Getting started : You are reading this book because you want to meditate for longer than you are able to (maybe not every single day, but at least once a week or so) and thus have greater access to the infinite powers of your mind/ more peace of mind than ever before. You have probably tried to meditate for hours with varying degrees of success and have often wished that there was some way of maintaining the consistency of your best efforts. In short you are an average meditation practitioner who has been warned against overdoing it, but since you are also an ambitious meditation practitioner, you are reading this book to get around the above warning and meditate longer ……. and deeper ! So, hang on, and ……. read on …… !
Let’s begin with some pointers to keep in mind : It is difficult to give precise directions on how to perform the Simple Technique since the mental make up of each student is different and any mental exercise is so subjective and vague. A crude example is : When you are learning to ride a bicycle, you will notice how difficult it is for your instructor to give you very precise directions since there will always be something that you will have to learn all by yourself — like finding your sense of balance. It is technically possible to give precise directions, but that would make this an encyclopedia (instead of a book) and the expertise of several specialists would also be necessary.
Tip : You will have to mentally “feel your way about” while executing these instructions. Just to encourage you : Though you may find that learning the Simple Technique is as tricky as learning to ride a bicycle, the difference is that you can get into the effortless state within a couple of hours or more unlike learning to ride a bicycle, where you are able to ride with confidence only after a few days/ weeks.
While trying out these instructions, it is very important to LEISURELY focus on getting every step right no matter how long it takes. At the same time, if you are simply unable to perform certain parts of the Simple Technique because of it’s complexity, then you may try pushing your luck by going on to the next step.
How to use your mind during the Simple Technique session : As with any meditation session, your mind is the tool that you are going to use to enter the effortless state and you are now going to learn to use it in a more considerate manner. The best way to explain this is to use the analogy of taking a dog for a walk to represent the act of using the mind to meditate. Let the dog be an old one that cannot walk fast. (The authors do not mean to be derogatory here. It is just that the mind is traditionally compared to an animal – like a monkey ! — in self—improvement literature.)
In a conventional meditation session, the dog (mind) is more or less pulled and pushed along to it’s destination. In other words, however gentle you are, some amount of mental force is used to flex your mental muscles (pull the dog) in order to meditate. But, in a Simple Technique session, you are a willing slave to your dog (mind) and you are going to allow it to explore every interesting lamp post and garbage can en route RIGHT UPTO THE DESTINATION i.e. right up to the end of your effortless meditation session. In other words, in a Simple Technique session, you do not flex your mind (pull the dog) to meditate, but you meditate ONLY AFTER your mind has entered the effortless state. (i.e. Your dog is obediently trotting along with you instead of having to be pulled along. If this is difficult for you to understand, hold on to your doubts until you complete reading this book and we are sure that by then you would have received your answers).
And while walking the dog (working with the mind in a Simple Technique session), you will also have to master the art of :
1. always keeping a slack in the leash — so as not to cause even the slightest inconvenient jerk to your dog (mind) while it is exploring every interesting object on the way i.e. don’t try to control your mind (intentionally or unintentionally) when it would rather be preoccupied with a seemingly endless series of thoughts than perform the meditation technique that you have been taught.
2. conserving your own energy — which is not that difficult because in spite of taking a longer route, your dog keeps making frequent stops as it is an old dog that cannot walk fast (see break and super break later on in this chapter for more details about this point).
3. kidding the dog along — the dog hardly notices that you are LOVINGLY BUT CUNNINGLY guiding it back (by means of barely noticeable tugs of the leash) to the route that leads to your home. In other words, you are using near zero mental force to nudge your mind (dog), into the effortless state (i.e. A state where your dog is finally trotting obediently beside you on the road home rather than chasing rabbits.)
Needless to add, more time will be consumed in the Simple Technique session because you are painstakingly guiding your mind (dog) to it’s destination instead of dragging it along (as is done in a conventional meditation session). In fact, actual practice of your meditation technique will happen only after an hour or two (or even three — it may take that long to enter the effortless state !). But since you are taking the pains to use near zero mental force, you will obviously have the stamina to last for as long as it takes to enter the effortless state.
As was mentioned before, when you enter the effortless state you may discard the Simple Technique and concentrate exclusively on meditation. After entering the effortless state, if you feel that you are unable to sustain it (i.e. your dog (mind) wants to leave the road to check out yet another lamp post/ garbage can) you will have to stop meditating and restart the Simple Technique to nudge your mind back into the effortless state. i.e. allow the dog (mind) to go wherever it wants to while you patiently wait and then when it is finished with the lamp post/ garbage can you will have to gently — almost imperceptibly — give a light tug to the leash to nudge your dog (mind) back onto the road home (i.e. back into the effortless meditation state).
