As a private meditation teacher, many people ask me how to improve their meditation skills and how to progress in meditation.
Most of my students have fairly similar experiences with meditation. They have tried apps like Headspace and Insight Timer, dabbled with a few different techniques, mostly stuck to breathing methods, and overall they have enjoyed their meditation practice.
The problem for most is that they don’t know how to improve their meditation skills.
That’s where I come in. I reveal to my students how to meditate better and get so much more out of it.
Naturally, the way that you want to improve your meditation practice is an individual thing. It depends on your unique goals, which is why I recommend booking a private lesson with me. But let me share some general tips and ideas.
How To Improve Your Meditation Skills & Progress In Meditation
1: Know how to increase meditation time
One of the easy ways progress in meditation is to increase your meditation time.
Because many people get into meditation via apps and videos, they are used to meditating for short periods. Some people meditate for as little as five minutes. But this is not ideal.
Most studies show that to get the benefits of meditation, we need to meditate for around 15 to 20 minutes. And studies also show that once you hit 40 minutes you’ve pretty much maxed-out the benefits, so there’s no point meditating for any longer than that.
Aim to start with 15 minute meditation sessions. Then increase your meditation time by five minutes each week until you hit 40 minutes.
2: Understand the purpose of different techniques
The best way to progress in meditation is to understand the purpose behind different techniques.
There is a reason why there are so many meditation techniques. Each individual meditation technique exists for a reason. And you need to know when to use them.
Essentially, you need to be mindful of your mental state and your emotions, and choose a meditation technique based on how you want to enhance your mind.
Maybe you just need more general calmness, in which case you should practice Anapanasati (Mindful Breathing). Maybe you want to feel more positively about other people, in which case you would do Metta (Loving Kindness). Or maybe you want more compassion, in which case you would do Karuna (compassion) or Tonglen (selfless compassion).
One of my number one skills as a meditation teacher is having a wealth of knowledge about different techniques, and understanding which one would most help my student.
3: Deliberately increase distractions (yes, you read that right)
Now, I know, usually you are told to meditate in a relaxing space that is free from distractions. And that’s true if you’re new to meditation and you want to make meditation easier.
However, if you want to improve your meditation skills, you need a challenge. One part of meditating better is being able to stay Zen no matter what.
You want to train your mind to relax and focus in places that are less than ideal. And the best way to do that is to meditate with distractions. This will train your mind to be able to meditate no matter what.
4: Combine it with pratyahara
Pratyahara is an important part of yoga practice. It is a method through which we reduce and control external influences in our lives.
Take a moment to consider your daily life. What negative influences are you subjected to? These could include negative people, social media, stressful environments, and other factors. Now think about how you could reduce those negative influences in your life. That’s what Pratyahara is all about.
By reducing negative influences you will gain more control of your mind and improve your meditation skills.
5: Track your meditation progress with a journal
If you’ve been meditating for a few years, you might have already improved your meditation skills quite a lot without realising it. This is when you might like to keep a meditation journal.
When you keep a meditation journal you will have an archive of notes that you can look back on. When you look back to one year ago, and the notes you made in your journal, you might be surprised how much you have progressed.
6: Improve your meditation skills by incorporating your body
Many people whom I have taught in my lessons tend to stick to one type of meditation. This is a mistake. Even if you only want to practise a couple of different meditations, you should at least include one technique that focuses on your body.
You have a lot of options here. You could do a form of movement meditation such as Kinhin (Zen Walking), Tai Chi, Yin Yoga, WiGong or Osho Nataraj. Or you could do Jon Kabat Zinn’s Body Scan Meditation.
You want to include at least one meditation that focuses on the body, because many of the stimuli that affect the mind begin in the body. Hence, being mindfully aware of the body will help to strengthen your mind and improve your meditation skills.
7: Practise the Four Pillars of Mindfulness
Some of the meditation skills you use happen while you are actually meditating. But other skills are used when you’re not meditating but instead when you’re going about your normal day. One example is the Four Pillars of Mindfulness.
The Four Pillars of Mindfulness are four factors that we should be mindful of all the time. They are: The body, feelings, the mind, and dhammas (the true nature of things, such as the fact that all things are impermanent).
Try to maintain awareness of the Four Pillars of Mindfulness all the time. This will greatly improve your meditation skills.
8: Progress through the stages of dhyana (concentration)
One of the most immediate ways to improve your meditation skills is to progress through the different stages of dhyana (concentration).
Most beginner meditators only experience the state of dharana. That is, they focus on a meditation object but they are aware of the difference between the mind and the meditation object. To advance your meditation skills, go further.
After Dharana we get to Dhayana. That is, we experience moments of oneness with the meditation object. And after this, we get to Samyama, which is complete absorption in the meditation object.
Try moving from Dharana (focus) to Dhyana and Samyama (absorption). This will give you an all new experience with meditation.
9: Develop compassion
If you listen to various meditation teachers (such as myself, Sharon Salzberg, and Thich Nhat Hanh) you will know that compassion is vital. And not just because it’s nice. There are significant health benefits of compassion, and it is arguably the number one trait shared amongst different spiritualities and religions.
Certainly, in Buddhism it is considered essential to develop compassion (which Buddhists call “Karuna”). Indeed, the ultimate goal of Buddhism is to become an arahant (an enlightened person who lives for compassion).
You need compassionate for yourself and for other people. The more compassion you have, the happier and healthier you will be, and the more good you will do in the world. Two of the best ways to develop compassion are with Karuna meditation and Metta (Loving Kindness meditation). These are two great meditations to do after mindfulness.
10: Work with me in a private meditation lesson
Finally, if you really want to improve your meditation practice, book a private online meditation lesson with me.
I will show you many different ways to advance your skills, help you find the best techniques for you, and take your meditation practice to the next level.