How To Meditate Deeper
By Leo Gura - June 15, 2015 | 65 Comments
3 techniques to transition from newbie to intermediate meditator
Hey, this is Leo for Actualized.org, and in this episode I’m going to talk about how to meditate deeper. I really consider this episode here like a part two to my original episode, called “How to meditate”, which is really popular. A lot of people have gotten a lot of value from that one there. Because it’s a no-bullshit guide to meditation.
What we’re going to do here, though, is — I want to go a little bit deeper into some of the various techniques that you can do with your meditations. And I’m going to give you three phases or stages of meditation that I’ve personally been working on myself. To take you, basically, from the very beginning newbie phases of meditation — the first stage, where you’re just clueless about what to do or how meditation works.
So, we’re going to have smoothly transition from that into deeper, and deeper, and deeper, and more advanced stages of meditation. Until, ultimately, you can get to some really cool, advanced places. So, I want to guide you through that.
Also, I want to cover some of the common problems that people have when they’re meditating. So, what are the greatest pitfalls for mediators. And I’m going to give you a little quick schedule, that you can use for how to meditate, alright? So, here we go.
Stage number one. And I’m kind of assuming that you watched my first video here, right? So, I’m not going to be talking about all the basics of meditation. I assume that you understand how the basics work. So, if you do understand that, then here’s stage one.
This is where you would begin meditation if you’ve never meditated before. Or even if you have meditated before, but you haven’t been doing it very strictly and you feel like you’re not getting good results with it. You can just start here at stage one. It never hurts to re-learn the basics.
And this one is the easy version, and it’s called — simple observation. So, here’s how it works. You sit down. You can have your eyes either open or closed. But you sit down in meditative-like posture. And then what you do is, you just allow everything to happen. And all you do is just watch it. You simply observe it.
So, whatever’s going on becomes ok, and you’re not trying to control any of it. So, what will happen? Well, when you sit down, and let’s say, you close your eyes, and you’re sitting there, what will happen is: thoughts will come up, and various feelings and sensations will come up. Emotions will come up.
Generally, a lot times, what we do is we try to control that. And we try to either focus our mind on not thinking anything, or we try to focus our mind on some specific objective or goal within meditation. And that’s one form of meditation which is cool. Remember, there are many, many, many valid forms of meditation. So I’m not telling you that this is the only way, or that these three ways are going to be the only ways that you should meditate.
No, what I recommend is that you try a slew of different meditation techniques. Which is what I’m hoping you’ll do here. So, what you’re doing is — you’re letting your mind do whatever it wants to do without controlling it. And all your job is — is just to watch.
Your mind will wander. Let it wander. Let it think about tomorrow night. And let it think about the email you just got. And let it think about what your wife thinks about you. Or the fight that you just got in with your husband. Let it think about all that stuff.
Let it wander to scary places, dirty places, silly places. Whatever kind of places it wants to go to — let it go there. But, as it goes there, your job is to watch it go there, and just be mindful of the fact that: “Oh, it’s going somewhere. It was here, and now it’s there. And now it’s here. And now it’s there. And now it’s here. And it’s walking around in circles.” You just watch it.
As simple as those instructions sound, it’s still going to be very difficult. And you’re going to be likely to get frustrated and want to fight or control your mind. And your mind will stuff to you like: “Oh, I should be thinking about this during meditation” and “Oh, I shouldn’t be feeling that during meditation” and “I shouldn’t be feeling anxious during meditation”.
And what happens there is that your mind is at fight with itself. Your only job is to observe, not to fight with yourself. So, don’t fight. And the way you do this is, you just realize that, when you’re sitting down to meditate for this brief ten, twenty, thirty minutes of your day, you don’t want to take your thoughts within that meditation session seriously at all.
Not just thoughts, but also feelings. Emotions might come up. You might feel angry, or agitated, or jealous, or whatever. Frustrated. And you can do one of two things. You can either buy into those and take them seriously, or you can just watch them. So, your objective here is just simply watch them.
And what’s going to happen is that you will fail at this. You will fail dozens, if not hundreds of times just within a twenty-minute window of your meditation. And what you got to do is not get caught into the trap of beating yourself up for having failed. You just watch yourself getting failed. You see that?
Instead of berating yourself, and telling yourself: “Oh, I screwed up this meditation session”, you just, again, you let your mind go there but you watch your mind go there. Don’t try to control anything in this first stage. Pretty basic. About as basic as it gets.
