Many resources that provide information about how to meditate properly may offer a more rigid approach than what I am about to describe. My best advice is to experiment for yourself and go with what your gut says is best for you. However, I think there is tremendous value in the following approach.

The process I will describe here is also a very distilled process, bringing meditation to its bare essentials. This is not to downplay other meditations and techniques for how to meditate properly, so I will also mention other approaches and techniques and describe how they relate.

When learning how to meditate properly there is something important that is very helpful to understand as early as possible. That is your “why” for meditating, and the ultimate “why” of meditation. This is not often known or explained, but it makes a big difference when you understand where you’re going with the process, so we’ll start with that.

Understand the “Why” of Meditation

Meditation no doubt has many amazing benefits of which you’re probably aware. A few examples are increased relaxation, focus, clarity, calm, creativity, more energy, health improvements, etc. One or more of these may be your reason for meditating, and that’s great! With time, you will very likely find that all of these benefits will become more prominent in your life because of meditation.

However, these are byproducts of something else that is going on during the process, and it isn’t talked about much when discussing meditation in the mainstream.

The Ultimate Purpose of Meditation

You don’t have to jump right into trying to achieve the ultimate purpose of meditation, but it will certainly help along the way to know what it is.

When you meditate, you are actually building your ability to allow your awareness itself to become much more prominent in your experience. Meditation naturally moves you from being conscious of the world through the filter of your thoughts, emotions, and sensations to being conscious of the world through pure consciousness or awareness. This is what brings about the clarity and focus you may be looking for, but there is more to it.

When you start to recognize and become aware of your own awareness or consciousness, you begin to realize that it is primary to everything else in your experience. This means that no matter what is happening outside of you in your experience, awareness is constant in the experience. This is also the case with any thought, emotion, or sensation inside of you. For example, when you have a thought, the thought comes and goes while the awareness that is aware of the thought consistently remains.

Most of us are oriented in a way that our awareness goes unnoticed in the background of our thoughts, emotions, and sensations connected to the external world. With meditation, this orientation begins to shift so that you can see the world and operate from pure awareness.

If what I have described about awareness doesn’t fully resonate with you yet, it’s ok. Pretty much any type of meditation will naturally help you make this shift without you even knowing it or wanting it. The difference with what I am about to describe is mainly just a matter of simplicity and efficiency.

The following meditation processes describe a very simple and efficient approach to make the shift from being governed by the external, including thoughts, emotions, and sensations, to allowing awareness to take the forefront of your experience.

How To Meditate Properly For Beginners

This is a very common meditation you may have already heard about or tried, but I will add some context that may be helpful after the following steps.

  1. Sit comfortably in a chair, but in a way that will make it least likely for you to fall asleep, and then close your eyes.
  2. Inhale naturally, exhale fully, and then count “one”.
  3. Repeat step 2 above, but keep counting until your count gets to “ten”, and the start again at “one”. As you move through each number, try to gently pay attention to your breath and all the sensations of your breath.

Whenever a thought arises during this process, just allow it to come and go. It will be very natural for you to get caught up in some of these thoughts and lose your track of the count. That is totally fine. When this happens, don’t think of it as a challenge that you’re failing. This is what is supposed to happen. Let it. When you get off track like this, just gently start back at “one” again.

It will likely take a while before you can get to “ten” and even longer before you can get to ten repetitively in the same meditation session. That’s perfectly fine too.

How This Meditation Changes You

Here’s what’s happening with this process. By being aware of your breath, the count of breaths, and any thoughts or emotions that arise, you are building your ability to be aware in the present moment through exercise. Through this process your brain is learning to let go of the thoughts that block you from fully experiencing the “now”, and you’re simultaneously becoming aware of what it feels like to have full awareness of the moment.

You’re also getting a sense, even if not deliberately, of the steadfast, nonjudgmental nature of awareness itself. As you move toward becoming more aware of your awareness, you will naturally operate from this place of pure awareness and all the byproducts of focus, clarity, relaxation, higher energy, etc will come with it.

