How to Meditate
At a regular time of day, for me the hour prior to sleep, I sit with my legs in nearly the classic pose, but with legs on the ground instead of on the other leg (the "Burmese" posture). I sit on a small pillow, and with my back to a firm but soft couch (or wall with a small pillow in my back). For me this position lets me sit comfortably for several hours. The point of the posture is that it is quiet for you. The body must not be constantly sending input to your consciousness. Scratch if it itches, and get it over with!
In the background, I like to [not-]listen to space music, a subset of New Age music designed for meditation. (I like Jonn Serrie, and most of the Hearts of Space series) It is generally a beat-free music, and it masks ordinary house sounds like the fish tank, air conditioner, street traffic, etc., without drawing attention to itself.
I sit, just to get physically comfortable, this takes about 20 minutes.
Then it takes another 20 minutes for my mind to settle. Just barely observe thoughts. Don't repel them, analyze then, continue after them...like little children who don't get the attention they want, they will go away. (sad metaphor!) It just takes practice, and soon you will be able to go several seconds without a thought or afterthought, or acknowledgement and judgement of some sensory input. In my experience, when I can get to about 7 seconds in total non-response quiet, interesting things start to happen. It is as if short-term memory fades dramatically after 7 seconds, and with no new input to it for 7 seconds, I achieve a very blank mind, the most fertile ground for mystical experience.
After this 2nd 20 minutes, I still sit, and it seems to take another 20 minutes for something else to settle. During this time, there may be some thoughts, just continue to pay them no mind. At this point, you have done all you can to create a fertile ground for mystical experience. The rest is waiting, yet not for any thing in particular. Often nothing will happen, that is ok.
There is a very fine line between not thinking and the state required for enlightenment. Though virtually every mystical treatise discusses quieting the analytical mind, yet most say "that is not it". It is just that "it" can be seen more easily when in the quiet-mind state. Afterwards, you will "see it" everywhere, but until then, it may take a particularly rigorous effort to access it the first time.
A classic Zen metaphor: The mind is like a lake, upon which thoughts like waves rise and fall. Though we may now and then get a glimpse of the reflection of the moon upon the water, flicking off this wave or that, we can see it best when the thoughts and waves subside, and the lake becomes calm, and the moon's reflection can be seen clearly. Another variation indicates what we want to see is at the bottom of the lake, and it requires still, clear waters to see it.
As I said, meditate regularly at the same time of day. And don't concern yourself with interrupting your session. Countless times, 20-30 minutes in, I will get up and get a drink or something, then get back to meditation, and immediately major things happen. I would almost say it is a requirement to interrupt your meditation with a short one minute walk halfway through, though it is counter-intuitive.
I have discovered that the body should be positioned symmetrically left-right. Once I was meditating in a group setting, and was cruising along nicely when all of a sudden I detected "a disturbance in the force", I mentally scanned my body, and discovered one of my thumbs had slipped! The burmese hand posture I use isn't perfectly symmetrical, but works for me, the parts seem to "fit" (as if it is the way I have been doing it for a 2700 years!), with both hands in my lap, palms up, one inside/atop the other, thumbs just touching.
Buddha keeps getting back to, whatever it is you do, you must "see the mind in its essential purity". Other scriptures say "You must become conscious of consciousness itself". In some systems, "God" IS consciousness or awareness.
Several scriptures say: "The pure in mind will see God", Jesus and others said "The pure in heart will see God." Normally this "purity" is seen in religious terms as meaning "good" or "perfect", and though there are elements of "goodness" in it, this is not the kind of purity in question! Give me a bucket of pure sh*t! Nothing "pure" about it!, but it is pure sh*t, nothing butt, 100%.
The appropriate part of the purity definition here seems to refer to "oneness", "unity", "equality", "uniformity", "wholeness". If you can make all your thoughts be One or None, you will see "God" (whatever THAT means!)
Buddha often uses the term "no thing." If you have trouble with "no thing" in your mind, it may be appropriate for you at this juncture to try a "one thing" meditation, one where you strive to actively keep in your mind only one thought, be it a deity figure, an orange, a scripture, a single word or syllable (I sometimes use the phrase "I don't care" to great effect, it answers well any thought that pops up), or the simple idea of watching your breath. Whatever you think, only think that. The simpler the better. When you become more comfortable with and adept at only thinking thoughts of "one thing", you may start to get glimpses of the "no thing" in between. Step by step. Soon you will let go of the one thing too.
A high percentage of thoughts we have are self-generated, those are the ones we can quell. But unfortunately, it "seems" there are also a number of thoughts that are not self-generated, at least in the sense of consciously-phrased-thought. For these all we can do is not pay any attention, they will go away with time. Pay them "no mind".
And let no spurious thoughts that pop up (from cause-unknown) cause another follow-on thought of any sort: < a random thought > "There's that thought". "No, don't say anything" "Quiet, all of you.!" "What was I doing?" See how one stray thought spawned four more?
Scriptures also say that love is the most powerful motive force in the universe. I discovered that combining the no-mind technique in my head, with a loving attitude in my heart (so to speak) for no particular thing, (God unformed perhaps), whole new avenues of experience opened up to me. So much love flowing out from me to the world, and so much love flowing in to me from the world. All was love. I could feel love circulating in me like a fountain (some call this the kundalini). It was not long after this that I saw God my first/2nd time.
It is as if the mind is the engine, being prepped in silence, and the love is fuel, propelling both heart and mind to hitherto unexplored regions.
So that is the more complete "technique": a calm body, an empty head, and a full heart. And time will tell.
Copyright (C) 2001 by George Ziniewicz
Email: zin @ zinsight.com