H - An Introduction to Meditation
Meditation used to be an esoteric practice for spiritual growth,
but in recent years it has entered the mainstream and has become
diluted, distorted and sometimes overcomplicated. It is now commonly
used for stress relief and relaxation and is being promoted as a way
to bypass life's difficulties. It is being used to relieve the
symptoms of an ego-driven life, but it was originally intended to be
a way of dis-identifying with the ego-self and developing a deeper
connection with our true-Self. Meditation is not supposed to give us
a break from our troubles; it is supposed to help us connect with
the root cause of our troubles whilst simultaneously dis-identifying
with the beliefs that we are our troubles (e.g. I am angry, anxious
or depressed). Basically, meditation helps us to experience the
infinite nature of Self and the ephemeral nature of ego.
So what exactly is meditation? Meditation is practising
presence; it is practicing present-moment awareness; it is
experiencing what is arising without any judgement or agenda. It
is as simple as that. Hundreds of books have been written on how
to meditate but they are largely unnecessary, because meditation
is not something that we "do" – meditation is pure
it requires of us is to stop doing everything and just notice
what is occurring, within us and/or without. It is that simple,
but it is not that easy.
Undoing decades of conditioning is not easy. Stopping the
mind from analysing and judging is not easy. Stopping the
emotions from reacting to our thoughts is not easy. Stopping the
body from becoming restless or uncomfortable is not easy. The
good news is that we don't have to do any of that – we can just
let it all be. Perhaps the biggest misunderstanding about
meditation is that we have to be mentally, emotionally and
physically calm. This is not true. Trying to achieve it is
incredibly difficult and can result in a lot of unnecessary
frustration and suffering. Striving to achieve inner peace by
attempting to control the mind, heart and body can actually take
us further away from our goal. Meditation is all about letting
things be. If we stop resisting the mind, heart and body they
will quiet down naturally – not through our efforts, but through
our non-effort. Meditation is not about being calm or blissed
out; it is about being present and aware. Calmness and bliss are
not the goal, but they are often pleasant by-products.
It is the nature of the mind to think thoughts, form
associations and make judgements – they are its purpose for
being. Yet some people on the spiritual path try to quiet the
mind, repress the mind, or stop the mind in the hope that it
will allow them to become more spiritual. Actually, the problem
does not lie with the mind at all (which is just doing what it
is supposed to do); the "problem" is with our awareness. We do
not need to train our minds to become quieter; we need to train
our awareness to be less affected by and less identified with
the contents of mind. The same applies to our emotions and
desires. The mind must be allowed to think, the heart must be
allowed to emote and the body must be allowed to feel. Trying to
repress them is almost impossible, but noticing them with
conscious awareness and feeling them with conscious presence
stops them from getting out of control. The spiritual path is
not really about our physical, emotional and mental bodies; it
is primarily about developing and refining our soul body (or
Meditation is about observing, feeling and welcoming whatever
arises, even if what arises is resistance, boredom,
restlessness, mind-chatter, critical thoughts or all of the
above. If these things come up we simply notice them and feel
them without any agenda (to stop them) or judgement (about them
or about ourselves). Distracting thoughts and emotions are not
enemies that must be vanquished; they are wise teachers that we
can learn from. Whatever arises is an experience through which
our consciousness can grow and evolve; even if, on the face of
it, it seems unpleasant. That is just the ego's subjective view
– the Self is completely objective so it doesn't judge these
things as good or bad. The Self isn't interested in controlling
or changing things. The Self just wants to experience all that
life has to offer, "good" and "bad", and experience it fully.
Meditation is practicing being our Self.
Meditation involves observing and feeling with an open mind and an
open heart; without thinking, analysing, judging or trying to
change it. Meditation is noticing "what is" and surrendering to
"what is". Surrendering does not mean a passive detached
"whatever" attitude. Surrender means active and engaged presence
– it means being with it fully; not being absent.
Meditation is focused presence; not mindless absence. It is
not about being in a spaced out trance; it is about being
present (here and now), more than we are normally. Presence is
our natural state of being, but we have forgotten this because
we are too busy thinking and doing – we have forgotten how to
just be. Meditation helps us to return to our natural state; it
trains us to simply be.
