To move toward unlimited happiness or peace of mind, meditation is an important tool. Following are some suggestions to help you optimize your regular practice of meditation.

Minimize interruptions

Take the phone off the hook, let your friends and family know that during this time you don’t wish to be interrupted; close the door, close your eyes and for the time being leave the ordinary world behind. This has tremendous psychological impact. If, while meditating, one part of your mind is listening for the doorbell, or is ready to jump up if the phone rings, or to leave your meditation simply because someone wants to talk, it will be very difficult to concentrate.

Give yourself to the task at hand, letting the people around you know that it is important to you. They will learn to respect it too. Establish right away that during that period of time you do not wish to be disturbed, making whatever arrangements are necessary (childcare trade-offs, phone message arrangements, etc.) and you will feel freer and happier in your meditation.

Meditate at the same time of the day

Experienced meditators find that if they meditate at about the same time every day, then after some time, when that time of day occurs they naturally want to meditate. Optimum times are generally considered early in the morning and then early evening.

A habit of regular meditation is most useful if one wants to explore the potentials of meditation. A long tradition of experience suggests that twice daily is most beneficial. An early morning meditation can help you tune in and charge up to start the day and evening meditation can help establish a rhythm and harmony in your life.

This twice a day meditation ties us in with the world’s daily rhythms. It is important to maintain this regularity. Even if there is an “emergency” (like being late for work), take 5-10 minutes to meditate.

When beginning meditation, you may have difficulty finding the time to meditate. One aid is to write out your daily schedule and then “brain-storm” different ways to make time for your meditation. This process may help to get over the initial hump of “But where’s the time for meditation?!” Experienced meditators frequently report a considerably reduced need for sleep (due to the deep state of physiological rest during meditation) and so may gradually gain as much as 1-3 hours of usable time.

Twice a day, invariably

This is the key to success in meditation. To sincerely explore the heights and depths of meditation, it is most useful to establish a regular habit of meditation.

Meditation can be likened to a beautiful chain: each day we add delicate links. If we miss a meditation we create a situation of a “missing link”. In order to make the mind strong, try never to miss. Generally, no matter what distractions are there, it is possible to do your meditation for five to ten minutes if you resolve always to do it. Though difficult at first, in the long-run it becomes like brushing one’s teeth or eating: one just does it without thinking.

Meditate in the same place

Try to arrange a corner or perhaps a small room for your meditation place. Keep it clean and fresh and try to do your meditation there all the time. You will find that place becoming very meaningful for you. When you go to that spot your mind will naturally want to meditate. Of course you can meditate anywhere – in an office or a car, on the bus, outside – but it helps, especially in the beginning to have a quiet and special place.

On a light stomach

After eating, the energies of the body are directed toward the digestive processes at the expense of the mental processes (most of us notice the sluggishness that follows a heavy meal). Because meditation requires alertness, concentration, mental energy and “awakeness”, it is helpful to wait some hours after a meal before meditating. If you are really famished take a glass of juice or milk or eat lightly. While it’s not advisable to meditate with a full stomach, If your body is really hungry, your meditation may be distracted.

In a comfortable, erect posture

When meditation proceeds properly, there is a tremendous flow of energy upwards through the spinal column. Slumping or slouching impedes this energy flow, impairs breathing, and diminishes mental alertness. So it is important to sit as straight as possible. A firm surface is very helpful. Gentle stretches or warm-ups can help to prepare the body for meditation. Some people find that putting a small pillow underneath their seats alleviates pressure on the knees and induces better posture by elevating the spinal column.

It is important to be comfortable so that your mind is free to concentrate on the meditation process. If sitting on a rug, cushion or folded blanket is not comfortable, you may want to meditate sitting in a chair. With twice daily practice of good sitting posture and some stretches and warm-ups to loosen the muscles, most people are amazed to discover how relaxed and flexible their bodies can become in just a few weeks time.

Associate with spiritual people

One of the greatest supports through the ups and downs of your spiritual growth is time spent with others who are also practicing meditation. Weekly group meditations are a great benefit for the serious meditator.

Ananda Marga conferences and seminars offer meditators a chance to immerse themselves in their spiritual practices and learn more about the philosophy of yoga.

Read spiritually elevating books

The intellect, which has to keep quiet during meditation, also needs scope for growth and development. Therefore, it is recommended that one set aside some time each day for reading spiritually uplifting books. After meditation is a good time to take a few minutes for this, as the mind is clear and calm and more easily absorbs ideas.

Talk to a meditation teacher

Teachers of meditation (acharyas) travel regularly. They can answer questions about meditation and teach you a personal meditation technique. Local members of Ananda Marga can tell you when acharyas are expected and what kind of activities are planned (lectures, group meditations, etc.) while they are visiting. Acharyas are highly trained women and men who are dedicated to the task of serving humanity. Their job is to teach meditation and spiritual practices to anyone who sincerely desires to learn. Many problems or difficulties you may be having can be easily solved with the help of an acharya. So never miss the opportunity for a consultation with a teacher. Ask your class instructor or the person coordinating the acharya’s visit to sign you up for a consultation.

Be persevering

If your first few meditation sessions don’t live up to your expectations, don’t be discouraged. Everyone who has meditated has had to deal with this in some way. It is a great help to know that others are also having similar experiences, and to understand what is actually taking place during this time. Especially in the beginning, the mind may seem uncontrolled. A great Yogi, Ramakrishna, once said: “The mind is like a drunken monkey stung by a scorpion.” You may find when you sit down to meditate that many thoughts arise in your mind; you set your mantra going and then drift off to something else. Sounds and noises from without may sidetrack your internal concentration and your body may become restless. At times like this, one can think nothing is happening. However, many of the benefits of meditation come from deep within the mind and do not show themselves immediately. By constantly bringing your mind back to the mantra, you are building up your capacity to hold your mind steady in the future.

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