Week 1: Getting Started

Goals for the first week

  • Start with the ABC’s of meditation—what, where, how, and when.
  • Reading: learn what meditation is and what meditation is not.
  • Establish a regular, daily meditation practice. The key words here are regular and daily.
  • Practice the basics of concentration and meditative breathing.

Your mind has a flood of questions.
There is but one teacher who can answer them.
Who is the teacher?
Your silence-loving heart.

Sri Chinmoy

Make a Commitment

0707_20.jpgLike most people, you want a better life. But unlike most, you’ve done something about it. You’ve made the most important decision of all — self-improvement — and now you’re following through with this HomeStudy course.

Everyone is born with the ability to run; likewise everyone can meditate. But meditating well, like running a marathon, is a skill that is acquired through practice, patience, and commitment. You’ve already taken the first step by buying HomeStudy, but to reach your goal there are many more steps left to go. That’s why the most important lesson to learn about meditation is the importance of regular, daily practice. So find something about meditation that motivates you — learning, growth, happiness, poise — and commit to follow through each and every day on your decision to become the person of your dreams.

To help keep you motivated, take a moment now to reflect on your reasons for beginning HomeStudy. What qualities are you looking for? What about your life would you like to change? What kind of person would you like to become? Write down the answers to these questions and keep them where you will see them frequently. This will inspire you to continue with your practice of meditation.

Concerning all acts of initiative and creation,
There is one elementary truth —
That the moment one definitely commits oneself,
Then Providence moves, too.

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

The Six Keys to Successful Meditation

There are several key things you can do that will significantly enhance your ability to meditate. They may seem subtle at first, but remember, meditation itself is all about cultivating the higher, more subtle parts of your being. Take it from experience — together these six keys will make a big difference. So please give them a try!

Key #1: Find a Special Place

It’s critical to set aside a special place that is used only for meditation. If you have a spare room, great, but it’s fine to set aside a corner of your bedroom. This will be your sacred space for self-discovery, so you’ll want to make it as inspiring as possible.

  • Cover a low table with a clean, white cloth (or any other light color you find inspiring).
  • Place a candle on the table, and a vase with fresh flowers if possible.
  • You may also want to buy some incense and an incense holder.

Together, all of these items will help to create a meditative atmosphere.

Key #2: Prepare Physically

Your spiritual journey takes place in and through your physical body. Here’s how you can help to prepare it for meditation:

  • Take a shower before meditating. If it isn’t possible to take a shower, wash your face and hands.
  • Wear clean, light, loose-fitting clothes.
  • Take your shoes off before meditating. Your feet deserve a break too!

Key #3: Sit Relaxed, Sit Straight

There’s no need to sit in a special yogic posture to meditate. If you can sit comfortably on a cushion on the floor, this is best. Otherwise a meditation stool or chair is fine. The important thing is to be still and relaxed, to have your back straight, and to have the flower and candle close to eye level.

People often ask if it’s okay to meditate lying down. We don’t recommend it unless you’re more interested in sleeping than meditating!

Key #4: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

In the beginning, five or ten minutes of meditation a day is enough. You might be tempted to do more, but it’s best to go slowly and steadily. Meditation is like an inner muscle that you are slowly but surely making stronger. If you overwork a muscle, it becomes sore; if you meditate for more than ten minutes and feel tension in your head or get a headache, you know you’ve gone beyond your capacity.

As your meditation practice matures, the time you will be able to spend in meditation will lengthen and the quality of your meditation will deepen.

Key #5: Choose the Right Time

Make an appointment with yourself and practice at the same time each day. Just as you nourish your physical body several times each day at certain times, see meditation as nourishing your inner life and have a special time each day for your meditation exercises.

The best time to meditate is early in the morning, before you enter into your daily activities. This way, the peace you get from your meditation will permeate the rest of your day. If you feel you can’t spare ten minutes first thing in the morning, get up ten minutes earlier and meditate then. The increased energy and well-being that you derive from your meditation will more than compensate for the ten minutes of lost sleep.

