You might know this about me already, but I’m a big advocate for meditation of all kinds.
There are a multitude of different types of meditation options available. With so many options, it can be pretty confusing to know what to do and what will work best for you.
I’m going to touch briefly on two popular types of meditation for this article, and then dive into a third type that is my personal favorite.
The first type of meditation is one pretty much everyone has heard of: Transcendental Meditation, or which falls into the category of “mantra meditation,” where the practitioner repeats a mantra silently in order to calm the stream of thoughts that arise from the mind.
TM has become a big business in the U.S. and is fairly expensive to get started with, but even with that facet in the mix, many people can attest that TM was the first meditation practice that they were able to continue to do long-term, which makes it a win in my book.
Meditation type number two is Guided Visualization, which I am obviously quite fond of, given my penchant for producing them. One big advantage of guided visualization is that it can allow someone who normally has trouble quieting the mind to have a meditative, healing experience.
It can also allow someone to tap into the meditative benefits of an experienced meditator by following in their footsteps, so to speak.
Our third type of meditation is what I consider the most important form of meditation in my own life, and I call it simply, “Silence Meditation” although it is also often referred to as “Mindfulness Meditation,” which I consider slightly different.
You might be surprised to hear that I don’t use guided visualizations since I produce so many of them, but that’s exactly the reason I don’t utilize them: I tend to like my own versions better.
So what is Silence Meditation? It is the simple, but not easy, act of sitting in total silence, with a focus on achieving a complete stillness in the mind. A total absence of thought, even for just a few moments.
This is simple in concept, but difficult in practice, because the mind’s nature is to produce thought and it does so consistently all day and even at night when we’re in REM sleep. Yes, our nighttime dreams are a form of thought expressing itself, and the thoughts only cease when we go down into the deepest levels of Delta sleep.
How to Silence the Mind… For a Few Moments
Upon reading the above, the mind naturally will produce a question: “How can someone use the mind to silence their mind?” There are almost as many ways of achieving this silence as there are meditators in the world, which means that there is no one right way to do it.
Since there isn’t a single “right way,” I will just tell you how I do it for myself, because my methods are somewhat unconventional. No surprise there, right?
First is the setup, or how I sit. I use a “V” shaped meditation cushion and place it in front of my couch so that I can rest my back against it. You could use a wall for this purpose, too.
This goes against the grain of meditation teachers who want people to sit fully upright with no back support. That’s great for a photo-shoot, but the reason I use something for back support is because I don’t want to be distracted by thinking about what position my body is in during meditation.
By sitting upright on my pillow while supporting my back with my couch, I eliminate one of the major distractions of sitting and meditating. For your own practice, feel free to simply sit in a chair that allows you to have upright posture. Go with whatever is the most simple and supportive for your body.
Next is blocking out the external world, which I achieve with ear plugs and a blind-fold. More specifically, I use a pair of sound-isolating “ear-buds” for playing audio. They block outside sounds better than regular ear plugs, and allow me to use one of the Genius Brain Power audio tracks to help assist my meditation if I so choose. Usually an Alpha or Theta track.
Some would consider using brainwave entrainment cheating or a crutch, but if it works for the individual, I say go for it. Now to be fair, I personally only use entrainment audio once in a while when the background noise level is too high for the ear-buds alone to block.
95% of the time I just use the ear-buds with no audio because they work better for me than standard foam ear plugs. Keep in mind that the ear plugs are optional, but if you find yourself being distracted by background noise while meditating, then I recommend trying out some ear plugs for a few sessions.
As for the blindfold, any type of blindfold will suffice, and if necessary you can improvise with whatever you have around. Even a long-sleeve shirt will do in a pinch. Enough said there.
Time Enough for Self-Love
With the setup handled, it’s time to start meditating, right? Almost. One more important thing: Use a timer! You don’t want to be distracted by thinking about how long you’ve been meditating, so a simple kitchen timer will alert you when your pre-determined time is up.
But how long should you meditate? That is entirely up to you! I personally meditate in this fashion for 22 minutes in the early morning, which is long enough to get the job done, and short enough that I won’t make up an excuse not to do it.
I arrived at 22 minutes in a somewhat arbitrary fashion. I started out at 10 minutes, and added one minute a day until I was at 20 minutes. Later I added one more minute as an easy way to accomplish 5% more meditation. Eventually I went up one more minute to 22 simply because I like repeating numbers.
So 22 is my “magic number,” but your number might be smaller, especially at first, and that’s fine! You could start with just 5 minutes if you need to, and gradually add one minute per day until you are at a number you feel is giving you the results you desire.
The most important part of choosing your meditation duration is to start small and gradually increase the time each day that you meditate IF you want. If the number feels small and easy to do, then you are far more likely to do it than if you choose a number that feels like an arduous task, or an amount of time that could make you late for work, an appointment, etc.
A shorter duration is better for those days when you’re not getting into a deep meditative state and you’re constantly silencing mind-chatter without enjoying any mental quietness. Speaking from experience, the temptation to “bail out” of the process is far smaller if I know that I won’t have to struggle with that day’s meditation for too long.
The Actual “Silence Meditation” Process
I’m seated, ears are plugged, eyes blind-folded, the timer has started and now it’s time to actually meditate. The first thing I do is start breathing slowly and deeply, putting all of my focus on my breath. After years of practice this alone produces a few moments of blissful mental silence.
But not for long! No sir! My wonderful mind has all kinds of lovely thoughts it wants me to entertain. So when the first thought comes up, I use a mental prompt to release it: Clear the Deck.
As I think those words, I also direct my mind to a brief visualization of the deck of a wooden boat, out at sea, with nothing but blue skies and blue water in every direction, and I imagine that the thoughts are being swept off the deck, down into the water.
