What image comes to mind when you think of meditation?  Perhaps a gentle old man sitting quietly on an ancient Asian mountaintop?  Meditation practice originated centuries ago in the Far East but has become more mainstream in Western culture.  Today, millions of people all over the world practice meditation to relieve a variety of problems in their personal lives and promote a general sense of well-being.

Practicing meditation requires us to dip below our “surface” thoughts and into the realm of the subconscious. Meditation is focusing on the space between your thoughts.  Much like a computer that needs to be defragmented on a regular basis in order to run at its optimal level, meditation is a wonderful tool that gives us a chance to recalibrate our mind, body and spirit.  In effect, meditation helps us to realize our full potential and success as human beings.

There is no right or wrong way to meditate, but there are ways to meditate effectively.

1.  Open Your Mind
One of the most important steps to meditate effectively is to keep an open mind.  Every person is unique, and so is each meditation experience.  Try not to judge or criticize yourself and be open to whatever experience comes your way.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

2.  Set Aside a Quiet Time and Place
It is crucial to set aside a quiet time and place in preparation for meditation.  Schedule the time on your calendar and treat it like and important meeting you would not want to miss.  Turn off your phone and communicate to family members or housemates to give you interrupted time for yourself for at least 20-30 minutes.  One of the best times to meditate is first thing in the morning because this is when the subconscious mind is the most impressionable and you will most likely start your day with positive thoughts.  However, If you suffer from insomnia or thrive later in the day, an evening practice might be best for you.

3.  Sit in a Comfortable Position
Your body’s posture during meditation is also important. The ideal posture is a comfortable sitting position, legs crossed, with your spine straight and erect. If you are not able to cross your legs, simply sit in the most comfortable position that is true for your body on that day.  Be sure you can sit in that particular position for a long time period and try not to lay down, as often it’s easy to fall asleep.

4.  Do a Short Breathing Exercise
Sometimes it may be effective to practice pranayama, or conscious breathing, for 5 minutes to calm your thoughts and prepare your mind and body for meditation.  One effective pranayama exercise is alternate nostril breathing.  Close one nostril with your fingers, exhale completely then inhale completely.  Close the other nostril and repeat.  Once you become comfortable, see if you can slow down your breathing, inhale for 5 counts and exhale for 10 counts.  This brings awareness and leads to a singular point of focus that is important as the next step in how to meditate effectively.

5.  Create a Point of Focus
Our minds are chock full of thoughts, worries, fears and desires.  Meditation is focusing on the quiet space between thoughts in order to recalibrate and balance ourselves.  Focus on your breath, an object like a candle flame, and/or a mantra.  A mantra is especially effective in replacing any thought that re-enters your mind and a gentle way to bring yourself back to that “space.”  It can be a non-verbal om or any other combination of rich vowels that feels comfortable to you.   When we practice meditation regularly using the same mantra, soon we train our mind to associate the word(s) with a calm meditative state. By extension, this makes our mantra a very powerful tool to deal with stressful situations in our life as a result of a regular meditation practice.

6.  Accept Yourself
It’s no secret that it’s not easy to meditate or more people would be doing it.  Like most things practice makes it easier, but our minds will inevitably wander.  Try not to be hard on yourself.  Simply accept it and return to your point of focus each time it happens and move on.

7.  Enjoy the Benefits of Meditation
Not only does meditation rejuvenate the body and promote inner peace, it also can be a source of inspiration.  Most humans use only a very small percentage of our brains. This approximate 5% is controlled by our physical selves and our ego. The remaining 95% of our intelligence resides in our subconscious mind, where the most powerful ideas and best solutions to our problems lie.  The power of our subconscious mind is one which many past leaders have tapped into, such as Thomas Edison, Buddha, Jesus, Confucius and Einstein, to name a few.

At first the benefits of meditation may seem small, but using these effective techniques on how to meditate are very powerful. Over time you might just feel like the peaceful, enlightened man (or woman) on the mountaintop.