If by giving up small pleasures, great happiness is to be found, the wise should give up small pleasures, seeing the prospect of great happiness.

The Buddha

Many people also like to meditate for a few minutes when they get home from work, to help wash away the stress of the day. You might also want to meditate just before going to bed. This will help you to sleep more soundly.

We suggest not scheduling your meditation time right after a big meal. Like a bird, your inner being will be trying to fly higher, but your body will be weighing it down. So wait an hour or two after a meal before meditating.

On the other hand, your meditation won’t be very effective if you are being pinched by hunger. If your meditation hour is approaching and you’re hungry, the best thing is to drink some juice or eat some fruit; the idea is to eat just enough to take away the hunger pangs.

Whether you choose to adapt these recommendations to your lifestyle, or adapt your lifestyle to these recommendations, the most important thing is regular daily practice at a regular time. If you can establish a regular routine with your meditation, as the appointed time approaches your own inner being will nudge you and say “Don’t forget to feed me today!”

Key #6: The Power of Music

A recommended aid to the HomeStudy programme are the many available recordings of Sri Chinmoy playing music for meditation. This peaceful music of the heart will create a meditative atmosphere and tremendously enhance the quality of your meditation. Play it softly during your exercises; merely listening to and absorbing the peace-filled consciousness of the music will help you to feel the deep inner stillness of meditation.

A few music downloads, available free of charge:

  • Music of the Aspiration-Heart: A flute album by Sri Chinmoy released in 2002.
  • Shindhu - Female choral and instrumental group that have been performing Sri Chinmoy's music for 20 years. More »
  • Agnikana's Group, live at the Czech Museum of Music in Prague, July 2012. Soft soulful ethereal music. Download »

One very powerful meditation technique is mantra. We find that beginners to our classes often have better experience at the beginning with mantra, than with silent meditation.

Meditate daily, soulfully
And self-givingly.
No dream of yours
Will ever remain unfulfilled.

- Sri Chinmoy

Week 1: Meditation exercises

During the first week, try some of these exercises taken from Sri Chinmoy's writings.

Week 1: Reading

During this first week, try to read chapters 1-3 of the Meditation book, if you have it, or of our Meditation Q&A guide

Week 1: Summary

During this important first week, you should have:

  • Established a special place to meditate.
  • Read Chapters 1-3 of Meditation thoroughly.
  • Practiced the recommended meditation exercises for at least ten minutes daily - preferably at the same time each day.
  • Logged your practice and your experiences in your journal.

0710_93.jpgCongratulations! You made it through your first week of regular, daily meditation! Did you notice any change in your meditation as the week progressed? Did you feel any different during the day as a result of your meditation? If you haven’t done so already, take a minute to note these changes in your journal.

If you didn’t meditate every day, it’s probably because you either couldn’t find the time, or it was just too hard to get into the habit. Whatever the reason, don’t get discouraged!

I do not give up, I never give up,
For there is nothing
In this entire world
That is irrevocably unchangeable.

- Sri Chinmoy

As we said earlier, learning to meditate is like learning to ride a bicycle. Think back for a moment to when you first learned to ride a bike. In the beginning, you probably fell a lot, and you may have even thought of giving up on the whole idea. But you kept trying despite repeated failure, and eventually it became second nature. In retrospect, all of those failures were actually necessary steps towards your ultimate success.

Why did you keep trying, even though you kept failing and it seemed like you would never learn to ride that bike? It’s because you kept your goal in sight; you knew without a doubt what riding a bike meant—freedom, adventure, independence, fun—and you wanted those things so much that you were willing to do whatever it took to learn.

Meditation is the same. You absolutely will have more peace, more love, and more happiness in your life through meditation. Make this an unshakable belief. Learning how to meditate takes a little work, but once you do learn you’ll definitely enjoy the ride!

Ask, and you will receive;
Seek, and you will find;
Knock, and it will be opened to you.

- Matthew 7:7