Have you ever lost track of time while meditating, or felt your mind becoming less cluttered? You might not have realised it at the time, but it’s likely that this was a deep meditation experience.
It might sound a little lofty or difficult to achieve, but deep meditation can be practised by anyone. While the benefits of meditation can be accessed using daily mindfulness practice and a variety of other exercises, if you’re looking to get the most out of your meditation practice, it’s worth learning how to meditate deeply. This means going beyond the surface level and exploring the more profound aspects of meditation.
In this article, we’ll explore what deep meditation means, what these kind of states feel like, and how to access them. We’ll look at some deep breathing techniques and some other top tips for taking your meditative practice to the next level. Let’s get started.
What Does Deep Meditation Mean?
When we talk about deeper meditation, we’re referring to an experience that moves beyond the typical concentration and focused awareness practices of mindfulness meditation and into something even more powerful.
Within deep meditation, we’re not just present in the moment. We’re also deeply satisfied and relaxed — there’s nowhere we’d rather be and nothing we’d rather be doing. The deep sense of relaxation encouraged within this practice is similar to that seen within Transcendental Meditation, although there are some key distinctions, which we’ll explore later on.
There are two main types of deep meditation. The first is deep relaxation meditation, which often takes advantage of candles, fragrances, or soundtracks to inspire and create specific moods. The second type of deep meditation focuses primarily on mindful awareness. This will generally be structured around awareness of the breath or another anchor, perhaps accompanied by mental observation and noting.
What Are The Jhanas?
The Jhanas are a central part of the Buddhist path, derived from the verb ‘jhayati’, which literally means ‘to meditate’. Jhanas are deep states of meditation that can be reached through mindfulness and concentration. There are eight jhanas in total, and each one is more profound than the last. In order to reach the first jhana, you must focus on your breath and keep your mind still. As you progress through the jhanas, you will experience a deep sense of peace and tranquillity.
Originally, the Buddha taught the Jhanas as eight altered states of consciousness, each requiring concentration, and each one getting progressively harder as you move up through them. This process is a way of preparing yourself for what Buddhists call ‘awakening’ or ‘enlightenment’.
Jhanas are about using concentration techniques such as breath awareness to reach altered states of consciousness and experience pleasant sensations. Once those sensations are reached, it’s important to fully immerse yourself in them and let go of the concentration methods (sometimes called ‘access concentration’) that got you there. This process of moving beyond concentration practices and experiencing meditation on a deeper level is exactly what we’re talking about in today’s article.
So what is it that makes this form of meditation so special? And what are the indications that you’ve reached this kind of state?
How Do You Know If You’re Meditating Deeply?
When you first start meditating, it can be really difficult to know whether you’re doing it ‘correctly’. If that sounds familiar, you should check out our article ‘How do I know if I’m meditating correctly?’, which tackles this subject in more depth.
When it comes to feeling the benefits of deep meditation techniques, it can be even harder to realise whether or not you’ve got it right. However, this is where you need to shift your attitude. In order to meditate deeply, you need to let go of the obsession with concentration and focus, because this will ultimately stop you from getting there. Instead of worrying too much about how ‘successful’ your meditation is, just try to notice a few things about your practice and how it’s going.
5 Signs That You’re In Deep Meditation
If you’re not sure whether or not you’ve reached that deeper state of meditation, there are are a few signs that you can keep an eye out for. These are things to consider once you come out of a meditative state, and start evaluating the experience you’ve just had. Let’s consider the main things to look out for.
- You forgot you were meditating – If you lose awareness to some degree, and stop thinking about the fact that you’re meditating (even if it’s just briefly), you’ve gone deep.
- Your inner narrator becomes quieter – Deep meditation is marked by the absence of self. During deep meditation, that inner voice that constantly bugs you is likely to quieten down, and egoistic thoughts about the self will diminish.
- Time lapses – If you lose track of time during a meditation session, that’s probably because you’ve been in some kind of deep meditative state.
- You feel your body relax – If you slouch down and allow your body to rest during meditation, without even realising, that can actually be a good sign. Moving out of an upright position often just means you were having a deep, blissful experience.
- You experience shallow breathing – Deep meditative states can cause practitioners to slow their breathing rate right down, experiencing restful, shallow breathing.
Now, don’t be disappointed if you don’t experience any of these signs — that does not mean your meditation session hasn’t been effective. Even if meditating simply takes your mind away from day-to-day pressures for a few minutes, causes you to focus on the breath or the body a bit more, or helps you experience a moment of quiet, that’s all super beneficial.
So is there anything we can do to increase the chances of experiencing deeper meditation? Absolutely. In the next section of this article, we’ll work through some top tips for accessing deeper forms of meditation.
6 Tips For Experiencing Deep Meditation
There are some useful things you can do to help deepen your meditation. This includes steps you can take before, during, and after meditating, as well as things you can do in your daily life. Let’s consider some of those actions.
Practise mindful breathing
In order to warm up for your meditation session, it can be really useful to practise some mindful breathing in advance. Taking a few deep breaths and anchoring yourself in the present moment before meditating will ease you in and make the process simpler.
Use a positive affirmation or express gratitude
Before practising deep meditation, try to cultivate a feeling of joy or contentment. Letting your mind know that you’re safe and comfortable can make meditative practices a lot easier. Think about something or some person you’re grateful for, or repeat a positive affirmation like “Right here, right now, I feel content.”