For those who have been meditating for quite some time, giving so much importance to the mind even during your meditation session (as is done in a Simple Technique session) will be new to you. But the use of near zero mental force to enter the effortless state, effortless meditation, etc. are the keys by which you too can engage in marathon meditation sessions – like the ancient meditation masters — on a routine basis.
Frankly, the vital importance of consciously using as little mental effort as possible, right from the beginning of the session to the time you enter the effortless state, has not been emphasized here enough. In fact, the subject of our case study was able to succeed mainly because he perfected the art of using as little mental effort as possible in executing these instructions. (Actually he had no choice in the matter ! In his mentally debilitated state, the faculty of using as little mental effort as possible came naturally to him !) Therefore you must DELIBERATELY SET A SNAIL’S PACE. Do not bother about the fact that the subject of our case study (in spite of being a convalescent) may have taken a shorter amount of time to attain the effortless state than you did, even though you practiced the Simple Technique in the best retreat environment in the world at a time when you were in the best of health. Just give it your best shot, allow yourself to make mistakes and don’t bother too much if you were not up to the mark in executing the Preliminary and the Simple Technique as perfectly as possible or if you took too long to enter the effortless state.
Let the attainment of effortlessness (no matter how long or how many attempts it takes) be your first priority. (Which is why the authors have declared the case study a stunning success in spite of the fact that the subject made too many errors during the preliminary and the Simple Technique mainly due to his mentally debilitated state).
Tip : Don’t get too analytical about why you failed. Just as you would press the reset button on your computer rather than go into a detailed analysis of why it failed, it is better to start afresh whenever you run into a dead end while dealing with the subtle complexities of the Simple Technique. Advanced meditation students also encounter such dead ends either due to plain human error or a complex new challenge thrown up by the mind.
The subject of the case study was a total surprise to the authors, for they never expected him to tackle the Simple Technique during his convalescence and that too with such startling success !
And take as many breaks as necessary.
The two types of breaks :
1. Break — When your mind stops executing the instructions in this book the moment it feels tired and waits for as long as is necessary before resuming.
2. Super break – What is a Super Break ! First let us examine the continuous awareness — i.e. the supervisory part of your mind that is in charge of coordinating the different tasks assigned to your mind. Let’s say that this continuous awareness is at it’s peak when you are learning something new e.g. Mentally reviewing the instructions in this book when you are starting your Simple Technique session for the first time. And as you begin practice, you feel a bit vague — even blank – in addition to having beginner’s anxiety and other worries, even as the continuous awareness watchfully directs your mind to execute the Simple Technique. Since you have been instructed to take as many breaks as necessary in order to keep your energy up, your continuous awareness directs your mind to stop practicing as and when necessary. But then you may overlook the fact that your continuous awareness too needs a break ! In fact your continuous awareness is busy overseeing the mind as it takes rest and deciding when to restart practice.
Some of you may automatically and instinctively give your continuous awareness a break. To those who mistakenly overlook this necessity : Give up that tight beginner’s grip that you are exerting over your mind and snap out of it ! In other words it is time for a super break ! A good example is : When you are learning to drive, you probably park by the roadside several times in order to calm yourself down. This is what a break is. A super break is when you get out of the car itself to take a breather in a nearby park or stop somewhere for dinner.
Do not confuse continuous awareness with conscious awareness which is your waking state. This state also needs a break and it does this with a daytime nap and a full night’s sleep — a super super break ! So the bottom line is that however little mental energy you expend in executing these instructions, do not neglect to give a break to your continuous awareness also. Or else mental resistance will be generated sooner or later (which is exactly what we are trying to avoid here).
Since you are naturally less relaxed at the beginning of the session, you will be taking more super breaks at this time. And do not spend an inordinately long time on these steps (like a conscientious research scholar who wastes months doing intensive research on every page in the textbook). But since you have just been told to “humor” the dog, those who MUST do some extempore research while performing the Simple Technique must obviously get lost in it especially if it becomes a compulsion !! Hopefully such compulsions may not last long, thus allowing you to restart the Simple Technique…..if not in the first session then at least in the next one !
Before the Preliminary (optional) : If you would like to practice any of your favorite relaxation techniques, then you may indulge yourself not only before you start but also whenever you feel physically/ mentally restless during the Simple Technique session itself. However the authors cannot comment on how wise it is to introduce your own exotic formulas into the middle of the session, especially if they are too complex. They should be o.k. if they make you feel more calm and relaxed when you indulge in them.
