The Jedi Training Archive
Meditation- 1- FAQ
Written by Jedi Archivist Kethrim

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about meditation.


What is meditation? What does meditation do for me?

Meditation is essentially the clearing of the mind. While at first some people think that it will be easy to do, when you try to clear your mind of all thoughts, you see how busy your brain is. Some people are able to clear their mind and enter into a deep state of meditation very easily, while others may have much difficulty getting even a single second of clear mind. Do not allow yourself to become discouraged. Throughout our lives, we are encouraged to think all the time, and very rarely do we have the opportunity to just stop thinking. It will take practice, but you will eventually be able to acheive a state of clear mind. If, when you meditate, you can clear your mind for even one second, you are on the right track. Maybe next time you will be able to have a clear mind for two seconds.

Some people use meditation simply to clear their mind, while others use it to search for answers. The process is essentially the same. If you choose to search for answers to some question or concern that you have, you still want to clear your mind, to make room for the answers to come to you. Do not seek out the answers; be open and let them come.

Meditation can give you a sense of calm, a sense that at the end of it all, everything's okay. It can help you calm your mind so that you are better able to face the problems and obstacles that come up in your life. It can help you to relax your body. The benefits of meditation, if you keep practicing it, will follow you beyond the period in which you are meditation beyond to stay with you throughout the rest of your day.


Do I have to have some sort of special training to meditate?

It does not take any special training to meditate- anyone can do it. If you want to study a certain style of meditation specifically, then you might want to pursue finding someone who is experienced in that style to learn from. You can also learn a lot about certain styles of meditation by reading about them in books or on the internet.


Do I have to be in a special place or be alone to meditate?

While many people have the idea that you can meditate only in a special place like in a holy temple or in the woods, this isn't true. Meditation can take place anywhere, with great ceremony or with next to no preparation. Having a special place where you go to meditate can be helpful in achieving the right mindset, but it's not necessary. You can meditate on the floor of your bedroom or living room, in your desk chair while taking a break from work, or somewhere outside. The right place for meditation is anywhere you take the time to meditate.

Many people prefer being alone to meditate, since it is generally an introverted and personal experience, but others like the experience of group meditations. There can be a great feeling of power by meditating in a group, and if you wish, you can all say the same mantra or walk the same walking meditation. Perhaps you might try getting together with a group of friends and having a group meditation session once a week or once a month, and fill in the rest of the time with individual meditation.


How do I meditate? Isn't there one "right way" to do it?

There are three things you should prepare to meditate: your body, your breathing, and your mind. There are many variations of everything, so most of your meditating experience, at the beginning at least, will be experimentation to find which ways work best for you. Meditation is a very individual experience, as you are clearing your mind in order to listen to the still, small voice deep inside you. There is no one right way to do it, because we are all different people.


What physical position do I have to be in?

The most basic answer here is that you should be in a comfortable, relaxed position. You shouldn't be tense.

There are many classic positions and many adapted positions. One traditional position is sitting crosslegged, in the lotus position or in some adapted position that is more comfortable for you. This posture is best accomplished by using a small, firm cushion to tilt your pelvis forward. Another position is kneeling, on one (or two) cushions to tilt your pelvis forward. You should not be "perched" on the cushion, rather, it should be towards the back of your bottom, under the tailbone. Using the cushion in this way helps straighten your spine.

You should be sitting up straight, with your spine aligned comfortably. Your back does not need to be stick-straight, and as you meditate, you may find yourself slouching. When this happens, simply straighten your back again.

When you are sitting on the floor, either crosslegged or kneeling, you want to form some sort of triangle with your legs. The triangle is the sturdiest shape, so it will give you a very stable base for your meditation.

These ways of sitting may not work for you, so there are other ways to position your body for meditation. Some people like to sit upright in a straight-backed chair, while others feel that the chair detracts from their meditation experience. If you want to, you can lay down, although this can often lure you into a state of slumber, rather than the clear and alert mind that you are trying to achieve.

If sitting becomes uncomfortable, you can stand up and continue your meditation, and when you feel ready, resume your sitting position. Alternatively, you can pass your entire meditation while standing.

There are also walking meditations, which can be done by walking in a special pattern, such as a maze, or with a special pace, or more informally just while you are walking.


What do I do with my hands?

One way to have your hands is to lay the right one on top of the left, palms up, first set of knuckles lined up, thumbtips touching. Rest your hands on your lap. Your thumbs serve as a sort of barometer for your state of mind- if they are pressing too tightly together, you need to relax, and if they stray apart, you need to focus more.

