My first breakthrough with self-guided meditation

A casual mention of my self-guided meditation practice always generates a lot of questions from my friends. What exactly do you do? Do you feel any benefits? How do you keep yourself from thinking about different things? After sharing my experience with a few friends, I decided to write about it here.

Why I prefer meditating alone

I’d definitely call myself a beginner, although I now feel very comfortable meditating. I’ve been to a few meditation centers around where I live, but at this stage, I prefer meditating alone. I can freely change my position or move around without feeling socially conscious, listen to meditation music that fits my mood at the time, and wear whatever I want, all of which helps me feel more relaxed.

How I meditate

I try to meditate every morning and evening, but I won’t stress about it if I skip it. I turn the bedroom light off, let the natural light enter the room through my sheer curtains, or if it’s dark out, turn my lamp on or light a candle. I then light an incense stick.

I sit on my exercise mat, and put on meditation music that I find from YouTube such as the one below:

I set a timer for 20 minutes when meditating in the morning before work, but not at night.

I’ll find a posture so that I am stable and my weight is chiefly distributed among three points- my butt and two knees-which I think is a common practice among people that meditate. I sometimes sit against the wall when my shoulders and back do not feel stable.

I gaze at a point in front of me about five feet away. I take in a deep breath through my nose, pause for a second, and then breathe out through my mouth. I try not to think about other things by focusing on my breathing and my body. For example, I am immersed in the sensation of the air from my breath against my arms when I breathe out. If I’m sitting against the wall, I’ll notice how that makes my back feel. I’ll make a conscious observation of the temperature in my room, and how that makes me feel. I’ll hear a sound outside the window, and take in the experience. When I hear the sound of the Tibetan bowl in my meditation music, I let the sound vibrate through my head, and sometimes throughout my body. When I realize I’ve been distracted, I’ll gently remind myself to focus on my breath. Being conscious of my surrounding in this tranquil environment makes me feel fully alive.

Although I do not listen to guided meditations, I have two books that I read from time to time:

Turning Confusion into Clarity: A Guide to the Foundation Practices of Tibetan Buddhism

Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom

I’m halfway through both books, so it’s too early to give an opinion about either of them.

My first breakthrough with meditation

I’ve been meditating like this for the past couple of months. Recently, one evening, I was meditating in my room, when a curious thing happened. I decided to turn my head to look at my mirrored wardrobe. My own reflection looked unfamiliar for the first time in my life. I felt the way I normally do when looking at a stranger walking down the street; it was a neutral observation, if that makes sense. I didn’t feel any emotion; I just acknowledged the presence.

That’s when I had an epiphany: my body is just a shell of my consciousness. My face and body are projections of my being, like an avatar.

I had come upon Plato and Descartes’s mind/body dualism theories in my high school philosophy class, but this was the first time my physical body felt like a second half of myself. Right then, outside the window, I heard the sound of a neighbor talking to someone, and it felt remarkable that I had the ability to hear. Everything I took for granted seemed like such a gift; I am able-bodied and there are so many possibilities and so many things I have yet to discover. What an intense moment. I took a few more deep breaths, and then got ready to meet a friend at a local bar.