As simple as this is, you’re going to screw this up. You’re not going to be able to follow these instructions to the letter. Why is that? Well, because your mind is untrained and meditation is a discipline. It’s a practice. It’s something that needs to be done every day.
By the way, just so we get the logistics straight here. When I talk about meditation, to me what that means is — you’re sitting down, in a quiet place. Eyes open, or closed. You have a timer on. And you do, I would say, a minimum of twenty minutes. Try to shoot for twenty minutes. If you want to do more, you can do more. And you have to do this on a daily basis.
Every single day, you have to do this. Alright? So, that’s stage one. After you’ve practiced stage one for a while, and you’ve gotten pretty good at it, or maybe you’re still crappy at it, after a while what you do is move on to stage two. Stage two is, like, the intermediate stage. And this one I call: active detachment.
So, here what you do is, again, you sit down in your typical meditation pose. And you now actively try to release every thought that comes into your mind. So, it’s just like the first stage, except now you’re actually doing a little bit of manipulation. Something comes up, like: “Oh, shoot, I got that project that’s due tomorrow at school.” Let’s say you get that thought.
What you do is say: “Oh, that’s a thought. Let me just let it go.” And you let it go. And what you get after you let it go successfully, for a few seconds, is — you get a little window of piece. And then what happens is that, usually, another thought comes up. Sometimes immediately. A thought would come up like: “Oh, did I lose my car keys? Where did I put my car keys? I can’t remember where I put my car keys. What if I lost them again?”
So, that thought might come up. And again, you realize: “Oh, that’s just a thought. Let me let it go.” And you detach and release it. And then, immediately, that thought can come up again. So, again you might say: “But my car keys! I really need my car keys! I can’t just let this one go.” Again you have to realize that: “Oh, it’s just another thought. Let me let it go.”
And this is the active release approach. So, a couple of points about this. As simple as these instructions are, you’re going to screw this one up. A lot. Because, what’s going to happen is you’re going to let thoughts go, but thoughts can be sticky and they can creep back up on you.
So, the instruction here is very important. You try to drop the thought, release it. And, if you can’t, for whatever reason, don’t worry about it. Try it again a few seconds later. And if you still can’t release it, don’t worry about it. Try again a few seconds later. The key is that you don’t lose your composure and start to panic, and that you’re able to stay calm throughout this process.
Because notice the soon as you’re frustrated, or you’re panicked, that tells you what? That tells you that you’re taking these thoughts too seriously. Even the thought: “I have to be meditating properly” — you’re taking that too seriously too. So, this whole idea of not taking your thoughts too seriously, this is the entire theme and point of meditation. To make you aware of this.
Now, if you become this anal person, who tries to meditate perfectly all the time, well, counter-intuitively what that does — that backfires on you. Because you’re not taking yourself less seriously. Like you should with meditation. You’re too serious about meditating. So, it’s a little paradoxical there.
So, you’re going to try to release the thought. Often, what I find happens is that your release the thought, and the thought comes back up five seconds later. And what you do then is you get a little bit off your center. And you’re like: “Oh, damn, but I released this thought! If I released it, why is it coming back? I must have screwed up.”
And then you got to recognize: “Oh, what am I doing? I’m just creating more thoughts. Let me release these thoughts too.” And you release those. But then they come back. two minutes later, they come back and you’re like: “Oh, I should’ve released these but I didn’t.”
And so you’re playing these mind games with yourself. You always have to go meta, see what’s happening and then release, alright? And if it fails, don’t worry about it. Try it again. You’ll fail many, many times.
Also, a trick is — don’t resist thoughts arising. Because thoughts will arise. Sometimes, what I tend to do is sit down to meditate, and then I tell myself something like: “Ok, got to not think. Got to not think. No thoughts. No thoughts. Stop thinking. No thoughts.” And its like you’re trying to suppress them from coming up.
It’s kind of like you have a burp that’s about to come up, and then you hold it back. Or you got a sneeze, and you hold that one in. That’s what you’re trying to do with your thoughts. But that doesn’t work so well. Usually, what that does is that is makes you more panicked. And, again, there’s this whole problem of trying to manipulate your way all the time.
So, even though in this stage-two technique you are actively detaching, and that can be viewed as a form of subtle manipulation, it’s not nearly as manipulative as you sitting there trying to prevent thoughts from arising in the first place. That’s going to leave you very frustrated, and it’s going to be counter-productive. Alright, so you got that?