An alternate hand position is to touch all your fingertips together, thumb to thumb, forefinger to forefinger, etc. Here, too, rest your hands on your lap, and use the touching of the fingertips to monitor your level of focus.

You might want to try resting your hands on your knees, either palm-up or palm-down.

Perhaps you have seen people in pictures or in real life meditating with their hands held up to the side by their shoulders, thumb and middle finger or thumb, middle finger, and ring finger touching. This is another hand position that you might want to try.

Some people wish to link their meditation to their prayer practice, and may hold their hands palms-together or folded as they do while praying.

There is no one way to have your hands that is the absolute right way to hold them. Through experimentation of different positions, you will find which one feels best and most comfortable for you.


Do I keep my eyes open or closed? What do I look at?

However you have your eyes is acceptable. One way is to keep your eyes half-open and gaze down at a point in front of you, the point about where your forehead would land were you to bown down to the floor from your meditating position. Some people like to close their eyes completely, while others may keep them all the way open. Some people may find it uncomfortable to look down, and they prefer to keep their head straight, or tilted up.

If you are focusing on a physical object, such as a written mantra, a picture, an object, or a candle flame, you will want to position the object at a comfortable height so that looking at it does not put any strain on your neck.


How do I breathe?

Deep, slow breaths tend to be the best way to go. Some people like to count their breaths in cycles, for example, breathe in 1, 2, 3, 4, breathe out 1, 2, 3, 4. Some people like to use a mantra to time their breaths. Other people just like to breathe comfortably and slowly. You will quickly find how you should breathe in order to best focus your mind.

One of the most important things to know about breathing during meditation is that when we go about our normal lives, much of the time we breathe by filling up our lungs in our chests. When we do this, our chests fill out and our shoulders rise. However, these chest breaths do not allow us to breathe deeply or calmly. When we sleep, we breathe by filling up our diaphrams, and our stomach rises. Some people call this type of breath "belly breathing." It is these belly breaths that allow us to breathe deeply and calmly. Before you begin meditating, you can practice belly breathing.

Do not worry if you don't feel that your breaths are very deep. Just keep them regular and calm, and remember to breathe belly breaths rather than chest breaths.


How do I focus my mind?

Some people like to just focus on the feeling of their breath as it enters and exits their body. Some people like to use a mantra (see next question). Others like to focus on an image, whether the image is physically in front of them or whether they are visualising it.

You will find that thoughts continuously come up in your mind. This is normal, because in our lives, our minds are always working. Mediation gives us a chance to let our minds rest. When you have a thought, do not follow it. Do not deny that you have a thought, simply acknowledge that it is there and then let it pass by. More thoughts will come, but let them pass by as well.


What is a mantra?

A mantra is a word or phrase that you think, whisper, say, or even sing as you meditate. One example of a mantra is, while inhaling, "Clear mind, clear mind, clear mind," and while exhaling, "Don't know." The "clear mind" part is to allow your mind to let go of whatever thoughts it has, while the "don't know" is not confusion, but lack of opinion. You are not thinking about things and forming opinions about them, you are simply acknowledging that they are there without forming an opinion of them.

Some people use all or part of a prayer as a mantra. Jews might use the first line of the Shema, while Christians might use a line from the Lord's Prayer. Psalms can be used, and many other religions have traditional prayers that are used for meditation.

You can think your mantra, visualise it, or write it on a piece of paper that you keep in front of you while meditating. If you are not going to disturb people around you, you might consider whispering it or saying it aloud, or adding music to your meditation by singing or intoning your mantra.


How long do I have to meditate for? How will I know when to stop?

You can meditate for however long you want to. Many people like to keep their meditation sessions between 20 and 30 minutes, while others find that a shorter meditation works well for them, and others like to have longer meditations. If you are concerned about the time, you can keep a clock in front of you, or even set an alarm to bring you out of meditation at a certain time. Otherwise, if you have the time, you may just want to meditate until you feel ready to stop. If you are meditating in a group, one person can be appointed the group leader, and he or she can bring the group out of meditation by striking a gong or some other sort of instrument.


I can't clear my mind. What do I do?

If you find yourself having trouble focusing and clearing your mind, try again. You might not get it the first few times, or even the first many times. Some people get the hang of meditation right away, while others have more trouble with it. That's fine. You may want to try something different. Try a different physical position- you may be uncomfortable without even realising it. Make sure that you use the toilet before sitting down for meditation- it's no fun to be distracted by your bladder when you're trying to clear your mind. Try focusing on your breathing. Try counting. Try a mantra. Try writing down your mantra or looking at an image. It may take a while for you to find the best way for you to meditate, but don't give up. Keep trying different methods and tweaking what you're doing until you find what works for you.


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