Sometimes when we’re beginning the journey of meditation it’s difficult to know if we’re meditating the ‘right’ way.
We might have been practicing for a few weeks or months, or maybe in a year or more, but it’s hard to know if we’re making progress.
Often the advice out there can be really confusing, a quick Google search and we end up with more questions than we started with.
How important is posture?
Should I breathe through my mouth or nose?
Eyes open or closed?
In silence or guided?
Should I practice alone or in a group?
How can I deepen my meditation?
You may have heard that you’re going to have good days and bad days and that you should just get on with the practice.
This is true, but it’s also true that it can become stale.
Those who are living a monastic life may be able to keep on with a very one dimensional practice because their brain remains engaged – this is because spirituality encompasses the majority of what create meaning in their lives.
For most of us however – especially when just starting out – we may become disengaged. As a result we’ll spend hours on the mat not really meditating but kind of in a half dazed state just going through the motions.
The way to overcome this disengagement is to add an element of variety and creativity into the practice and interrupt the pattern. Remember though that should be done sparingly, you shouldn’t be changing your routine all the time just because you’re getting distracted.
Here are 5 ways to deepen your meditation practice and experience a spiritual transformation.
- Deep Yogic breathing
There are various ways to practice yogic breathing or Pranayama.
For a basic method try to start by placing your hands on your stomach with interlaced fingers. Inhale deeply so that they separate slightly as your stomach fills with air, followed by your ribs and finally your chest. When exhaling simply follow the same sequence in reverse.
You can incorporate this into your meditation session at any time so that if you notice that you’re getting distracted more than usual or your mind isn’t engaged you can do 15-20 breaths to return your center.
If you’d like to learn more about yogic breathing and don’t have access to a teacher, there are a number of videos that explain the various techniques.
- Consciously interrupt the flow of your day
When we tell ourselves a story about our life we usually group our day into different activities.
I was sleeping then I was eating then I was showering then I was commuting then I was working for example.
But when we run through this experience in real time, we often forget that we’re transitioning from one thing to another, until we reach the end of the day and it can seem like we’ve just spent the last 12 hours on autopilot.
Paul Wilson, author of the Calm Technique, recommends that we take a conscious pause between each daily activity, be that one breath or ten minutes.
When moving into another action, simply take a moment to pause and recognise the transition before carrying on with your day.
- Introduce active meditation
When we start to make meditation just something we do in the morning or afternoon, it can cease to become a way of being and start to become a chore.
The aim of practice is not to elicit a sense of deep calm and mindfulness for a certain period of time, but to make your entire life a meditation. As Jack Kornfield has said, “meditation is training wheels for real life.”
To deepen your meditation practice, choose one activity that you do habitually every day, this can be walking, eating, waiting for a bus, brushing your teeth, cleaning the dishes – and make it a meditation. Commit to it so that every day you’re making the meditative experience flow throughout your day as opposed to coming and leaving in designating chunks of time.
Once you’ve started to remember to do this consistently for at least a month, then you can start adding more activities.
- Practice the fire breath
This is another yogic breathing technique that is quite different and comes from both the Hatha and Kundalini traditions.
It is used by superhuman Wim Hof to generate a meditative state that allows him to withstand extreme temperatures.
The technique can be relatively intense, so it’s advised that you start slow unless you have an experienced practitioner guiding you.
To perform the fire breath, close your eyes and breathe out through your nose in short powerful bursts. When inhaling you should let the air come in naturally – the intensity should be lighter than on the exhale.
Start by performing 10 to 20 of these breaths and work your way up to more over time, you may experience tingling or light-headedness.
- Perform mini-body scans when we get distracted
Sometimes when we meditate we get so focused on the object of our attention that we completely forget to keep our body relaxed.
What we need to understand is that the ability of the mind to relax is dependent on the ability of the body to relax, so the depth of your physiological relaxation will limit the depth of your meditation.
If you find yourself distracted or disengaged, go from your feet to your head placing your focus on each muscle group and relaxing them slowly before returning to your breathe.
Adding variety to your meditation can deepen your state and set the ground for a true spiritual transformation. Have you had any experience with these techniques? Let us know in the comments.
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Ben is a freelance writer, and the co-creator of Project Monkey Mind—a blog that helps you learn practical ways to live a productive, fulfilling and world-changing life in the digital age.