Meditation is the gateway to the universe within. If you’re new to meditation, relax – it’s easier than you think, and with a few tips you’ll be meditating your way to greater self-awareness, self-discipline, less stress and amazing self-mastery.
What is Meditation?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by what meditation is and how to meditate. Images of bearded yogis sitting in the Lotus position on a mountaintop give a skewed vision of what meditation is really like. The basic instructions are very simple. As you progress with your practice, you can tweak it and adjust it to suit your unique needs. No Lotus required, unless you want to!
First, what is meditation all about? Meditation is a technique that alters the normal state of consciousness and brings about feelings of peace, happiness and clarity.
What is the normal state of consciousness? If you think about the normal stuff that occupies your mind every day, you can see that your thoughts center around money, job, family, friends, fun, the future, the past, responsibilities, your body, the house, the car, etc. We believe we are separate from the rest of the world. We perceive the world around us using the five senses, and react in an uncontrolled way.
An uncontrolled way?? Most of the time, we all believe that our actions are under our control. However, they are not. We each have a huge and complex repertoire of pre-programmed responses to practically every situation: this programming controls our thoughts, and therefore our actions. We bounce around from one thought to another, and most of them – neuroscientists estimate nearly 95% – are unconscious, programmed, thoughts; the resulting emotional and physical reactions, then, are unconscious and programmed.
Let’s say that you are walking down the street and you see a black dog. Immediately your mind initiates a thought process about the dog. Depending on your background, your thoughts can be warm and happy, or they can be fearful or angry. If your childhood was a black Labrador, your mental reaction is probably a memory of happy times with your pet pooch; as a result of this conditioning, your physical and emotional reaction to a strange dog on the street will be relaxed and amiable. But if you had been bitten by a black dog in the past, you may unconsciously tense up and take steps to avoid the dog, even though this particular dog might be the sweetest pup in the world. Most of these thought processes and the resulting actions are completely unconscious and you are unaware of them and how they drive your actions. You may believe, for instance, that moving to the other side of the street is a conscious decision, but it’s not; that is, it’s a conscious decision based on past programming (fear of black dogs), not a conscious decision based on pure unbiased thoughts. A conscious decision would be to override that fearful conditioned response and stay on the dog’s side of the street, no matter how afraid you are.
If you can control your thoughts, you can master your actions; and since every action you take has a consequence, you will be able to consciously direct those consequences for a better life experience. Altering your consciousness means seeing the world from a different perspective based on unity, one-ness and love.
Meditation develops your mental/emotional/physical control so that you can act according to more conscious choices that are NOT based on past conditioning. When you get control over your mind, you control your life.
The first step in meditation is to focus your mind; focusing your attention exclusively on something is very difficult to do in the beginning. You will be constantly distracted by your thoughts or something in your environment; focusing the mind deliberately is a huge step in mastering your life because you will be able to shut off the endless stream of thoughts that cause you stress.
Your mind has been your master for most of your life. This realization alone may be enough to make you want to get control of your mind so that you can live your life according to what you really want out of life instead of being held back by your programming. But the mind isn’t willing to relinquish its mastery – that is why it pushes random thoughts into your attention when you are trying to concentrate. The distractions serve as tricks to divert you and get right back into that comfortable rut of listening to the mind again.
With practice, you gradually learn to maintain your focus and shut out the distractions. That is the nature of the meditative mind: unbroken attention.
When you gain more experience and greater mental mastery, you expand your consciousness and come to a realization of unity with all creation. This is a state of being that is blissful and ecstatic. This is your true nature, your true being. You’ll still have a job, a family, a body and bills to pay. Life goes on – but your perception of it, your enjoyment of it and your understanding of it will be at a completely different and better level.
Why use the Silva Method?
The Silva Method is based on the science of the workings of the human brain. Jose Silva’s work with electricity and his interest in the mind led him to ask if reducing the resistance in the mind would improve a person’s life, just as reducing the resistance in an electrical wire allows more electricity to flow through it (Ohm’s Law). Silva wondered if reducing resistance in the brain would make it more efficient at learning and unleash a person’s creativity and intuition.
What sort of resistance was he referring to? The ingrained programming that makes each individual unconsciously react instead of making conscious choices. Silva found that the amazing power of the mind could be greatly enhanced by controlling the brainwave states and consciously directing the mind instead of allowing oneself to remain unconsciously reactive. Psychorientology is the science of directing the mind with the purpose of utilizing its power to dramatically improve life. Over the years, Silva developed many exercises that later became part of the Silva Method, including the Centering Technique and various effective ways to relax the mind, become aware of your thoughts and imprint new programming.
