We are all different in our own unique ways, and we all have different hopes and expectations from what we might gain from meditation. So while it is vital to understand how to choose the right meditation technique, the practical challenges of life oblige us to be smart in both the choice and application of a practice.
Here are five practical tips to offer some guidance on how you can experience more meaningful results through your practice of meditation:
1. Follow your heart.
While it's tempting to let your head decide which path to take, your intuition is always a reliable and useful guide. Speak to the organizers of the meditation class or course and try and meet them if you can, to feel them out. If you like the sound of a technique but do not feel you resonate with a particular teacher, look around for another teacher with whom you feel more comfortable.
2. Be diligent.
Whatever meditation technique you practice, the fruits tend to come when you practice on a daily basis. For the first few weeks you will need to be diligent with your meditation and then when you see the effects, you will have a good sense about whether you wish to continue. A four month trial period is usually a healthy timeframe to give it, so try to practice patience. The longer you do it, the easier it will become to integrate into your life.
3. Stay open.
Be open to the changes you experience. Sometimes the effects can be profound, while other times ascending on a steady plane, making any internal changes difficult to detect. It is important to refrain from judging the actual meditation experience itself. Instead take note of how the practice is affecting your life experience outside of meditation.
An effective technique will naturally integrate all the positive elements of your practice into your day-to-day life. Acknowledge this by giving yourself and the technique that's best suited for you, the credit you both deserve. If you find yourself gravitating towards new patterns of behavior and healthier, more sustainable life choices, embrace it!
If you do not find the changes significant enough for you, check in with your teacher to make sure you are doing everything correctly, and if having done this, you intuitively feel there must be more, be open to trying a different type of technique. There is something out there to suit everybody's individual needs.
4. Don't be afraid to ask!
For many people, meditation is new territory. Don't be afraid to ask your meditation teacher the questions you may deem as silly, challenging or presumptive. Any teacher, master or tradition worth their salt, will be glad that you are seeking greater understanding of your practice. Besides, any good teacher will always appreciate their knowledge being challenged in some way.
Every master wants to see their students shine, but part of the art of mastery is giving a student the freedom and opportunity to self-select themselves into higher grade techniques and knowledge. Anyone who has attained mastery will know where the student's limit is and will gently say, "Perhaps not quite yet" if not appropriate.
All that being said, be aware that sometimes we get caught up in wanting to know everything all at once, when sometimes we may benefit from surrendering to the essence of things. It's all about finding an artful level of balance.
5. If in doubt, try more than one meditation technique.
From the point of view of efficacy, these are the techniques that deliver the most comprehensive goods. If you've tried Open Monitoring, and it wasn't that successful or you felt there must be more, then learn an Automatic Self Transcending Technique (AST) instead.
Many in such circumstances have found this brings a sense of completion. If you've tried AST and found it didn't suit you, then perhaps an Open Monitoring technique may be the one for you. Having begun with AST, you will have accrued much benefit and no doubt cleared out a lot of the noise within your nervous system, which will create a platform for easier practice of mind-training techniques.