Setting yourself an intention or goal for each meditation session you embark on can be a great way of encouraging a kind of journey that helps you get the best out of your practice. This might come in the form of an affirmation like “For the next X minutes, I will only focus on my meditation.” This will increase your sense of intentionality and purpose.
Tap into the reward system of the brain
We naturally focus on what we find interesting, so making our meditation practice as rewarding as possible can be really beneficial. By tapping into the brain’s reward system, we can encourage the release of dopamine, which will help us focus for longer. Try to notice any pleasure activity that meditation brings about in your mind and body. It could be a feeling of relaxation or a sense of spaciousness and calm. When you find it, try to really focus on that feeling. You could focus on the physical sensations of happiness in the body, or even physically bring a smile to your face when you meditate — this will help to increase your sense of reward and create a positive feedback loop.
Enter and exit gently
Whether or not you have experienced or plan to experience a deeper form of meditation, making sure you transition in and out of a meditative state smoothly is important. Warm up before a session, and when it comes to an end, open your eyes slowly, stretch out your body, and transition back into everyday realities gradually.
Use yoga in transition
A good way to ease yourself in and out of deep meditation is by practising certain yoga poses to get yourself in the right frame of mind and body. Yoga asanas (physical movements) such as Setu Bandhasana, Balasana or Dhanurasana can lighten up your body and relax the mind, making deeper meditative experiences more likely. Check out our article on Meditation vs Yoga [INCLUDE LINK] for more information.
The Deep Meditation Traffic Light System
Imagine that every little moment within your meditation session is a circle. Each of these circles can be one of three colours — red, amber, or green. Red circles refer to moments in which your attention is caught up by a thought, a feeling, a sensation, or a distraction. Amber circles refer to moments in which you’re neither fully focused or lost in thought. Green circles refer to moments in which you have perfect focus, without being lost in anything else. This green state can be likened to deep meditation; the more green circles occur, the deeper and clearer your meditation feels.
Now, as you progress in meditation, first you’ll experience an increase in amber dots, which means your focus is improving. Then, you’ll begin to experience more and more green dots, which means you are coming across altered states of consciousness, and getting more out of your meditation. There’s nothing wrong with any of these states; however, really mastering your mind and going through a deeply powerful meditation requires you to increase the presence of green dots, before ultimately moving past that state to something even deeper. Don’t worry if this sounds unclear. If you’re fairly new to meditation, you’ll probably only want to move slowly through amber towards green — but know that after time, meditation can become an even more powerful or even spiritual practice.
What are the benefits of deep meditation?
Okay, so we’ve now taken you through what deep meditation refers to, and how you can encourage these kinds of experiences to occur more often. But why bother trying?
The deeper forms of meditation we’ve explored today can be genuinely transformative. Practices like self-inquiry meditation (which we explain in our article on the six main types of meditation) can give you a new perspective on yourself, your life, your goals, values, and motivations. Deep meditation can also bring extreme feelings of pleasure and joy. It’s true that we can seek pleasure in concentration, delighting in the focused feeling that mindfulness meditation encourages. However, we can go even further than that. Experiencing deep meditation can bring great pleasure in the present moment, and have a lasting impact on our sense of calmness, happiness, and peace of mind.
Moreover, by developing concentration within meditation, you can easily transfer these skills to other areas of your life. If you can maintain focus during deep meditation, you’ll find it much easier to stay on task at work, stay present with your family and friends, and stay focused on achieving your personal goals. There’s no activity that wouldn’t benefit from improved concentration skills.
In traditional meditation practices like insight meditation or Vipassana, high concentration is required before one really explores the nature of the mind and achieves deeper insight. If you can maintain deep concentration during your meditation sessions, you’ll find that the insights you gain will be much more profound. If your attention is jumpy and constantly shifting, you’ll find it difficult to explore the deep layers of your mind.
It’s important to remember that deep meditation is by no means easy. If you encounter struggles, obstacles, and distractions, try not to let yourself get down about it. Learn to be kind to yourself, and focus on practising concentration techniques over time in order to improve your practice, rather than beating yourself up if you struggle to access something deeper.
Want to find out more about reaching altered states of consciousness? Check out our article on Trataka Meditation: An Ancient Technique for Relaxation.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. Why can’t we enter a state of deep meditation easily?
A. What we’ve discussed in today’s article is advanced stuff. Even experienced meditators can struggle to reach the kinds of altered states of consciousness we’re talking about. If you live in the UK (like us at MindOwl) and you want to improve your meditation skills, you should read our article on how to access a quality meditation course in London.
Q. What are advanced meditation techniques?
A. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different types of meditation out there. Advanced meditation techniques are for people who want to take their practice to the next level, moving beyond simple concentration or mindfulness practices into something deeper. Techniques like Neti Neti Meditation and Non-Dual Awareness are good examples of this.
Q. How much should I meditate?
A. This one is really down to you. Some advanced practitioners meditate for hours each day, whereas some will just set aside a few minutes each morning for meditation. Most people agree that a regular daily routine means you’re more likely to experience the benefits of meditation, and certain practices like Transcendental Meditation have strict guidelines about how much time you should spend ‘on the mat’. You can find out more from our list of commonly asked questions about meditation.
MindOwl Founder – My own struggles in life have led me to this path of understanding the human condition. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy before completing a master’s degree in psychology at Regent’s University London. I then completed a postgraduate diploma in philosophical counselling before being trained in ACT (Acceptance and commitment therapy).
I’ve spent the last eight years studying the encounter of meditative practices with modern psychology.