Meditation has many useful and practical elements for coping with everyday situations and stresses. It’s not about religion for everyone. There are various types of meditation spanning over many traditions and thousands of years. In this post I will be writing about ones I have encountered and used myself. If you wish to know more there are many to research that I may not have even heard of, but as a beginner it’s important to understand the basics.
Each practice of meditation has its own benefits. Research is still in early days as to what exactly is the outcome of each. Find the one that’s right for you and stick with it until you feel ready to move on. The list below is to get your started. There is a brief explanation of how to where applicable. If you feel I have missed an important one or one you may have benefited from hugely, then please let me know about it in the comments section. Likewise if you have any experience with any of the below please share it. We are here to learn from each other.
If you still hit walls with meditation then please read my other blog posts about techniques such as binaural beats and guided meditation. These are two things that allowed me to get the ball rolling with my practice.
The term mindfulness means to be aware of the present moment. What is going on around you and within you. When someone is mindful they are the observer of their thoughts and feelings rather than mistaking the thoughts and feelings for their true self. They notice and look on thought without judgment. It brings about long term changes in the brain and can lead to an increase in levels of happiness, wellbeing and self esteem.
Concentration or focus Meditation.
It’s vital to your practice to maintain a balance of mindfulness and concentration. The mind can become cluttered with thoughts, concentration is about allowing the mind to stay on one static point. Mindfulness notices things, whereas concentration allows you to stay focused on that thing when needed.
If either of these two components become weak, your meditation might become more stressful than useful. Bear that in mind when choosing the practices you want to partake in.
Awareness – Is a way of becoming relaxed and in unison with your surroundings. It allows you to create space in the mind leading to less stress and anxiety. Awareness meditation allows you to recognise what we need or need not do. By using all your senses you are becoming aware of your surroundings and leave no room for anxieties or fearful thoughts and feelings. Practice this with a smile on your face and be amazed and the more you do it, the more heightened your senses become.
Allow thoughts to drift by. Begin by taking a couple of deep breathes in and out. Focus on your surroundings. Many things will be happening. Begin by directing your attention.
- What can you hear? Birds, wind, rain, music, trees, fire crackling, water.
- What can you smell? Grass, nature, incense, fire, food,
- What can you taste? Lunch, toothpaste,
- What can you see? eyes closed then what colours or is it just black? eyes open gazing softly then what is in sight.
- What can you feel? wind, an itch, a slight ache, listen to your body.
Vipassana Meditation – Translated it means “to see things as they really are.” It’s a Buddhist tradition and originally from India. It teaches acceptance and sustained focus of your reality. See things as they are, slowly peeling of layers of the illusion. It is said to be what the Buddha practiced to reach enlightenment. It’s not for the light hearted as retreats are often long intense sessions of meditation and silence.
Sit with your legs crossed, spine upright but not tense, and your hands on your knees. If this is too uncomfortable you can sit in a chair. As you sit and breathe notice how your
abdomen rises and falls. Notice how the act of breath is involuntary and happens on its own.
You can also feel and begin to notice the sensation of breath in and out of your nostrils.
As you sit and breathe your attention will either be on the movement of the body or air entering the nostrils. As thoughts arise, let them go. If you get wrapped up in a line of thinking, just bring yourself back to the object of your focus.
Body Scan – This meditation is about being aware of you inner and outer bodies. It’s used to allow you to notice any tensions and pressures within the body and to relieve them. Research suggests that a body scan can help reduce stress in the mind and body whilst also relieving aches and pains.
Lie or sit down comfortably and with closed eyes. Focus your attention to feel the sensations, aches, pains, tickles, and the pressure of the body on the surface of the chair or floor. With each breath let go and go deeper into the surface.
Sound meditation – Using sound during meditation is great way to deepen the state. Allowing you to focus on riding the sound wave sends you tremendously deep into a state of meditation. Many instruments can be used including the Tibetan bowls, harp, sitar or a drum.
Qi Gong and Tai Chi – These techniques focused on movements of the body thus improving overall body fitness including posture and respiration. It’s one of the oldest forms of meditation founded in ancient China. They are used to assist with the circulation of energy or Qi around the body after long seated meditation. It involves focusing on the on the bodily movements whilst letting go and mindfully watching how the body and mind react.
If you are interested in learning some of the movements you can attend classes or watch many YouTube videos for beginners.
Zen (Zazen) – Translated to ‘seated meditation’ zazen is the Zen Buddhist practice that is focused around the breath and sitting in lotus position on a cushion with the back straight. The idea is to transcend from judgmental thought ideas and images and just be the observer of the mind.
Focus – Focus on your breath. With closed eyes count your breaths 1-10 repeatedly. Breathe deep into your diaphragm focusing on the sensations in the nose and body from breathing in and out. If you find your mind wonders, start from 1 again. By focusing on one thing you are creating space in your mind and the more you practice the more you able to of focus for longer periods of time. I often do focus meditation before making big decisions.
Observe – Don’t focus on anything in particular just allow your self to be present in the moment. Be an onlooker to your stream on thought, be aware of them passing through your mind but do not judge or react to them.
Mantra – Most commonly found in the Hindu tradition, mantra mediation is focused on repeating sounds and syllables with the intention of focusing the mind. It works because as the sounds or words are repeated it is difficult for the mind to focus on anything else. The most well known mantra is the Almighty “OM’ when repeated out loud or in the mind the mantra resonates with the whole being. Try it now ‘OMMMM’
Sit as you would and be comfortable. Focus on your deep breaths and choose a mantra that you want. Start by saying it out loud to engrain it, then repeat softly and silently in the mind over and over. It can be something you want to remind yourself of, e.g “I am love,” “ I am grateful” etc. The idea is that by repeating the mantra you are expelling any other thoughts from the mind thus focusing your attention.
Chakra – The Chakra system is the energetic centre of the body. It is important we maintain them and heal them to prevent psychological and physical problems occurring. Chakra meditation uses sound and placing of hands to move energy and activate the chakras. You can also use intention and imagine the chakras lighting up and spinning into activation within the body. If you are focusing on a certain aspect or chakra try wearing the colour that is associated with it. There will be a post on this in coming weeks.
There are some great guided chakra healing meditations found online to get you started on how to. You can also repeat mantras that are associated with each chakra.
Crown – Mmm
Third eye- Ooo
Throat – Ham
Solar plexus – Ram
Sacral – Vam
Root – Lam
I hope in someway I have encouraged you to take up your own practice of meditation. The benefits are endless and priceless. There are many more I am yet to encounter but I trust my journey and know that when the time comes I will be introduced to something new that will deepen my practice further.