Ok, so that’s basically stage number two. Again, I recommend you do it for twenty minutes every single day, with a timer, as discussed with the other technique. Now lets move on to stage number three. This one I would call the advanced technique. And this one I call awareness focus.
So, what you do here is you sit in your typical meditative posture, and you put your awareness on awareness itself. Put your awareness on awareness itself. This is a little tricky. Because, unless you’ve meditated for years, then actually you don’t know what awareness is.
When I use that word — awareness — you kind of know what I’m talking about, but not really. You don’t have a phenomenological, experiential understanding of awareness. And awareness is a very weird phenomenon. Unless you’ve observed it for years, it’s very hard to put your finger on it. What the fuck is awareness? Hard to be sure.
So, here what you’re doing is — you’re kind of working on this problem of understanding what awareness is. And the way that you do that is that you notice that everything that comes up, at any time in your life, but especially when you’re sitting down meditating, is just content that fills this, you might call it — a space of awareness.
The field of awareness is filled with content. An emotion is a piece of content. A thought is a piece of content. An itch on your ass is a piece of content. Your mom or your dad yelling at you while you’re meditating, that’s a piece of content. Your cat coming up and sniffing you or licking you while you’re sitting there, that’s a piece of content. Everything is a piece of content.
Now, usually what we do is we get sucked into this content. And we get sucked into our thought stories and into our emotions. Your job here is just to become aware that all this stuff actually is content and it’s happening within this field of awareness. And that awareness itself is not the content. This is a very freaky thing.
So, one way you can do this is you can sit there, and you can notice that things enter awareness and then they disappear from awareness. So, they arise and then they die. And then they rise again. And then they die again. And this is happening constantly.
But what you need to do is focus your awareness not on the content, but kind of, like you zoom out. And it’s almost like you’re looking at yourself from a third person. Although recognize that, when you sit in meditation, you look at yourself from a third person in your mind’s eye, that — actually — that’s just more content, right? You can’t escape content. Content is always there.
So, what you try to do in this advance stage here is you just focus your awareness on the fact that content is arising. And you try not to get sucked into the content. And you keep your awareness on the fact that you’re aware. And you try to maintain that as consistently as possible without having your mind wander off course.
And, of course, inevitably, it will wander off course. If you first start doing this, you’ll probably be able to do it for five or ten seconds before your mind wanders off course. So, what do you do? Your mind wanders off course — you bring it back. It wanders off course again — you bring it back. It wanders off again — you bring it back. Sometimes, it will wander off, and it will be wandering off in fairy-tale land, lost in content for five whole minutes.
Until you realize: “Oh, shit! I forgot about focusing on my awareness. I’ve been focusing on the content”. And it’s like: “Oh, man, those five minutes were wasted” — more content. “Oh, shit, that’s more content” — more content. “Damn it, I’m not meditating properly!” — more content, right? So, you’re going to be playing these mind games with yourself.
Just bring yourself back as best you can. Sometimes, you’ll have sessions where it’s going to be really hard. And you’re going to be wandering all over the place. And that’s the whole point of meditating. To, again, build in this discipline. And over the weeks and months, as you practice this, you’ll get better and better, and better.
The other thing I recommend that you do is I recommend that you open yourself up to the question of: What is awareness anyways? It’s a very profound question. Perhaps the most profound question who can actually answer in this lifetime.
So, when you’re sitting there and you’re practicing this stage three, start wondering: “What is awareness? I think I know what awareness is, but it’s so hard to put your finger on it. I’ve no clue what awareness is. How could that be? My whole life is constructed out of awareness, and yet I don’t know what awareness is.”
So, just open yourself to wandering. But one warning here is that — don’t try to logically think your way into a logical answer. When you’re meditating, there’s no introspection going on here. There’s no thinking stuff through. This is not therapy. You’re sitting and you’re just observing. You’re not allowed to think about stuff and try to figure stuff out. That’s something different.
So, that’s stage three. Now, let me talk a little bit about some of the common mistakes that I see people making with meditation. And I make all these mistakes myself, so that’s why I’m so familiar with them. So, let’s just run down this list real quick.
The Common Mistakes
The first one is panic and frustration when you realize that you can’t control your thoughts. So, when you first start meditating, you think like: “Well, I got to sit there and, kind of, control my thoughts”. And then, you’re in for a rude awakening when you discover that, actually, you have no control over your thoughts.
So, don’t fall into that trap. Could it be that you actually don’t have control, at all, over your thoughts? Would that be acceptable to you if you discovered that about yourself? Well, leave that possibility open, and see what you think about that question a couple of years after you’ve meditated consistently. For day, after day, after day. For years on end. Then take a look at that answer.
Another pitfall is assuming that meditation should be calm and peaceful. No, no, no, no — no. If you start meditating, and the first few years that you meditate — it’s going to be the exact opposite of that. Meditation’s going to be frustrating and annoying. You’re not just going to be sitting down and blissing out like a yogi.
That happens after decades of meditation and, perhaps, enlightenment. Another mistake is not using a timer. I recommend you get a digital timer. I recommend that you set in for twenty minutes. You don’t look at it while you’re meditating, but you turn it away from you.
I also recommend that you don’t use a smartphone for meditation, as a timer. you can, in a pinch, but I recommend that you don’t. Because your smartphone has all these distractions on it: notifications, and messages, and emails, and texts. So, that doesn’t make your job harder. Get a separate digital timer. They are really cheap these days.
Another common pitfall is trying to stop thoughts completely, which I’ve already addressed. Don’t try to do that. Again, in fact, what you’re going to discover through lots of meditation is that you have no power to stop your thoughts. And that this is not something that’s really even necessary to do for proper meditation.
Another common pitfall is resisting thoughts that arise. So, you’re sitting there, a thought comes up. And you’re like: “Shit! I shouldn’t have had that thought”. You’re resisting it. Stop resisting it, okay?
Another common pitfall is daydreaming. Meditation is not daydreaming. Now, when you do that stage one, that I told you about, it might feel a bit like you’re daydreaming. Because you’re letting your mind wander anywhere. The difference, though, is that in this stage one, yes you’re kind of daydreaming and your thoughts can go literally anywhere, you don’t control them at all — but you’re watching them.
You’re being aware of them. Which is not what a typical daydream is. Typical daydream is: you’re caught in the daydream, in the fantasy of the daydream. Here, you’ll always aware that you’re daydreaming. Or at least you’re trying to be.
Next pitfall is: trying to meditate when you’re tired. A lot of times, what I find in myself is that, you know — I’ve a pretty busy schedule, I run a business. In fact, I run multiple businesses. So, there’s a lot of other stuff that I could be doing in my life besides meditating that are frankly cooler than meditation.
So, what I often do is I try to slot my meditation time somewhere in the day I’m kind of tired, I’m not at my peak of mental clarity. Maybe I’ve just had a big meal. Or I just woke up, and I’m still kind of groggy. Or I’m about to go to bed and I’m kind of sleepy. Or it’s middle of the day, and I’m feeling like taking a nap. But I decide to meditate.
And those usually end up being the worst meditation sessions. Because you’re just not able to focus. You’re not at the peak of your mental clarity. So, the best time in the day to meditate is — whenever you have the highest mental clarity. If that’s morning for you, great, that’s a common one.
For me, personally, in the morning I’m kind of groggy. So, I’m likely to fall asleep in the morning. So, for me, the ideal time to meditate would be sometime in the late morning or early noontime. But I often fail at that, because that’s my prime time that I usually want to allocate on my business. Or shooting a video, or something like that. So, it is important when you meditate.
Here’s another pitfall: not accepting whatever happens in meditation. A really good trick you can try is just, when you sit down right before you start meditating — remind yourself just to accept everything that’s happening right now in the present moment. Literally accept it all.
If you have a toothache, accept that. If your ass is itching, accept that. If you’ve got some problem at work, accept that. If you don’t want to meditate, accept that. If you’re failing to meditate properly, accept that. If it’s a bad time in the day that you chose to meditate, accept that. Accept everything negative that normally you would resist.
And that’s very counter intuitive. Because we feel like: “Oh, well, I don’t want to accept all the bad stuff. Let me just accept the good stuff”. Except, when you do that, you don’t realize that you can’t accept the good without having the bad come back and bite you in the ass. You have to accept it all as a totality. That’s something you’ll learn as you continue meditating deeper.
And perhaps the last pitfall is: trying to get somewhere with meditation. So, you’re sitting down, you’re meditating right in this moment, but then you have this goal. “Well, today I want to release all my thoughts. Today, I want to be perfect” or “I’m working towards enlightenment” or this, or that, or “I want to achieve some super-peaceful state”, right?
You set a certain agenda for your meditation. Stop doing that. Stop trying to get anywhere with your one session. Now, in the big picture, over the long time horizon, I think you should have some goals for your meditation. You should be aiming for enlightenment. And you should be aiming for more peace of mind. And you should be aiming for all this cool stuff that you can get with meditation.
But not when you’re actually sitting down to meditate. Drop all those goals. Because what those goals are going to be are more thoughts that are going to prevent you from being able to actually achieve those goals. So, those goals undermine themselves, alright?
And also, a point I want to make is that you will have bad days when you’re meditating. Some days you’re just going to feel shitty. Some days you’re going to be really tired. Some days you’re going to have a really unruly mind that’s going in ten different directions. And that’s ok. Accept that too. Allow that and be ready for that.
Sometimes what will happen is you’ll have, like, ten straight days of really consistent high-quality meditation. You’re very calm, and focused, and everything is going great. And then, on the eleventh day, your mind is just going nuts all over the place, you can hardly sit still for twenty minutes. Let alone keep your thoughts from wandering in a thousand different directions.
And then you start to doubt yourself, and you start saying to yourself: “Oh, shit, I’m not progressing fast enough, man. I thought I was better than this”. You just got to allow it. Because your mind, every single morning, your mind is in a different place. And different stuff is happening in your life. So, you’re going to feel differently, depending on where you’re at.
Alright, so those are the pitfalls. Make sure that you be mindful of those. Notice them in yourself if you’re making them. Now, let me end by just giving you your meditation schedule. Here’s what I recommend you do with all the stuff that I told you.
I recommend that, basically, you follow my instructions to the letter. And what that means is that you actually re-watch this video for every stage that you’re practicing. So, if you want to practice stage one, re-watch that part. If you want to practice stage two, re-watch that part. If you want to practice stage three, re-watch that part.
And, right before you sit down and meditate, maybe you even want to take some notes on what I said, so that you know exactly what you should be doing. Like you have a little instruction sheet. I found that very, very helpful. Very helpful. Because, otherwise, if you don’t re-center yourself with the instructions, then you’re going to forget them. And you’re going to wander all over the place.
Here’s what I recommend as far as the schedule goes. If you’re starting at the newbie level, stage one — go do stage one for a whole month. Thirty days straight. At twenty minutes a day. Without missing a single day. If you miss a single day, you have to restart that whole cycle from scratch, until you get thirty consecutive days.
After you’ve gotten thirty consecutive days of stage one, then go on to stage two. Make sure you re-read the instructions for stage two, and then you follow that for thirty days, consecutively. Without missing a single day. If you miss a single day, you have to restart that cycle. So, then you complete stage two. Then you move on to stage three.
And you do that one for thirty days, consecutively. Otherwise, you restart the cycle. And that’s it. And then, after those thirty days times three — that’s ninety days — after those ninety days are over, what you can do is return to whatever stage you want. Or perhaps just continue with the most advance stage. Stage three.
Also, at that point, I think that you’re going to be in a nice position to start doing maybe some enlightenment work, which I talk about in other videos. I’m not going to talk about that here. And you can also start experimenting with various other meditation techniques.
What I found helpful, personally, for myself, is that I have to try out a bunch of different techniques just to see what fits me. It’s almost like wearing shoes. You go to the store to buy some new shoes — you got to test out five, ten different pairs before you find some comfortable ones.
And sometimes, you actually got to take them home and wear them for a week before you realize that they are not really that comfortable. So, when you’re spending a whole month on each one of these techniques, I think that’s the best way to go. And that’s what I recommend for you.
And also, what’s nice about setting up this way, in stages, is that you — it’s almost like you set little goals for yourself. Not day-to-day, but month-to-month. And I find that that’s important, because otherwise your habitation habit just gets very stale. You’re always doing the same thing. It’s not exciting.
When you set it up in this stage-like fashion, then you got one month to go, then you’re looking forward to the second month, then you’re looking forward to the third month, and so on, and so forth. So, you want to be switching it up. And also, what it does is that it gets your awareness of how your mind works, and how these techniques work, from multiple perspectives. Which I find, in the end, is very helpful to understanding yourself, because that’s what you’re trying to do here.
Alright, I want to give a quick credit to Peter Ralston, who I got this idea of “stages” from. Stages of meditation — I think that’s a very powerful idea. But I’m signing off, I’m done here. Go ahead, post me your comments down below. Click the like button, please. Share this video with a friend.
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Because this is just a tip of the iceberg, as far as meditation goes, and what you could achieve with meditation. To me, this is the most powerful habit. But beside this habit, there’s a lot of other stuff we need to talk about to help move you towards the kind of powerful, exciting life that you want to create for yourself.
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