This article describes what to do before, during, and after a meditation session in order to effectively support the process of spiritual awakening.
Meditation, as I define it, is any practice that involves directing your attention toward your current subjective experience. Meditation can be used to cultivate many faculties of awakening, including vitality, mindfulness, compassion, insight, and intuition. What faculties you cultivate depends on the specific meditation practices that you do in that session. This article describes a general framework for meditating; to use this framework, you’ll also need instructions for the specific meditation practices you want to do.
If you’re new to meditation, I suggest you make cultivating mindfulness the initial focus of your meditation sessions. Mindfulness is a prerequisite for insight, and it’s also helpful for cultivating vitality, compassion, and intuition. I recommend that you meditate in the context of an ongoing spiritual practice routine.
Before Your Meditation Session
If possible, meditate in a setting where you won’t be disturbed. It’s not that you can’t meditate in a busy, chaotic environment—it’s just that a chaotic environment makes meditation a lot more challenging. On the other hand, when my schedule is such that I can’t meditate in a peaceful environment, I get my meditation in whenever and wherever I can. (For instance, I’ve had many good meditation sessions on the train.)
If you’re learning a new meditation practice, review the instructions for that practice just before your session so you won’t have to refer to them in the midst of your session. Make spiritual practice a priority by turning off things that may interrupt your session. Set an intention for how long your session will be, and consider setting a timer to gently notify you when your session time is over. (The benefit of using a timer is that you won’t have to keep track of time during your session, and you will be less tempted to stop early.)
During Your Meditation Session
When you’re ready to start meditating, assume a relaxed, comfortable meditation posture. Start your timer (if you’re using one), then follow the specific meditation practice instructions (that you previously learned) until your session time is over.
Being alert yet relaxed and comfortable is important for effective meditation. Meditation should not be an endurance test or a competition. Try to strike a balance between overly-rigid stillness and overly-permissive fidgeting. Avoiding fidgeting helps calm your body, and avoiding being overly rigid helps your body relax.
If your body wants or needs to move, let it move. (I make a distinction between movement and distracted fidgeting.) For instance, as I go deeper into meditation, when stuck energy gets released, I often find that my arms want to shake and my toes sometimes want to wiggle; so I let them shake and wiggle (rather than trying to hold them still). Obviously, this works better when I’m meditating alone then when I’m meditating in a group setting; in a group, I tend to be less active to avoid disturbing others.
After Your Meditation Session
At the end of your session, consider taking some notes or journaling about your experience. Journaling can help you integrate learnings from your session and help you clarify intentions for your future sessions. If you like to write about spiritual practice (as I do), your notes can also serve as seeds for future writing.
One caution: many great ideas may come to mind in the midst of your meditation sessions. If they are truly great, you won’t forget them—so postpone recording them until your session is over.
Do you have any more tips on how to have a great meditation session? Leave a comment to let everyone know!