Developing a meditation practice is a two-stage process. Meditative discipline is the second stage.
The first step of the second stage is to find time to meditate daily. Whether you sign up for a class or simply take small amounts of time out of your day, most people start with just five minutes in the morning or evening. Learning to focus and centre are good ways to continue to develop your ability to deflect worry, to refocus and to relocate and gain control over your emotions and self.
Step 1: With your eyes open or closed, quietly clear your mind of everything. Stop thinking about what has just happened and stop thinking about what’s going to happen. Simply exist in the present moment that you are in right now. Don’t think about what you are seeing or hearing. Live only in the here and now. This state of mind can be called the “zone”. Learning to find this zone requires constant practice. But once you are able to call on it at will, you will be able to deflect and sort through stress, focus clearly on tasks, and calmly remain centered no matter what the situation. Finding this peace internally will automatically affect your actions externally — this practice can be applied to all things and all situations. Change the inside and the outside will follow.
Step 2: Now that you are learning to find your zone of peace, meditation offers three basic tools that will help you to custom-fit your practice.
Breathing: The first tool is breathing. Getting into a relaxed state of mind and a relaxed physical state is achieved by learning to control your heart rate. Focusing your attention on breathing causes your mind and body to work together. This natural harmony helps synergize everything — mind, body and eventually spirit. Long inhalations and even longer exhalations help to slow down your heart rate and to relax your muscles. When you meditate, begin by taking three to five deep cleansing breaths, then vary the length of your inhalations and exhalations to continue to put your body and mind into a relaxed state. Imagine inhaling positive thoughts and exhaling negative ones.
Mantra: The second tool is mantra. Mantras are sounds or words that you repeat. Said aloud, under your breath, or mentally, without sound, the purpose of mantra is to stabilize the mind and to protect it from unwanted distractions. A mantra can be a word or phrase with deep personal meaning to you. Quietly repeat it again and again, allowing your mind to rest on the sound and the feeling it evokes. When your mind begins to wander, come back to your mantra. Some people simply use the words “calm” or “peace” as mantras.
Deity: The third tool is deity. If a mantra is designed to calm the mind, then a deity (a sublime object of focus) is designed to give us something to concentrate on mentally and spiritually. A deity is not necessarily a supreme being; it can simply be an object in front of you, like a painting or a statue. Determining your deity is strictly up to you. Most people choose to focus on their spiritual deity because traditionally meditation practitioners mentally concentrate on drawing nearer to their God. The goal of most seekers of spiritual peace and enlightenment is to work at becoming a better being, a better person — one who is like God, and who craves to be filled spiritually with the same characteristics (infinite love, understanding, knowledge and wisdom) as God.