Before You Begin:
Don’t go into meditation expecting miracles.
I advise resisting the urge to set a timer or any kind of artificial limit on yourself. It works best if you can just drift until you “feel done”. Try to schedule around your practice, if possible. Of course, you may have to work with what you have and that’s totally okay.
If you fall asleep while doing it, that’s totally fine — your dreams will pick up where your meditation left off.
Relaxing music is fine, quiet is better, nature is best. Any kind of light is fine. I prefer candlelight or darkness. As long as you’re not uncomfortable, the lighting doesn’t matter. Try to keep out distracting smells (garbage, poop, food, etc). I like to light nag champa incense or burn palo santo, but it doesn’t matter. As long as you’re comfortable.
Sit or lie down comfortably. You don’t need any special pose or position. Just be comfortable. Good posture is ideal, but not necessary if it distracts you with discomfort or pain. You can be on a pillow, a chair, a bed, the ground, in a hammock, etc. It doesn’t make a difference. You don’t have to sit cross-legged or seiza or any other specific way (I prefer either seiza or lying down, but it makes no difference as long as you’re comfortable).
What You “Do”:
Breathe deeply, but comfortably. Don’t push hard on the exhale or pull hard on the inhale. Just breathe as deeply as you can while remaining comfortable.
Pay attention to your breath. Don’t count breaths or focus on them intensely or work to control them. Just notice them.
If thoughts bubble up (normally they do, especially at the beginning), don’t fight them or try to push them away. Let them bubble. Notice them. Don’t focus on them or put any effort into them. Just notice.
If at this point, you feel any anxiety or brain overwhelm, notice these feelings and gently remind yourself that you’re just relaxing. There’s nothing to do. “I’m just relaxing. What’s the big deal? Silly me.”
Like Dale Carnegie’s famous ‘let them burn themselves out’ technique for dealing with cranky people, just allow your thoughts to do whatever they want until they get tired. Notice this process. When they do tire, notice how you feel in your body.
Also, when the thinker starts to tire, notice the space between thoughts. We like to think that thoughts are a neatly ordered, continuous stream, but they are actually fragmented and inconstant. Notice the fragmentation of your own thoughts. Don’t ponder it, just notice.
Eventually, you’ll notice a “drop” feeling in your body. Maybe not in the first session. Maybe not in the first month. But you will eventually feel it. At first, it will probably come in response to your brain getting tired from trying to battle the quiet. Eventually, there will be no “battle” and it’ll just drop on it’s own.
At this point, you want to let go and just drift. Notice the calm. Notice your energy. Notice how your mind feels. I have found the best metaphor for this is that in the beginning, your brain was chattering into a microphone. Once it gets tired, it’s time to drop the mic. Don’t try to do anything. Just let go and allow it to fall away.
If at any point, you feel the urge to smile or laugh, do so. Meditation feels good (especially the more you do it). Enjoy it. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is to try to hold yourself in a serious, stiff, solemn state of mind or feeling. Learning to let go will invite pleasureable emotional swells into your experience. Notice them and enjoy them when they come. Giggling is part of the process, so loosen up and let it happen.
Over time, you will notice a radical change in how you view yourself and reality. You will also notice a radical change in your energy and overall well-being. Precisely when this shift happens is different for everyone. It’s not a contest. Whatever you do, just allow whatever happens to happen and don’t try to make it happen. If you catch yourself trying or struggling, have a good laugh and remind yourself “Silly me. There’s nothing to do. Nowhere to go. Just relax.”
Don’t try to visualize anything. Don’t try to control anything. Just let go and allow. At some point, spoiler alert, ideas, visions, and insights will just plop into your stream of consciousness all on their own. I often spend time journaling after meditation. That tiny voice will gradually grow clearer, cleaner, and louder. It’ll give you hints about your authentic, deeper self and you’ll see these hints reflected in your life as “synchronicity” and/or “lessons”. When this starts happening, don’t get distracted and start trying to force things. Just notice it and integrate it into your life. Allow your outlook to evolve to include your experience, rather than your thoughts about your experience. “The map is not the territory,” etc.
After a certain level of mastery, the next phase starts and I won’t spoil that for you — you have to experience it for yourself, in your own way, according to your own truth. You’ll learn something powerful that you can use anytime. It’s awesome and you’ll know it when it comes.
There are many other meditation techniques. MANY. My advice is to master this one first. Find out how far this rabbit hole goes before digging around for novelty. If you stick with it for at least 3 months, you’ll find what you’re looking for. If you stick with it for 10 years, you won’t believe what awaits. You’ll have to experience it for yourself in order to understand.
I’ve developed this method over 20+ years of practice, experimentation, and refinement. I’ve traveled a bit, meditating in temples in India and Japan. The improvements in my life have been unbelievably positive, but gradual.
I hope this helps.