Inner Silence: 8-Week Meditation Challenge #4

As this meditation allows for shifting awareness, it is a good place to start if you find it difficult to sit in stillness.

Antar mouna meditation – meaning inner silence – is one of the most popular and approachable meditation techniques. You can do this meditation any time you have five minutes to yourself. One of my students goes to her car to meditate every day on her lunch break using this technique. As the inner silence meditation allows for shifting awareness, it is often a good place to start if you find it difficult to just sit in stillness.

Before you begin, as always, find a comfortable position with a tall spine. If you feel tired, opt for sitting up rather than lying down. You can always sit in a chair, but if you are just meditating for five or ten minutes, this is a good one to practice without the aid of a chairBonus: sitting on the floor or on a cushion without a chair helps build core stability and support for your back.

Stage 1: External Awareness

  1. Close your eyes, but leave your senses open.
  2. Allow your attention to flutter from one sound or experience to the next. Without lingering or obsessing on any one sound, simply listen in all directions.
  3. Use your four remaining senses – without sight – to take a mental picture of your experience. If someone were to ask you about this scene later, what could you describe?
  4. Stay in this stage for a few minutes. This is the stage where we allow the senses to run wild, which often fulfills our need to explore the world prior to settling in.

Stage 2: Inner Awareness

  1. Turn the focus inward, but do not try to control your inner experience.
  2. Allow your mind free rein to experience thoughts as they come up. Similar to the external experience, avoid focusing on, suppressing, or judging any one thought. Simply experience each thought as it comes up, then allow it to pass.
  3. Remain constantly aware, as if you are watching billboards passing on a highway and reading each one. You may feel as if you have drifted off or are falling asleep during this portion. Bring your awareness back to the thoughts every chance you get.
  4. Stay in this stage for a few minutes. This is the stage where we allow the mind to run wild, which should fulfill its desire to categorize, plan, and worry. Hopefully, by giving it permission to experience thoughts, your mind will surrender to stillness rather than give in to these tendencies.

Stage 3: Thought Control

  1. Begin to call to mind a specific thought. The first one you think of is typically the best.
  2. Allow your mind to experience this thought completely, seeing it from every possible angle. Then, abruptly, throw the thought away.
  3. Continue this process with several thoughts. You may feel yourself clinging to the first thought and not able to throw it away. If it helps, visualize yourself writing the thought down on a piece of paper and tossing it into the trash.
  4. Stay in this stage for a few minutes. This is the stage where we become active participants in the meditation, no longer simply allowing the senses and mind to run free, but rather yoking them into a specific experience.
  5. If you are only meditating for five minutes, you may stop right here. This alone should leave you feeling refreshed, clear, and more mindful. If you have more time and wish to take the meditation deeper, move on.

Stage 4: Meditation

Often, antar mouna meditation is broken into multiple further stages. For our purposes, we can group them together in one stage I will call “meditation.” You may ask, “But wasn’t I already meditating?” Technically, no. You were concentrating. In sanskrit, we call this dharana. It is a valuable action, and if you never go further than simply sitting still and focusing on one thing at a time, you will gain tremendous benefit.

To progress to meditation, try these steps:

  1. Begin to focus more on the space between the thoughts. Initially, there may only be a fraction of a second in between. Eventually, this space will grow.
  2. Watch as the space between the thoughts grows greater and greater. Work to dwell in the space between thoughts.
  3. Ultimately, true meditation – dhyana – comes about when we have no thoughts at all and no awareness of the fact we are thinking or meditating.

Try this meditation every day for a week. You may find you come closer and closer to meditation each time you try to sit in silence. If you are particularly agitated one day, don’t worry. Simply move through the first three steps, and stop there. Remember the one truth about meditation: consistency or practice is the only way to get “better” at meditating. Simply sit, every day, until it gets easier.

In case you missed it:

Just Sit: 8-Week Meditation Challenge #1

Loving Kindness: 8-Week Meditation Challenge #2

Overcoming Insomnia: 8-Week Meditation Challenge #3

Vipassana: 8-Week Meditation Challenge #5

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.