14 votes

How do you actually meditate?

So, for this thread, I'm specifically not asking for detailed explanations about the spiritual or philosophical aspect that goes behind your motivations to meditate. A brief explanation is almost certainly required, though.

Mostly, I wish to know practical things, details that often go unsaid, like:

  • What kind of meditation do you practice?
    • How can I Google it?
  • Where and when do you meditate, and why?
  • Do you do it alone?
  • How do you prepare for meditation?
  • What you do afterwards?
  • How frequently do you meditate, and for how long?
  • If you sit at all, in what position do you sit?
    • Where do you sit? The ground, a mat, a cushion, a chair, your bed?
  • Do you keep your eyes closed or open?
  • Do you concentrate on your breathing?
  • Do you breath through your mouth or nose?
  • Do you count your breaths or visualize them in any way?
  • Is there any particular breathing technique involved?
  • Do you use any aid such as noise generators, soundscapes, timers, meditation apps, etc?
  • Do you push thoughts away?
  • Do you concentrate on any object, physical or otherwise?
    • statues, amulets, images, mental images, mantras, etc.
  • What do you do if...
    • your legs go numb?
    • there's a fly on your nose?
    • there's mucus on your mouth or throat?
    • you must cough or sneeze?
    • you're itchy all over?

10 comments

  1. wervenyt
    Link
    What kind of meditation do you practice? The generic "mindfulness" sort popularized by Mindfulness In Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana. Where and when do you meditate, and why? I have tried to...
    • What kind of meditation do you practice?

    The generic "mindfulness" sort popularized by Mindfulness In Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana.

    • Where and when do you meditate, and why?

    I have tried to do so every morning in my bedroom for the sake of helping my mood swings and other ADHD symptoms, and I do meditate in any position as needed for anxiety.

    • Do you do it alone?

    Yes.

    • How do you prepare for meditation?

    I do not.

    • What you do afterwards?

    I inhale to bring the hands together at my heart, exhale to bow my head so that my lips touch my fingertips, inhale to bring the hands to the "third eye" and so my thumbs are on either side of my nose, exhale to bow and bring my hands/head to the floor, and inhale to return to an upright position before exhaling to open my eyes and bring my hands to my lap.

    • How frequently do you meditate, and for how long?

    Historically, not very frequently, probably once or twice a week for five minutes or so. Recently, every morning for 15 minutes.

    • If you sit at all, in what position do you sit?

    I sit in siddhasana with my hands resting palm-down on my knees.

    • Where do you sit? The ground, a mat, a cushion, a chair, your bed?

    Either on the floor with a folded towel under my tailbone or on my mattress.

    • Do you keep your eyes closed or open?

    Closed

    • Do you concentrate on your breathing?

    Yes

    • Do you breath through your mouth or nose?

    Through my nose unless a thought won't leave, then I take a deep breath in through the nose and push it out the mouth as slowly as possible.

    • Do you count your breaths or visualize them in any way?

    No. I feel the continuity of the breath through my nose, into my throat, and filling my lungs, but no real visualization.

    • Is there any particular breathing technique involved?

    I utilize ujjayi breathing, which exaggerates the sensation of the breath through the throat. Generally in life I strive to always breathe diaphragmatically as well.

    • Do you use any aid such as noise generators, soundscapes, timers, meditation apps, etc?

    I use an app called Meditation Assistant so that I know when I've reached my goal for session length, but nothing beyond a timer.

    • Do you push thoughts away?

    I let them fade by refocusing on the breath.

    • Do you concentrate on any object, physical or otherwise?

    Not unless my own body counts. No mantra or idol.

    • What do you do if...
      • your legs go numb?

    I began sitting in siddhasana to prevent that.

    • there's a fly on your nose?

    To be honest, I usually would swat it away. If it's a good day, I abstain until it flies away.

    • there's mucus on your mouth or throat?

    Ignore it to the best of my abilities.

    • you must cough or sneeze?

    That hasn't come up.

    • you're itchy all over?

    Ignore it until it passes.

    6 votes
  2. spit-evil-olive-tips
    Link
    I practice vispassana, often translated as "insight" or the trendy term "mindfulness". I've been meditating daily for...4ish years? I kept a daily count of consecutive days using a habit tracker...

    I practice vispassana, often translated as "insight" or the trendy term "mindfulness".

    I've been meditating daily for...4ish years? I kept a daily count of consecutive days using a habit tracker app on my phone, but stopped around the time I reached 1000. Before that, I also had a year or more of attempting to meditate infrequently, and thinking I was "bad at meditating", before I was able to establish a consistent daily practice.

    When I started, I used guided meditations through the Calm smartphone app. Over time I've transitioned to using a different app called Insight Timer, purely as a timer, without any guidance. (this isn't to imply that guided meditations are purely "for beginners" - all ways of meditating are fine) I continue to use a guided body scan "sleep meditation" from Calm on nights when I have trouble getting to sleep.

