There are two basic kinds of meditation: those that have a theme or focus (like breathing or a visualization), and those that do not (theme-less). This describes the basics of theme-less meditation.

Where possible, the environment should be physically comfortable and not distracting. A clean, quiet place without too much visual distraction is good. Try to arrange not to be interrupted.

10 to 30 minutes once or twice a day, done regularly, can be enough. Regular practice is what helps, more than rare marathon sessions.

Sit in a chair, with the back relaxed but upright, and the head balanced on the neck. If you can, don’t use the backrest, but sit upright on your own. Keep the eyes gently open. You can face a wall or look at the floor. The important thing is not to be too distracted by what you see. Breath naturally, without effort.

You are going to just hang out with your experience as it happens. You don’t have to DO anything. Feel what you actually feel. Think what you happen to think. Have the body experiences that you seem to be having. Notice and be aware of yourself as you are, in the present. Just sit. Just BE. Now.

Don’t try to achieve anything. Don’t try to be relaxed or calm. Don’t try to get to any particular mental, spiritual, or physical state. Don’t set yourself a goal of what your meditation experience should be like.

Also, don’t attempt to push away any experience. Don’t try to avoid any feelings. If you start to feel something, feel it. Don’t block out physical sensations. Don’t try to keep your thoughts off any particular subject.

Your mind will wander. When you get distracted – you go off on some train of thought or inner conversation, or you get into planning, or reviewing some past experience, notice that this has happened, and come back to the present experience, right now. Added commentary on what happened is not necessary. Telling yourself what experience you are having is not necessary.

None of this sounds all that exciting or glamourous. It generally isn’t. But there are benefits of this. You learn to be awake to your own life. You learn how to be present. You gradually find out how you can ‘show up’ with others in your life and create genuine intimacy. You gradually find out what you feel and how you think more and more clearly and honestly. You notice your preoccupations and mental habits. As you become more aware of your conscience, your driving forces and your automatic reactions, you start to have more choices.

And when you meditate, you are consistently, quietly knocking at the door of your spiritual self. You don’t get to choose when, but if you practice, one day you will get an answer and your gratitude will be overflowing.

Brian Grady, Ph.D.