Developing good habits will be the most important factor in determining whether or not you succeed in establishing a practice of meditation. Good intentions and bursts of enthusiastic devotion will dissipate unless they become translated into daily routine.
The first thing to do is decide on when is the most convenient time for you to meditate. In choosing a time, regularity is the most important factor, so set a time when you can be consistent. Meditate every day at your chosen time, even if you meditate for only five or ten minutes at a time. If, for at least 30 days, you make a consistent effort never to skip a meditation, a supportive habit will start to form, and it will become easier.
As you sit to meditate, it is very important to make a strong mental resolution to put aside all preoccupations and worries. Be determined to withdraw from all involvement for a little while. Your problems and worries will still be there when you return.
These simple [breathing] techniques are more important than you might think. People can meditate for many months, or even years, with little results, simply because they have ignored the basics, thinking that such elementary practices are only for the merest beginner. Restlessness, especially mental restlessness, is the main impediment to deeper meditation, and these basic breathing exercises are extremely effective in stilling the thoughts.
The key to success with the “Hong-Sau Technique” is to deepen your concentration at the spiritual eye until you no longer think about anything except the rhythmic flow of the breath. As the mind becomes very calm, you will find your need to breathe diminishing. Enjoy the spaces between breaths, keeping your mind very still and allowing the pauses to lengthen naturally.
A very helpful means of increasing the length and depth of your meditations is to have at least one longer meditation each week. Your long meditation should be about two or three times as long as your normal ones. If you are normally meditating for twenty minutes at a sitting, try to meditate once a week for an hour. Not only will you find that you can go deeper in the long meditation, but your usual twenty minutes will soon begin to seem short.
Techniques that concentrate and interiorize the mind will normally take up the greater part of a meditation. Don’t stop practicing these techniques too soon. Only when you are deeply concentrated and in a state of expanded awareness is it good to drop techniques and simply immerse yourself in the experience.
On the other hand, concentration techniques should not consume all of your time, but should lead to the next stage, expansion. At least the final quarter of your meditation should be spent in silent inner communion with your own higher self and God.
Try always to keep your meditations fresh, energetic, and intuitive. Too little use of techniques will result in shallow meditations, but too much routine can make your meditations dry. Try to find the balance that brings you the most joy.
Outward worship sometimes involves elaborate rituals or ceremonies. These may help awaken zeal, but unless the awakened energy is more inwardly directed, we will remain unchanged. Meditative devotion is much deeper. It tries to attune the worshiper with the consciousness of the form you love rather than merely its outward expression.
To worship God in the form of a guru, concentrate on the eyes. If you have a picture, look at the eyes and try to feel that he or she is silently speaking to you through them. Then visualize him or her inwardly, taking away every mental and emotional barrier. Draw that holy, loving influence into your heart and soul.
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These techniques are based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi.