Disciplining and stilling the mind through meditation brings huge rewards. You can think better, make decisions easier, be calmer in the face of adversity, and generally lead a happier life. But getting there takes some work. The good news is that the work is not that hard really. Making the time for it may be the biggest challenge.
In my own journey to chase out that troop of busy baboons in my head, I have found many tricks that help. And now as a yoga teacher, I keep experimenting with ways to help others get their faster. One such idea came out of trying to still the mind during my sleep. I have never been much for sleep, but as I get up there in years, I am realizing its importance. And I have found that just meditating in bed is a good way to take care of resting the mind.
So my latest idea that I have been working on the last year is what I call 99 Breaths. It is a simple way to get into a meditative state.
How it Works
Sitting comfortably, (or laying down if you have back issues), starting at 99 count each breath cycle backwards until you reach 0. If you lose count, start wherever you last remember the number.
After you have done this exercise a dozen times, you will start to notice that the counting becomes almost subconscious and you don't have to "consciously" count anymore.
When you do 99 breaths, you bring in the concept of Pranayama through the focus on breathing. When you count you bring in the concept of Dharana, concentration. By counting and breathing together you help with Pratyahara, the withdrawal of the senses. And all this together leads to Dhyana, the meditative state.
First, when we look at the average resting breath of yoga practitioners, it is about 5 breaths per minute. This puts a meditation cycle at 20 minutes which seems for most folks to be a significant period of restfulness for the mind. Some people will want more a few will require slightly less than that.
There is nothing sacred about 99. It is just a great starting point. 20 minutes would be a good target though and if your breath cycle is faster then extend the count. If slower, shorten the count.
Refining 99 Breaths