The exercises teach you to work with your mind using its tremendous capabilities instead of letting old programming run the show. Self-reprogramming is like installing a new operating system in the mind where old programs are purged and new, beneficial programs are installed.
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Meditation is both very simple and very difficult to master.
Begin by choosing a distraction-free space where you feel at peace and comfortable. Aim for 15 minutes of meditation at first. It matters more how well you meditate (quality) not how long you meditate (quantity). Go longer if you like, but start with 15 minutes to start developing mental and physical self-discipline. It’s difficult to maintain focus for one minute let alone 15; the less opportunity you give your mind to distract you with random enticing thoughts, the quicker you will progress in self-mastery.
The sitting position is not as important as you might imagine. Some people prefer the lotus position but that can be extremely uncomfortable for someone who is not used to it. You can sit wherever you like; just maintain a comfortable but upright and open posture. Be sure the room or outdoor space is a comfortable temperature, and your stomach is neither empty nor full so you aren’t focused on your physical needs.
Close your eyes and gently roll them upwards toward your “third eye”, the point just between and above your eyebrows. You can also use the Silva 3-to-1 or 5-to-1 countdown methods to “enter the basic plane” or the alpha brainwave state of meditation.
Breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth. Become aware of the natural rhythm of your breath. Feel and hear your breath as it goes in and out; be mindful of the pause in between breaths. As you focus on your breath, the mental chatter slows. If your attention wanders from your breath, gently bring it back. Don’t get discouraged if your mind is particularly insistent with distractions. Some days you’ll have great success, others will be more challenging! Stick with it. You will develop the ability to focus for longer periods so don’t worry if your first successes are short-lived.
Now that you know the basics, these frequently asked questions will help you see that anyone can fit meditation into a busy schedule:
1. Can I listen to music or should I meditate in silence? Some people prefer meditation, others silence. This is strictly personal preference. If you focus on your breath, you don’t need anything else to focus on although music may help set the mood. Meditation music should not distract you or energize you. Experiment and do what feels right!
2. How often and how long should I meditate? Once a day is perfect; more if you want, but commit to once a day and make it a consistent practice. Aim for at least 15 minutes of intense focus; you will have better results if you do short meditation sessions every day than if your practice is erratic or sporadic.
3. What time of day is best? Many prefer early morning or just at bedtime; mornings to start the day off fresh and positive, and evenings to calm down and relax before bed. To avoid falling asleep during meditation, try meditating in the morning when your energy levels are higher. Meditate whenever is best for you!
4. What if I don’t feel like meditating? Can I skip a day or two? It’s best to be consistent. Think of it as a time of relaxation, not self-development or discipline. The more you meditate, the more pleasurable it becomes and you’ll look forward to your daily practice. Try to meditate when you are calm. Avoid meditating right after a stressful event (a tough day at work, a fight with your partner, etc.). The Silva Method provides instruction in how to calm yourself instantly and relax your mind into the tranquil alpha level when you are tense.
5. What if I can’t concentrate? That’s okay! You will develop this skill. As you breathe, make your exhales audible – a long “shhhhhh” (like gentle ocean waves washing onto the shore) to quiet the mental chatter. Don’t worry if your mind is only quiet for short periods here and there – eventually you’ll have blissful silence for as long as you desire! Be patient and compassionate with yourself. Don’t be frustrated if your mind refuses to cooperate. Be persistent.
St. Francis de Sales, French saint and Bishop of Geneva, said: “If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently…And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back, though it went away every time you bought it back, your hour would be very well employed.”
If you cannot silence your mind, take the opportunity to become aware of what your mind is going on about. Self-awareness is an important skill! Every bit of effort you put into mastering your mind is time well-spent, even though the process sometimes seems slow.
6. Is meditation a religious practice? It can be, if that’s how you choose to utilize it. Meditation and prayer are very closely related in that they are periods of intense focus, however meditation can be a purely secular practice of relaxation, mind control and self-mastery.
7. How do I know I’m meditating? When you are aware of your thoughts and you are not distracted by them or become involved in them; or, when your mind is completely silent – then you are meditating.
As you can see, there is no great mystery to meditation. Meditation is a practice – which is why we do it daily – that gradually develops physical, mental and emotional self-mastery. Use the Silva Method to learn mind-control exercises and meditate with a purpose to do important self-development work.
Start your first Silva Meditation now
Sign up & download the free Silva Centering Exercise