A well known mental propensity : The mind is like a pendulum. e.g. When you force yourself to go on a diet, sooner or later you go on a binge which only leads to your health getting worse. Unfortunately mental suppression has become a way of life (don’t you suppress fatigue when under pressure to meet a deadline). If you are not a relaxed person by nature or if you are under too much of academic/ professional pressure, then this mental suppression of fatigue becomes a semi-permanent part of your mental make-up and gets released only when you are on a weekend holiday or a long vacation to catch up on your sleep. However, other suppressed aspects of yourself (like negative emotions) may not get released even if you have caught up on your sleep ! In order to increase your chances of getting into the effortless state, the other suppressed aspects of yourself must also be released and the following preliminary will help you release these suppressions over time through regular practice.
This Preliminary MUST be thoroughly learned and practiced and a lot of time is going to be used up on it before actual meditation in combination with the Simple Technique starts. So please do not be in a hurry to start off with the Simple Technique.
Important : This is the very preliminary that you have been warned about earlier (which releases suppressed negative emotions) and once again let us remind you that this preliminary is practiced not only before the Simple Technique but also as and when required i.e. even during the Simple Technique and effortless meditation sessions. Advanced meditation students may be familiar with this preliminary. (Intermediate meditation students may practice the preliminary for not more than 10 minutes a day and skip the Simple Technique itself for now. After a year or two, if your meditation teacher gives you the go ahead, you may extend your practice time as well as attempt to enter the effortless state with the Simple Technique.
Authors’ note : The Simple Technique unleashes the true power of any concentration/ meditation technique and this power is best utilized with plenty of patience, perseverance and meticulous study & practice.)
Preliminary to the Simple Technique
Sit in a comfortable position and let the continuous stream of restless signals from your body and mind take over your attention. (It is now time to take your dog (mind) for a “walk” ! But this time you are going to “walk” the dog on a slack leash and allow it to go where it will i.e. Use your mind in an extremely considerate manner since you are now taking part in a Simple Technique session ! And don’t forget the leisurely pace and near zero mental effort to be used in executing these instructions.) Your first task is to FULLY INDULGE these “gusts” of physical & mental restlessness. i.e. Shift/ stretch/ yawn if you feel tensed up/ uncomfortable or allow yourself to indulge in all those attention grabbing thoughts being broadcast from your mind.
As far as physical restlessness is concerned : In the beginning of the session you may have to do a lot of shifting around/ stretching/ yawning as you try to settle your body down into a comfortable position. As time passes and you really get into the Simple Technique and the effortless state, you may still have to shift around every now and then (even though you are more relaxed) in order to prevent your body from getting sore by lying too long in one position. (Most conventional meditation schools do allow you to shift/ stretch, etc. but in a Simple Technique session, you make a very, very big issue out of the faintest signs of physical as well as mental restlessness.) Get ready to spend quite some time on this preliminary especially if you are very fidgety by nature – physically & mentally !
Tip : Give more priority to assuaging your physical restlessness since in the long run, a steady comfortable posture is essential for attaining success in extended meditation sessions. Those students who are not bothered at all by any kind of physical restlessness and who are able to sit comfortably in the meditation pose for any amount of time may safely ignore this tip only if they are very sure that they are not bothered by even the subtlest sign of physical restlessness.
As was mentioned before, it is best to attend to these mental & physical “gusts” of restlessness not only before the Simple Technique but also as and when they arise i.e. Stop executing the Simple Technique or suspend the effortless meditation session in case of any physical/ mental restlessness in order to attend to it.
Even a thought/ emotion about your blissful experiences, that crops up after you enter the effortless meditation state must be indulged in rather than ignored to the point of suppression. This is the most crucial key to sustaining the effortless state. Deliberately ignoring even the SUBTLEST mental and physical restlessness may generate enough mental resistance to make invoking the effortless state and it’s sustenance all the more elusive unless you are a renowned meditation master who is able to invoke the effortless state even under the most stressful of conditions.
Conventional meditation schools usually equip you to deal with physical and mental restlessness in the following manner : Beginners go through a few years of physical and mental toning up in order to make themselves fit for the rigors of intensive meditation. And during a conventional meditation session, most mental and/ or physical restlessness is usually ignored since hardly any school expects the student to give priority to the minor mental and physical restlessness. Thus, the student is mostly preoccupied with the proper execution of their meditation technique and/ or with waiting expectantly for that sudden calming effect that appears within 10 or 20 minutes of a conventional meditation session. Besides, the biographies of the ancient meditation masters who conducted their meditation sessions in the grimmest of conditions automatically leads the student to believe that any mental and physical discomfort should be ignored (within reasonable limits in the beginning but totally suppressed when — due to continuous meditation practice — their mental stamina develops and they start to feel the need to imitate the marathon meditation sessions of the ancient meditation masters).
