“The clearest, most practical, and inspiring guide on meditation I’ve ever read.”
—Joseph Bharat Cornell, meditation instructor, author Sharing Nature book series
This clear and concise guidebook contains everything you need to start your practice. With easy-to-follow instructions, meditation teacher Jyotish Novak demystifies meditation—presenting the essential techniques so that you can quickly grasp them. How to Meditate has helped thousands to establish a regular meditation routine since it was first published in 1989. This newly revised edition includes a bonus chapter on scientific studies showing the benefits of meditation, plus all-new photographs and illustrations.
Learn how to:
- Relax your body
- Interiorize your awareness
- Concentrate your mind
- Develop and clarify intuition
- Expand your spirit
- Experience peace, joy and calmness
Special Interactive Website: www.crystalclarity.com/howtomeditate/resources/
Originally this book was written to accompany a “How to Meditate” class series I taught. The students wanted a simple guide which reviewed the details of the meditation techniques they were learning. Because the book was meant only to supplement a much larger body of oral material, it was purposely kept very brief and succinct.
Over the years there has been a growing demand for this kind of short, practical guide to the art and science of meditation. While there is much to be gained by brevity, there is also something inevitably lost. I urge readers of this book to expand their understanding of meditation, and the philosophy of life from which it sprang, through further study and, more importantly, daily practice.
The material covered here is based primarily on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda and his disciple Kriyananda, who is my teacher. Paramhansa Yogananda was one of the greatest yogis ever to teach in America. Coming to this country from India in 1920, he spent the next 32 years here writing many books and lessons, lecturing to hundreds of thousands of students, and training dedicated disciples. He took the deepest philosophy and the highest techniques of the ancient science of yoga and put them into a language and system uniquely suited to the modern Western mind. His book, Autobiography of a Yogi, is a spiritual classic which has inspired innumerable readers throughout the work and has been translated into dozens of languages.
Kriyananda became Yogananda’s disciple in 1948 and lived with him until the great master’s passing in 1952. Kriyananda has taught yoga and its related applications for over forty years and, at last count, has written nearly forty books on the subject, including The Path, which tells about his years with Paramhansa Yogananda. I cannot recommend highly enough the writings of these two great teachers. Their works are listed in the Resources section at the end of this book.
In 1968 Kriyananda founded the spiritual community Ananda Cooperative Village, which is a living laboratory for these teachings. Ananda, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, is commonly considered the most successful community of its kind in the world. It has over four hundred full-time residents, some eighty homes, its own school system, and many businesses. Ananda also includes five urban branch communities in the United States, a branch community near Assisi, Italy, and more than fifty meditation groups throughout the world.
I am a founding member of Ananda, and have lived and taught there since 1969. My wife and I serve, under Kriyananda, as the spiritual directors of Ananda. Over the last twenty years I have had the opportunity to teach, counsel, and form deep friendships with many hundreds of truth seekers. I have seen, first hand, the power of these teachings to transform lives.
I pray that this book can serve as a guide to this wonderful science. May your spiritual quest be filled with joy.
John (Jyotish) Novak
Meditation is a simple process which can be done any time and anywhere you can interiorize your mind. It is not based on dogma,
faith, or ritual but is concerned, like science, with experimentation and experience. Just as science seeks to uncover the secrets
of nature, meditation seeks to discover truths about the nature of consciousness. Its tools, rather than microscopes and
oscilloscopes, are concentration and intuition. While nothing is needed for meditation except a willing and inquiring mind,
there are a number of things that can be done to make the search easier. The following are helpful aids.
Set Aside a Special Area for Meditation
It is very helpful to have an area that is used only for meditation. It will help reinforce a meditative mood and, over time,
will become filled with meditation “vibrations.” A small room or closet is ideal as long as it can be well ventilated. If you
don’t have enough space for a whole room, then set aside a small area in your bedroom or some other room that can be kept just
for meditation. Your area can be kept very simple – all you really need is a small cushion or a chair to sit on.
You may also want to set up a small altar with a picture or pictures of those great souls who particularly inspire you.
Many people also like to have a small candle for evening meditations and perhaps an incense burner. Your altar can be elaborate
or simple according to your own tastes. A pure heart is, in any case, the true altar.
Cooperate with Natural Forces
There are certain natural forces which can either help or oppose your efforts. Magnetic forces in the earth tend to pull one’s
energy down. Certain natural fibers serve as an insulation against these forces just as a rubber coating insulates an electrical
wire. Traditionally, yogis sat on a tiger or deer skin, but it works nearly as well to cover your meditation seat with a woolen
blanket, a silk cloth, or both.
Especially good times to meditate are dawn, dusk, noon, and midnight. At these times, the gravitational pull of the sun works
in harmony with the natural polarity of the body. It is somewhat easier to meditate at night or early in the morning while others
are asleep. Thoughts have power, and the restless thoughts of people around you will have a subtle tendency to make your
meditations more restless.
Develop Good Habits
Good habits will be the major force in determining whether or not you benefit from the science of meditation. A bold statement,
perhaps, but a true one. Good intentions and bursts of enthusiastic devotion will dissipate unless they become translated into
The first thing you need to do is settle on when it is convenient to do your meditations. In choosing a time for meditation,
regularity is the most important factor, so set a time when you can be consistent. Meditate every day. Even if you meditate
only five or ten minutes at a time, at least start! Better yet, try to meditate fifteen to twenty minutes twice a day in the
beginning and then increase the time gradually; but don’t go beyond your capacity to enjoy each meditation. Depth of meditation
is more important than the length of time spent. As you progress you will find that you naturally want to meditate longer. The
more you meditate, the more you will want to meditate! Once you have chosen a time for your meditations, stick with it until a
strong habit has time to form.
For most people, the best times are just after rising in the morning and just before bed at night. These times are the least
likely to have scheduling conflicts, and it is easier to re-program the subsconscious mind, where habits are rooted, just after
or before sleep. Many people also like to meditate before lunch or after work, before eating dinner. Wait at least a half hour
after eating – up to three hours after a heavy meal – so there will not be competition for energy between digestion and meditation.
A very helpful means of increasing the length and depth of your meditations is to have at least one long meditation each week.
Your long meditation should be about three times as long as your normal ones. If you are normally meditating for twenty minutes
at a sitting, try, once a week, to meditate for an hour. Not only will you find that you can go deeper in the long meditation,
but your usual twenty minutes will soon begin to seem short.
Group meditation is also very helpful. If possible, try to find a group of people who meditate regularly. The encouragement
of others who have been meditating longer than you is a very powerful spiritual force.
“An indispensable aid that offers clear instruction for meditation.”
—John P. Gorsuch, author of An Invitation to the Spiritual Journey
“For the person interested in learning about meditation,
Novak’s book offers a practical guide for the beginner, explaining the various techniques and postures in terminology the beginner can understand. Limiting the background to what the beginner needs to know, the author delves into the various stages of meditation, starting with relaxation, and the techniques used to achieve a relaxed state. Once attaining a relaxed state, the book looks at interiorization and the means of concentration on the goals of meditation, which are more spiritual than material. One of the final chapters deals with application of meditation to the practitioner’s daily life. The 108-page book ends with some reference materials for those interested in pursuing the practice further, and is, all-in-all, a useful guide for the beginner.”
—The Latrobe Bulletin
“Meditation is a complicated term for something that is truly simple. How To Meditate is a guide to mastering meditation and reaping more of the benefit of the serenity of the matter. With tips on finding relaxation, opening your natural intuition, and more, How to Meditate is a must for those who want to unlock their spirituality.”
—Midwest Book Review
“This is a great little meditation book. It contains everything you need to know to begin a meditation practice. As a meditation teacher, I have often recommended How to Meditate to those first taking it up. Another benefit is its small size. You can slip it into your back pocket, go for a hike in nature, find a quiet spot and pull it out. Meditation can seem mysterious to those who have never done it before, and it helps to have it clearly and simply explained, for the Western mind, as Mr. Novak does in this book. I highly recommend it.”
—Richard Salva, author of The Reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln