The ultimate object of meditation is to attain conscious awareness of God, and of the soul’s eternal oneness with Him.Paramhansa Yogananda, Metaphysical Meditations
Now is as good a time as ever to begin your inner journey to self-realization through meditation. Meditation is a simple process which can be done anytime and anywhere to center and calm oneself.
While nothing is needed for meditation except a willing and inquiring mind, we offer here a few tips and tools to help you along your journey.
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What is meditation?
Meditation is concentration; taking the mind off of multiple things and putting it on one thing at a time. It is concentration on an attribute or aspect of the Divine, such as: love, light, peace, joy, wisdom, calmness, sound, or power.
What can meditation do for me?
Meditation has the power to change every aspect of your life. To be successful in the practice of meditation means that you are changing for the better in all aspects of your life, whether in relationships, in health, or in financial success. All of these areas of daily life can be improved with the practice of meditation.
This is because meditation is a discipline. It takes practice to form new positive habits and supports these positive changes, such as improved patterns of reacting, uplifted thoughts, and greater awareness in the present moment.
“Meditation is listening. The mind must suspend its normal activity of analyzing, of weighing alternatives, and of generally ‘talking’ so much that one cannot hear melodies that the superconscious is playing to it.
“Meditation is the process of returning to your own center. It is learning to relate to life and to your environment from who you are, and not from the way other people try to define you.”
—Swami Kriyananda in The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita: Explained by Paramhansa Yogananda
Do I have to sit on the floor to meditate?
No, you have many options for sitting comfortably for meditation, including positions other than sitting in the iconic cross-legged on-the-floor position.
Paramhansa Yogananda encouraged those he taught the practice of meditation to do whatever allowed them to take their minds off of the physical tension in the body so they could soar in spirit. This meant for many, helping them to find a comfortable position in a chair. Many people have also found using a meditation bench to be helpful.
The main position that Yogananda emphasized is to sit upright with a straight spine, back away from the chair if applicable, palms facing upward and resting at the junction between hips and thighs.
There is a wonderful explainer video for helping you find the best position for deeper, longer meditations through Ananda Worldwide here.
How long should I meditate?
The length of meditation, especially for beginners, should be set based on realistic goals for yourself — so that you can succeed and enjoy the practice of meditation.
It is better to meditate 5 to 15 minutes and develop the habit. A consistent routine is key to success. This means deciding on the most supported time of day for a meditation habit to become more and more ingrained in your daily rhythm. Many people find that this is just upon rising or before bed.
As you find your habit to strengthen and the peace or joy you feel in meditation to lengthen, you can increase your time.
Finding a group to meditate with will increase your ability to sit and meditate for gradually longer periods. Many Ananda groups and centers around the world have group meditations available online, including Ananda Los Angeles.
How should I hold my eyes in meditation?
With eyelids, closed, turn your eyes slightly upward, as if looking at a peak of a mountain in the distance, slightly above the horizon level. This should not cause any strain if it is at the right point between your eyebrows. Feel as if your eyes are resting in this upward position, not as if you’re looking into the distance.
What are some of the benefits of meditation proven by scientific research?
Some of the well-known benefits of meditation include:
- Deep relaxation, both physically and mentally
- An improved immune system response and overall stress reduction
- Deeper concentration and ability to focus, clarity of thought and perspective
- An improved sense of humor
- An improved sense of compassion
- Higher levels of energy
- Increased creativity
- Ability to accomplish activities more effectively
What are the goals of meditation?
The ultimate goal of meditation is unity with Spirit. It is also what many people call an experience of Bliss, or satchidananda: ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new Bliss as Yogananda ascertains.
Other definitions of this state of unity have been called enlightenment, oneness, Self-realization, nirvana, or samadhi.
Why does meditation work?
As the breath flows, so flows the mind, the yogis say. There is a well-documented connection between the state of the body and the state of the mind, called the mind-body connection. Especially, between the breath and the mind. When we meditate, and begin with controlling the breath as taught in the Lessons in Meditation series of Ananda, the breath becomes calm which in turns help to calm the mind. As the mind becomes more calm, the breath can continue to slow and the feeling of stillness and expanded awareness of meditation prevails.
The breath is the greatest obstacle to deep meditation because as long as there is bodily tension, movement, or activity, there is energy that draws us into the physical body and matter. The point of meditation is to remove our energy from the senses and the outward-driving forces so that we can internalize and uplift all of our energy one-pointedly towards our Seat of Joy or the point between the eyebrows.
What are the best times of day to meditate?
The best times of day to meditate go with the natural changes in the day:
- 6am (dawn or early morning)
- 12pm (noon)
- 6pm (evening or dusk)
- 12am (midnight)
The yogis also say that these are also powerful times of day that make it easier to internalize and uplift our energies in meditation.
How can I get started or get meditation support right now?
If you are ready to get started and want support right away, we highly recommend you take our free webinar called, “Cultivating the Habit of Meditation.” This will give you an opportunity to get to know the practice of meditation as brought by Paramhansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi, our teachers, and even introduce you to chanting and prayer so that you can decide if we are a good fit for you.
There is also a video on the Hong-Sau Technique that Yogananda taught, which could get you started today. As Yogananda said, The time for knowing God is now!