Hence our instructions to give top priority to even the subtlest signs of physical and mental restlessness to the point of allowing them to dominate your meditation session will definitely feel new to all meditation students studying the Simple Technique for the first time. But since you are reading this book because you want to meditate more efficiently and thus have more access to the infinite powers of your mind than ever before, please get used to this important preliminary ASAP. That odd beginner’s feeling of learning something new will soon pass away. Remember, hardly any one on this planet has successfully imitated the marathon meditation sessions of the ancient meditation masters through force alone. It is too difficult and even dangerous. To stand even a fighting chance of meditating like them, you have to use the Preliminary to the Simple Technique to systematically eradicate every sign of physical & mental restlessness (that has never failed to generate mental resistance when ignored/ suppressed and thus frustrated your every attempt to meditate longer).
Tips on tackling mental restlessness for beginners : Mental restlessness is basically in the form of thoughts that are continuously churned out by your mind. All thoughts expire after a certain period of time and you just have to wait it out until they do so (at least in the beginning stages of your session when your mind is full of thoughts and a lot of mental energy is being used up to sustain all these thoughts. i.e. the dog (mind) is using up all it’s energy to explore all the wayside distractions rather than trot along obediently beside you). Thus the beginning stages of the session is obviously not the time to start the Simple Technique since the mind would have to be forced to perform the Simple Technique.
Some thoughts are like boring documentaries and are easy to ignore. But some thoughts are very compelling and command you to become emotionally involved with them as though you were watching an absorbing movie where you actually laugh and/ or cry along with the actors. And sometimes such thoughts seem to go on endlessly ! Eventually, it is possible to get bored even with such compelling thoughts enough to be able to actually ignore them and focus on the Simple Technique without any problem !
Sometimes several compelling thoughts compete for your attention at the same time !! Try and let your mind go where it pleases, but if it flits from thought to thought at a dizzying pace, take a super break. The best time to try and start the Simple Technique is when the intensity of the mental restlessness has reduced to a significant extent leading to the availability of a sudden abundance of mental energy. i.e. the dog is slowly losing interest in wayside distractions and is actually spending more time walking by your side. This usually happens after an hour or so (or even less if you are a calm person by nature).
The proper practice of the above preliminary not only relaxes your body but also leads to the release of suppressed thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc. The release of suppressed mental fatigue is also very common and you must allow yourself to fall asleep or at least suspend the Simple Technique session until you stop feeling too drowsy to concentrate on the task at hand. (The subject of our case study was so mentally debilitated that it was not uncommon for him to take a break every few minutes and even fall asleep for an hour or two during the preliminary — which occupied the first couple of hours of his daily Simple Technique sessions.) But if you have already maintained a very, very early to bed routine (discussed earlier in this book) for some time, then the release of suppressed mental fatigue will not trouble you all that much when you enter a retreat to practice the Simple Technique. (Needless to add, make sure that you maintain the very, very early to bed routine throughout the period of the retreat as well as when you get back to your job/ school.)
Important : Seek help if you are unable to cope with the sudden release of repressed traumatic memories during the practice of this preliminary. Advanced meditation students are more able to cope with them (with varying degrees of success) since they have gotten used to waiting it out patiently whenever they are confronted with feelings of distress. Unfortunately, the psychological side effects of indulging these negative emotions are inevitable for even advanced meditation students.
In some cases, your entire session may be spoiled if these side effects are overpowering enough to distress you. Cancel your session in such extreme cases especially if in spite of having waited a long time you are still reeling under the effects of these negative emotions. (Your therapist may suggest listening to mood altering music in such cases. Follow his/ her instructions carefully especially if you are too sensitive to handle negativity).
Another extreme but harmless impulse is a desire to be doing something else rather than learn & practice the Simple Technique. Cancel the session in this case also and try again some other time.
Each individual is unique. i.e. If you measure the progress of each individual in a Simple Technique group, you will notice a vast difference in the results of such measurements. Some will be able to neatly attend to their physical & mental bouts of restlessness. Some quickly master the art of using as little mental effort as possible (an outstanding few amongst them may probably use only as little mental effort as a battery operated appliance in the last few seconds of it’s life). Some will have every word of this book at their fingertips ! Hence there is not much point in being disheartened by your own lack of progress. What you should do here is to learn to look at the brighter side. e.g. : You may be living in a peaceful, tree filled suburb as a result of which you will have more quality meditation practice time than your city dwelling peers.
