Daily meditation can be a great way to increase your mindfulness, reduce stress and sharpen your waking self-awareness as part of lucid dreaming practice. In this article, I’ve laid out a simple meditation how to guide for anyone interested in starting meditation practice. You may want to meditate to encourage lucid dreams, for spiritual development, to reduce stress and negative emotions, or for all of these reasons. Whatever your motive, practicing meditation has been shown to have tangible benefits when done regularly. People from all walks of life meditate as a way to step back from busy modern life and cultivate a sense of inner peace and calm. Regular meditation practice has proven health benefits: studies have shown it can reduce blood pressure and clear blockages in blood vessels, as well as relieving mental stress and nervous tension.
The first thing to do is block out a time you will use for meditation practice. You may feel overwhelmed and like you have no time to meditate, but the beauty of meditation is that it actually creates time by focusing and calming your mind, enabling you to better tackle your everyday workload. Some people choose to meditate at the beginning of the day, while their minds are still relatively clear; others like to meditate in the evening as a way of examining and processing the day’s events and laying them to rest. You may also consider meditating in the afternoon to take a break from the day’s responsibilities and activities. Whatever time you choose, try to shoot for the same time each day: this will get your mind and body used to the new habit and help cement meditation as part of your daily life.
How long you meditate is also up to you, although regular practitioners recommend that beginners should aim for sessions of about 20 minutes maximum. If you’re just starting out, try meditating for five minutes at a time with a one minute break, as sometimes taking a break can actually increase your feeling of relaxed awareness. The goal isn’t to meditate for a certain length of time, but to achieve a state of mindfulness and relaxed alertness in the time you do meditate.
Choosing the right location will also ease your transition to a relaxed state of consciousness. The ideal space for meditation is one in which you feel alert yet contemplative. Meditate somewhere you know you’ll have privacy and quiet, such as a secluded room in your home. You may want to create an altar or shrine for this space, using objects that have special meaning to you or that put you in a contemplative frame of mind. You can also choose to meditate outside where nature can gently stimulate your senses, but make sure to find a peaceful and quiet location where you won’t be disturbed by the sounds of traffic, picnickers, etc.
Now that you’ve found the best place and time to begin your meditation, the next step is to find the best posture. Traditionally, a practitioner sits upright with legs crossed in the “lotus” position and hands either folded in the lap or resting on the knees. You may choose this posture or any that feels comfortable to you; the key is to find a posture that lets you remain both relaxed and alert. Try sitting upright on the floor or a chair with your pelvis tilted slightly forward (you can place a cushion on your seat to adjust your posture). Pay attention to the alignment of your spine by letting your arms hang down at your sides, and gently correct any imbalance in your posture. Tune into how your body feels throughout your meditation: pay attention to any tension in your muscles, especially around your face and spine, and relax them without slouching. The goal is to activate your muscles without tensing them. You may have to practice consciously relaxing your muscles as your meditation progresses. You’ll know you’ve achieved the right posture when your breathing feels easy and natural; you may also feel a bit like you’re floating. With regular practice, eventually you’ll be able to feel the muscles in your torso working to help your primary breathing muscle, the diaphragm, move up and down to inflate the lungs.
Good posture is crucial to successful meditation because effective breathing is the heart of meditation practice. One of the simplest techniques of meditation is to focus on your breathing as a way of calming and focusing your mind. Exhale strongly a few times to expel carbon dioxide from your lungs before beginning (perhaps as you’re adjusting your posture). One method of facilitating deep breathing is to envision a lotus blossom resting in your lower abdomen. Picture the petals opening as you breathe in and closing as you breathe out. This technique actually incorporates a guided meditation technique (visualization) with breathing meditation to produce a powerful focusing effect. You can also pay attention to the feeling of your breath, letting errant thoughts pass through your mind (and they will) without following or judging them. When you feel yourself latching onto a passing thought, return your attention to your breathing.
There are two basic streams of meditation practice: breathing meditation, which I described briefly above, and guided meditations which use an object, mantra or guided imagery to focus the attention and generate mindfulness. There are also certain herbs for meditation you can combine with mindfulness techniques to achieve greater awareness in your practice. Note that the methods I’ve listed here are practices for meditation— not meditation itself. Meditation is defined as a state of receptivity without expectation, and connection with the inner Self which is pure awareness. Meditation techniques can help you tame your thoughts and emotions in preparation for achieving this state, but it usually takes a lot of practice to achieve meditation itself. However, you can still reap the benefits of meditation practice even if you don’t experience flashes of insight while meditating. If done regularly, meditation practice can lead to lasting calm, self-awareness and happiness in your everyday life.