Which meditation technique suits you?
The dates are in and meditation works; Not only does this help us live happier and less stressful lives, but it also has measurable effects on physical health. But if you’ve tried and failed (how you feel) meditating, it may be because you haven’t found the right type of meditation for you. Below are seven different ways to get started in a meditation practice. The benefits of each type are similar if you practice regularly – whether you find your way into meditation by walking and singing, attending a class from a transcendental meditation teacher, or through meditation paired with your existing beliefs.
The most important part of meditation is not doing it a certain way, wearing certain clothes or being in a certain place – or whatever your prejudices are about the “right” way to meditate. It’s about figuring out what’s working with your life. Unlike a spin class, there are no rules to follow (although it is useful to get a foundation for how other people meditate). There is only regular practice and holding on to it, day after day. Think of meditation as a positive, lifelong change to a healthy diet, rather than a specific diet program (with celebrities and a thick book) that you follow for a month and then give up. A really useful meditation practice takes time and persistence.
So check out the following styles of meditation and try them out – play with what works and what doesn’t for you. Don’t be rigid about what meditation is or looks like, or what you think it will feel like. Ask yourself questions: Do you enjoy moving, or does silence work better for you? How about vocalizations? Do you want to focus on something or nothing? Your particular path into meditation may be different, but the stress relief, reduced anger, well being, lowered blood pressure, and other benefits are available to everyone.
The following video provides an overview of some of the meditation techniques and how exactly they work (continue with 1:10).
Concentrated meditation is an umbrella term for any type of meditation that focuses on one aspect of the five senses, although visualizations are the most popular. By focusing on an image of a flower, flame, or moving water, you can gently focus the mind so that you are less distracted. You can also try to focus on the feeling of something – your fingers against each other, the way your breath moves in and out of your body, or the alignment of your spine. Another option is to focus on a simple sound (a soft gong, bell, or music) or on sounds from nature.
Guided meditation is a focused meditation led by someone other than yourself and usually includes one or more of the focus meditation techniques mentioned above. You will be guided through breathing instructions and some kind of visualization, body scan or sound or maybe a mantra (see below).
Spiritual meditation is interchangeable with what most of us understand as prayer. If you are already part of a spiritual tradition this can be an easy route to meditation as you have already practiced some elements of it. You can try it as an extension of what you are already doing in your place of worship when you are in the church, sanctuary, mosque, hall, or synagogue to immerse yourself in a calmer, more reflective state, or you can evoke this feeling at home or elsewhere. Start with the words you heard or said yourself, but instead of stopping at the end of a prayer or song, sit quietly. You can ask a question and wait for an answer – sometimes people feel like an answer is coming from outside; or you can list what you are grateful for. Use your prayer experience to gain access to this calm, meditative mind space.
Mantra meditation This is the case when you repeatedly use a tone or series of tones to enter and stay in the meditative state. It may seem like a contradiction in making noise while meditating because many people have the idea that meditation equals silence, but that is not the case at all, and mantras have a long history within tradition. Of course, you can sing softly or even whisper your words, pull them out, make them more singing, or even quite loud. You can say them in your head and keep outer silence. You can choose a word or words in any language: (peace and love and happiness for example) or a sound like “ohm”. You can make up sounds or words if you like, or you can take them from another language. The sound or words you choose are entirely up to you and are simply a way to avoid distracting thoughts.
Transcendental meditation (often abbreviated as TM by practitioners) is the type most likely studied by scientists as they learn of the various physical and psychological benefits of meditation. With over 5 million practitioners worldwide, it is considered the most popular form of meditation. The upside is that in most places it’s usually easy to find free or inexpensive courses. It’s a little more formal than some of the other types of meditation mentioned here, but it’s useful for starting or exploring meditation if you’re new to it. According to their website, TM reads: “… a simple, natural, and effortless procedure that is practiced twice a day for 20 minutes while sitting comfortably with eyes closed. It is not a religion, philosophy or way of life.”
Movement meditations are exactly what they sound like; Instead of sitting still, you can move around the room, the house, a forest path, or the garden (or wherever) – usually in a relatively simple and calming way. Walking meditation, most types of yoga, gardening, and even basic household chores can be moving meditations. This type of meditation is ideal for people who have been sitting at work all day and want to move and meditate when they are away from their desks, and for people who find sitting still as a distraction from being able to meditate at all.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation that is an ongoing part of life and not a separate activity. A great way to address stress the moment it occurs and, over time, become a mental skill rather than a separate time from the rest of life. It can be easier to get into a mindful state of mind after meditating separately.