Tip : Since the sheer length of the session will induce boredom and indifference in you (even if you are an advanced student) and cause your concentration to slip, you should conduct a frequent mental check—up from the time that you start your session. i.e. Frequently ask yourself whether these instructions are being practiced properly and if it is possible to improve upon them. For e.g. While performing the preliminary, be more alert in catching all those physical & mental “gusts” of restlessness than you were in the last few minutes. Try and attend to them not only as quickly as possible but also more thoroughly than ever before.
While trying to attend to them as quickly as possible, remember to use as little mental effort as possible while maintaining a leisurely pace — the mind strains out of habit ! But if the preliminary releases some exciting/ traumatic memory you will have to allow your mind to race ahead if it wants to — like your dog excitedly chasing rabbits while on the walk !
While trying to attend to them as thoroughly as possible, can you stretch yourself (and even yawn if you feel like it) in a way that makes you feel really refreshed rather than a hurried stretch that does not totally take away your feeling of physical restlessness ?
The most important question to be asked during your check—up is : Are you mentally suppressing any physical/ mental restlessness unconsciously and thus unintentionally generating mental resistance ? Out of sheer habit, your mind may be suppressing/ ignoring certain distracting thoughts and/ or mild physical discomforts like you do in your conventional meditation session and sometimes this suppression may be so subtle that you will have to really look out for it.
At any point in the beginning of the session, DON’T make the mistake of straining to relax ! Let the mind slow down by itself. Or you can make a very gentle — almost effortless – effort to consciously slow your mind down and use even lesser mental effort than before. This is similar to driving a golf cart instead of walking around a shopping mall, and then you realize that even more energy can be saved by getting someone else to drive the cart for you.
And don’t forget to periodically evaluate your need for a break/ super break. These checkups will ensure that the preliminary, Simple Technique and final effortless meditation session are executed with few chances of error and an awareness of more scope for improvement (that will enable you to perform better next time). But if you are still plagued by a high frequency of errors, please remember that any mental exercise is a task of great complexity and you are mostly working blind. So there is not much point in being overly perturbed by what is obviously a very human failing. You must accept these frequent mistakes with good humor as well as recognize your own resourcefulness in correcting them in a future session.
Summary : By trying to adhere as much as possible to the following main points, chances of success in your very first Simple Technique session are more or less assured :
1. Immediately attend to all your physical and mental signs of restlessness as and when they spring up (even if they spring up during the Simple Technique and the effortless meditation phases of your session) and attempt to appease them as efficiently as possible,
2. consciously use as little mental energy as possible throughout the session,
3. take as much time as is necessary,
4. set YOUR OWN relaxed pace,
5. take as many breaks and super breaks as necessary,
6. always check – during your Preliminary, Simple Technique and effortless meditation session — and see if every mental step you took was flawlessly executed and whether you could have performed better,
7. make a fresh start, whenever you run into a mental dead-end, instead of being too analytical about why you made the mistake in the first place (similar to pressing the reset button on the computer)
8. always remind yourself that there is nothing tough about the exercise since you can do it at your own pace, you are allowed to make as many mistakes as you want, you can stop anytime you want to and you can either proceed after a break/ super break or cancel the session itself.
You can pin up a giant sized version of the above list in a place where you can easily see it during your practice sessions. During your first and subsequent sessions, open your eyes as often as is necessary and look at this list to see if you have missed out on anything during practice. Please remember to go through the above list in a leisurely manner and take your time to gently apply the necessary course corrections.
For those of you who are really stressed out/ convalescing : Item No.5 is very important. Right from the start of the session, you should periodically ask yourself whether you can go on, and cancel the session if you really don’t feel up to it. If you can’t make up your mind immediately (about going on), take a super break and come back to this question later. In this way, you may get to spend only minutes per day on the Simple Technique especially if you are a severely debilitated convalescent. Thus it would be good if you are not too attached to attaining the effortless state in one session itself. The above also applies to students who are able to enter the effortless state in a retreat environment but are unable to enter this state on a regular basis after returning to their hectic academic/ professional schedules. In short, don’t expect too much if you are a beginner/ an advanced student who is out of practice.
It is quite normal for regular meditation practitioners to stagnate at some point in a Simple Technique session/ their long term development in spite of a well executed daily routine. Some of them may find the effortless state to be totally elusive, in spite of the fact that they were the best students in their conventional meditation classes. This may be due to an unknown mental block triggered off by the Simple Technique’s unconventional approach to meditation. And until you resolve this block, you must prepare yourself for the long haul. Some may never cross the preliminary stage itself due to extreme restlessness. The beginners among such students would do well to contact any good meditation school that will put them through a standard mental & physical fitness enhancing routine for a few years. Remember, for most of you, only boredom/ impatience/ restlessness will frustrate your chances of attaining the effortless state.
