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Ask Deepak: Meditation Q & A

by: Deepak Chopra, M.D.

Created date

March 14, 2014

How do I quiet my mind when meditating? I have been trying for a long time without any success. I need help!

Deepak’s Answer
In meditation, any attempt to quiet the mind using force won't work. The everyday mind is full of thoughts, feelings, sensations, worries, daydreams, and fantasies. But at a deeper level, the mind begins in silence. Finding that level deeper than thought is the essence of meditation.
Here are some clues about how to make your meditation work:

  • Release expectations. Sometimes the mind is too active to settle down. Sometimes it settles down immediately. Sometimes it goes quiet, but the person doesn’t notice. Anything can happen.
  • Be easy with yourself. Meditation isn't about getting it right or wrong. It's about letting your mind find its true nature.
  • Don't stick with meditation techniques that aren't leading to inner silence. Unless you transcend the everyday mind, you aren't truly meditating. Find a technique that works more or less automatically. In India, there are many kinds of mantra meditation, for example. Or simply follow the in and out of your breathing, not paying attention to your thoughts at all. The mind wants to find its source in silence. Give it a chance by letting go.
  • Make sure you are alone in a quiet place to meditate. Unplug the phone. Make sure no one is going to disturb you.
  • Really be there. If your attention is somewhere else, thinking about your next appointment, errand or meal, of course you won't find silence. To meditate, your intention must be clear and free of other obligations.

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How does my daily meditation practice help heal the planet?

Deepak’s Answer
Quantum physicists have shown that a unified field of intelligence gives rise to everything in the universe, including our body, the stars, the galaxies, subatomic particles, and all else. The cosmos is the extended body we all share, and our every thought and intention ripples out into the universal consciousness and has an effect.

When we meditate, we quiet our mind and slip into the silence that’s the source of all happiness. There we discover increasing levels of bliss, inspiration, and love. Our experience of these powerful states creates vibrations that help heal the planet. As a famous Vedic verse states, “It is our duty to the rest of humanity to be perfectly healthy, because we are ripples in the ocean of consciousness, and when we are sick, even a little, we disrupt cosmic harmony.” Through meditation, we expand our awareness of the blissful nature of divine intelligence and contribute to greater peace and love in our world.

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How do I incorporate meditation in my daily life?   I can't seem to find the right time or mood, and I’m always full of excuses. Should I use music? Stay quiet? Practice a mantra or affirmation? 

Deepak’s Answer
The best thing to do is learn a traditional meditation practice from a qualified instructor. That way you know exactly what to do at any point in meditation and with any experience that comes along.

From there, the way to get past excuses and delays is to not make when you meditate a decision based on your mood. Set a time every day, for example, 7:00 to 7:20 every morning, and 5:30 to 5:50 every evening. Use the same chair to meditate every time and make the practice automatic by sandwiching it in between two things that you have to do anyway, like showering and brushing your teeth in the morning and eating breakfast afterward. If you know that after showering you have to meditate before you eat breakfast, then you are not worried about the right mood and you just do it.

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I want to develop a regular meditation practice, but I’ve come across so many different techniques that I’m confused about which one would be the best for me. Could you please advise?

Deepak’s Answer
There are different types of meditation to accomplish different aims, so the best meditation for you will be one that fits your goals. Almost every meditation practice will bring you greater peace and relaxation, so if that is your primary aim, then a simple breath awareness meditation is fine.

If you want a meditation practice that will allow you to experience your core Self, without thought,  then you need a practice that can take you beyond the mind and give you the experience of pure awareness. For that, traditionally what is needed is a silent mantra meditation, such as Primordial Sound Meditation.

The word mantra comes from the Sanskrit mantrayate, meaning “that which takes away the mind.” As you silently repeat a mantra, you dive below the bubbling surface of the mind, which is always preoccupied with thoughts, memories, and desires, into a place of pure consciousness. This is your true Self. While mantras are certainly not the only way to go beyond the mind, they are invaluable gifts the ancient sages have handed down to us to make access to the Self easy.

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At what age would you suggest children and teenagers be introduced to meditation?

Deepak’s Answer
There’s no hard and fast rule on this. What’s most important is to make them aware of the value of meditation through your example and then look for their receptiveness. Some children may be ready for meditation as early as eight or ten years of age. Other kids, even those growing up in homes where both parents meditate, may not feel drawn to meditating themselves until they are in their late teens. It’s important that kids don’t feel pressured to meditate because their parents want them to. The best indication that they are ready to start meditating is when they express their own curiosity and desire to learn.

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My doctor told me I have high blood pressure, and I should lower it  with a prescription medicine. I’ve heard about your meditation techniques, will that help me lower my blood pressure?

Deepak’s Answer
All meditations that silently use a mantra have a similar goal – to take our awareness beyond thought, into pure silence, pure awareness. The mantras used in Primordial Sound Meditation and the way in which we select them, is very different from other techniques. The mantra is based on the vibration the universe was making at the moment of your birth. Those who have developed a Primordial Sound Meditation practice cite the benefits of stress reduction, better sleep patterns, and greater peace of mind in their lives. We have also attempted to eliminate the secrecy surrounding many meditation programs.

Borderline hypertension (high blood pressure), often responds extremely well to meditation. Many studies over the last thirty years have shown average readings drop to an acceptable level starting after just one month of meditating.

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I am always wondering if I am meditating correctly. This takes my mind of what I should be concentrating on. How can I change this?

Deepak’s Answer
The simplest way to determine if you are meditating correctly is to ask yourself if you are meditating easily and effortlessly. Whether you are using a mantra or following your breath, your attention should be fluid and relaxed, not rigid or fixed. Remember, the mind needs to wander off, get distracted, and lose focus in order for the awareness to move from the surface level of the mind to the deeper, expansive realms of consciousness where we open up to our greater potential.

When you become aware you are no longer thinking the mantra or noticing your breath, that is your indication to gently return your attention to the process and start the cycle over again. If you maintain an easy frame of mind as you lose the mantra and then return to it, then you are meditating correctly. Whatever that meditation process brings you is governed by the intelligence of the cosmos and is exactly what you need at that time.

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Are the goals of meditation and yoga the same? If so, why meditate instead of doing yoga and why do yoga instead of meditation? Which method do you endorse and why?

Deepak’s Answer
The word yoga means union with one’s true nature, with God. The ancient practice of yoga has always been considered a mental technology of consciousness primarily involving meditation. In the last few decades the West has come to associate yoga with the physical postures, or asanas, of the yoga tradition. These asanas are certainly an integral part of yoga knowledge, along with such other branches of yoga as breathing exercises and moral behavior. And each of the eight limbs of limbs of yoga are important in attaining spiritual union.

However, I would say meditation is fundamental to the aim of enlightenment because it gives the direct experience of unity of the individual mind with cosmic mind.

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When we write our intentions down prior to meditation, how important is it to formulate them in a specific way? Some say it’s important not to write "I want" because that is a statement of lack. Others say to write intentions in a positive, affirmative way. What is most effective?

Deepak’s Answer
It’s good to be specific with your intentions so that the universe has a clear structure to work with, but you don’t want to be so locked into your vision that you miss the different and more wonderful response that may present itself.

It's better to not write your intentions as lacks or wants, because the important part of formulating intentions is to generate that field of awareness that feels spiritually complete, whole, and content. That state will naturally organize the means through which whatever we need will be manifested. If we are generating a field of lack, worry and fear, then that is what will attract and manifest. That is why if we want peace we become that peace, if we want love, we become the love within us, if we want abundance or health, we contact and become that part of our Self, which is always content, happy and healthy. At that core level of your life those statements are not false. By gently allowing our intentions to drop into that state of silence and joy, we put ourselves in the best position for those intentions to manifest.

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I have a difficult time staying awake when I meditate. Location, time of day, and physical position do not seem to impact this. After I’m able to stop thinking, I’m aware of a short time of silence, then I feel like I’m dreaming and I start to nod off.  I go to bed around 10 p.m., fall asleep right away, and wake up between 5 and 6 each morning. I’m generally alert and not tired during the day. Do you have any insights or recommendations?

Deepak’s response:
Go ahead and let yourself sleep if you feel a strong urge to nod off during meditation.It’s not a good idea for force yourself to stay alert. Even if you don’t have a sleep deficit from the night, sometimes you can go through a period of meditation where your body requires an experience of sleep in order to release a particular quality of conditioning. Don’t worry about it; just let the body shift into the state it needs, and when that conditioning or stress has been cleared, then your meditations will resume their usual character.

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About the author

Deepak Chopra, M.D.
April 19, 2013 - 4:19am,

Deepak Chopra, M.D is the author of more than 65 books, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His medical training is in internal medicine and endocrinology, and he is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, and an adjunct professor of Executive Programs at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. He is also a Distinguished Executive Scholar at Columbia Business School, Columbia University, and a Senior Scientist at the Gallup organization. For more than a decade, he has participated as a lecturer at the Update in Internal Medicine, an annual event sponsored by Harvard Medical School’s Department of Continuing Education and the Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“Deepak Chopra has successfully blended ancient Vedanta Philosophy with his unique perspective on modern medicine to provide a vast audience with solutions that meet many needs for our modern age. He is among the influential scholars, authors, and thinkers like Arthur Schopenhauer, Carl Jung, and Aldous Huxley who have found truth in the Perennial Philosophy and developed ways to help people apply that truth to their daily lives.” 
~Huston Smith

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