One important thing to note here. Do not let this exercise turn into a suppression of thoughts and emotions. The idea is not to stop or block out thoughts and emotions. The idea is to allow them to arise, and watch them come and go without any positive or negative attachment to them. If this brings up heavy emotions, usually that is a good time to express them. However, if this aspect becomes overly challenging for you, don’t hesitate to look for personalized help from someone experienced with meditation or psychology.

After you get used to this type of meditation, you’ll want to start mixing in some meditation that looks directly at awareness itself, as described below.

How To Meditate Properly For Advanced Meditators

The beginner approach above is very powerful, and on its own can be very transformative over time. Once you are comfortable with that approach and you’re seeing improvement in meditation and life, you might want to start exploring a deeper, more inward bound approach to meditation.

  1. Get into your favorite, most comfortable posture and close your eyes.
  2. Depending on your ability to get into a meditative state, you can start with the breath counting exercise to get there, or go right to the next step.
  3. Look directly at your awareness. In other words, look at what’s looking. Sense what is at the core of sensing. Be aware of your own consciousness. Notice the sensation of existing.
  4. Keep looking directly at your awareness.
  5. If a thought arises, just like in the beginner process, let it come and go without judgement, and move your attention back to your awareness. The thoughts and emotions are welcome to arise and fall away. In fact, if it’s happening a lot (and it probably will), deliberately invite any thought or emotion to arise that needs to arise and sit back like an audience waiting for the next thing, however good or bad, to come up.

If looking at your awareness does not resonate with you, or is not something you’ve had in your experience, please read How to Find Yourself Through Awareness of Awareness.

As you make the awareness your point of focus and allow the thoughts and emotions to come and go, eventually the mind will let go and calm down and your awareness will be much easier to watch. Keep watching it. This is the key.

How This Type of Meditation Changes You

Meditation on awareness itself helps you become increasingly familiar with what is primary to all of your experience. With time, you will become familiar with the nature of your awareness and you will begin to see it as more “you” than all the other things you call yourself. This experiential understanding will reveal to your mind that your awareness is a solid force within you, which will give the mind permission to let go of any counterproductive or useless thoughts and emotions that block you from allowing awareness to take the forefront of your experience. The mind will calm down and become sharper and more useful, and you will develop greater well-being and move efficiently toward your human potential.

Know that this process will unfold over time. You will have some meditations that are better than others, and there will be times of regression. It’s all ok and part of the process.

How To Meditate Correctly Laying Down

As you get more comfortable and used to meditating, you can start to experiment with meditating laying down. This can be a powerful way to let go and relax into awareness with all of your body.

Whether you’re at a beginner level or advanced level, you can lay flat on your bed, sofa, or the ground in as comfortable position as you can find. You truly want to be comfortable, because that comfort will remove a distracting element that may have its place in other types of meditation, but is not needed for the types described in this article.

  1. Next, notice your entire body and all the sensations going on in it.
  2. Relax every last muscle as deeply as you can.
  3. Now perform either the beginner meditation above, or the advanced meditation, depending on what you feel is most appropriate.

The challenge here is if you’re tired, it’s easy to go to sleep. Since this is quite common, let’s explore this further.

Falling Asleep During Meditation

While meditation can be a nice way to end your day and help you fall asleep as a last act after you’ve laid down, when you’re not planning to go to sleep, drowsiness can be an issue during a given meditation.

There are two great ways to approach drowsiness when meditating.

  1. When you feel yourself getting drowsy, lay down or recline in a chair, set a 15 to 20 minute alarm, and take a quick cat-nap. This short amount of time is usually enough to reset and re-awaken the brain, and once it’s reset and awake, you can continue your meditation.
  2. This option is probably more suited for advanced meditators. During the meditation, as drowsiness arises, pay close attention to the sensations of drowsiness and allow them to arise. Fear may also arise with this as you might be afraid you’ll fall over and harm yourself. Obviously be sure your surroundings are safe in the event that you do fall over. However, if you’re very attentive and aware of the sensations as they arise, and you accept the drowsiness and any fears that arise with it, you can move right through it and continue your meditation, and the tiredness will subside. Again, this is usually an advanced technique, and please be careful if you give it a try.

Opening Your Eyes During Meditation

You can absolutely meditate with your eyes open. However, this adds a level of distraction that may be challenging to deal with if you’re a beginner. When you master opening your eyes during meditation it will help hone your ability to be in a meditative state throughout your day.

