Often people would say: “I really want to learn how to meditate but I cant shut down my thoughts and focus on nothing.”
First of all, meditation is not something you really “learn” how to do; meditation is a state and it happens spontaneously after you have practiced quieting your mind and senses and narrowing your focus.
I am naturally quite a fidgety person with a very active mind. It comes part and parcel with my Vata personality. For me to have reached a state of meditation for a period of 20mins and longer took a long time to achieve. I also dont see it as an achievement but rather a growth towards spiritual enlightenment.
I started my meditation practice by attending a retreat. It was not easy at first to become still and quiet, as there were many distractions such as insects crawling on me and buzzing mosquitos. A quick tip I can give to you when you are a meditation newbie: pick a clean, quiet comfortable space with no distractions.
You can meditate with music or the sound of tibetan bowls or a gong. It is very easy to find these tracks on youtube and they are often up to 2 hours long. The monotonous sounds and vibrations help to soothe and calm the mind and clear the thoughts as you only focus on the sounds until they become only a reminder to observe your thoughts and come back to “no-thought”.
The second option is visual meditation. You may look at a symbol on the wall and focus only on that symbol, or you could sit in a dark room with only one candle lit, and focus on the flame. Eventually your focus should shift from observing the symbol, to observing yourself observing the symbol.
Bhramari pranayama can be a helpful way to meditate through sound as you breathe through the nose and create a humble bee sound in your throat as you inhale and exhale. I personally really enjoyed trying this out in the 200 hour TTC.
What I find works best for me is simply sitting in a quiet room, slowing down my breathing and following each inhalation and exhalation, focussing my gaze on the third eye chakra, which after some time becomes a bright shade of indigo. As I stay here my thoughts dissipate and al I see is this blue colour which eventually becomes surrounded by bright green waves of colour. Once I have reached this stage I no longer feel my physical body, my awareness is no longer on the physical being but rather just in a state of pure presence and watching this beautiful array of colours. Occasionally a thought does pop into my mind but as soon as that happens, I acknowledge it, observe it and let it go. Thats what meditation is in a nutshell. Its not sitting still and judging yourself for having thoughts at all, but rather to become aware of those thoughts and bring yourself back to the quiet mind each time. If you force yourself to concentrate or get frustrated that you cannot become quiet, you will never reach that state of meditation. Be kind to yourself and allow your thoughts to come in and pass through.