Relaxation is the first requirement for meditation.
I relax my body by stretching my muscles in turn. If I am lying down I start by stretching my body, extending my legs and arms as far as they will go. Then I relax muscles in turn, flexing my feet, then contracting and releasing my thigh muscles, squeezing the muscles in my abdomen, lightly arching my back and so on. Finally I screw up and release my facial muscles.
The second basic requirement is steady breathing.
Meditative breathing should occur through the nose. I try to breathe as steadily as possible both during inhalation and exhalation. Inhalation should take longer than exhalation. I prefer a few minutes practicing steady breathing before beginning meditation. I find that abdominal breathing, using my diaphragm without swelling my ribcage, is the most relaxing and easiest to control. When I have been breathing abdominally for a few minutes I can forget breathing altogether.
The third requirement is observation.
I find observation is particularly useful for reducing inner speech and imaginings. However, observation can also be a hindrance in later stages.
If I have inner speech it usually takes the form of addressing some other person like my ordinary speech. To reduce or still this inner speech I listen to it as if I were addressing myself. As an example, at this moment I am thinking "how do I stop inner speech?" because I am addressing an imaginary reader (you) on this topic. If I change to addressing myself I listen carefully to the first word, "how", of the sentence. This is usually enough to disrupt the succeeding flow of words. If I have inner speech I often ask "who am I talking to?" and this helps to ensure that I divert attention onto each word in turn. I call this minimising of inner speech "Observing Away".
I can also observe away imaginings in the same way.
I find that observing away produces an observational state of mind. This is quite relaxing, a bit like being quiet in the woods waiting for animals. It is the state that is needed to provide the observations that I have given in "Time and Conscious Experience", "Time and Depth", "Space in the dark", "Motion and change".
If I want to experience other mental events and states I get into the observing away state and then release it.
Now comes the big problem, if I am not in an observational state I find it almost impossible to report how I get to other states. I am working on this problem but I cannot get more than a few seconds into other states before observing disrupts them.
The first and simplest "state of mind" is discursiveness (although discursiveness may not be a truly distinguishable "state"). Discursiveness is probably a natural state for many people and positively encouraged by education. When I am in a discursive state inner speech is dominant, I might be rehearsing what I am to say in business or my profession or I might simply be dwelling on matters. Inner speech takes away attention from the world and all other aspects of experience except those that are an object of inner speech. (For instance "oh dear, my gut hurts" increases the focus on the pain). I find discursiveness actually blurs and darkens my field of view. If I have a problem inner speech massages my emotional responses and the emotions generated can lead to further inner speech. Inner speech can lead to day dreaming in which I have dim imagery of the events being rehearsed. The discursive state can easily be diverted by sensory events, bodily feelings etc. Observing away inner speech is useful at times. The relationships between the elements of the discursive state are the same as between those in the observational state which leads me to question whether discursiveness deserves the label "state of mind" or should just be described as a brain that is out of conscious control.
The second simplest non-observational state that I would like to describe is ecstacy, this is a delusional state where I feel one with my experience. I use the word "delusional" in the Buddhist sense - ecstacy is fun but cannot be pivotal to understanding. Having achieved relaxation and steady breathing the duration of inspiration is increased relative to expiration. I smile slightly and relax my face. Now, if I observe vision or imagination I cannot move into the ecstatic state. If I move my eyes downward and inwards it helps but if I observe this too closely there is no transition. If I am mentally still a transition into ecstacy occurs. The special aspect of this state is the removal of the observer from a still mind. The spatial relationships that occur in ecstacy are the same as those in the observational state and the "oneness" is due to the mind simply being its content without either a discursive flow of the content or the observational process. The remaining flow comes from my body and a small smile seems to be enough to bring happiness to mind if discursion and observation are absent. It is easy to forget that my conscious mind is spatio-temporally arranged events and it is the change of content that has a non-conscious origin. As Aristotle put it, my mind is the 'objects that it thinks' and I am ecstatic if these are peaceful, do not change much and contain a happy feeling. (Where "I" am both the conscious and non-conscious "me"). The ecstatic state is used as a way of selling certain religions - it is a delusion - but the calmness of mind is helpful.