Mediation can be difficult, and it can take awhile before you feel like you are making progress. But there are some people that talk about shortcuts, most of which involving things like light machines or CDs that have binaural beats to induce deeper meditative states.
I spent the first five years of my meditative practice frustrated by not being sure what I was doing, or if I was doing it "right." And when I heard about some of these programs, I must admit it piqued my interest enough to try them.
I have now been using some form of binaural beats for nine years, and my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. I have worked primarily with the products of two companies. The first is The Monroe Institute, which makes CDs, conducts consciousness research, and has residential retreats. I attended three week-long retreats there, in 2005 and 2006. TMI was really my introduction to serious self inquiry, and I have made great friendships through their programs. I used Hemi-Sync, their technology, for about five years, from 2001 to 2006.
I would say that the Hemi-Sync technology that is offered through TMI is incredibly effective. But the techology that they use at the Faber, VA, retreat center is stronger than what they have been willing to sell for home use. And I found I hit a plateau working with it at home.
Another company is called the Centerpointe Research Institute, out of Portland, Oregon. The founder of Centerpointe is Bill Harris, who says that his Holosync technology can go far deeper than anyone else, including TMI. My experience bears this out. The Centerpointe program has 12 graduated levels, and I am on level 7 right now. As a Hemi-Sync user, I acclimated to the early levels pretty quickly, but it now takes about 8 months to a year to go through a level. I have been using Holosync since 2006.
Bill Harris is a marketing machine, and that approach can turn some folks off. I must say that I'm not all that happy how often I get pitches for other life improvement products from him. But Centerpointe works.
Neither of these programs is cheap, especially compared with some of the knockoffs that are available. But I would recommend either one to someone who is looking for a sense of what meditation feels like, or wants to take their meditation to a deeper level. In essence, these technologies are training wheels, and once the brain "entrains" to them, they are no longer needed.
This has been a departure from the normal format, but it felt important to talk about some of the things that are out there, and that can be helpful in starting, maintaining, and deepening a meditative practice. If you have positive or negative experiences with these or other programs, feel free to post a comment.