If you watch or listen to news, spend any time on the internet, or peruse magazines while standing in line at the grocery store, you know meditation is a hot topic right now — trending, I believe they call it. And with good reason. It’s good for you – for your mind, body, and spirit. Meditation is great for those of us who ever have close encounters with stress.
Recently I wrote an article about meditation – what it is, what it isn’t, and some tips on how to add it to your already busy schedule. You can read more about it right here.
If you’re thinking about meditation and realize it has benefits for you, what’s holding you back? What’s keeping you from starting?
I know having time to do it is a big factor. I hear you, because I used that excuse for many years. There is an old Zen saying about taking time to meditate that goes like this:
OK, now before you click out of this blog post and run screaming down the hall thinking you could never meditate for 20 minutes a day much less an hour, hold your little tators. Please note:
LONG MEDITATIONS ARE NOT REQUIRED.
YOU GET TO DECIDE HOW LONG.
EVEN A FEW MINUTES A DAY IS BENEFICIAL.
Whew! Feel better? I hope so.
So now that we’ve settled the time issue, and surely you can find five minutes a day to do this, maybe you just don’t know how to do it. The most basic tenet of meditation is paying attention (following) your breath in and out, in and out, in and out. That’s your focus. ere are 6 different styles of meditation that you can try.
If you’d like a little bit more detail, here are 6 different styles of meditation that you can try:
1. Guided visualization. A guided meditation is led by someone else typically in person, or on an audio or video recording. The leader takes you through each step, so you don’t have to worry about ‘doing it wrong.’ (Don’t worry! You really can’t do it wrong). This may be the simplest place for you to start.
2. Mantra. Ever heard the word “Om”? That’s a mantra. In mantra meditation, you focus on your breath, then choose a word or phrase and repeat it silently to yourself throughout the meditation.
If your mind drifts to other thoughts, you gently bring yourself back to your mantra. You get to choose the word. “Om” works. So does ‘peace’, ‘love’, ‘breathing in, breathing out’, or whatever works for you. You can’t choose a wrong word or phrase. It’s yours.
3. Mindful awareness. That sounds much more serious than it is. Mindful awareness can be distilled down to paying attention. Often this type of meditation works well while you are doing a somewhat habitual activity –taking a shower, chopping veggies, even taking a walk.
Let’s say you want to do this meditation while chopping veggies. Once you get focused on your breath, become aware of how the knife feels in your hand. Notice the texture and the temperature of each veggie. Pay attention to the sound of the knife making contact with the cutting board. Does that make sense? Continue through the entire process of preparing those carrots and broccoli stems. Easy peasy.
4. Become the observer. This method may rank a bit higher on the woo-woo scale, but it’s quite an interesting experience. Kind of an out-of-body experience. Have you ever heard of chakras or your third eye? (I told you it was a little woo-woo).
In this meditation, as you begin following your breath, focus on your third eye, an area about an inch above your eyebrows. Hold that focus and begin to notice your thoughts. What is your mind thinking? What is your body doing? Rather than try to be in control, just pay attention what is going on within you.
5. Candle staring. In this meditation, light a candle (and of course, be sure it’s in a safe place). Begin your focused breathing, then stare at the candle flame. Watch how it flickers, how it expands and contracts. Notice the difference colors within the flame. Continue to do this for throughout your meditation. For me, this is a very relaxing practice. Blow out the candle when you finish.
6. Total body check-in. This particular method of meditation may take longer than the others but it is a great way to notice tension or stress in certain areas of your body. You may prefer to do this one lying down. I always start by tensing my muscles and then releasing them.
Starting at the top of the head, you check-in with how it’s feeling. Tense? Relaxed? Let go of any pressure you’re feeling. “Loose and limp” is how the top of your head should feel. Next go to your forehead and repeat. Then your eyes, your cheeks, your ears, and so on. Slowly and deliberately check in with each part of your body.
By the time you complete this meditation, you should in a wonderful state of relaxation.
So there you have it: 6 ways to meditate. I’ll bet one of those will work for you.
Now here are a few general tips: Start your meditation with a couple of slow, deep breaths. You can meditate sitting, lying down, walking, or ??? Choose whatever works best for you. Five minutes or an hour? The amount of time is also up to you. Eyes open or closed? Again, that’s your choice. Many people leave their eyes open just a bit and look downward.
Sometimes we tend to think of meditation as much more difficult than it is. The idea is to relax by focusing on your breath and sitting in stillness for a period of time.
Remember: it’s called meditation practice for a reason. We are always learning how to do it more effectively.
Do you know of other simple styles of meditation that are not mentioned here?
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I would love to hear about your experiences with meditation or about any concerns or questions you might have. You can comment below or message me on Facebook.
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Thanks to Layla Black for reminding me of these different methods of meditation.