Pick a meditation and start practicing for 3 minutes, then build up to 11 minutes, then 22 or even 31 minutes. Kundalini meditations usually come with a suggested length of time for practice.
In a lecture (1) Yogi Bhajan asked his audience how they defined meditation, they responded: ‘It would be like a silencing of the mind from everyday life and allowing the free flow of thought’ and ‘It is concentration’. He replied ‘That’s part of it, anyone else?’. They said ‘It is a complete relaxation from regular hassles’, and he encouraged them further saying, ‘Come on, come on, everybody!’. The audience responded ‘It’s a new level of consciousness, a deeper level of consciousness...’, and ‘ It is becoming receptive’. He then said, ‘You all have one part or the other of meditation. Prayer is when the mind is one-pointed and man talks to Infinity. Meditation is when the mind becomes totally clean and receptive and Infinity talks to man. That is what meditation is’.
Wonderful, a totally clean and receptive mind! Sounds like a plan. However, putting it into practice is another thing all together. The following is a passage from Gurmukh (2) that provides a beautifully simple summary about meditation:
“Meditation is not about perfecting or attaining anything. People think they need to go into a trance or be in an altered state to feel they’re really meditating. That can and does happen, but meditation is actually the clearinghouse of the mind. Our minds release a thousand thoughts per wink of the eye. Just watch these thoughts as you might watch an ocean wave, not remembering or diagnosing them as they come and go. The real gift is to sit in the middle of all those thoughts, and react to not a one. Keep returning back to your breath, or maybe the sound you’re making or the positioning of the body. Kundalini Meditations usually consist of breath or sound patterns and some specific positions, so you have plenty on which to concentrate.”
Yogi Bhajan describes meditating as a process. He explained that in meditation, within a few minutes many thoughts will come – if you let those thoughts pass by, you are meditating. Keeping physically still helps the mind to become still. This is the foundation of the meditative mind. You have to concentrate. ‘It is the mind which can concentrate for you. The mind is given as a tool to you. The mind is not your master. The mind was given to serve you’ (Yogi Bhajan).
Meditation may be done silently or with mantra. Meditating with silent awareness allows you to be aware of what is happening in your mind, and to let the subconscious get rid of thoughts, feelings and processes. This is done by bringing awareness to the breath, or silently being a non-judgemental observer of our mind. Meditating with mantra acts as a focus for the mind, like a hinge which swings your thoughts, and a new model for the mind.
As the mind is generating thoughts constantly, distractions are absolutely normal. Just continue to bring yourself back to the mantra or point of focus (such as the breathing or eye focus). Do not judge or react to the thoughts. By learning to do this, you can bring about a calmness and stillness, even in the face of an ever functioning mind. Be patient with yourself and remember that it is a process. You may begin with only a few moments of focus, but this is a start.
Preparation for Meditating
Where: Chose a setting where you will not be disturbed, with the temperature not too hot or cold. It is helpful to sit on a sheepskin, a mat, or a blanket (something supportive but also soft). If you cannot sit comfortably on the floor, it is okay to sit on a chair. The idea is to be relaxed yet still alert, with a stable base.
When: The best time to meditate is before dawn (between 4 and 7am) or when the sun is setting (4 to 7pm). Meditating before going to bed can also be beneficial, as you are calming the mind and preparing for sleep.
Wear: Wear something comfortable, and ideally something made of natural fibres. You may also wish to cover your head.
Tune in: Chant ‘Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo’ three times to tune in.
Exercises: We do exercises for yoga and breathing to prepare ourselves for meditation. The exercises balance our nervous system and the subtle energies of the mind and the body, which in turn facilitates meditation.
1. ‘Individual Harmony - Universal Harmony’, Yogi Bhajan PhD.
2. Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa (2000). ‘The Eight Human Talents: Restore the Balance and Serenity Within You With Kundalini Yoga’ New York: HarperCollins.