I spent years believing I couldn't meditate. As a novelist, my inner mind chatter was necessarily more persistent than most. It was different for me. I think many of us approach the idea of meditation that way. We have never tried to quiet our minds before. The notion of it is foreign and our efforts are often frustrating.
But eventually, if we are persistent we'll stumble upon a method that works for us. What we might not realize is that our meditation practice, like any practice, is a living, evolving thing. And we'll discover more ways that work for us, sometimes better, more often, just different from our first.
Method One: Distract the Mind
In this method, the point is to stop all thought, and we can only do that by overwriting it with something else. We do that by giving our inner toddler-brain something to focus on besides spewing random thoughts.
Distract the brain by asking it to count the beats of the breaths. I like my inhales to be a little shorter than my exhales, because it's more relaxing, and because my brain is more distracted by counting two different numbers than the same number in as out.
Distract the brain by focusing on a droning sound. Outside, that would be a stream or waterfall or even the hum of the air pump in the pond. Inside, an air conditioner. At night, crickets if they are singing. White noise apps have plenty of options too.
Distract the brain by thinking each color of the rainbow. I can't think a color-word without also seeing the color in my mind, so it's a good method. Red, orange, yellow, green, teal, blue, Indigo, purple. Only I often say it like this instead: "red, orange, yellow, green, darker, blue, bluer, purple. I do that because the words "teal" and "indigo" don't immediately call a color to my mind. Indigo makes me think of the Indigo Girls and teal makes me think of turquoise jewelry and how "that's not right because turquoise isn't teal. Teal is more of a dark green-going-on-blue..." And that's mind chatter. And that's what I don't want. :)
I have used one, two, or all three of the methods above during any given meditation. I usually feel myself sinking into a quiet state of mind a few minutes in. Pretty soon I feel as if I disconnect from my body. I sense the flow from Source cranking up to full throttle. I feel oneness with the part of my soul that's still non-physical, what I call my Higher Self and Source itself. This is a blissful feeling.
At some point, I can often open my eyes and feel Source experiencing my little corner of reality through my physical senses. These times can be so emotionally powerful that I get joyful tears.
Method Two: Be Here Now
The method talked about by Tich Nhat Hahn in his books at first seems almost the opposite of the method above. But the end result is the same.
Just breathe the way your lungs want to breathe. Do not tell the lungs how many beats, just let them breathe. Observe the breath without judgment. Think only, I am breathing in. I am breathing out.
Be fully here, in this space, in this body, sitting on this cushion, with your feet on this floor. Feel yourself fully present in your physical surroundings.
Be fully now, in this time. This moment. Then this one. Then this. Now is all that exists. Be fully present in each nanosecond of time you occupy.
In this method, I feel myself sinking deeply into my body, and deeply into my environment. I open my eyes when using this method, because this makes me even more present. Eventually, I begin to experience a sense that everything around me is an extension of me and I feel love and appreciation flowing from me and into all of it. It's such a blissful feeling it can move me to tears.
Both Methods Lead to Here
Both these methods feel wonderful. But it was only today that I realized both took me to the same place - into a state of connection with All That Is.
In Method 1, the connection is first with Source, the non-physical Consciousness we call God, a beam of which lives in our body. This is a more Fire/Air element, realm of force experience, by which I mean expansive, projective energy.
End result: When I feel at one with the Whole of my Being, I open my eyes, and am suddenly, vividly aware of Source energy flowing through me, experiencing my physical world through my physical being.
in Method 2, the connection is with my physicalness, and then by extension, everything physical around me. My home and nature and the Earth Herself. This is a very Earth/Water element, realm of form experience, by which I mean, receptive, containing energy.
End Result: When I feel as if everything is an extension of me, I am suddenly, vividly aware of Source energy flowing through me, experiencing through my physical world through my physical being.
My meditation practice ensures that I go forward into my day with my connection to Source and to Nature open and flowing. I have downloaded all the latest updates to my software. I have re-balanced all my body's systems. My intuition is tuned in. I can trust my impulses and follow my bliss knowing that I am guided. My inner GPS is running, its volume is on high, and I am following its guidance.
This works for me...
Keep experimenting until you find a method that works for you. Just remember that these types of meditations are very different from guided meditations, where a voice talks you through some visualization or affirmation. Those have their own very specific uses, I suppose. I don't use them myself. Even though my favorite teacher's meditation download has guided meditations for wealth and love and well-being, I exclusively use the "Mostly Music" track, where there are only a few words at the beginning and a few at the end. And if I can figure out how, I want to cut the words out and double the length of the very helpful, very boring but beautiful music track.
Have questions about meditation?
Post in comments and I'll answer them!