Beginners Meditation

Meditation Made Easy
by Swami Shankarananda

Introduction: What is Meditation?
In the words of Sri Yogiar S.A.A. Ramaiah, “Meditation is the scientific art of mastering the mind”. This means that meditation is a state of great Divine Awareness attained by simply stilling movement in and out of the mind, and developing single-pointed concentration. It is a Divine Journey to the inner altar of the Self.

To attain such a state through meditation, you need to unlearn many of the learned habits and attitudes that prevent you from experiencing the most natural state of Bliss and Eternal Happiness. By unlearning these habits, eliminating mental restlessness and stilling the mind becomes easy.

Meditation cannot be successful while you are thinking deeply, but is only possible when thinking stops. For a good meditation experience, you need commitment. It is not a passive practice. Pleasant daydreams are not part of the meditation process and should be discarded as soon as they surface.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says, “Even a little practice of this inward religion, will save one from dire fears and colossal sufferings”.

Before you settle down to meditate, posture must be checked. You should be relaxed and comfortable, seated in the lotus posture, or cross-legged, or if this is difficult for you, upright on a chair or stool with your back straight and feet flat on the ground in front of you. It is possible to meditate while lying on the back, but it is discouraged because most people tend to fall asleep instead.

The important thing is to keep the spine erect so that the energy centres along the spine (chakras) are in alignment. Be aware of the sensation flowing in the brow area, between the eyebrows. If you want, play soft meditation music in the background, or a guided meditation recording, to prevent distraction from outside sounds.

Commit yourself to regular practice, maintaining a regular schedule. To start, regularity in meditation is more important than duration. Keep this daily appointment with the Infinite sincerely, and without fail. Always choose the most suitable time for your practice. You should be in a clean and comfortable place that is quiet and where you will not be disturbed by the movement and noise of others. Make this place your sanctuary. The same time should be observed for meditation every day.

Remember: meditation is conscious intentional practice for bliss.

Method for Beginners

Step One
Once you are seated and comfortable in your sanctuary, silently recite a simple prayer or affirmation, for example: “O God, Creator of All, here I am waiting to be embraced and encapsulated in Your Love. I ask to reside in the Light of Your protection from both seen and unseen beings. Here I surrender to your will.”

Step Two
Become aware of your breath and ‘watch’ it as it flows into and out of your lungs. Your breathing should be slow with deep and long inhalations, through the nose, using both nostrils and exhaling through the mouth. This should be done about ten times after reciting your prayer.

Step Three
Continue to be aware of your breathing, but now close your eyes and bring your mental attention to the area between your eyebrows. You can rub it slightly to bring awareness to the area if necessary, or you might like to visualise a golden flame in the area, or to actually watch a physical candle flame instead if you find it difficult to bring awareness to this area with your eyes closed.

Step Four
If you have any unnecessary thoughts, do not follow them through or contemplate them, but allow them to pass out of your mind-space like water flowing beneath a bridge. Just observe them passing through, do not communicate with them. If your mind wanders after a thought, bring it back to focussing on your breath and brow area. It is scientifically proven that by focussing the mind on two things at a time (in this case, your breathing and the spot between your eyebrows), thoughts will cease to flow.

Step Five
While still maintaining focus on your breathing and brow, become aware of the reactions of your muscular system. Acknowledge any physical stress and relax each area of the body. You may find it easier to consciously tense an area of stress and then release it to help with physical relaxation. This process is only necessary if you have not practised any yoga postures before your meditation.

Step Six
Once you are physically relaxed, continue this process of focussing on your breath and brow, going deeper and deeper into your Self. You may experience flashes of colour or light behind your eyelids. This is just a reflection of energy within your subtle body and is nothing to be concerned about. It is definitely not a sign of enlightenment or attainment, as many presume.

Step Seven
Meditation should last for as long as you are comfortable. It is said that a person should meditate one minute for each year of their life. For example, if you are eight years old, meditation should last for only eight minutes, or if you are forty years old, you should meditate for forty minutes a day, or preferably twice a day. Remember to ‘come out of’ your meditation slowly. Don’t stand up quickly. Have a good stretch and bring your attention back to the room and surrounding sounds.

Additional Advice
Although meditation can be practised at any suitable time, there are some other additional practises that can be included to improve one’s meditation. These include:

1. Eliminating meat from the diet.
This is difficult for most Westerners who are used to a meat diet because their bodies have become accustomed to meat through upbringing and habit. Meat makes the body sluggish and the mind tired. The human body is not designed to consume meat so it taxes the system and causes disease and premature aging. We are designed to thrive on a diet of fruit, vegetables, grains, seeds and nuts. This can only be appreciated by actually taking up a proper vegetarian diet and experiencing the changes in our functioning. The mind becomes sharper, energy levels are higher, the body requires less sleep and, sleep, although shorter, is deeper and more rewarding. Although it is not imperative to be a complete vegetarian in order to meditate, meat should not be consumed at least three hours prior to meditating or practising yoga postures. So, if you decide to meditate in the morning, do it before breakfast; or if in the evening, have a light supper of fruits or steamed vegetables or salad an hour before you meditate, and save your heavier meal or meat-meals for lunch time.

If you want to become a vegetarian, it is best to slowly reduce the amount of meat in your diet, first red meat, then chicken and lastly fish. Today it is quite easy to be a vegetarian as there are many suitable replacement foods on the market that offer ample nutrition for optimal health.

2. Increasing water intake
Although this is a foregone conclusion for any healthy living plan, few of us drink enough water. Water is imperative in cleansing and releasing both physical and subtle (energy-related) toxins from the body. The average person should consume two litres of water every day to keep the system functioning properly. In addition, our body is an neuro-electrical machine and, as water is an excellent conductor of electricity, drinking enough each day will help to optimise neural (nerve) functioning.

3. Cleansing
Before doing yoga or meditating it is suggested that a hot bath be taken in order to cleanse the body and also to keep the body slightly damp during meditation as it cools, which will facilitate the energy processes required during meditation.

4. Yoga
Although not imperative, yoga postures (asanas) should be done before meditating as they play a part in both healing and relaxing the body and mind in preparation for meditation. Thirty minutes to an hour is suitable for the average student.

5. Breathing exercises
By performing some form of controlled breathing exercise, the body is further relaxed and the mind further prepared for a meditative state. It is interesting to note that the breath controls the mind. If we continually breathe quickly, the mind will be irritated. (Think about a person who is stressed in a fight-or-flight situation - the breath is much quicker than usual - compared to a person in a deep relaxed sleep.) By controlling the breath, we control the mind. It is extremely important to have proper qualified instruction when doing breathing exercises. Much damage has been done to the energy systems of individuals who practise incorrect or prolonged breathing techniques.

If you have any questions regarding your meditation practises or experiences, please email Swami Shanarananda at