Common questions about meditation (FAQ)

Giving meditation classes, we often get asked common questions such as:

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Q. What type of meditation do you offer?

Our meditation is based on the teachings of Sri Chinmoy. There are similar aspects common to other types of meditation, but a distinctive feature is that we meditate on the spiritual heart. Music also plays an important role.

Q. Who gives the meditation classes?

The classes are offered by members of the Oxford Sri Chinmoy Centre. The Oxford centre was established in 1981, and has given free meditation classes to thousands of Oxford students and residents over the past 34 years. The class givers live in Oxford and are students of Sri Chinmoy.

Q. Do you have to sit in the lotus posture?

No, It is not necessary to learn hatha yoga for meditation. It is fine to meditate in a chair. The important thing is to meditate with the spine erect and straight. Beginners should not meditate lying down as you are liable to fall into a doze.

Q. My mind seems very busy, it is very difficult to control my thoughts.
Firstly, you are not alone. We are so used to using the mind, that when we try to silence the mind it proves quite difficult. We cannot expect to be an expert piano player at our first attempt. It is the same with meditation, we cannot expect to be an expert in a short week. If we practise with regularity and perseverance it becomes easier. We also advise using the power of the heart to lift our consciousness away from the intellectual mind.

Q. How long should I meditate for?
There is no correct answer. It depends on the experience of the seeker. For complete beginners 10 minutes is a good starting point. However, the important thing is to meditate with focus and concentration. There are no prizes for sitting still in a chair for a long time. As you meditate more, you may feel it is appropriate to extend the length of your meditation. Over time, you will develop the capacity to meditate for longer. This is something you will intuitively feel. If you feel tense and pressured, it is a sign you are meditating in the wrong way or too long.

Q. How long do your meditation classes last for?

Our beginner classes usually last for about an hour and half. Roughly 50% of the time is a brief talk about how to meditate. The other 50% of the time is taken up with meditation exercises. These early guided meditation exercises last for 10 – 15 minutes.

Q. Can I meditate on my own?
Yes, you can meditate on your own. However, if you meditate with other people you will gain added inspiration and encouragement. Others may not be able to tell you how to meditate; but, meditating in a group can definitely help your own aspiration. It can be difficult to meditate on your own.

Q. How do I know whether I am meditating well?
If you are meditating well you have a feeling of happiness and good will. Sometimes, we find it difficult to control our mind, but we still feel a sense of happiness. This shows we are getting something from our meditation, even though it is not perfect. As Sri Chinmoy says:

“How can we know whether we are meditating well or not? We can easily know whether we are meditating well or not just by the way we feel and see and think. Right after our meditation, if we have a good feeling for the world, then we know our meditation was good if we see the world in a loving way in spite of its imperfections, if we can love the world even while seeing its teeming imperfections, then we know that our meditation was good.” (How can we know if we are meditating well?)

Q. What is the best meditation exercise to use?

Again there is no right answer. Different people often find there are different ways to meditate well. Some people get a lot from visualisations, other people may like to focus on an object, others may benefit from using mantra. In our meditation classes, we offer quite a few meditation exercises and you may find some more effective than others.

It is also worth saying that it is not so much the meditation exercise, but how we meditate. If we meditate with great intensity, aspiration and concentration – then any exercise will work quite well.