Do I need music while meditating? What about candles?
My suggestion is not to use any of that. Remember that habits are contextual? Let’s say you do not have your favorite music or candles around. It will most likely discourage you from meditation. Other sensory stimulation will distract you from focusing on your breath which defeats the whole purpose. There also be times when you have time to meditate at your usual place.
When my commute was taking 3 hours I used to meditate on a train. Imagine the look on the faces of your fellow commuters when you light your candles and put your favourite relaxation list on portable speaker? However, if you feel that having candles will motivate you then, by all means, do that. Just remember to treat them as training wheels on your meditation bike – once you are skilled enough take them off!
What happens if I fall asleep?
You will have a nice 10 minutes nap until the timer goes off! Seriously though be patient with yourself as it may happen. When I was in my meditation class after a long day at work I would occasionally fall asleep.
Some of my classmates would start snoring in the middle of the class making it entertaining. Zen monks had a master who would walk around and hit disciples with a bamboo stick if they fell asleep.
Fortunately, we do not have to go the same extreme type of assistance. I find that I stay awake if I am meditating in the morning however evening meditation can be a challenge. You can practice a sitting meditation instead of lying down to help with this. Another trick is to keep your eyes slightly open.
Once you develop your skill you can meditate on the feeling of tiredness. As confusing as it sounds it can help with keeping you awake.
However, if the issue persists I suggest you check if you have enough sleep as this could be an indication of chronic sleep deprivation.
What if I keep thinking about the same distracting thought?
Remember how I mentioned the spotlight and floodlight type of attention earlier? This could be an indication that there is an issue requiring your attention. Grab a piece of paper and write it down. Check-in before your meditation session – is there anything on your mind that may distract you? If the answer is yes write it down and you will see how the expressed thought vanishes from your mind.
I feel really uncomfortable while I am sitting. Can I lie on a floor?
In the beginning, I used a foldable meditation bench that I first saw at the Buddhist center. I found that with time sitting meditation made my upper back really sore distracting me from keeping focused attention.
To alleviate the pain I started meditating while lying on the floor or a couch which significantly improved my experience. Do not afraid to experiment with different postures and tools. Find something that works for you and make it your habit.
How do I move between the phases without being distracted?
When I was learning with Buddhist monks there would be a meditation master who would hit a singing bowl signaling a transition between the phases. The master would also provide guidance during our journey.
I found that it was hugely beneficial to the learning process. Moving between the phases outside of the Buddhist center at home without the guidance was a big issue for me at the beginning. I imagine it was the case with many others since you can find a lot of specialized meditation apps like the “Insight timer”.
Download an app of your preference and set the intervals for each phase as indicated in the scripts, usually 2-3 minutes. The app will play a sound between phases for you just like your personal meditation teacher. You can also use the sounds as a reminder to get back to your breath if you happen to get distracted by your thoughts.
Can I meditate on a train or in a boring meeting?
Meditation is the training of your mind. You can apply your mindfulness skill to any experience. Your practice does not stop when your timer goes off. Take it your daily life.
Bring it to the dinner table exploring how the same food has so much flavor if you focus on eating. Practice in the gym or yoga studio feeling how muscles tense and relax in your bodywork, enjoying every little move. The possibilities are endless!
I also do not recommend meditating as a way of avoiding boring things in life. If you are in the meeting be a part of it, absorb all the details, and make your presence known. And if you genuinely feel that there is nothing that you can contribute or you have been invited by mistake – apologize and move to another activity where you can add value.
When will I achieve enlightenment?
I saved this popular question for last. I am also asked if a kundalini energy gets awakened as a part of this process, if you can travel to fifth dimension. I can not speak about another dimensions or kundalini awakening for a couple of reasons.
#1 These meditation practices are designed to build compassion and see the architecture of the mind. Neither my teachers or books mentioned anything outside of these two purposes. There may be additional side effects leading to a greater awareness and meaningful life. The two practices are meant to get you closer to reality and not out of it.
#2 Concerns with the enlightenment are an ego trip created by the mind. The separation from the world is created by the mind and for this reason, the mind will not give you a feeling of oneness. Stop chasing the enlightenment! The sooner you realize that it’s just another trap, a lure created by your mind the better. Instead, focus on perfecting your practice. Make it consistent, stay with the breathing instead of thinking of your next meeting. You will see the results with time.
#3 There can’t be an estimated time because enlightenment through meditation is a gradual process. What I mean is you will get a glimpse of non-duality a couple of times in the beginning but it will go away. Then it will come back and you will be able to recognize it with ease more and more. The truth is – all of us had a glimpse of enlightenment in our lives but it went unregistered on your radar.
Meditation makes this practice focused on the possibility of a non-dualistic thought is more likely. Using an example – you may see a black cockatoo if you live in Sydney once but most likely if you have never seen one it will look like a crow flying over. But if you decided to find and keep walking around parklands with focused attention you will see more of them. Later when you see the familiar shape you will be able to recognize them anywhere,
Recommended reading and tools
Contrary to the consumerism age I always want quality when it comes to introducing new things into my life especially when it comes to tools! Meditation can be a life learning as long as you stay with the practice. As you continue to grow you will have new questions and I would like to recommend you books that helped me on my journey.
Mindfulness in plain English by venerable Bhante Gunaratana will go through very basic to more advanced information delivered in an easy to understand language. I found these books useful to refresh my knowledge and to further develop my understanding of how meditation positively contributes to life outside of your mediation place.
10 percent happier by Dan Harris. I cannot recommend this book enough. Dan is a news anchor who became famous after a meltdown on the national television prompting him to begin his personal development journey. The book is his story written in a humorous way. I can relate to some of it based on my own experience. The audiobook made me laugh on public transport and it is a fun way of introduction to meditation from a perspective of a non-spiritually inclined person and an investigator.
The science of meditation by highly respected figures in the world of neuroscience and science journalism, Richard Davidson and Daniel Goleman will take you through their own history with the practice and research that was done with lifelong yogis and meditators with thousands of hours of practice. The book is useful to understand how meditation came about and what happens in our brains from the perspective of the scientist.
Insight timer app is a free meditation timer and a collection of guided meditations for your practice. I wrote this simplified guide to help you with removing confusion about meditation but you are welcome to explore other types of meditations. Be mindful that each meditation will train your brain to achieve different results and my recommendation for this app is to be used as a timer and guided meditation from Mark Zelinsky.
Foldable meditation bench. I bought one of these at the Buddhist center as sitting cross-legged for a long period of time caused me a great deal of discomfort. These are portable and can be used to sit in the right posture for hours without crashing your knees. But as I was saying earlier you do not need any special equipment to meditate – a chair or your home floor is perfectly fine.
This is the last post in the meditation series. If you want to go back to the start use these links below: