How to Enhance Your Meditation Practice
The sound of the conch shell filled the air, as I chanted the first syllable of AUM at a chanting session last week.
The session was designed and conducted by a course mate, when he was going through a low phase in his life. Chanting AUM, or the universal sound, in a particular format helped him overcome his mental angst, and take him to a place of calm and self-acceptance.
Meditation, in some form or the other, has helped many in their individual pursuits of peace. Troubled, restless, and anxious minds are almost always advised to meditate for a few moments a day.
And, there are a host of meditation techniques one can use depending on the stage of meditation, or your personality type. If you are a social person, you can attend guided group meditations or group chanting sessions… They will help you stay connected to people, and still reach within.
If you are an introvert, with fairly good concentration, you can develop your own daily meditation practice. Every meditation session can use a different object or subject of focus — this can be a visualisation of an object like a real flickering candle that you set up at eye level, or it can be a visualisation of your personal God or symbol you believe in, done with your eyes closed.
My daily practice lasts for 30–40 minutes, it starts with some chanting, moves into a few stretches, then some breathing exercises, and finally 7–10 minutes of deep concentration or meditation focused on one body part.
Through the years, I have realised that a few tools can aid the meditation practice. Some of them are listed below:
Breath awareness: The most basic meditation practice starts with simply observing your breath… This could be your regular inhalation or exhalation, or by observing the air below your nostrils. Just focusing on that spot above your upper lip, and watching how fast or slow your breath is, takes your mind away from thoughts.
Sound awareness: We may think that sounds distract us, but they can actually take the focus away from our thoughts. Concentrating on one sound in your surrounding, and following that sound for a couple of minutes, can be deeply relaxing. Once done, you can start moving your focus to another sound and then another, gradually including everything in your awareness without getting hassled by sound...simply listening with no judgement.
Time awareness: Initially, even a few minutes of meditation may seem like an eternity, as you struggle to keep your concentration intact, and your mind empty of all thought. But as the practice continues, over days and months, the experience of time becomes relative…you lose track of how long its been. Thus, in the start time awareness helps you disconnect from your thoughts, while later on time awareness helps you reconnect with yourself.
Visualisation: It always helps to visualise something while meditating, this could be anything of your choice… This could even be a time in your life when you were happy, or a place you’ve been to, or an object of worship, like an idol or symbol. A story or a guided visualisation help transport you to another time and place, and instil feelings of happiness and calm. Focusing on the energy centres, or chakras, can also help energise the body and mind.
Concentration: Before deep meditation comes concentration, sometimes interrupted, sometimes prolonged… But as a meditator, the key is to be aware of when that concentration is lost, and to bring your attention back to it. Meditation is that awareness of the mind and its movement, and knowing when to harness it back, and bring it to stillness.
Stillness: The body tends to fidget or move when in a meditative posture. To ensure there is minimum movement, stretch before you sit for a meditation session. Simple neck and shoulder exercises can help release any tension in that area. A regular practice of yoga, will go a long way in your meditation practice, because yoga was essentially developed to help the yogi sit still for hours of meditation.
Peaceful Environment: It’s difficult to find a peaceful environment in our busy cities — construction sounds, kitchen appliances, doorbells and phone bells distract us. But we can try and create an environment that is conducive to the meditation practice. For example, switch off your phones, shut your room door, use the same room to meditate as it helps to restart from where you left off, use a meditation mat (if you sit on the floor), light a candle, or blow a conch shell… All these rituals will help you get into a meditative state faster.
Commitment: Meditation is not an event, it is a lifestyle. When you start meditating, you have to keep at it, for as long as you can. Of course, the occasional holiday will come in, and there will be the odd busy day when you ‘just didn’t get the time’. But if you put meditation at the centre of your day, you will always have time for it. Because when the mind is calm and still, every other activity will take lesser time, and can be conducted with greater precision and clarity.
Meditation is a personal and individual form of expression… You can make it as creative as you like, but its end goal is to produce a stillness, a calm, and greater receptivity to everything life has to offer.
What are your meditation tools, and how has meditation helped you become a better version of yourself? Share your experiences in the comment box below. And, if you liked the story, do share, applaud or follow Pink Pinjra for more!