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ubersiren's avatar

How do you meditate successfully?

Asked by ubersiren (15046 points ) March 27th, 2009

I’m very crazy inside my brain. I’m manic and compulsive and obsessive and worrisome and scatter-brained and way over cognitive and not at all peaceful. I have trouble shutting off my brain at night and it takes me around 2 hours to fall asleep. I think meditating would help me a great deal, but I’ve never been very good at it. I had an instructor who told me to focus on one thing (like my son’s face or something). And she said that take that idea and visualize it as a boat going down a river, and try to keep that boat from bumping into the river banks. Well, that just made me even more nuts. Why can’t I steer that damned boat!?

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11 Answers

queenzboulevard's avatar

In my Philosophy class’s textbook, there was a section about meditation. It said you need a mantra that you can repeat over and over. It also said you can count your inhales and exhales, which is what I did. That didn’t work as well as the mantra because as I would count my breaths, I would imagine the images of the numbers. Pretty soon the numbers starting bouncing around or spinning and I just got too creative with them, so it distracted me.

Jiminez's avatar

I’ve come close, I think. Meditation is very hard. There are guided meditation podcasts that really help on iTunes. I have a program on my computer that has binaural beats on it and pink noise; stuff like that. Those help a bit. I think a lot of the time when we try it we aren’t really prepared. You have to really set the mood for yourself. I mean like… go outside where the birds are chirping or the rain is falling or light some candles and have make sure you have all your obligations taken care of first so your mind isn’t elsewhere. Then you have to know how the mind works. Half the experts out there don’t know anything about that. They probably only know how their mind works and they think it’s the same for everybody. It’s not. You have to find what works for you. Buddhist monks talk about freeing your mind of all thoughts. I don’t find that method very effective. Having no immediate worries is important, but what is the goal of meditation? Sure, it’s about relaxation, but it’s also about creating order in your mind because you probably feel like everything is all over the place. Think about it like a messy, cluttered room. Meditation is the process of straightening things up and putting everything in its right place. It’s about organizing your thoughts about your life so that you can find a favorable context; a refreshed outlook. It’s about catharsis. But this is just what works for me. I haven’t been able to get things spic and span yet, personally. There’s still been some clutter left when I’m done, but I’m getting better at it. Part of it has to do with the eliminating worries/obligations part first and finding the right time. That’s hard to do. Hope this helps.

And oh yeah: drugs help. LOL

chucklmiller's avatar

I usually find prayer to be the best form of meditation. Try it if you haven’t already…

Harp's avatar

First, let go completely of the self-evaluation. Judging whether you’re good or bad at it is horribly counter-productive and irrelevant anyway.

The busy-ness of your brain is not the enemy here. Meditation is about learning to direct attention. What’s currently happening is that your attention is constantly being drawn away from the task you’ve given it and instead drifts over to all the random crap your brain naturally generates. The key is not to suppress all the mental “noise” (that never works), but to discover that you can simply ignore it. You can, whether you realize it or not yet, learn to just let all that noise happen in the background while keeping your attention steadily fixed on your meditative task. But if you see the noise as an annoyance and struggle against it, it will inevitably become the focus of your attention.

So, as you’re doing your task (the boat, or counting breaths), your brain will start throwing random thoughts out there. Don’t react to this, neither pushing or moving toward it to see what it’s about. Just be aware that this has happened, and keep doing the task. Deprived of your attention, the thought will simply go away. If you stop to examine it though, it will chain into another thought, and another, and so on. “Being free of thoughts” doesn’t mean the thoughts don’t happen; it simply means that we’re free from their compelling power over our attention.

Eventually, all the brain’s sputterings will fade into the background and become a kind of innocuous “white noise”, but don’t set that as a goal; just let it happen when it happens. Goals are nasty traps for the meditator. Just patiently apply your effort to the task, correct your course when the attention slips (as it will frequently) and see what happens. Progress will take care of itself. The less attention you pay to “how you’re doing”, the better.

Remember that you’re breaking life-long mental habits here, and that doesn’t happen overnight. We tend to live inside our heads, the realm of thoughts, and meditation moves attention out from its closet in your skull and down into the body (at least, that’s what breath practices do; I’m not so sure about your “boat” thing).

ubersiren's avatar

@chucklmiller : Do you mean prayer to a god, or the God? ...or is there like a non-religious form of prayer that you’re referring to?

Great answers, everyone!

Acyd's avatar

I avoid beating myself up when my mind starts to babble. That is what brains do. I am not trying to be something I am not. I strive to completely accept myself. I go ahead and let the babbling occur and acknowledge it, then gently guide the mind back to emptiness each time. Refrain from worrying too much; it is normal. It is important not to judge yourself in any way,

chucklmiller's avatar

@ubersiren: personally I believe in the one God, but I understand and respect others’ beliefs. I’m sure prayer in any form will help the current condition…

fireside's avatar

I think there are great suggestions above.
Someone I spoke with on Monday said that he got a lot out of the Master Key System

ubersiren's avatar

Everybody has given great answers so far. Thanks for the book suggestion, @fireside!

Blondesjon's avatar

I turn my mental background noise into chirping crickets.

SeventhSense's avatar

@ubersiren
Classic Zen Meditation
Find a position that is comfortable but not sloppy. The lotus is ideal if you can do it because it is a 3 point contact of the butt on cushion and two knees on floor. If this is uncomfortable one can adapt the burmese position. The body should be disciplined but not too constricting. This is also essential to avoid the legs falling asleep. This conditions the mind to start settling down as well because it must adapt to your intention. The breath is the most important aspect and when breathing it should be from the belly and the breath is a simple focus. Beginners can count the breath to get into a rhythm and then let the counting fall away and afterwards just follow the breath. The eyes should look down slightly and be somewat closed to eliminate distractions. As thought arise just notice them but don’t attach to them. The beginning will be fraught with ideas like- “this is stupid”, “I should be doing the laundry, paperwork…Just notice them like ballons or clouds in the sky of your consciousness and allow them to drift out of sight without attaching or indulging them. Eventually with persistence but not forcing the mind will settle down and take its rightful place in the equation which is resting. Be careful to not fall asleep and do for 5 then 10 or 20 minutes. Eventually you can do an entire weekend and then your mind will have new things to let go of like “I’m a really good meditator and I don’t have to do this anymore”. You’ll notice that the mind is like a watcher, and then you uncover a watcher of the watcher and it naturally unravels. Walking meditation can be interspersed with sitting meditation.
the vital thing about meditation is that it settles the mind. We rest the body but the mind is active 24 hours a day until we can effectively meditate.
Eventually you can find a place to sit with others which just makes it easier to practice with a competent teacher.

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