Just stop for a few moments and simply be. In this still quiet
space, our false sense of self falls away; all of our troubles
fall away; there is no suffering – there is only being. Do that
24–7 and we can end all of our unnecessary suffering. Meditation
involves practicing this state of being so it becomes second
nature; so that it becomes our default state of being.
Meditation is practicing "being" – anything more complicated
than that and it is not meditation.
Many so-called meditations give the meditator (the ego-self)
a task to do, such as counting the breath or repeating a mantra.
These practices aren't actually meditation; they are a type of
mindfulness. Meditation is about "being", not "doing". It is
about identifying with the true-Self, not the ego-self.
Meditation is the practice of consciously "being" so it does not
involve "doing" anything. These other practices are fine, there
is nothing wrong with them, but they will not help us to
discover our true-Self.
Meditation isn't a means of achieve anything; it is merely a
way of realising presence and pure awareness. Meditation
involves noticing that pure awareness is present, feeling that
presence and being that presence. With meditation there is no
goal, so there is no expectation. If you expect that meditating
an hour a day for 20 years will take you to enlightenment, you
will almost certainly be disappointed because you are fixated on
an ego goal which is never going to lead you to your true-Self.
Meditation is not about trying to achieve pure awareness, nor
is it about practicing pure awareness (although it does involve
this). Meditation, in its purest sense, is simply being pure
awareness. It is about experientially knowing that we are pure
awareness. It is about "being" who we are as much as possible
and "doing" as little as possible. So don't try to manipulate
your experience in any way – just be with "what is".
I am going to build on the glass half full analogy to
describe what makes an effective meditation: A glass (our
awareness) that is half full of water (mind, emotions and body)
is also half full of air (soul). The contents of the glass
remain the same whether the water is still or unsettled, so
meditating to still the psyche (mind, emotions and body) is of
little benefit. The real benefit of meditation comes from
raising our awareness from the everyday level of the psyche to
the higher/subtler level of the soul (i.e. aligning with Self).
Admittedly this is easier when the psyche is still, but it is by
no means essential. It doesn't really matter if our mind,
emotions and body are all restless. If we sit in pure awareness
and simply notice the turmoil within us, without trying to
change it, we will benefit from the meditation. All meditation
is beneficial and effective, whether it feels like it or not. If
we meditate without any agenda, expectation or judgement, we
will reap the benefits whether we know it or not.
The Difference Between Meditation and Mindfulness
Mindfulness and meditation are highly beneficial practices:
mindfulness for personal development and meditation for
spiritual / transpersonal development. The main difference
between these two practices is where our attention is focused:
- Meditation: During meditation our attention is primarily
on the pure background awareness of our soul (the cinema
- Mindfulness: During mindfulness our attention is
primarily on the content of our mind (the moving pictures on
One of the goals of mindfulness is to clear and calm the
mind. This is not a goal of meditation because meditation has no
goals. However, by not focusing on the content of our minds we
are no longer encouraging the mind to keep bringing us more
content – so meditation does indirectly result in a clearer and
The Benefits of Meditation
Meditation has been the central practice in almost every
spiritual and religious tradition for thousands of years, and
will quite rightly continue to be so for millennia to come.
Regular meditation will enrich your life, develop your
consciousness and cultivate abilities that will benefit you now
and in the future. Some of the direct and indirect benefits of
meditation are listed below:
Figure 20: The Benefits of Meditation
The presence, pure awareness and essential qualities that we
cultivate in our daily meditation practice gradually percolate
through into our daily lives. Being present and surrendering to
"what is" is a lifelong practice – in meditation and in life.
Posture and Timing
Meditation is primarily a mental (mind) and spiritual (soul)
practice, so physical (body) posture is of secondary importance.
The only things that matter about meditation posture are that
you are comfortable and stable, with an erect spine. Here are a
- Seated: Sit on a straight-backed chair, with your hips
slightly higher than your knees (so as not to strain your
back), and your back not leaning against the chair back (to
keep you from getting sleepy).
- Cross-legged or kneeling: on a zafu, cushion or folded
blanket on the floor.
- Standing: with feet shoulder-width apart and knees very
slightly bent (not locked).
- Lying: on a rug or yoga mat on the floor (not a sofa or
bed because you will get sleepy). Small cushions can be used
under your head and/or knees if that is more comfortable.
