Q: For the past year I have been doing my utmost to get into a deep state of meditation. But no matter how hard I try to keep my focus on the mantra at the eyebrow center—or the heart center—my mind refuses to cooperate. Instead, it either wanders aimlessly or gets sucked into a disturbing train of thought. How can I overcome this?
A: The key to meditation is effortless effort. When you are trying to get into a meditative state, that state will automatically recede. Effort creates resistance, resistance creates tension, and tension is the enemy of meditation. The less effort involved in doing your practice, the deeper the effect and the longer it will last.
The peaceful flow of your breath is the key to the peaceful, inward flow of your mind. The mind and the breath go together. They are mutually dependent—the stability of one stabilizes the other. When one is disturbed, the other is also disturbed. For example, when a disturbing thought arises in the mind, your breathing pattern becomes erratic—shaky, noisy, and shallow.
After a minute or two, gently shift your awareness to your breath. As you inhale and exhale, mentally observe the gentle rise and fall of your abdominal muscles. Observe the quality of your breathing—there should be no shakiness and no noise. Breathe smoothly and effortlessly. Make your inhalation no longer than your exhalation and your exhalation no longer than your inhalation. When your breathing becomes balanced, all the cells in your body come to a complete state of equilibrium. There is no agitation in your body or breath, so your mind automatically calms and quiets.
When the peaceful flow of your breath has created an internal atmosphere of peacefulness, gently let the mantra arise. Do not make an effort to push it to a specific part of your body—simply allow the mantra to be wherever it happens to be. Any attempt to force it to a particular center will disrupt the peaceful flow of your mind and breath. The key to meditation is effortless effort. Simply allow the breath, mind, and mantra to flow as one toward the center of your being.