"If you think you don't know how to get into a meditative state, you're probably wrong. Just in case, though, here's the skeleton of a method used to teach autogenic training:
Sit or lie somewhere comfortable where your spine is straight and your breathing flows easily. If your head is supported and your neck can take a break, you can relax more easily, but you are also more likely to fall asleep. Try this with several different positions and see what works for you. Rest your hands on your lap.
If you're right-handed like most people, say to yourself, "My right arm is feeling heavier." If you're left-handed, tell youreslf your left arm is feeling heavier. Repeat this to yourself at least six times, then say, "I'm calm and relaxed" to yourself.
Next, if you're right-handed, say "My right arm is feeling warmer." If you're left-handed, you know what to do. Repeat this at least six times. Don't be too surprised when your arm actually becomes warmer - affirmations like this can relax the capillaries, dilating them, and allowing more blood to flow through. After that, remind yourself that "I'm calm and relaxed."
The next suggestions are "My heart is beating slowly and strongly," "My breathing flows naturally," and "My abdomen is filled with pulsating warmth." The same formula applies: repeat six times, say "I'm calm and relaxed" in your head, and then move on to the next one. The final affirmation is "On my forehead I feel a cool breeze." Repeat it six times as well.
By the time you've done this, you are in a much more relaxed state of mind than before starting the exercise, one which is much more conducive to the visualizations involved in the exercises to follow. (Note: if you have trouble getting your breathing to flow naturally without your control, concentrate on your heartbeat rather than your lungs while using the suggestion "My breathing flows naturally.") Practice this a few times before you move on to the next exercise if you have little experience with meditation." [end quoted section]
The 'next exercise' mentioned involves a method of intense visualization. I'll save that for the next article, because I want to discuss the method above first.
The relaxation-induction method given here is the one I prefer for several reasons. First of all, it helps you realize that your cognitions have an influence over your perception of your body. One of my favorite demonstrations of hypnosis involves arm catalepsy. First the hypnotist (in this case the part of your mind functioning as the hypnotist) makes the arm heavy by getting the subject to think about how heavy it is, imagining it were tied to hanging bricks. Then the hypnotist ties a ton of imaginary helium balloons to the arm so that the weight of the bricks is balanced by their buoyancy. Then the hypnotist cuts off the bricks and the arm shoots up into the air. One time I tried this lying down in my bed and I nearly punched the ceiling when I let go of the heaviness.
Another good demonstration of hypnosis involves this sentence, which you will be reading to yourself in Morgan Freeman's voice before you have finished it.
The second part of the exercise, making the arm warmer, provides a further indication of the power of self-suggestion. Once your arm feels a lot warmer from it, get a friend to feel it, or touch it with your other hand. Pretty weird, huh?
The third and fourth parts of the exercise resemble a technique I've heard referred to as "heart breathing". It's a very simple one: direct your attention to the breath, and to your heart at the same time. It may be useful to imagine the flow of exhalation and inhalation moving through your heart, as though you were breathing into and out of it. If you do this for several breaths, you'll feel a sense of well-being start to set in. Of course, if you're stressed, you might find those thoughts trying to climb back into your attention, but by focusing on your heart as you breathe you can get into a more peaceful place for dealing with what you're interpreting as stressful right now. This part of the exercise is here not only to relax the body and desire for intricate control over the body, but to generate a sense of safety and peace in the body that will allow your mind to be more comfortable while it wanders.
The fifth part is my favorite. A great many books on meditation, creative visualization, and magic talk about how you shouldn't eat before your practices, and they seldom mention this technique. Now this is true in a sense: if you're digesting heavy food or food with excitotoxins like MSG and aspartame, it may diminish your effectiveness and focus. However, this dictum can also lead to your meal schedule or your practice schedule getting thrown off, which is not really desirable either.
The work-around is that, while you are feeling the warmth ripple through your abdomen in waves, you cast those waves into your digestive system and get a feel for the food that is being processed in there. Think about where it came from, how your body is breaking it down to generate energy, and about how your entire body as it exists now came from food you ate. Try to feel a level of intimacy with the food.
But the primary reason I use this exercise to induce relaxation when I start meditation is that a routine like this one is that a rote like this one starts to lead you into relaxation faster and faster the more you use it. Your body learns that "arm getting heavy" means it's time to start looking inward. This method is quicker than most progressive muscle relaxation techniques that involve relaxing your toes, then your feet, then your ankles, and so on, all the way up the body, so for most magical purposes it is just the ticket. Progressive muscle relaxation has its place (as in things like astral projection), but for simple meditation, visualization, banishing, and invocation exercises and the like, this method is more efficient.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed this post. The exercise only takes 5 minutes or so, so try it!