Relax any areas of tension, tightness or clenching in your
body. A quick scan of your body from top to bottom can help you
identify areas of tension. Tension is common in the brow, jaw,
tongue, shoulders and buttocks. Keeping your chin tucked in
slightly helps to ensure the spine remains erect and reduces
back strain. The eyes can be closed, half-closed or open,
depending on your preference and the type of meditation.
Whatever posture you choose to adopt, if you encounter any
physical pain, change your position. We don't want to hurt
ourselves or be distracted from our practice. Some mild
discomfort or numbness may be experienced. If it is not too
distracting it can be used as the object of the meditation, i.e.
move your awareness into the area of discomfort and feel it as
fully as you can. Don't just notice it from your head (that will
make it feel worse than it is); actually move your Presence into
the area so that you become one with it, without judgement or
Meditate for an allotted time period, and ensure you
will not be disturbed for that time period. Start with 10
minutes and increase it by 5 minutes a month until you reach 30
or 60 minutes. Don't use an ordinary alarm clock or a kitchen
timer because they are too harsh an ending to the meditation.
Suggested options include:
- Buy a dedicated meditation timer or
- Set a vibrating timer on your smartphone.
- Download a meditation timer app onto your smartphone.
- Place a
clock in front of you. Use your judgement to estimate how much
time you have been meditating. Gently open your eyes and check
the clock when you think the time is up. If not, close your eyes
and continue meditating.
When the time is up, easy yourself out
of the meditation by expanding your awareness out into the room
before gently opening your eyes. Take in the room with all your
senses while still maintaining your body awareness, and carry
this living presence into the rest of your day.
Difficulties and Distractions
Don't get frustrated by distractions because the attention
you give them will actually reinforce them and make them more
difficult to overcome – just let them "be" and they will
eventually fade away. Don't beat yourself up for getting
distracted because that will take you back to your ego (or
super-ego) and away from your soul. The following points will
help your meditations to flow more smoothly; with fewer
difficulties and distractions:
- Before You Begin: Ask if there
are any parts (exiles or protective ego structures) that want to
be seen or heard before you begin. If so, invite them to share
their concerns. Listen to them compassionately and reassure them
as best you can. Tell them that you are only going to meditate –
you are not trying to stir anything up – you just want to
meditate to develop your consciousness. Ask them to give you
some space so that you can sit quietly and just watch your inner
world. Let them know that they are welcome to keep an eye on
things, but you would appreciate it if they did not interfere or
try to distract you.
- During The Meditation: If a distraction
arises during a meditation, and you get a sense that it is being
caused by a part (exile or protector), ask it to share its
concerns with you. Listen to it, reassure it and ask it to give
you some space while you finish your meditation. You can also
ask it if it would like to talk to you again after the
meditation (or at a convenient time) so that you can get to know
each other some more (and work on healing and reintegrating it).
If you make an agreement like this, please stick to it because
developing trust is an essential element of the healing and
- Persistent Thoughts & Emotions: If you
notice a persistent thought, emotion or body sensation, stay
with it, experience it as fully as possible and see if it has
anything to show you. This could be a perfect opportunity for
doing a self-inquiry (see Section 1 of Chapter 4).
- Distracting Thoughts: Meditation involves
noticing "what is" without resisting it, so don't try to stop
your thoughts (it won't work anyway). If your thoughts are
active, that is perfectly fine – just notice them. The very act
of noticing them may quiet them down, but it may not. It doesn't
matter either way; so drop the belief that you need a quiet mind
and accept "what is". The next point may be helpful with this.
- Mind Chatter: Imagine that your field of awareness is the size
of a football stadium. Mind chatter is the equivalent of a small
radio playing in a far corner of the stadium. It seems loud and
distracting when you focus your awareness directly on the radio.
But if you de-focus our awareness and spread it out to fill the
entire stadium you will barely notice it. So spread your
awareness throughout your body (and beyond) to reduce the
significance of mind chatter.
