“Banana meditation technique?” I hear you cry. Allow me to explain…
You have probably heard about mantra meditation, and you may have even heard of Transcendental Meditation (TM). But I think TM is a con, because people pay huge amounts of money to be given a “special mantra”. The truth is, you don’t need to pay loads of money to be given a special word.
Actually, you can use any word you want, as long as it has a fairly pleasant sound. This is due to a psychological phenomenon known as Semantic satiation, which is when you repeat a word over and over again until it loses its meaning.
So, to illustrate the point, I am going to ask you to use the word “banana” as your mantra.
Here is the Banana Meditation Technique:
- Find a quiet place.
- Sit in any comfortable upright position, preferably with your back supported.
- Close your eyes.
- Silently repeat the word “banana” in your mind.
- Do this softly, without putting in lots of effort.
- Leave a brief pause after each time you repeat it, like “banana………..banana…………”
- Let whatever happens happen.
- If the mantra changes (e.g. if it changes speed or rhythm, or becomes softer or brighter) allow this to happen naturally.
- If you get to a point where you are extremely relaxed and/or your mind becomes very quiet, feel free to let the mantra naturally fade away so you can just relax. However, this may not happen every time, and don’t worry if it doesn’t. Every meditation session is different.
There, you’ve just saved yourself loads of money by learning mantra meditation for free.
- For best results, do this regularly, e.g. for about 20 minutes twice a day, or once a day minimum.
- Do not force the mantra. Repeat it gently, softly, with minimal effort.
- If there are thoughts as well, do not worry, this is a natural part of the process.
- Don’t try to force anything to happen. There is no rule about what you should or should not experience.
- You are unlikely to have an earth-shattering spiritual experience, e.g.
- You probably won’t float off into another dimension.
- You probably won’t talk to God.
- You probably won’t have some kind of an out-of-body experience (although this can occasionally happen)
- You probably won’t become instantly enlightened.
- Occasionally you may have a meditation session that is very powerful. However, this tends to be quite rare, and most meditation sessions are just great mental and physical relaxation. So keep your expectations realistic. But stay open.
- Every meditation session will be different.
So, What is Happening in Mantra Meditation?
Quite simply, what I think is happening when you gently repeat a sound in your mind, is this:
- The repetition of the sound is a way to occupy the thinking part of the mind in a trivial and uninteresting manner.
- This causes the mind to get less caught up in thought chatter.
- The mind then naturally relaxes, but the intention to repeat the sound prevents you from getting lost and drifting off.
There is actually nothing spectacular about it all really. I think the Transcendental Meditation movement built it up into something far grander than it actually is. It’s just a mental trick. It’s self-hypnosis really. You’re sending yourself into a trance, which is very mentally and physically relaxing.
Sure, extraordinary experiences can sometimes happen, as I already mentioned above. But just to emphasise again, these experiences are quite rare really. So if you approach meditation with the expectation that you are going to have some kind of mind-blowing spiritual experience, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
Think of it like this:
Sometimes when you go to sleep, you may have a really wonderful dream. But most of the time, you just go to sleep, and wake up in the morning having forgotten whatever random dreams you had. But sleep is extremely important. You can’t judge a good night’s sleep based solely on whether or not you had a spectacular dream. A good night’s sleep is a good night’s sleep. A beautiful dream is merely a great bonus.
It’s similar with meditation. Meditation is extremely relaxing and beneficial. Maybe one day you will have a powerful experience while meditating. If you do, that will be a huge bonus. If you don’t, you’re not doing anything wrong, and you’re still getting tremendous benefit from taking time out to relax mentally and physically.