Both individual and group meditation are important.
If we try to learn meditation on our own it can be a difficult task. We all experience ups and downs in meditation. However, if you are meditating on your own and it gets difficult then most people will give up.
When we meditate with a group, many people find it much easier. You are in a room that is just used for meditation and you are often guided through the exercise.
Just being in the presence of other people that are meditating helps. It is like a tug of war. When you are meditating on your own then you are pulling against ignorance on your own. However, when you meditate with a group of people then you are all pulling together. Naturally, you are going to find it easier.
This is why we feel that it is better to learn meditation by coming to our classes rather than teaching yourself at home.
However, regular daily individual meditation is also necessary so that you can make progress in your practice and increase your capacity.
Meditating with a group of people inspires you to continue your daily practice. Even if
you are finding meditation difficult at a particular time, there will be someone in the group that is doing well. They can inspire you – and another day you can inspire them!
So, both individual and group meditation can help us make progress.
Here are two simple meditation exercises given by Sri Chinmoy.
Each time you breathe in, try to feel that you are bringing into your body peace, infinite peace. The opposite of peace is restlessness. When you breathe out, try to feel that you are expelling the restlessness within you and also the restlessness that you see all around you. When you breathe in this way, you will find restlessness leaving you. After practising this for a few times, please try to feel that you are breathing in power from the universe. And when you exhale, feel that all your fear is coming out of your body. After doing this a few times, try to feel that what you are breathing in is joy, infinite joy, and what you are breathing out is sorrow, suffering and melancholy.
The Spiritual Heart and the Soul
In order to purify your mind, the best thing to do is to feel every day for a few minutes during your meditation that you have no mind. Say to yourself, “I have no mind, I have no mind. What I have is the heart.” Then after some time feel, “I don’t have a heart. What I have is the soul.” When you say “I have the soul” at that time you will be flooded with purity. But again you have to go deeper and further by saying not only, “I have the soul,” but also “I am the soul.” At that time, imagine the most beautiful child you have ever seen, and feel your soul is infinitely more beautiful than that child.
The moment you can say and feel “I am the soul,” and meditate on this truth, your soul’s infinite purity will enter into your heart. Then, from the heart, the infinite purity will enter into your mind. When you can truly feel that you are only the soul, the soul will purify your mind.
First you need to find a space in your home where you will meditate. Try to use this space only for meditation. Make it beautiful and inspiring – you can use flowers, a candle, an inspiring photo of a beautiful scene or a spiritual figure. You can also burn incense to create a nice atmosphere. It should be like an inner sanctuary – so that you will want to keep coming back.
2) Find a time
Find a time when you will practice meditation. Early morning is the best time – just get up, have a quick wash or shower and then meditate before you start thinking about the day in front of you. If mornings are difficult for you then you can try to practice in the evening – but not just after a meal.
3) Start gently
At the beginning just try to meditate for 10 minutes or so. If you try and meditate for a long time at the beginning you will find that after a while you just get distracted and start thinking about something else. It is better to meditate for a short time in a focused way than to try and meditate for a long time with wandering thoughts.
You can try one of the exercises from the classes or some of those listed here. If you find that you are falling asleep then you can try chanting a mantra or an exercise where you have your eyes open.
5) Extending your Practice
You can extended your meditation by reading some spiritual books (or the handouts from the classes). You may also find it helpful to listen to spiritual music (especially if you can hear distracting noises).
The most important thing is regular practice at a regular time. Just as you wouldn’t miss a meal, feel that it is important not to miss a meditation session.
We have found that people get the most out of meditation if they follow these tips. In fact, once you have learnt to concentrate and meditate well you will be able to use these tips to help you learn any skill.
Try to meditate every day at the same time. You will make much more progress in your meditation if you do this. Feel that each time you meditate you are feeding your inner self. You would not miss a meal or let your body starve – so also try not to miss a meditation.
2) Slow and steady wins the race
To start off with just try to meditate for about 5-10 minutes. Do not try to do too much, too soon. It is better to make your meditation short and effective than long but with many thoughts running through your mind!
3) Expectation leads to frustration
When you meditate do not try to get a particular experience that you may have had before. Just try to be receptive to whatever experience the meditation wants to give you.
4) Don’t give up!
Even people that have been meditating for a long time experience ups and downs in their meditation. This is entirely normal so do not be disheartened if you feel that “nothing is happening”. Often when we meditate the changes are happening inside on a level that we may not be aware of yet.
5) Reading and Music
Reading the books of a spiritual teacher can tremendously help you in your meditation. By reading you will be inspired and uplifted by the meditative consciousness of the author. In fact, you can consider it as a form of meditation. The same is true of music that is played in a very high consciousness.
Now you know the principles it is time to practice!
“There are many things which are very easy with practice, but just because we do not practice them we do not get the results.”
– Sri Chinmoy