Without having a clear understanding of what you're doing you may end up daydreaming, kicking yourself every time a thought pops into your head or becoming disappointed when you don't feel anything happening.
The most important thing is that you recognize the ultimate goal of meditation.
The ultimate goal of meditation is to immerse yourself in and fully experience your own consciousness and awareness, or your True Self.
The True Self is who you are without the labels of time and space (gender, weight, occupation, race, social status). Ask yourself who you are at your core, without the stuff that can be written down on paper. Your unique you-ness. The part of you that doesn't change or grow like age, intellect, and height.
That is your awareness.
It's the same right now as it was when you were 3 years old, and the same as when you're 90. It's the self that's watching all of life unfold before you. It's the constant backdrop on which the moments of your life are experienced.
So really, the Self is not some far deep down place we need to journey to, requiring hours of meditation. It's always there, and all we need to do is recognize it.
Here are some tips to deepen your meditation practice without feeling confused or discouraged:
1. Don't freak out when you have a thought, try to push away thoughts, judge yourself as a failure for having thoughts, or get fixated on the contents of thought.
Do: Perceive with loving awareness the energy that comes up for you during meditation. Notice each thought or feeling that comes up, say hi to it, and let it keep on going. When you find yourself getting too caught up in them, come back to noticing your breath, and start again. The practice is really about starting again when you drift away.
2. Don't challenge your "Self" or the universe to show up in a big way. "Ok, I'm meditating now, show me what ya got!"
Do: Bring to your practice an attitude of love, gentleness, and trust without grand expectations.
3. Don't force yourself into meditation with a feeling of strict inflexibility. "UGH, I don't have time for this but I know I HAVE to meditate."
Do: Treat your practice as sacred. Create a beautiful space that invites you in. Set it up in a way that makes you yearn for the time you spend in meditation. See it as a gift from yourself, to yourself so you'll say "Thanks, me!" In time, the good energy you bring to this place will come to evoke feelings of relaxation, happiness, stillness, and clarity, every time you go to it.
4. Don't feel Isolated or alone. Because you're not.
Do Trust that there is a greater power beyond you that connects all things. There is a grace, a spirit that you connect with during meditation, that will support you and guide you. Some people like to invoke the energy of a religious figure like Jesus or Buddha, or maybe an ancient master without a religious affiliation. You may even want to call forth something more personal like your inner-guide or guardian angels if you so choose.
5. Don't try to stifle your emotions that are going on for you at that moment.
Do: Ask for help. If you are feeling restless, anxious, skeptical, bored, worried or anything that is going to take you away from stillness, offer it up in your meditation, and ask for it to be transformed. If you are struggling with a problem, offer it up at the beginning of your practice: "I offer these feelings up so they can be transformed, and I may see this situation differently."
You may find that when learning to trust your inner experiences you may be guided by your intuition toward a clearer course of action in your outer life. When gaining a deeper understanding of the True Self, the fears, negative thoughts, and suffering (which are merely products of our own misunderstanding of our ego) may be released. Happy meditating!
This post originally appeared on Bloom and Spark.