The first thing to do is to set aside a place in your home for meditation. It doesn't have to be a large area, but it needs to be a place which you set aside for the specific purpose of meditation, and nothing else. If you have a large home and can spare a room for this purpose, great! If it is only a small area of the floor which you use for meditation, that's fine too. The idea is that you are going to use this place as a sacred, quiet power spot where you build up your aura. As such, you shouldn't use this spot for doing anything other than meditating--you should be training yourself to automatically get into a meditative mood whenever you sit down in your meditation spot.
You can set up a meditation table in this area as well, although this is optional especially for beginners. On the meditation table you can put objects like incense, flowers, pictures of spiritual teachers, yantras (geometrical designs), and candles. If you have a specific goal in life which you are trying to accomplish, you might put something associated with that goal on the table as well—for example, a photo of the car you want to be driving soon. By putting objects on the meditation table which inspire you, again you are helping to build up the power of the place for you.
Next, you need to pick a particular time of day to meditate. Ideally, you should meditate twice a day, although if you are just starting and only feel inspired to meditate once a day, it should be in the morning, probably after you've had a shower and a cup of coffee. The important thing here is to assign a particular time of day to the practice of meditation so that this time, like the table, develops a certain power of its own for you. The importance of the morning is that a good meditation at the start of the day will build up your power for the whole day. An evening meditation can be a lot of fun, but doesn't offer as much from a practical point of view.
So now that you have picked out the appropriate time and place for meditation, how do you actually go about doing it? You need to find a way to sit with your back straight. This can be pretty much any sitting position you are comfortable in and which keeps the back straight--sitting on the flloor, on a meditation pillow (available for purchase at many spiritual bookstores), or in a chair. Sitting in the half or full lotus is nice but not necessary--not everyone has that kind of body flexibility. If you need some form of back support to keep your back straight, by all means use what you need.
You then want to focus on several chakras--energy centers--while you meditate. These centers are actually in the subtle physical body--also known as the aura--although they correspond to areas in the physical body. The three chakras that you want to focus on are the navel center--around the navel or a bit below it--the heart center--near the heart as the name implies--and the third eye in the center of the forehead. You should focus on them in precisely that order: first the navel, then the heart, and then the third eye. Close your eyes, stop your thoughts, and just focus on the area in question. You'll know you're focusing on the right area if you feel a center of power or energy. The energy feels different for each of the three centers but you'll begin to recognize how each center "feels". If you find yourself drifting into aimless thoughts, just let the thoughts roll by without judgement, and bring your focus back to the chakra. Gradually you should find things become quieter and quieter, and you will have fewer and fewer thoughts. You may have flashy experiences or just a quiet time--do not judge the experience. Do make it into a workout: when you find your mind drifting, aggressively bring your focus back where it is supposed to be.
When first starting, you may want to focus for a few minutes on the navel, a few minutes on the heart, a few minutes on the third eye, and finally a few minutes where you focus on your teacher if you have one. You can (but do not have to) use music (for example Zazen) to meditate to, in which case you would probably meditate one or two songs on each chakra. The amount of time spent is much less important than making it a regular part of your daily experience. Indeed, you may find that there are times during the day--for example a stressful time at work--when you can benefit from a very short meditation. In such a case, you might meditate for a minute or less, but it might be a very calming and centering experience.
When your meditation is over, bow for a few moments to quietly thank Eternity for the experience. Then slowly resume your other activities--you don't want to jump up immediately and face rush hour traffic--be a bit more gradual in easing back into your "normal" routines.
You may find yourself sitting in meditation and finding that "nothing happens"-- there aren't any amazing flashing lights or universes disappearing. Not a problem. Nothing is supposed to happen in meditation. It's just supposed to be a quiet time that you set aside to build up your power--nothing more. The quieter the better. People sometimes do have flashy experiences in meditation. That's not the point of meditation though--if you find that happening, bring your focus back to quiet and silence. See how deeply you can go into silence and quiet--that's what meditation is really all about.
That's pretty much it. Have fun with it--though it may be a quiet experience, it's supposed to be fun. If it gets to be a chore, you may be taking it too seriously and should just relax and have a good time with it.
In order to find a time that's good for you, you can ask yourself, "Am I more aware in the morning or night?" Then you can narrow that time period to encompass the 3-hour period when you feel most aware. The right time to meditate differs from person to person. A person who works from nine to five may like to meditate in the morning while a person who works the swing shift may prefer to meditate at night. It's good to pick a time when you do not feel under pressure and when you have some time to be alone without interruption. Psychically, early morning is an excellent time to meditate because most people are asleep and the world around you is a little more still.
After you select the right time to meditate, you need to find the right place. It's good to set aside a space specifically for meditating, even if it's just a corner of the room. Create an area that's sacred to you . You may want to put down a rug and a pillow to sit on. If you feel uncomfortable sitting on the floor, a chair is fine. In front of you, you may want to place a little table with a picture or objects that inspire you toward the Divine. You may want to light a little incense, such as sandalwood. A bouquet of flowers always adds a nice touch. You can make your meditation area as elaborate or simple as befits your personality. An important point is that you make sure others in the household recognize your meditation spot as your special place and that they should respect it.
Once you have determined the time and the place, you need a technique to practice. You may want to start off with a simple technique such as observing your breath. Or just place your attention on the point between the eyebrows and gently brush away any thoughts that enter your mind. Rama recommended that we listen to Zazen music while meditating but, personally, I've returned to meditating in silence. Before practicing, it's always good to take a shower or at least rinse off the head, hands and feet. This helps to clean you psychically as well as physically.
The amount of time that you meditate is not as important as the consistency with which you practice. It's better to practice for five minutes every day rather than one hour once a month. Do not judge your meditation. Just sit in the same position at the same time each day and practice, practice, practice.
It is important to sit regularly: one or twice a day is great; find a spot that is good and use the same place every time. Choose a nice Zazen CD music and use it every time for awhile (also eases timing). This is using the tendency to form habits to your advantage.
It is important to sit comfortably. If your body is irritated it will be distracting you while you are trying to meditate. The main thing is to sit with the spine straight (the head should be directly above the shoulders, no dropping forward or backward). If you find your position shifts during your meditation, just bring the body back to proper position.
While sitting, I suggest focus lightly on the heart center (for balance) if using only one chakra for about 5 minutes minimum. If you wish more chakras, I suggest first the belly button (ki center) chakra, then the heart chakra, then the third eye chakra at the center forehead between the eyes (for example, for a total of 15 minutes). You can focus on the chakra, and if that shifts you can focus on the music (listen not as to a melody, but each note one at a time - as "drop by drop"); then shift back to the chakra, etc.
If possible, find others connected with Rama to meditate with. If this is not possible in your area, sit along with "Beautiful People" meditations at 9:30 AM and 11:30 AM on Sundays California time -- just sit for as long as is comfortable for you: here we meditate for an hour each time. Beautiful People (a.k.a. T.M.I.) is documented at mainpage Ramalila.org.
Good Luck -- Enjoy!
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