Ultimately, what counts in the end is SUSTAINED AND SINCERE PRACTICE FOR AN ENTIRE LIFETIME – even if you are able to practice for only a few minutes a day. And eventual mastery, whether in a week/ month/ year, is the beginning of the high road to the ultimate goal of all self-improvement warriors — enlightenment itself !
The Simple Technique
After an hour or so of performing the preliminary to the Simple Technique, you will notice a calmness settling over your mind and body. Thoughts come and go with decreasing frequency and your body is not as restless as before. Your mind will now be more responsive, have more energy to fulfill your commands with minimal resistance and can’t wait to start the Simple Technique ! This is perhaps the best time to start the Simple Technique and you are now going to learn how to use it to trick your mind into practicing the Concentration on the Breath technique (or ANY other concentration/ meditation technique) in an effortless manner. (For advanced meditation students : The authors recommend that you use the Concentration on the Breath technique when you are learning the Simple Technique for the first time. In this way, you will be able to concentrate more on learning and mastering the Simple Technique rather than get distracted by the mental energy sapping complexities of practicing a more advanced meditation technique in combination with the Simple Technique. Alternatively you may use any other meditation technique in your repertoire provided that it consists of just one simple step. )
Ready ? Here we go : Practice the Concentration on the Breath technique for just a second or so and in addition to concentrating on your breath, observe how much mental effort you have used in the act of mentally focusing on your breath. Doubtless, you would have noticed some part of your mind exerting/ flexing itself like a muscle.
If you are aging/ stressed out, your mind will really hurt the moment it tries to concentrate on your breath. (The subject of our case study was in such a situation when he started practicing the Simple Technique !)
Some of you may find it difficult to detect this mental effort especially if you are very relaxed. But detecting this mental effort, however subtle it is, is a very crucial skill that Simple Technique practitioners must master by themselves. Deep into the Simple Technique, this skill will help you especially at the borderline, when effort turns into effortlessness.
It is now time to start the Simple Technique in order to nullify this mental effort. Very slowly and gently (almost effortlessly !) affirm that when you resume practice after a short while, your mind will not use any effort at all when it focuses on your breath. Wait for some time until you feel ready for the next try, then focus (almost effortlessly) your mind on your breath again. Within a millisecond, even as you start making the necessary mental movements to focus on your breath, you will feel the mental tug of effort being used (in spite of the affirmation).
Stop these mental movements the moment you feel this mental tug of effort and wait for some time again. If you had aborted the attempt to concentrate on your breath within a millisecond of detecting mental effort you may not even have focused properly on your breath at all. This is because testing for the presence of mental effort is given more priority here than performance of the Concentration on the Breath technique itself. And by aborting all mental movements (to perform the Concentration on the Breath Technique) within a millisecond, you are also fulfilling an important requirement of the Simple Technique – being as frugal as possible with precious mental energy.
Tip : Don’t make a job of calculating the exact length of a millisecond ! Whatever bit of time in which you detect the first stirrings of mental effort will do. It also doesn’t matter if you “overshoot”. i.e. if you can detect mental effort only after concentrating on your breath for a few seconds. There is also no specific time interval to be maintained in between successive attempts to focus effortlessly on your breath. It must not be too short — like a few seconds. Otherwise you will end up straining the mind. Instead of worrying about the length of the time intervals, focus on the attainment of the effortless state. Consciously invoking the effortless state in a jiffy is actually an in—built skill that has gone rusty with disuse. Which is why your mind needs to be trained from scratch — much like a pup being trained to heel.
To summarize the Simple Technique process : Concentrate on your breath (or practice the meditation technique that you had been taught), stop concentrating when you feel the tug of mental effort, affirm/ intend/ expect to meditate effortlessly as you rest, then repeat the above cycle again, and again, and again…..until you are able to concentrate on your breath effortlessly.
Affirmations : It is best to keep your affirmation as simple as possible and try and use as few words as possible. The words of the affirmation (that you have chosen/ made up) must have the effect of always reminding you as clearly as possible about your goal — that you will meditate effortlessly. The affirmation also serves to keep your mind on track — a crucial advantage in extended sessions when distractions are aplenty and boredom/ indifference sets in. You need not use affirmations if your intentions/ expectations are clear. (Some people find that needlessly using affirmations causes mental agitation). Or you can switch between intention & affirmation whenever necessary.