- Can't Concentrate: Drop the belief
that meditation requires a focussed, still and quiet mind. This
is a false belief and a judgement – both of which are activities
of the ego. Meditation is about transcending the ego and
connecting with your soul's presence and pure awareness. Just
say the word "presence" when you notice that you've lost
concentration or have been distracted. Then expand your
awareness to feel your entire body (with presence) and continue
- Boredom: If you meditate dutifully and
mechanically you are bound to get bored because you are in the
wrong state of mind. Meditation should be done with a sense of
aliveness and innocence because you are connecting with
something truly authentic and wondrous. Boredom is a consequence
of your ego's expectations – if you don't have any expectations
or agenda you have no idea what will happen next. You will be
completely open to anything, and that is what meditation about –
opening and expanding your consciousness. It is about moving
from the closed, predictable, rigidity of the ego to the
openness, aliveness and wonderment of the soul.
- Sleepiness: If
you feel tired or sleepy before meditating, don't meditate –
wait until you are more alert. If you become sleepy during a
meditation, the usual advice is to stand up and continue
meditating and/or keep your eyes half open. But you can actually
use the sleepy symptoms (e.g. heavy eyes and detached
consciousness) as the focus of your meditation. You may find
that if you stay with these sensations and feel them fully your
meditation will become more focused and you will become more
- Restlessness: A restless mind and/or body doesn't have to
affect your meditation. You can just "be", no matter what is
going is going on, internally or externally. The purpose of
meditation is to dissociate from the content of your awareness
and associate with being that awareness. However, it can help to
do 5-10 minutes of moderate exercise about 30 minutes before
your meditation to burn off any excess energy.
- Itches: If you
become aware of an itch, just noticing it with your mind will
probably drive you crazy. The itch will intensify and before
long you will just have to scratch it. But if you move your
awareness into the area of the itch and feel it fully, you will
probably find that you are better able to deal with it. By fully
feeling the itch you will not be mentally judging it as a source
of irritation – you will just be noticing a body sensation,
which makes it easier to tolerate. Your soul's presence may
soothe the itch and allow it to fade away. But if it doesn't,
just give it a good scratch, because itches fall into the
category of "change what you cannot accept" (as opposed to
"accept what you cannot change"). Bear in mind that you may be
subconsciously creating these distractions to avoid meditating.
If you sense this may be the case, you will have to assert your
will and persevere through it. Maintaining your
presence/awareness in the sensation and feeling it fully,
without thinking about it too much, generally makes it easier to
- Pain & Discomfort: The above
principles also apply to physical pain and discomfort. A
physical pain might just be telling you to change your body
position to a more comfortable one. If this is the case,
listen to it and do something about it. But if the
discomfort is tolerable, feel into it as fully as possible –
move your awareness to its location of the pain and engage
with it. It is just a part of you that wants some attention.
If it doesn't quiet down inquire into it to find out what it
is trying to tell you. Mild discomforts can often be eased
by spreading your awareness throughout your entire body,
which will take your focus off the discomfort.
- Energy Blockages: You may
become aware of some subtle sensations (e.g. dense, cold,
uneasy, irritated, sticky, clogged or heavy) in certain areas
your body. These blockages are the energetic component of ego
structures, exiles and holes. They impede the natural flow of
consciousness through that area of the body and can put our
entire system out of balance. If you notice a blockage, move
your awareness into it, feel it fully and express loving
acceptance. Try to get a sense of what it is about, but don't
resist it, try to change it or want it gone. Alternatively, if
you don't want to turn your meditation into a healing
session or a self-inquiry, you can simply notice the
blockage and continue with your meditation.
States: Not all distractions are unpleasant. If you experience a
blissful state or a spiritual phenomenon whilst meditating,
enjoy it by all means, but don't cling to it. Simply notice it,
feel it, allow it to be and allow it pass.
- After the
Meditation: If the meditation didn't go as well as you would
have liked, don't be too hard on yourself – that will just take
you further away from where you want to be. Drop the false
beliefs that meditation must be peaceful and that you must do it
perfectly. Drop all your agendas (inner peace, healing, psychic
powers, enlightenment, etc.) and just allow yourself to "be".
There is no right or wrong; there is only "what is".
- No Improvement: If your meditations don't seem to
even after several weeks, don't let it worry you – it is still
having a beneficial effect. Just accept that this is the way
things are for now and know that it will "improve" in good time.
Sometimes you just need to demonstrate your determination and
resolve to stick at it. The path to awakening is not easy, and
these early challenges separate the wheat from the chaff. Your
Self won't allow you to enter the path if you are not truly
prepared to follow through.
- The Best Advice: The next
time you sit down to meditate, don't try to be calm and still –
just ask yourself "Is stillness here now?" Then allow yourself
to feel the answer – don't go looking for it with the mind –
feel it in your body. You will probably discover that the
inherent stillness of your soul will reveal itself naturally.
You can do the same for peace, happiness, fulfilment, etc. We
don't need to go looking for these things because they are
already here – we are them. Tuning into the body disengages the
meditator (the ego-mind) and allows us to feel the presence of
these qualities within us.
Some steadfast meditators may not
agree with my suggestions about allowing a meditation to become
a self-inquiry or a healing session. But if the opportunity is
there to discover more of ourselves or heal and reintegrate a
part of our consciousness, we should not ignore it. Life
provides us with all the opportunities we need to develop our
consciousness, and all the clues to discover what is holding us
back, but it is up to us to decide whether we want to take those opportunities or
Two Types of Meditation
There are two main types of meditation:
- Form or Object
Meditation: It involves concentrating on an "object", e.g. the
breath, the body, an essential quality, a candle flame, a
mandala (image) or a chant (e.g. OM). This type of meditation
trains the mind. It requires the mind to concentrate on one
thing to the exclusion of everything else. Concentrating on the
object of our meditation means there is little room in the mind
for anything else. Strictly speaking, object meditation is not
true meditation because it focusses on the content, not the
background pure awareness – so in that respect it is more like
- Formless or Objectless Meditation: There is no
object for the mind to concentrate on so our attention shifts to
the pure awareness of the soul and we connect with our
true-nature. It is simply being, and noticing whatever arises.
Sometimes we will encounter a warm and loving sense of unity,
other times we will experience a refreshingly cool and clear
sense of emptiness with an underlying peace. In this highly
receptive state we may even receive insight, intuition or
inspiration. This is true meditation.
It is useful to include
both types of meditation in our daily practice. Form meditation
is the ideal practice to lead us into formless meditation. The
following meditation includes both form and formless elements.
- Get comfortable, close your eyes (or half close them) and
- Take three slow deep breaths to release any
stress or muscle tension. Fill your lungs completely by pushing
your belly out on the in-breath then allow the lungs to empty
- Expand your awareness to encompass your entire body.
Notice any tension, tightness or clenching and relax as much as
- With your awareness still in your body, turn your
attention to your breath. Feel the rise and fall of your
ribcage. Feel the coolness of the air flowing into your nostrils
and the warmth of the air flowing out. (FORM)
- If your mind is
restless or if you want to develop your concentration, try
counting your breath for a few minutes. Silently count
(inhale-exhale) 1, (inhale-exhale) 2, (inhale-exhale) 3,
(inhale-exhale) 4, (inhale-exhale) 5, (inhale-exhale) 6,
(inhale-exhale) 7, (inhale-exhale) 8, (inhale-exhale) 9,
(inhale-exhale) 10. Then return to 1 and repeat for as many
cycles as you wish (5 minutes is good). If you lose
concentration or get distracted just return to the practice and
start counting from 1 again. (FORM)
- Return your attention to
simply watching the breath for a few minutes (i.e. stop
counting). Allow your breathing to occur naturally, without
trying to control it or change it. Notice if it feels steady or
uneven – it doesn't matter either way, it just helps to keep you
focussed and present. (FORM)
- Release your focus from the breath
and notice if you are still aware of your entire body. If not,
expand your awareness to encompass your entire body. Feel the
palpable presence of your soul in your body. (FORM to FORMLESS)
- If you can, expand your field of awareness slightly beyond your
body (into your aura). The body is no longer the object of your
- The Self may subtly reveal its warm and
loving (or cool and clear) presence. Stay with it for as long as
- Optional – At this point you can incorporate
additional elements into your meditation:
- Meditate on an
essential quality to help embody it.
- Contemplate a question or
concept to develop insight.
- Scan your body for energetic
blockages then feel into them with presence.
- Inquire into a
- Contemplate the true nature of reality or
- When you are finished, slowly open your eyes and
incorporate the room/environment into your field of
awareness. Give yourself time to adjust from a purely
internal focus to an integrated internal and external focus.