Before we learn how to Meditate we must learn where Meditation came from, what it is and why we should spend time upon it. If you are one of regular readers or magical practitioner you can probably just skip this post as this is looking at absolute basics.
If you would like to be guided in these practices, then check out our courses. You can even try a free course here.
Table of Contents
Universal Origins of Meditation
Meditation is a word well known the world over but thought of in very different ways depending on who you speak to and where they are from
Let us begin very simply. What do we all do when alone in nature or when looking at the night sky? If you are anything like me then immediate contemplation is the answer. When seeing something so vast like the night sky filled with stars the mind begins to wonder and the mystery of it all such as what does it all mean? Who am I? Why am I here? Begin to fill the mind.
Did we plan these questions? No. But they rise to the surface when the mind is removed from its normal day to day mundane activities.
So ancient man is no different from modern man in that there was wonder, and contemplation and answers were sought.
It could be said that answers were found in the form of Entheogens widely used by Native peoples around the world. This usage led to deep experiences lasting hours and requiring much contemplation to assimilate after the event.
Was this called meditation? No it was simply a natural process of the experience. But is it meditation? Arguably yes! So I think we can agree that meditation has been around for a long time under many names with various goals.
Though we cannot say for certain where it came from as i suspect the answer from many locations around the world as wherever man can think and contemplate he will build systems around these natural functions to facilitate results and to repeat results.
Some of the earliest documented history that we have to look for the origins of Meditation come to us from the Indus Valley Civilization 3000BC.
At this point language developed sufficiently to record important aspects of their culture. Part of what was recorded were the ancient tantras which included mention of Meditation. This was specifically mentioned in the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra.
This ancient tantra did not stop at mentioning Meditation methods instead it covers 112 techniques forming a dialogue between the legendary Shiva and his wife Parvati.
There are many more discoveries of the existence of Meditation practices from the period of the Indus Valley civilization which you can find in the further reading section.
Now that we have established the ancient origins of this practice let us now now move to the stated goals of the practice.
Why Meditate? Stated Goals of Meditation
This is a question which can be viewed from many perspectives. It’s almost like saying why exercise. For some it’s to stay healthy, for some it’s to see how far they can go, how strong and fit can they get? For others it is life or death if they don’t exercise they may well worsen their current health issues.
So what influences our goals? This is a good example of what the legend Terence Mckenna mentioned in his many discussion about Culture.
Culture can be seen as our operating system in the world. It has been installed since the day we were born. Everything we see and here is recorded and responded to by our subconscious. Whether we like it or not it is a mechanism that is constantly at work 24 hours per day 7 days a week.
This cultural programming then forms our hopes and dreams and how we go about achieving them. So if we are religious then Meditation may take on this religious perspective, if we prefer a more modern scientific approach then it takes on this guise.
Each approach comes with it goals associated with that approach.
Religious Goals of Meditation
It could be argued that religions do not meditate that they in fact use prayer. This again depends upon our perspective. But essentially when used in Religion such as Buddhism it spans the goals from Right Mindfulness, Right View and Right Concentration.
This is part of a very detailed tradition. First to develop Serenity (Samatha) and then Insight (Vipassana).
In the Hindu traditions stemming from the Indus Valley civilization the practice contains some of what we find in the Buddhist tradition due to one growing from the other. But we also have much more dwelling upon specific deities which represent specific qualities.
This is seen in the ancient traditions and also within the Vajrayana Buddhism and the old Bon Traditions.
The deities and gods (small god not to be confused with God, the all, the undefinable) though also worshiped in their own right also represent specific qualities and quantities. It’s tricky to define these traditions with a sweeping statement as even within the same tradition they can have multiple branches and different influences with micro lineages complete with their own origin story and method of practice.
Have a look at the various Yoga systems you see everywhere nowadays with everyone talking about this Chakra and that Chakra. If you research each Chakra you will see that each relates to Color, Sound, Quality and my point here Deity.
Essentially once we strip these Religious systems of their Cultural wrapping the goals can be summarized as Liberation.
Liberation from the monkey mind, liberation from thoughts we do not want in our mind. Liberation from unwholesome thinking and ultimately if you believe in it then liberation from reincarnation.
Health Goals to Meditation
This is a big reason for people to start Meditating and to actually continue with the practice. Accepted so much that you can even find doctors recommending the practice.
There have been studies made around the world relating to its benefits such as a 1992 study in the “American Journal of Psychiatry” that found meditation reduced symptoms of anxiety and panic in some people with anxiety disorders, while a 2007 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found some evidence that meditation helps to improve cardiovascular health.
So we have evidence. It does help even the government admits it.
Modern Goals to Meditation
The modern goal of meditation is often simply to quiet the mind. To shut out the noisy world and taste some peace and quiet.
Even if lasting for just a few minutes per day this escape from worries and stress is enough to keep people coming back for more and to seek this experience in variations of Meditation such as Tai Chi and Yoga Asana.
One of the benefits spoken of by practitioners is that it keeps them young, clear thinking and full of energy. Well recently evidence to this has been found by a study from UCLA that found long-term meditators had better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they aged.
Participants who’d been meditating for an average of 20 years had more grey matter volume throughout the brain — although older meditators still had some volume loss compared to younger meditators, it wasn’t as pronounced as the non-meditators.
Very good news for meditators and more than enough reason to give it a go I think learn how to meditate in order to get some peace, quiet and boy band looks.
Types of Meditation
Do I need to write this section? Is it not just close your eyes? Well actually no there is a lot more to it and it is quite a rabbit hole once you get started and get your first glimpses of results.
This will be a general overview of approach rather than an encyclopedic look at styles as each tradition, school and teacher will have their unique approach. You decide for yourself if what follows fits your view of meditation.
This is where you will sit quietly with a chapter heading in your mind. It is a form of concentration (looked at later) whereby you allow a flow of thoughts that focus upon one subject. For example I think of a tree, maybe I see this tree in front of me and I can ‘contemplate’ the size and feel of the tree.
What it’s life must be like, how it survives and how it is the home for many other creatures and animals. Going further back I can look at how this tree grew itself from a small seed and that it has been alive and flourishing longer than I have been alive and will go on long after I am gone.
Do you see that this was a guided flow of thoughts focused on a subject… this is contemplation.
Some would argue this is not meditation (myself included) but I include it as maybe this will work well for you.
This is a form of distraction and use of the emotions. Through the fervent recitation of a prayer, a mantra etc for long periods of time the meditator can change their state of mind to one which is uplifted and focused upon the content of their prayer, mantra etc.
This can also occur through the use of music and is seen in many traditions ancient and modern both through solo practice and group/tribe practice.
Why do I not view it as Meditation? I will cover this more later on in this article but the important aspect here is that replacement was used. Replacement in itself is an acceptable form of practice as you replace many potential troublesome thoughts with one more constructive thought.
Seems like a good process but there is a difference in how that is achieved. If it is through concentration and willpower, the long forgotten discipline then this can be a great method but if it is based upon emotion stirred up by prayer,mantra, singing then this is not something you can rely upon in your daily life as you are using your already undisciplined emotions to create a euphoric state that cannot be readily recreated in daily life.
Success on the cushion is not much success if you cannot take it into your day and interact with the world. I underline the fact that this is simply my opinion on the matter.
Energy, Chi, Qi, Prana, Kahuna it goes by many names but is found in all the old traditions if we look long enough.
Not only did the ancients accept that there was a kind of universal life force but the also constructed very detailed models of how to use this energy for our benefit and ultimately how to get the highest mystical results which blur the lines of reality for us in the modern world.
Again to detail each tradition and the difference is not the point here. I want to bring some clarity instead to some subjects readers of this article may be familiar with.
Now Ancient models of the Universe not only accepted this Universal life force but also broke it down further into element systems.
I will look at the Vedic/Tibetan model one which is also used by the Western Mystery Schools. (Yes Iam aware of 5 Elements model, plus others but here we will keep it simple)
Four Elements make up this system, Fire, Water, Air and Earth (Remember earlier I spoke about qualities and quantities? The same is true here).
Add to these Four the original substance from which they were born, Akasha.
Briefly each element has an overriding quality which can be expressed positively or negatively depending upon the purity of our system.
Fire – Will Power, Force, Electric, Expansiveness, Heat.
Air – Thinking, Contemplation, Lightness.
Water – Emotions, Magnetic, Attraction, Cold
Earth – Solidity, Heaviness, combination of the 3 prior Elements.
Now lets look at basic Pranyama….
It is genius when you look deeper into this. The belief is that a human being has many channels of energy in the body. The most important of which are the Left (Ida), Right (Pingla) and Central (sushumna). These have traditional names but we will keep to the English as you can read more in the further reading section below.
Through the process of purifying our system our expression of the qualities of these elements becomes positive. At this point we gain a balance in life and in ourselves.
Taken further the Yogi will use their breathing exercises to bring the life force into the Central Channel.
Left controls all the mental processes while Right controls all the vital processes. Left is known as the moon, and Right as the sun. The third channel, the central channel travels directly up the center of the spine and is the channel for the awakening of spiritual consciousness.
It is through the Central channel that the mythical Kundalini is awakened and flows through.
Now this all sounds very exotic but what is the point? Does it make a person be able to meditate? Arguably yes but like all these things YOU are the laboratory and only you can say if it gives you the results you are looking for. What is the potential? Well something very mystical indeed. The Jalu (Rainbow Body). The meditator will actually transform into Rainbow light. Which after ganing control and working with these energies learns to dissolve the very elements. Sounds crazy? I know it does but tell that to the Tibetans who have made careful records of almost every Rainbow Body Experience that has occurred not just in the last 2 thousand years but their Ancient Bon Tradition records Rainbows bodies occurring all the way back to 10,000 years!
Now of course everything we do affects the mind. But with this approach the mind is not being altered by something outside of itself. At least not directly.
The mental approach is what I would call the return to old school practice and because of that it is extremely effective. But it is also very unpopular in these modern times.
Why? Well because everything is easy now. Nothing is supposed to be challenging or stretch you in the slightest to achieve it and most importantly I believe many do not want real change to happen internally. They want peace and a relaxed mind without changing the contents or the habits of that mind.
Now please don’t take that as a negative judgment as I am just as guilty of this thinking it is just an observation of the modern world. We want the result but are not too keen to change anything to get it.
Let me explain the most important point.
Meditation should result in you being in control of your mind. A mind in control of itself does not say I will not do xxxx again and then 1 hour later go an do that thing.
A mind in control of itself does fight with itself with one part wanting to be a certain way and another part addicted to a habit.
A mind in control of itself is the Master Mind (Master Mind by William Walker Atkinson) who can silence the mind immediately, who is informed by emotions and not controlled by emotions.
This is the reason I mentioned distraction earlier on. It is a valid method but often only because the mind and its powers are not sufficiently strong enough for the task of being the Master Mind.
Another example, have you ever followed one of those guided meditation where they say imagine this and imagine that and you end up with some unfocused imaginations with some golden light thrown in for free?
Did it help? Maybe it did as it took your mind away for the usual concerns. But did it stay with you and are you now in the driving seat of your mind rather than a concerned passenger?
You see the point.
Now just to illustrate the importance of mental control and its components of Willpower, Attention and Concentration, go and get an analogue clock which has a second hand, the one on your Ipad works just fine.
Now set the timer for 10 minutes.
Begin the timer and watch the second hand. Nothing but the second hand must occupy your mind.
If another thought replaces the second hand in your mind for even one second. Or if you forget yourself for one second then you start again.
You want to see how long you can remain 100% focused upon the second hand.
Be honest could you do it with no tiny breaks in focus? If you could well done….
This last exercise was a good example on another quality attention, and its practice. It seems to be a lost art nowadays as it is far easier to put meditation music on and get in the mood (emotion dictating mental clarity).
Attention should be trained from now until the day you leave this earth. How to do it?
Observe people around you, are they fidgeting? Are they moving their feet, tapping the floor? Scratching beards? Busying their hands?
Think of it like this every little movement costs mental fuel. You can spend it or save it.
When you save it then it can be used to fuel your will power and resistance. Maybe part of you wants to go for a drink but YOU part that is thinking previously vowed you would never drink again.
The part of you that resists is the Will Power. You need this fuel.
So if you cannot sit still or talk needlessly, then try to restrain these movements and unnecessary speech.
Build up your willpower fuel tank.
Maybe you want some food? Then resist and delay it. Well done you have built your will power fuel tank.
So just like the new age books say attention to the moment. This is a massive secret of secrets.
Do not meditate to have a more relaxed mind in daily life! Instead spend every second of your 24 hour day – your daily life, trying to be as aware and awake as you possibly can to the ‘texture’ of the moment.
Why meditate then? You spend your 30 minutes to 1 hour per day doing your meditation on your cushion in order to go further.
Further? Once you experience no thoughts. Then you will get a taste of what is possible. Each session will then endeavor to go deeper.
You will then double your efforts in daily life and see the results of your meditation time. So, each feeds the other.
In this article we have seen there are many approaches to meditation. All have their place and if you receive the results you desire then everyone should be happy.
But their is an underlying dare I say truth. It is that Concentration is key to the process. What ever approach you are taking in meditation or in any other endeavor if you are unable to concentrate then your results will be lacking.
If you are able to concentrate then this means you have both attention and willpower. With these qualities whatever you do on the meditation cushion or in the corporate world will be improved.
If you cannot focus on the second hand of the clock with no external thoughts, or without forgetting yourself for 10 minutes then really the use of Music, Incense, Mala and Asana will surely help your temporary and immediate state of mind but will ultimately only be covering up the lack of concentration ability.
This is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow but the sooner the better. Of course you need to test this for yourself and if you come to a different conclusion and are happy with it then blessings to you.
But if you come to a similar conclusion that in the words of Mouni Sadhu (Paraphrased) there is no Meditation without Concentration.
For those that share this view and want to know more…what follows is a guide to beginning meditation and to start seeing results in your daily life.
How to Meditate
Thank you for reading up to this point. So far we have covered the origins and background to meditation with some of the common approaches. Now we will look at how to develop the qualities required for a fruitful practice of Meditation.
Each of the following steps can be tried over the course of days or weeks. To begin with why not try each step for 7 days. I ultimately leave this up to you as self responsibility is key and some steps you may immediately understand and ‘get it’ while other steps may take you longer.
When trying this you do not have to take it all on as gospel truth instead just take this as a working model.
All exercises can be taken incrementally starting with 1 minute and building up.
Step 1: Center of Force
This is a soul searching stage as we need to become very clear on why we wish to Meditate. If we are not clear on the ‘why’ then the how is not too important as there will be no consistent practice of meditation.
So be clear on our goal. There is another reason for this as remember the subconscious is always at work. It simply acts on what the conscious mind provides it with. So be careful and very clear with the message you give to your subconscious it is your greatest ally if you work with it.
We also need to clarify our model of reality and our place in it.
For our approach here we see the Universe as a sea of creative energy and the part of us that thinks and observes is the ‘I’, the center of power.
This Center of power IS the Center of the Universe as every point within the infinite Universe IS the Center.
Once we can see ourselves as the powerful Center of the Universe then and begin to feel this in our personality then we are ready to begin.
Exercise: Get a feeling for this quality and breath it in early in the morning. Nice big breaths filling both the chest and diaphragm.
No holding of breath, no internal pressure.
Thats it! On to Step 2.
Step 2: Bodily Control
We mentioned earlier how unnecessary movement can waste our energy and to restrain this movement will mean added fuel for our willpower.
Sit on the edge of a chair with your back straight and your knees touching with a 90 degree bend at the knee.
Place your palms on your thighs.
Remain completely still.
Do this for 10 minutes.
Remember do not fool yourself or make excuses. No movement.
Step 3: Attention
Pick spot on the wall and focus on it or use this image and focus upon the center point:
You can put a small coin on the floor in front of you if you want but the main point is pick a point and focus upon it.
Do not let other thoughts come into your mind. Do not exchange another thought, image or sound for the object of focus.
Do this for 10 minutes.
Step 4: Observation
Now we have built some force. Now the exercise changes.
Sit still as before and simply observe the mind. Do not try and control it, instead simply observe the the thoughts that PASS through your mind.
Do not forget yourself and follow the thoughts. Let them pass by.
Start with 5 minutes then go to 10 minutes.
Step 5: Single Subject Thought Stream
One single thought.
Pick a subject like a local park or person etc.
Now keep your thoughts focused upon that one subject. Do not forget yourself.
Keep your thought on that subject, so if I choose the park I will think of what it looks like, where it is, what does it contain, who goes there, why they go there.
All thoughts connected to the original subject with no forgetting of yourself or the subject.
Start with 5 minutes then go to 10 minutes.
Step 6: Zero Thoughts
You will now not allow any thoughts to appear in your mind. This is sometimes thought of as impossible but let me assure with the fuel you have build up in the previous steps you absolutely can do this.
Put all your attention upon stillness. Do not stop thoughts instead focus on stillness.
Do you see the difference?
To stop your thoughts means you are focusing on thoughts. Like attracts like.
So focus upon stillness.
If it helps you, imagine blackness surrounding you on all sides and that you are sat within it.
Another tip is to remember the eyes movement affects the state of mind (hence candle staring etc and the previous exercises).
So keep the eyes still and focused on the point between the eyebrows. If the eyes are still then so is the mind…in theory.
Only use this as temporary crutch. As soon as you can maintain stillness through the power of your will power then do so. Now of course there are many steps beyond the will power approach, this is just to get you in the door, to provide an experience.
This Step is for life. You want to see how deep and how still you can get.
Make this a daily exercise.
Step 7: Enjoy
Build the required qualities. What qualities? Attention, Will Power and Concentration.
Build these and apply the resulting mind power to resisting your negative qualities and transforming them into positive.
Practice, practice, practice, then congratulate yourself as you now know how to meditate – or at the very least have create the foundation.
So there you have 7 steps which appear very simple. It is true they are simple but not easy. You can go a long way with each exercise and they are far more powerful than they appear.
They all relate to very traditional stages and exercises without the cultural baggage. Is there more?
Absolutely but without this foundation it really does little good to add on more exercises only to perform them poorly. A few sharp tools is all you need.
Top Tip: Use Universal Principles to build success, get success in one of the methods. Stop – repeat the process and go a little further. I would advise not to practice into failure as this will create a negative cycle.
Now get yourself a notebook and keep track of your practice and the thoughts and dreams you have and enjoy the ride.
Use these posts ‘Introduction to Mental Training‘ and ‘How to Meditate and Enter the Void‘ to help with building the foundation.