When I started meditation, I had trouble meditating in a deep mindfulness state. I went to several different retreats and practiced each method for a period of time. There is a method ask you to completely put down your wandering thoughts. There is a method that asks you to just observe your sensations and to understand the impermanence of all things. There is a method that teaches how to generate loving kindness from our heart. And there is a method that shows how to observe the Four Foundations of the Mindfulness. They are all good methods and benefited me in many ways. But I didn’t really understand what I should be observing and couldn’t tell the difference between wandering thoughts or understanding, until I learned to pray. The difference is that before I meditated to have a calmer mind, and now I can pay attention to a lot of observations and ask for spiritual guidance. Praying to God makes me feel I am not doing it alone anymore. The feeling of guidance is the feeling of love from God. A lot of the time God answers my prayer through my daily reading. And sometimes I gain a better understanding of Scripture from meditation. It is amazing that often our understanding increases when we reduce our will to analyze things. Maybe you could say the truth reveals itself or it is a reflection from our pure mind, but I like to think that it is revealed by God. Appreciating the things of our Creator really helps to control the self (or ego) and be happy about what we have.
The spirit of man is itself informed and strengthened during meditation; through it affairs of which man knew nothing are unfolded before his view. Through it he receives Divine inspiration, through it he receives heavenly food. -‘Abdu’l-Bahá
It takes time to get to the point where we are familiar with using the tools and make it become part of our life. And I will share more about the methods I mentioned above in the future. Don’t get discouraged, have a little patience and be gentle on yourself even if you don’t feel it right away. You will be amazed that every step you walk is just like climbing a ladder getting a better and better view of the truth. Tall buildings take time to build the foundation and the foundation is hidden under the ground. We don’t see the strong foundation until we have an unshakable building that can withstand storms and earthquakes.
What is the best state of mind for prayer and meditation? From my own experience is putting aside the worries around us. Such as, worries about the things I haven’t taken care of, how I am going to deal with one specific challenge, what I am going to say to the person who has annoyed me, and things related to “vain imaginings” or over-analyzing things. When we are in a calm state of mind, prayer becomes more effective. We may observe our mind more like a third person observing others with no emotional effect. Understanding the verses becomes more like obtaining a sudden realization instead of analytical thinking. But please keep in mind that not every time will we get the answer, and the understanding sometimes comes later while doing other things. God shows us the path or gives us guidance at the time He arranges. To learn to be aware of the guidance we need to build up the momentum of observing things through daily practice. You also can use your breath as indicator. When we have a calm mind we tend to breath slowly. The more the mind is settled, the slower the breathing. See how you feel and the sensations you have. This experience is important too, because it can help you build your own scale of measurement for your mind.
The meditative faculty is akin to the mirror; if you put it before earthly objects it will reflect them. Therefore if the spirit of man is contemplating earthly subjects he will be informed of these.
But if you turn the mirror of your spirits heavenwards, the heavenly constellations and the rays of the Sun of Reality will be reflected in your hearts, and the virtues of the Kingdom will be obtained.
Therefore let us keep this faculty rightly directed — turning it to the heavenly Sun and not to earthly objects — so that we may discover the secrets of the Kingdom, and comprehend the allegories of the Bible and the mysteries of the spirit.
May we indeed become mirrors reflecting the heavenly realities, and may we become so pure as to reflect the stars of heaven. -‘Abdu’l-Bahá