    My typical daily meditation is just 10 minutes. Something that helped me establish my daily practice was thinking that there are 1440 minutes in a day, so 14.4 minutes is 1% of the day, and I can do anything that takes up less than 1% of my day.

    I have an inexpensive armchair & ottoman from Ikea and over time I've found that sitting cross-legged on the ottoman works really well for me as a meditation stool.

    I close my eyes and breathe deeply through my nose, but don't try to count my breaths, or force them to follow a pattern, or anything else. (an exception to this is the sleep meditation, which has a short period of 4-4-8 breathing that I find very relaxing) During my normal waking meditation I use my breath more as an anchor - get distracted by something, notice I was distracted, return my attention to my breath.

    I've gone on a few meditation retreats, one that was 2 days long and tailored for beginners, and another that was 5 days. In about a week I'm headed to a 7-day retreat. It's my first vacation-ish thing since before the pandemic and I'm extremely excited about it.

    The retreats are conducted in noble silence where you do not speak to the other retreatants, do not even make eye contact if possible, as a way of removing external stimuli and focusing attention inward. There's no screens or other technology, no listening to music, no reading books, and even journaling is discouraged.

    A typical day on retreat involves spending almost the entire day meditating, but not the entire day sitting in one spot. It's split between sitting meditations, walking meditations, and "working meditations" (the retreat center I go to keeps costs minimal by having retreat participants do things like food preparation).

    I've also done some meditation-adjacent things over the years. There was a sensory-deprivation float tank place within walking distance of my old apartment that I enjoyed before they closed. An hour without any external stimuli, just my own thoughts.

    Since the float tank place closed, I've been going about once a week to a place with private saunas. 70 C / 160 F for 45 minutes, and it's a private little cabin just big enough for one or maybe two people, so there's no interruptions or distractions as there might be with a group sauna. This is a bit less meditative because I'm also drinking copious amounts of water during the time spent in the sauna.

    What do you do if...

    I notice the sensory input. I also (and this does not come easily, it's a skill I've cultivated during my practice) notice separately my reaction to the sensory input. A fly landing on my nose, or my cat nuzzling against my foot because he wants attention, or some other external event, is neither positive nor negative. My reaction to the event is what's positive or negative.

    Importantly, I try not to let that event, and my reaction to it, derail the meditation. This was something I struggled with early on in my practice. I would get distracted by an external stimulus such as my phone buzzing, or my head itching, and feel distraction. Same if a thought popped into my head, or some other internal stimulus. It was very tempting to allow the self-critical part of my brain to take over - from "here's a distraction" to "crap, I keep getting distracted, that must mean I'm bad at meditating" followed by ending the meditation early and feeling frustrated and worse than when I started the meditation.

    6 votes
  3. autumn
    Link
    What kind of meditation do you practice? Primarily guided or semi-guided meditation via the Headspace app. Where and when do you meditate, and why? At night in bed to fall asleep. In the morning...
    • What kind of meditation do you practice? Primarily guided or semi-guided meditation via the Headspace app.
    • Where and when do you meditate, and why?
      1. At night in bed to fall asleep.
      2. In the morning on my meditation pillow to try and be more mindful throughout the day.
      3. Afternoon or evening on my yoga mat after yoga or before/after “spiritual” journaling to get myself in the right mindset.
    • Do you do it alone? Yes.
    • How do you prepare for meditation? Let my partner know I’d like to jot be disturbed. Close the door. Silence my phone. Pop in my earbuds if I’m doing it during the day. Sometimes light a candle or incense to add to the ambiance. If it’s right before bed, I don’t wear earbuds and I ask my partner if it’s okay to play my “sleepytime meditate.”
    • What you do afterwards? Go to sleep if it’s that kind of meditation, or I blow out the candle/snuff out the incense and go about my day.
    • How frequently do you meditate, and for how long? Everyday for about ten minutes.
    • If you sit at all, in what position do you sit? Crisscross applesauce! Or I lay down flat on my back on my yoga mat. The bedtime meditation I do in my bed, flat on my back.
    • Do you keep your eyes closed or open? Open to start, closed when prompted or after a few deep breaths if unguided.
    • Do you concentrate on your breathing? Yes.
    • Do you breath through your mouth or nose? Nose.
    • Do you count your breaths or visualize them in any way? I typically count them. 1-10, then start back again at one. Sometimes I’ll visualize drawing the numbers.
    • Is there any particular breathing technique involved? Not for me, no.
    • Do you use any aid such as noise generators, soundscapes, timers, meditation apps, etc? Headspace is awesome, and it’s how I got into meditation in the first place.
    • Do you push thoughts away? No, but I do acknowledge them and refocus on my breathing.
    • Do you concentrate on any object, physical or otherwise? The candle sometimes serves this purpose in the beginning, but when my eyes are closed, no.
    • What do you do if...
      • your legs go numb? Readjust.
      • there’s a fly on your nose? Try to leave it, but might shoo it if it’s there for too long or making it impossible to focus.
      • there’s mucus on your mouth or throat? Clear it.
      • you must cough or sneeze? Cough or sneeze.
      • you’re itchy all over? Try to ignore it and let it pass, but I may scratch or end early if it’s too distracting.
    5 votes
  4. overtowed
    (edited )
    Link
    I've meditated very infrequently for about 15 years, occasionally intense, maybe a thousand hours total? So as an amateur with bits of many traditions, a few major lessons/insights come to mind,...