Meanwhile, you may still be distracted by physical and mental restlessness and you must suspend the Simple Technique in order to attend to them as and when they arise. i.e. Shift/ yawn/ stretch/ whatever, if physically restless or allow yourself to get distracted by a compelling thought/ emotion/ whatever, until you feel it’s power losing it’s hold over you, then start the Simple Technique again. Yet another hour may pass and it is not uncommon for a feeling of impatience/ boredom to seize you. You may even wonder whether you will ever enter the effortless state ! Another common worry is that when you finally enter the effortless state (sooner or later) it is usually time for your next meal and you may not be able to enjoy this state for long without being interrupted by hunger/ extreme restlessness. As usual, you must suspend the Simple Technique in order to indulge these feelings/ worries until they lose a significant amount of their hold over you after which you can restart the Simple Technique again.
Prelude to the effortless state : As more time passes by, you will suddenly notice that your mind is using lesser and lesser effort to focus on the breath. You may also notice a partial/ total loss of body consciousness that manifests itself as a light tingling of the physical self.
Entering the effortless state : During the umpteenth repetition of the Simple Technique cycle, your mind may suddenly startle you by focusing on your breath in an effortless manner. From this point onwards, forget about the Simple Technique and continue focusing effortlessly on your breath. Ideally, you should be able to focus effortlessly on your breath for at least 20 to 30 minutes — long enough for you to get your “value for money” out of your meditation session !
Sometimes your mind may slip out of the effortless state within a few seconds or so, tempting you to make the following big mistake : holding on to the effortless state as it begins to lapse. And you can hold on only by means of mental effort ! (This is in addition to the mental effort that gets reinvoked as the effortless state begins to lapse). As you can see, holding on (to the effortless state as it begins to lapse) only aggravates the situation ! (We hope that a method exists to effortlessly hold on to the effortless state ! If so we hope to publish it in future editions of this book.)
Scenario 1 : When the effortless state lasts for only a very short time and you find yourself using mental effort to concentrate on your breath : You must stop practicing the Concentration on the Breath technique and restart the Simple Technique. Keep practicing it (Simple Technique) until the effortless state is regained.
Scenario 2 : The novelty of consciously invoking the effortless state can give rise to a multitude of emotions : thrill, triumph, etc. Temporarily suspend the Concentration on the Breath Technique in order to indulge/ savor these emotions (i.e. practice the preliminary in order to deal with this mental restlessness) and then start concentrating on the breath again. In case your mind has slipped out of the effortless mode, restart the Simple Technique and keep practicing it until the effortless state is regained.
After entering the effortless state, you may feel like dropping the Concentration on the Breath technique and practice the meditation technique that you have been taught. You can try this stunt if you want to, but the authors are of the view (hopefully future research may prove otherwise) that not everyone can successfully switch techniques after the effortless state is attained. You will have to take the long way around, i.e. combine the Simple Technique with the technique that you have been taught and practice this combination until the effortless state is attained.
Scenario 3 : Very subtle signs of mental and physical restlessness that do not disturb you very much are normal during the effortless state. If you are very absorbed in the thrill of effortless meditation it may be o.k. to ignore them, but just to be on the safe side, attend to these subtle signs of restlessness with the preliminary to the Simple Technique. They shouldn’t take too long to attend to, since they are usually very short—lived at this stage in your session. CAUTION : Mild physical restlessness should preferably be attended to only with movements that are as gentle as possible. (Some standard meditation schools would discourage any kind of movement at this stage since they cause you to fall out of the high state of consciousness that you are in).
At this point, several meditation practitioners may object to the amount of importance being given to the preliminary & the Simple Technique instead of the all—important act of concentration/ meditation. The authors beg for their indulgence for at least the first few sessions, so that the mind will get the chance to learn and appreciate the Simple Technique more thoroughly. The authors’ greatest defense is that since the ancient meditation masters emphasized quality rather than quantity : how you have meditated is therefore more important than merely maintaining a daily, 20 minute meditation schedule.
Another way of appreciating the Simple Technique is : Many of our readers may be familiar with old documentaries about deep sea divers and the elaborate decompression procedures they went through before they could surface safely. This was before the decompression procedure became a simpler machine assisted one. The preliminary and Simple Technique may be compared to the above elaborate decompression procedure and hence, is an inescapable part of any meditation session aimed at inducing the mind to surface into higher states of consciousness.
The Simple Technique will doubtless find it’s strongest supporters amongst those who favor natural development at it’s own pace. e.g. Certain martial art schools painstakingly teach the basics for several years unlike some modern schools that give you an advanced degree in just one year.
Moreover, the introduction of the Simple Technique to the world at this stage in our evolution is a response to the technological chaos of today that has diminished our ability to meditate properly. The Simple Technique directly addresses this problem and restores the lost flexibility of the human mind.
