Dr. Judith Orloff on How to Meditate

Deep breaths! If you think that’s all meditation is, or are one of those people (read: me) struggling to not fall asleep, then this is for you. Dr. Judith Orloff shares with us how to meditate effectively and her experiences with it:

Meditation is the most powerful tool I have found to become more intuitively attuned. It allows us to cross over boundaries we may not know existed until we’ve moved beyond them. The reason many of you may not realize you’re intuitive is that you have become conditioned to hearing only your mind. The intensity of your thoughts overrides everything else. Meditation gives you more options. Even if you have never thought of yourself as the “type” or have tried and been unsuccessful, when properly guided everyone can meditate.

I teach my patients to practice the same simple technique my teacher taught me. First, sit on a comfortable cushion, back upright, legs crossed. If sitting on a cushion is too uncomfortable, sit on a chair, making sure to keep your back straight. If you lie down it’s too easy to fall asleep. With the palms of your hands resting together in the traditional prayer position, begin by making a reverential bow in honor of yourself and your spiritual source. Then, most important, start to breathe. Paying attention only to the rhythm of your in-breath and out-breath, notice the nuances of each inhalation and exhalation as the flow of air passes through your lungs and out past your nostrils and mouth. If thoughts come—and they will—note them but try not to get involved in them, and always return to the breath. In Yogic thought, this is the prana, our vital energy, the essence of life. Concentrating on it singly leads to the stillness as nothing else can.

You may be like me. I’ve always rebelled against regimentation of any kind. If someone tells me one way of doing something, I’m sure to do the opposite. I’m not saying that this is a commendable quality, but it’s how I often feel. Respecting this about myself, I’ve chosen a method of meditating that suits my character. It’s more free flowing, instinctual, without a lot of rules. But meditation is extremely personal. There are many excellent methods—including Zen, Vipassanna, Yoga, transcendental meditation—some more structured than others. It may help to experiment with a few. In the final analysis, how or where you meditate is less important than the outcome of the practice.

I know of a blackjack dealer in Reno who uses meditation to center himself amidst the chaos and confusion of the gambling casino. Inspired by the Hindu tradition, he’s renamed himself Hanuman after the monkey god, recognized for being the devoted servant of Rama. During his breaks, he sits cross-legged beneath the glare of the bright lights, eyes closed, surrounded by the din of slot machines and people shouting. There he meditates as peacefully as he might on a mountain in Tibet. His practice has taught him to cope with external distractions and keeps him focused and astute.

To be able to meditate, no matter what the physical conditions, you must begin slowly. Meditation requires loyalty and perseverance. Initially, you can limit yourself to five minutes a day. Once you become more accustomed to sitting, gradually build up to twenty minutes over the next few weeks or months. You may stay at that level for a while. When you’re ready, increase to a full hour. But don’t worry if your mind is busy. It takes practice to sense the stillness, so try to be patient. If at first nothing much seems to be happening, you’re not doing anything wrong. There’s no rush. Just keep your attention focused on the breath as much as possible. Be gentle with yourself. Change takes time.

Intuition flourishes when you give it space to grow. Meditation can provide this. It is an organic process that allows prescience to mature gradually, in a healthy way. With time to assimilate this change, you will never be given more than you can handle. There’s a natural tempo to opening that occurs if you don’t force it before you’re ready. Sometimes we may move ahead in leaps and bounds, at other times take only tiny steps forward, or even think that we’re sliding backward. But however it may appear, this is an ongoing process of growth. Wisely prepare yourself to see. Make space for your own brilliance. Meditation can be your first step, a solid, well-grounded send-off to a truly amazing journey.


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