    I've meditated very infrequently for about 15 years, occasionally intense, maybe a thousand hours total? So as an amateur with bits of many traditions, a few major lessons/insights come to mind, big shifts in thinking that took a long time and a lot of observation/boredom/repetition to sink in, and they're still sinking in, or maybe floating away, idk.

    • watching the mind generate thoughts constantly whether "you" "want" to "think" them or not -- many practices try to demonstrate this right away, because it's so accessible and obvious when demonstrated -- and, because you're now observing things, you start getting language handles on things, wrapping your head around your mind and body, with some genuinely fascinating (but still extremely limited) insight into how their continuous processes are interrelated
    • watching and practicing the process of mentally detaching from the body's emotional reaction to stimuli (e.g. "pulling yourself out of your self-fixated story") while simultaneously embracing the physical sensations, so you process emotions rather than suppress them, and practice this as a skill to apply in difficult situations -- so it's self-conscious deliberate emotional regulation, and it helped me take responsibility for an important aspect of my mood more often -- also, something I think that gets too much attention is taking emotional transcendence to some idealistic endgoal, IME it's mostly counterproductive and driven by flawed ideas or ego
    • there's many metaphors for the mind and body and the system and "you", like "taming a monkey" or "riding an elephant" or whatever, the idea is that you're just more aware of what's going on in there, and you have practiced tools with well-worn neural pathways for more often pulling yourself out of reactive semiconscious patterns of thinking and behavior, so you start seeing everything as process that's always happening, that can always benefit from a guiding hand, rather than getting bogged down on the past or future or unhelpful emotions or thoughts

    Also in my experience, intellectualizing meditation is unhelpful -- my mind and body only got what feels like actual insight with a lot of experience. (lots of boredom, lots of quitting for long periods of time, never liking any particular resources or teachers for long) Then there's the problem that the more I practice the less motivated I am to practice, I guess because I need it less? So I'm always a beginner, but not in the humble way, in the incompetent dilettante way, and I can accept that.

    I think meditation is great: there are many interesting traditions and it has helped me a lot. I'd say just beware dogma, overconfidence, sluggish states, power fantasies, and charismatic gurus, those sorts of things.

    5 votes
  5. teaearlgraycold
    Link
    I don’t think I can answer all of your questions. I don’t meditate super often or super well. Regarding your questions about what to do if you’re experiencing physical distractions, I find that...

    I don’t think I can answer all of your questions. I don’t meditate super often or super well. Regarding your questions about what to do if you’re experiencing physical distractions, I find that when I try to meditate I’m doing so to calm my mind. I often get into a state of mental fatigue where I can’t stop toying with every thought that surfaces. It’s helpful to slow down and actively ignore every thought for a few minutes. If there’s a fly landing on me or an itch I see it as helpful to the process. If I’m trying to ignore a fly I don’t even need to think about ignoring my thoughts. The fly is in fact a helpful distraction from my own mind.

    4 votes
  6. Icarus
    Link
    I used to do sitting meditation quite frequently and for awhile was doing the sensory deprivation tank. Nowadays, most of my meditation is done while walking or laying in bed at night. If I notice...

    I used to do sitting meditation quite frequently and for awhile was doing the sensory deprivation tank. Nowadays, most of my meditation is done while walking or laying in bed at night. If I notice I am having physiological symptoms of anxiety (breathing and heart rate) I will practice meditation since I can measure it's effectiveness to my symptoms.

    Pretty much all that I do is focus on my breathing and count, trying to keep the focus on my breath and what number I'm at. I start my inhale at 0 so that I exhale at 1. 10 is an inhale so it helps me restart at 1 on my exhale. For some reason that helps my mind not drift at the final exhale when I start over. So I just do that over and over until I have to move on to the next thing or I fall asleep. Meditation is practicing concentration so if my mind wanders, I just start over at the beginning. I consider it good meditation if I can get through all 10 numbers.

