I updated this blog post on April 22, 2015 because, after 2 years of meditating regularly, I see that my technique has changed. This re-post is from Power 20′s meditation instructions.
Meditation is an ancient practice with benefits we can measure with modern technology. EEG scans and fMRI studies confirm profound short and long term changes in the brains of meditators, who report have less stress, less anxiety, more happiness, and more empathy for other people. Through meditation, you’ll give yourself a powerful tool to combat stress and increase happiness for the rest of your life.
You may or may not experience anything special while you meditate. Most benefits come during your active life, and are more apparent after a month of meditating. You’ll eventually feel less anxiety, less anger, and more calmness.
Do it twice a day.
Meditate twice a day: once in the morning and once before your evening activities. In the morning, you can just sit up in bed and get right to it before doing anything else. Your second meditation can happen in the afternoon or early evening. We recommend starting one of these meditation sessions after a Power 20 workout and five minutes of stretching.
Start with just 5 minutes at a time.
In the first week, you’ll meditate 5 minutes, twice each day. You’ll increase each session to 10 minutes in the second week, 15 in the third, and 20 minutes in the fourth week. By the fourth week, you’ll be comfortable meditating twice a day for 20 minutes. If you feel that you can meditate for longer in any of these weeks, then go ahead. There’s no need or known benefit to meditating longer than 20 minutes twice a day, though.
Sit comfortably but don’t fall asleep.
Try to sit cross-legged on a cushion or bed. You can use some back support such as a wall, a pillow, or headboard. You do not need to sit in a half or full-lotus position. If injury or discomfort prohibits you from sitting cross-legged, it’s ok to sit upright in a chair. The idea is that you should not be so comfortable that you fall asleep, nor should you be so uncomfortable that you’re distracted.
Sit upright, tuck your chin slightly downwards, and breathe through your nose. Your mouth can be closed. Eyes are shut. Don’t worry about how you breathe. Your hands can be in your lap or on your knees.
Sitting cross-legged is helpful in case you really fall in love with meditation, because more advanced meditation exercises (not described in the Power 20 Method) prefer that you sit this way.
Meditate with a mantra.
Repeat the phrase “I am” at whatever pace you want in your mind. It can be fast or slow, it may correspond to your breathing or it may not. The trick is to mute all the other thoughts while you repeat the phrase. You will lose the mantra as other thoughts pop up, but try to get back to the mantra. Be good to yourself in this process. Don’t beat yourself up or stop in frustration. Just try to come back to your meditation. In fact, the act of getting distracted and then returning is the bicep curl… Celebrate returning to the mantra.
Even if you have brilliant ideas, or are reminded to do something, try to sit through your meditation and focus on your mantra. “I am. I am. I am.”
And then what?
When your eyes are closed you see a rich blanket of darkness which, on closer inspection, is a moving tapestry of colorful, mostly dark pixels. With your eyes still closed, focus your vision on a point roughly between your eyebrows, where you imagine your third eye might be. Focus on just one of these pixels. If you cannot discern pixels, then imagine a tiny point of light floating there.
Breathe slowly, repeat the mantra, and focus on that point for the duration of your meditation. Sometimes we see lights, a tunnel, have visions, and hear voices in the process. As interesting as those can be, don’t chase those experiences. Just continue meditating.
The end goal is unending ecstasy.
We all have within us the ability to improve our baseline mood and even tap into extraordinary levels of happiness. Lifelong meditators sometimes call their practice an ecstatic path because the further they progress, the more at peace they become with themselves, their environment, and people in their lives. Over months of meditation, you will tap into this ecstatic well that resides in each of us.
Other details: use a stopwatch.
Set an alarm for the time you want to stop meditating. Try not to peek at the clock. Just repeat the mantra.
You don’t need absolute silence while meditating, but you do need to avoid interruptions and distractions. Don’t check your phone, don’t listen to music (not even those promising deeper meditation through sound), and try not do it while simultaneously watching your kid.
Be good to yourself.
Meditation is frustrating at first and, like running and exercise, requires the gradual building of endurance. If you’re failing, just be kind to yourself and say, “Ok, let’s keep trying. We can do this.”
Meditation is not religion…
Our goal at Power 20 is to introduce you to a modern, secular form of meditation. The Power 20 Method focuses on the one form of meditation that has the most widely acknowledged benefits: mantra meditation. Meditation is ancient and has taken many forms in different cultures and religions, but is not an inherently religious or spiritual act. Rest assured that you can derive the benefits of meditation without changing or contradicting your religious beliefs.
…But you might head towards enlightenment.
In some spiritual systems, meditation is seen as a path towards enlightenment. The Power 20 Method prescribes meditation for its health benefits rather than its effectiveness in achieving “bliss consciousness” or enlightenment. With that said, if enlightenment is your ultimate goal, this method is a reasonable starting point.