While it may seem that the authors are very particular about the Simple Technique, perceptive readers may have worked out by now that the authors’ ultimate objective is that their readers are able to practice their favorite meditation technique in an effortless manner and thus progress faster in their chosen area of life. The authors thus hope that all interested readers manage to master the Simple Technique to such an extent that they are able to slide into the effortless state at will within seconds. Such a development will enable them to concentrate exclusively on practicing their favorite meditation technique in an effortless manner every single day.
While the authors concede the difficulties of regular, intensive practice of the Simple Technique outside a retreat environment, (as a result of which it may not be widely practiced even if it becomes extremely popular), it will obviously be used intensively by monks & nuns, champion athletes, martial art warriors, self-improvement buffs, medical therapists, etc.
Olympic training schools run with Govt. assistance in the Eurasian region may take the lead in providing the best facilities for practicing the Simple Technique on a large scale because traditionally they place a lot of emphasis on intensive mind training and they are also known for their willingness to use any good technique from any part of the world in their curriculum.
Since the true potential of the Simple Technique to free the mind may only be realized through an open source process, the authors encourage interested meditation buffs to start their own research forums on the Internet.
Note : You may find a lack of quality in your performance in future sessions due to boredom & indifference setting in (even though you may be able to enter the effortless state on a regular basis). The authors categorically state that if a technique exists to totally eliminate boredom & indifference then they would be among the first students to sign up to learn this technique !
As of now, most of you need motivation in varying degrees and only very advanced meditation practitioners (who have been meditating deeply for many years) are able to keep going partly because : of their inner realization of the value of meditation (they would rather meditate than do anything else); the extremely high states of consciousness (which they access on a regular basis) generate enough thrill to totally eliminate boredom & indifference; and last but not the least, of the radically beneficial changes to their physical and mental health (which has put them in near total control of their lives and destiny).
In conclusion : See how long you can stay in the effortless state. If you are lucky, you may be able to meditate effortlessly for one full hour in your very first session. But since you have literally spent hours in the preliminary and the Simple Technique, most of you may be able to enjoy the effortless state for only around 10 to 15 minutes, after which hunger and extreme physical/ mental restlessness will suddenly start to plague you. At this point, you can end your session and slowly allow yourself to regain normal consciousness. There is no need to open your eyes right away, but do so if you feel like it. Stretch and yawn too if you feel like it.
A standard teaching in all meditation schools is to savor the stillness for at least a few minutes after a meditation session. So even if you are very hungry after hours spent on the Simple Technique, at least drink some water kept nearby and rest for some time instead of jumping up right away and heading for the dining room !
Integration of the Simple Technique into your daily routine : Let’s say that you managed to attain the effortless state not only within a few days of entering a retreat but also on every single day thereafter. But now, you are back in town and (not surprisingly) are finding it difficult to meditate as seriously as you wish. In fact, in your best attempt – a solid 3 hour session — the major component of this session may have been one long super break, simply because your mind wouldn’t settle down in a non retreat environment.
Now the authors would be happy if many readers are prepared to undergo years of such sessions (consisting mainly of super breaks with hardly any actual meditation done), probably hoping that some day, due to sheer practice, their minds would learn to enter the effortless state at will in spite of being in a non retreat environment. Thus they do not mind the inconvenience of sacrificing the practice of techniques more suited to them simply because they have no time for them. Still, the authors — keeping their faithful readers’ long term welfare in mind — would prefer that they — under proper guidance from the appropriately accomplished persons — practice the Simple Technique on a daily basis only if such a pursuit has been found suitable for them in the long run. If not, they would be well advised to practice their usual meditation techniques without the Simple Technique, while confining the elaborate Simple Technique + usual meditation technique combination sessions to weekends or retreats.
The Simple Technique, needless to mention, is tailor made for those advanced meditation practitioners who can sit still comfortably for hours at a time without being bothered by hunger, restlessness, etc. Of course, even such advanced practitioners must play it safe by consulting someone trustworthy before undertaking extra long meditation sessions in combination with the Simple Technique.
In conclusion, many people who are keen on combining the Simple Technique with more complicated/ advanced meditation techniques, may combine the core technique alone with the Simple Technique in order to save time.
e.g. let’s say that your advanced technique consists of 2 steps :
1. Concentration on the Breath for a few minutes.
2. The core meditation technique which may be to concentrate on a certain spot within the body for 20 — 30 minutes.
The authors recommend that you use the Simple Technique only for the 2nd step or else too much time will be wasted. In the future when you master the ability to invoke the effortless state within a very short time, then you may try to use the Simple Technique for each and every step of your advanced meditation technique.
Theoretically speaking, the Simple Technique may be used with just about any concentration/ meditation technique (like visualization exercises, etc.) since all that the Simple Technique is concerned with is that the mental movements engaged in the execution of any concentration/ meditation technique must be effortless.