    4 votes
  7. tomf
    Link
    I do a super relaxed form of mindfulness / visp every day for anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes. I focus on the breath (roughly 4-7-8) and that's about it. Got an itch? Acknowledge it,...

    I do a super relaxed form of mindfulness / visp every day for anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes.

    I focus on the breath (roughly 4-7-8) and that's about it. Got an itch? Acknowledge it, scratch it, come back to the breath. These days I don't really leave the 'state' to scratch or adjust my position or posture.

    All in all, I keep it easy and don't get caught up in mantras or anything. Above all, comfortable breath and an overall focusing on recentering, if that makes any sense.

    I tried more formal techniques, but I just couldn't get into them. I'll often do a subtle version of this breathing throughout the day -- waiting in line at the store, driving, whenever.

    tldr; in the nose for seven counts (your definition), hold for four, exhale with a whoooooosh for eight. If you're in public, skip the whoooooosh and exhale normally.

    3 votes
  8. asoftbird
    (edited )
    Link
    I practise very simple meditations that are somewhere inbetween a nap and meditating. I lie down on/in bed, on my side, close my eyes and try not to move at all. Ignore all itches and...

    I practise very simple meditations that are somewhere inbetween a nap and meditating.

    I lie down on/in bed, on my side, close my eyes and try not to move at all. Ignore all itches and distractions. After a while some kind of semi sleep paralysis sets in and it takes more effort to move + you stop feeling itches which is nice.

    It's pretty much just like sleeping, except l'm awake. Since l'm also more easily able to visualize my thoughts l often use this to tackle creative/visual problems, since you can just think of a banana and see it in your mind with ease.

    And re:swallowing; l've noticed that reflexes take over, don't even have to do it consciously. Breathing goes manually though.

    3 votes
  9. WendigoTulpa
    Link
    I've learned to meditate from Shunryu Suzuki's Zen Mind Beginner's Mind. I found it to be a great and simple entryway to buddhism without the hard-to-grasp religiosity that hits you in the face...

    I've learned to meditate from Shunryu Suzuki's Zen Mind Beginner's Mind. I found it to be a great and simple entryway to buddhism without the hard-to-grasp religiosity that hits you in the face with other books, and has now allowed me to read those other books having been primed a bit.

    I took photos of the first 2 sections of the book wherein the posture and breathing forms are described.
    https://imgur.com/a/MMOyv5M

    Briefly answering some questions of yours:
    A lot of the time I start meditation by focusing on my body's form and posture, doing a sort of "total-body scan", and then just focusing on the curve of my spine.
    I can't sit in lotus, so I just sit in a normal chair, making sure my spine is curved naturally. The point of the form is, I think, discipline, rather than some special posture.
    All thoughts should be allowed to exist in your head. Just be aware of them by thinking "this is a thought", then try to finish the thought with that new awareness. Often times its hard to keep thinking about it when you are aware that its a just a thought.
    If pain comes up in my glutes due to sitting, or maybe an itch, or some other thing, I focus on it 100%, using it as a conduit to guide my overall focus on my body. If its too much and I scratch the itch, I consider it an extension of my true nature and resume the regular focus on my body.

    3 votes
  10. Bullmaestro
    (edited )
    Link
    Was in a state of depression three years ago. Still kinda am. To avoid going on too much of a tangent, girlfriend broke things off with me mere days after she finally travelled to the UK to start...

    Was in a state of depression three years ago. Still kinda am.

    To avoid going on too much of a tangent, girlfriend broke things off with me mere days after she finally travelled to the UK to start her foreign exchange year. I made the mistake of telling her how bad I felt about the breakup a month later then got a cold & hostile response that resulted in me defriending her and going three years no contact. I try to avoid looking her up on social media because I still feel crap about what happened. She's the only one of several exes/former crushes where I still have this aversion to even look at them.

    That whole experience got me into the law of attraction and later Neville Goddard. I definitely think there's some truth to the idea that our thoughts and emotions shape the world around us on a quantum level, but I haven't been able to harness this power, and I've since grown disillusioned with the amount of "gurus" in the community trying to peddle their own courses like it's their own snake oil. A lot of them have a major presence on Reddit.

    There are a few of these gurus/YouTubers like Sky Life, Joseph Alai, Mia Magik, AllIsMind, etc, that I'm very skeptical of. Despite my skepticism, I think if it weren't for LoA and me trying to give it a serious shot, my mind would probably have been in a darker place.

    So how does that tie into meditation? I've tried several methods, some specific to Neville Goddard, in an attempt to control my mood and mindset. I tried several forms of relaxation and clearing my head, I tried researching zen forms of meditation, I tried NG's SATS (state akin to sleep) and mental diet attempts at manifestation and had mixed results with it. I even considered going to a zen dojo in my city to learn more about buddhism.

    2 votes