bring the qualities of relaxed awareness into your daily life. That’s ‘meditation in action’!
A friend recently wrote that she ‘resides in Mumbai, where life is extremely fast and competitive and where one is constantly surrounded by noise 24/7.’ She asked, ‘Could you please guide me as to how to watch thoughts more consciously and become more alert yet not get affected?’
Her situation almost certainly reflects that of most of us. The suggestion? Start watching through a daily, passive method, such as Vipassana, where all stimuli is minimised. As you become more adept at noticing the passing physical sensations, thoughts, and feelings, then experiment outside your formal practice. Perhaps while you are showering or making your bed; then in a more complex activity, such as cooking. Then experiment with witnessing in social situations, starting with a friend, for example, in your home or theirs; then with the world at large.
Urban Buddhas may need baby steps!
Whenever you lose awareness, as soon as you notice that, forgive yourself and continue!
A method is only a device to use until you have discovered the knack of being meditative wherever you are or whatever you are doing. When meditation has become a quality in you, something as intrinsic as breathing, that’s the time to drop the methods.
Remaining in the space of relaxed awareness is not a method: it is our nature!
‘Meditation is good, it is medicinal. A medicine is needed when you are ill. When you are healthy, the medicine has to be transcended.’
(Osho: The Search)
One of the purposes of this website is to support you as a self-sufficient meditator. So, do make use of all the resources that we provide! If you need help in choosing a method or have questions about your meditative practice please contact us!