Then I let the visualization fade away and return to focus on my breath.
Silence. Breath. Silence. “I need to mail that check to…” (or whatever thought bubbles up).
Yes, the silence doesn’t last for long, especially in the early days and weeks of meditation, and sometimes even after years of practice. But that’s okay! The mind produces thoughts. That’s one of its main jobs and it can take a lot of training to get it to go into that deep silence.
When that thought arises, and it always does, I will name the type of thought, which is a form of acceptance and acknowledgement. I don’t want to fight my mind, only to direct it, so I acknowledge the thought with one word whenever possible.
Examples: Planning, anticipating, ruminating, reminiscing, worrying, analyzing, imagining, judging, speculating.
Once I name the thought, I use my next mental prompt which is: Let it go. So it would “sound” (in my mind) like, “Planning… Let it go.” Yep, I keep things simple!
Silence. Breath. Silence. “I wonder if I’ll have time to exercise before breakfast.” “Oh… Anticipating… Let it go.”
Silence. Breath. Silence. “That guy trolling my blog really needs to get a life.” “Ahhh…judging… Let it go.”
Two More Prompts
I also use two more mental prompts to help deepen the meditative state. Over time these have become commands which my mind (usually) obeys. The first one is “Go Deep.” This pretty consistently puts me into a deeper brainwave state, which I can feel happening because I have practiced it for years, both with and without brainwave entrainment.
The other prompt is “Go Clear” which very nicely clears away any stray thoughts. I tend to use these prompts after releasing a thought with “Let it go” in order to deepen the meditative state and extend the amount of time where no thoughts are floating through my mind.
Slow It Down
I like to “speak” all of those thought-prompts very slowly in my mind. For example, if I’m thinking “Go Clear,” I will think “Gooooooooooo” on the in breath, and “Clearrrrrrrrrr” on the out breath.
Slowing down the thoughts helps lead me back to the state of non-thought more easily.
“This is Too Hard!”
When most people first try this style of meditation, they often don’t have much success at quieting the mind. That’s okay! The fact that you took some time to sit up straight, breathe deeply and even attempt to meditate is huge!
Seriously, you should congratulate yourself after every meditation session, no matter how “good” or “bad” it seemed to be.
Even if you spent the entire time “clearing the deck” and “letting it go” with no observable quieting of the mind, you should STILL give yourself a pat on the back for putting in the time and effort.
Then do it again tomorrow.
With regular practice (daily is best) you will start to have moments of pure mental silence, and over time those moments will grow longer and more frequent. There can still be bad days where you can’t put the thoughts aside, and that’s ok, too!
Remind yourself that whatever is happening in your mind is ok. Don’t fight the mind, just do your best to guide it gently into that place of silent rest.
“These Prompts Don’t Work For Me!”
This is where things get personal. Not that I will take it personally if my prompts don’t work for you, but personal in the sense that everyone will respond differently to the process of guiding their own mind into a place of silence.
The prompts that I use just might not work for you, which means that you’ll need to come up with some of your own. I think it’s fine to figure that out during the meditation session, since if the prompts you are using aren’t working, you might as well spend that time to audition some new prompts.
However, and this is a big however, I recommend that you don’t give up on the prompts until you have tried them a few times.
Why? Because using the same prompts repeatedly over time conditions the mind to respond to those prompts more effectively.
“What’s the Point?”
I know life is busy, and often the first things that we drop when we are pressed for time are self-care and self-empowering practices. However, if you can give yourself the gift of just 5-20 minutes per day of meditation practice, you will start to reap many rewards.
The state of no-thought is incredibly calming, soothing and even blissful. Five seconds of mental silence is like giving your mind a massage or warm bath. This produces mental, emotional and physical relaxation, reduces inflammation and releases beneficial hormones in the body.
With practice, this or any other type of meditation practice will help you to have “space” between stimulus (stress) and response (reaction) in your environment. Instead of cursing at the guy who cuts you off in traffic, you might find yourself taking a deep breath and saying, “Let it go” instead.
After all, that other driver can’t hear your words and your inner peace is more valuable than anger, especially when you’re driving.
Instead of snapping at your spouse/child/parent/sibling/co-worker/etc. when they push your buttons, you could find yourself taking a deep breath and calmly explaining what you truly want to communicate to them.
Those “little victories” in our day feel really good, and regular meditation can help them to happen more organically, more often.
Best Time of Day?
Opinions vary on the best time of day to meditate. For years I was more of a night-time meditator, but when I switched to meditating in the morning I found that it had profound, beneficial impacts on my state of being for the rest of the day.
Putting it simply, silence meditation in the morning makes me generally happier, less impatient and more compassionate on days that I do it compared to days where I come up with an excuse to skip it, which is very rare.
Limiting my morning meditation time to 22 minutes almost completely removes any thought of skipping it, where for mysterious psychological reasons, a 30 minute meditation is easier to skip “because I’m running late” or some other excuse.
Keeping it short and easy to achieve is the key to success in morning meditation.
Take the 5×7 Test Drive
Often one of the biggest self-imposed barriers to trying a something new is the belief that if we start doing it, we have to do that new thing forever, so we don’t even start.
So forget about forever, and instead just take a test drive of doing a silence meditation for 5 minutes per day for 7 days.
That’s it. Just 35 minutes of time over the course of a week. If you can commit to that small investment, it is possible that you will like the results so much that you decide to keep the practice, but you are not obligated by anyone, especially yourself, to do so.
Share Your Experience
Do you already meditate like this? If so, please leave a comment for how you achieve those delicious moments of mental silence. Your setup, your inner prompts, any helpful tips for others, etc.
Are you trying this for the first time, or picking it back up again? Let me know how it’s going for you.