First off, who cares about how you should practice until you know why you should consider taking up meditation. I’m going to briefly go over the benefits that have been associated with meditation and then mention a number of different practices. This will give you an idea of the wealth of styles that are available. I’m only touching on a few of them. As for myself, I practice Advaita Meditation which is a Hindu mantra-based meditation, the mantra works as a focusing tool. I sprinkle in other types as well. I also enjoy meditating to sound baths and with crystals. Make it fun and you’ll want to meditate each and every day!
Oftentimes when the year is coming to an end, we start thinking about things that we would like to accomplish the following year. Many items fall under the self-improvement headline. Have you been struggling with meditation? Is it something you have wanted to practice in the past, but haven’t been able to handle on? Meditation is not one size fits all, one type of practice does not work for the masses. This does not mean that you cannot find or develop a style of meditation that works for you. Meditation should not feel like work, it’s not a punishment.
There are numerous mental and physical benefits that come from meditation. They have done a lot of studies on seasoned meditators, as well as monks. What are the mental benefits of a meditation? Meditation has numerous positive effects on one’s mental state. 1. Relieves stress 2. Generates Optimism 3. Builds Confidence 4. Reduces fears and anxiety 5. Alleviates depression 6. Reduces thoughts of self-doubt 7. Motivates
What are the physical benefits of a meditation practice? 1. Restores the digestive system to balanced function 2. Lowers Blood Pressure 3. Reduces headache and migraine pain 4. Relieves insomnia 5. Calms the nervous system 6. Eases muscle tens, fully immersed in the present moment.
Meditation is being mindful, fully immersed in the present moment. fully immersed in the present moment. It is not about shutting off thoughts, thinking is the nature of the mind. Most thoughts have to do with the past or future, rather than the present moment. Some present moment thoughts fall under the egoic realm, they are the judging mind at work. When one decides that something is good, bad, or neutral. Mindfulness requires complete awareness where one takes in all sights, sounds, scents, emotions, and sensations without judgement. It is an exploration of the present moment, where you just kick back and see what occurs.
Focusing on the breath is one tool used in meditation. It is something that helps keep one present. Breathing is something that you are presently doing. Simply watch as you inhale and exhale. Notice how it feels, sounds, tastes. Be aware as your emotions shift. Take care not to label the emotions with judgment tags, such as “that feels good”. When you find that you have drifted off into thinking land, notice and gently bring yourself back to the breath. The thoughts that interrupt our practice can teach us a lot about ourselves, so it’s not that bad. Think of meditation as taking the time to get to know yourself better. Little by little you will find yourself spending more time focusing on the breath and less time thinking. Eventually there will come times when you are not thinking, and you aren’t following your breath. You are just part of the awareness and it feels incredibly good. Then something pulls you out of it, for me it is always the ego coming in and recognizing how unbelievably good I feel.
I used to be of the opinion, that meditation was something which had to be practiced while the body was still and in silence. I didn’t believe that one could attain Samadhi (a higher state of consciousness) when surrounded by noise or in movement. I was much more rigid in my thinking, back then. These days, I figure whatever gets you meditating/mindful is what you should use as your style of meditation. Think about the kind of person you are and let that be your guide for developing a meditation practice. Are you an active person who needs movement? Do you like music? Are you a words person? Do you find that you are visual? Is yoga your thing?
For Busy/Active/Movement Oriented People: Dipa Ma, a teacher from India began practice when she was a busy mother at home. She chose to be mindful in everything that she did and allowed that to be her main practice. She had no other choice. When She had a few minutes for meditation, she meditated in silence. Dipa Ma taught that you should fully immerse yourself in everything you are doing by practicing mindfulness. So if you’re cooking, cook, and focus on the very act that you are performing at that moment. I sometime practice a form of Zazen Meditation where we sit for 33 minutes and do a walking meditation for 7 minutes. During the walking meditation one is conscious of every miniscule movement within the body.
Music and Word Types: Check out music and guided meditations. If going with music, I feel that instrumental music is best. Songs with lyrics tend to activate the thinking mind. Guided meditations orally guide one through a sitting. These two types widely vary in length and style. There is much to be found within various meditation apps and audio streaming services. Spotify, Insight Timer, and YouTube are some of my favorites
Visual People: Try meditating, while softly focusing on something. I sometimes practice visual meditations. One method is candle or full moon gazing where you sit gazing softly at a candle flame/full moon. You look for as long as possible and blink only when needed. Another method is to gaze at a piece of art. Be sure to keep the critical mind on the sideline. If it does pop in, don’t beat yourself up. Just go back to watching and being mindful of how your body feels and what emotions arise.
Yogis: Meditation is one of the 8 Limbs of yoga. It is the 7th and through it comes the 8th limb, Samadhi. Remember that delightful state I talked about reaching in meditation? That is Samadhi and with it comes good feelings and a beautiful oneness mindset. Samadhi is the reason why we meditate. The physical form of yoga is the 3rd Limb and it is meant to prepare the body for meditation. Yin Yoga has one hold poses for extended lengths of time. It goes well with silent meditation. Of course, one can practice any form of yoga with mindful awareness and allow that to be their practice.
If you can find a few minutes to set aside for meditation, great! Be realistic with you expectations. Set a timer so that you do not watch the clock (look up to see how much time is left). Believe me, it will be more time than you were hoping. You can even use an app. It’s okay to start out meditating for 5 minutes, or even less, if that is all you can manage. As it becomes easier for you then increase the time that you spend. At the end of every meditation thank yourself no matter how it went. If it went poorly, let it go. You will try again. If it went exceedingly well, let it go. You will fail in the future. So much has changed since the time of the Buddha. Buddha means enlightened one and since the time of the original Buddha many beings have become enlightened and have added to the bounty of knowledge which surrounds meditation practice. These days we have numerous schools and teachers to turn to. There are so many options available to us.