  1. Simply begin whatever meditation you choose to do and settle into it for a few minutes.
  2. Once you’re in a relaxed, settled-in place, go ahead and try opening your eyes.
  3. At first, just keep your eyes straight ahead. Later, you can try looking around while maintaining the meditation.
  4. Maintain your meditation as if your eyes were still closed, and as before, allow any thoughts about what you’re seeing arise and fall away without any judgement.

Eliminating Sound During Meditation

Obviously it’s ideal to meditate in a quiet place. As you get more comfortable with meditation, you can experiment with meditating in noisy places, which you can approach similarly to the description above about opening your eyes.

However, you can have some very powerful deepening in your meditation by completely eliminating sound. A trick I have used to do this is wearing noise blocking ear muffs. Here’s an example of headphones or earmuffs that can be used for meditation (sold for use for construction, etc).

The key is that they are light and comfortable to wear. Getting complete silence during meditation is a beautiful thing, and can really help you become more acutely aware of your awareness.

Going Beyond Formal Meditation

With time, you will notice that the states you experience during meditation are carrying over into your day. You’ll notice that you will become internally quieter and more oriented toward the present moment. This may carry over during the time right after a given meditation, but you’ll also see it in further proximity from the meditation and in different types of circumstances. This is when you’ll become confident that progress is being made and you’re doing the right thing.

However, don’t be surprised if there are times when you think you’re regressing or becoming more emotionally imbalanced. This can certainly happen as your awareness grows and you start to more vividly experience the rawness of emotions and become aware of the ways you may sabotage your experience. The key here is not to take it personally, and to know to get help if it’s something you’re really struggling with. Know that this type of challenge is always rooted in fear, and accepting yourself and your fears without trying to suppress them will loosen their grip. However, it can take some time, and there will likely be some oscillation. It helps to know this ahead of time.

Ultimately, your daily experience will evolve into naturally being in a meditative state without meditating. It won’t actually be a state, but the truth of what you are. You will have shifted experience from being governed by volatile thoughts, emotions and sensations to being governed by the pure awareness that is primary to your experience, which can still include thoughts, emotions, and sensations, but in a much more stable, fulfilling, and productive way.

Other Meditation Approaches

As I’m sure you realize, there are plenty of other meditations and approaches to meditation than what has been described here. By all means, explore them. However, it can help to know that other approaches fall into one of the following categories:

  • External Meditation – Examples include meditation on mantras, objects, or the breath. This type of meditation helps train your brain to be more oriented to the present moment and it helps build your awareness or your capacity to keep thoughts, emotions, and sensations from blocking your awareness.
  • Internal Meditation – An example is meditation on awareness itself, or being aware of being aware. Internal meditation is an inner exploration of your own consciousness and the nature of what you truly are.

The beginner level meditation I described above is an external meditation, and the advanced meditation described in an internal meditation. The external type prepares you for the internal type, but there are no hard and fast rules about this. Feel free to explore any meditations you’re called to explore. What I have done here is given you a very distilled way to do both types of meditation, while giving you context for any meditations you learn elsewhere. Knowing what a given meditation is meant to do, can be helpful. It can also be helpful to know that you may not need all the particulars that may be described as required for a given meditation, which can help you discern the best and most efficient meditation practices for yourself, even if that includes making up your own.

Ultimately, meditation is about realizing your true nature so clearly by becoming purely aware of your own awareness. As this happens, you will eventually have no need or desire to meditate.

Conclusion For How To Meditate Properly

Anyone who meditates for any reason will find value in knowing the ultimate purpose of meditation, which is to shift from thoughts, emotions and sensations being at the forefront of your experience to pure awareness being at the forefront. Beginner or external meditation, like breathing meditation, can help prepare your mind to orient to awareness and the present moment. This enables effective approaches for internal meditation, like meditating on awareness itself. It can be helpful to experiment with sleep, sound, sight, and laying down to enhance your meditation practices. With time, your experience in daily life will shift to the awareness that is already primary in your experience. Meditation will become your natural state in daily life without you having to have a formal practice. The transformation and beauty that come with this shift make the process and challenges that come with it more than worth it.

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