Meditation Techniques: Finding The Right Practice For You
Most of us know meditation is good for us, and we definitely plan on making time for it... later. I mean, not today, of course -- today's crazy busy.
I have a ton of work to do, I need to take my daughter to soccer practice and then I have to go to the store before my Skype conference call at five. So I obviously can't meditate today.
But tomorrow for sure. Unless I get stuck in traffic on my way home. That always puts me in a bad mood, and I shouldn't meditate when I'm in a bad mood.
And on Wednesday I'm even busier, and then I'm planning on doing some Netflix binging after work to help myself unwind, so Wednesday's out. But maybe Thursday. Thursday? Yea. I'll make time to meditate on Thursday. Probably.
Even though we know about the many benefits meditation can bring (less stress, better sleep at night, lowered anxiety, more patience, a healthier sense of connection to ourselves and our larger world), it can be tough to make it a priority.
But the truth is you don't need to be an expert in Zen Buddhism or have hours of free time to meditate.
There are various meditation techniques that can improve your physical and mental health, and some of them only take a few minutes a day. All you need is a willingness to put your own health first. Not tomorrow, not next week -- today.
Try some of these techniques to see which ones are right for you.
1. Breathing Meditation
While the act of breathing itself may seem like a no-brainer (after all, you're doing it right now, right?). Bringing fresh awareness to the act of moving air through your body can be a healthy meditative act, whether you're just beginning your journey with meditation, or are more advanced.
Find a comfortable position, close your eyes, and see if you can slow and deepen your breathing, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
Pay attention to the sensation of your lungs filling with air, and then releasing. Don't worry if your mind wanders. That's allowed. Thoughts will enter your consciousness: Did I lock the front door this morning? What time is my meeting? I still need to answer that email from my boss.
Give those thoughts permission to enter your being... and then give them permission to leave as you return to your focus. Five minutes of this meditation can result in less anxiety, and a sense of calm that can stay with you for the rest of the day.
2. Mindfulness Meditation Techniques
Mindfulness is a buzz word among practitioners of meditation and yoga, but not everyone knows what it means.
At its heart, mindfulness is about being conscious and present in your immediate here and now, and noticing what you're experiencing in a given moment: the physical sensations you feel when you're sitting, lying down or walking. The sights, sounds and smells your senses are picking up. The different emotions you might be experiencing.
There's no judgment when we engage in mindfulness. Instead, there's the gentle acknowledgement of what we're experiencing, and permission to feel what we're feeling. Mindfulness is a form of meditation that can be practiced during any situation. You don't have to leave the room and find a solitary space to engage in mindfulness; just let your awareness bring clarity to everything you're feeling, and enjoy the sense of peace and acceptance that comes with it.
3. Walking Meditation
Not all meditating requires sitting in a lotus position that you can't entangle yourself from later. Walking meditation is great for those who enjoy the feeling of our bodies in motion.
The best part is, it involves other meditation techniques as well, like mindfulness and breathing. Bring mindfulness into what you're feeling as you walk: the stretch of your muscles, the momentum of your arms and legs as you move forward.
Focus on your breathing, whether you're walking on an incline that requires some exertion, or a more level surface. (Walking in an environment you enjoy is important: an outdoor trail, a park or garden, any place that's pleasing to your senses.)
4. Mantra Style Meditation (Transcendental)
Mantras are words repeated rhythmically out loud to help focus the mind. Also known as Transcendental Meditation, the use of a mantra is known for evoking tranquility and peace, as well as ascension to a higher state of consciousness.
Chanting the right mantra, even under your breath, can bring a sense of both peacefulness, focus, and power. Finding the right word or short phrase and gently repeating it out loud for 10-15 minutes can help block out distractions -- particularly the distractions that so often keep us from acknowledging what we value most.
Your mantra is your own: words or phrases that evoke certain important ideas for you: words about strength, creativity, family, or love.
5. Concentration Meditation
Concentration meditation differs from other primary techniques. Rather than opening your mind and giving thoughts permission to drift through, Concentration involves the opposite process: concentrating your focus on something specific, and centering your attention.
Concentrate on a mental image (or picture that's actually in front of you), a word, or specific idea that evokes feelings of peace. Trickier than it sounds, this type of meditation is usually more effective with a timer limiting the session to 5-10 minutes in the beginning. But with some practice, this form of meditation can result in a stronger ability to focus, and fewer distractions throughout the day.
Try It Out
Whether your goal is to lower stress at work, feel more connected to your body and spirit, or increase your creativity and focus, there's a meditation practice that's perfect for you. Take the time to experiment with these techniques and experience the benefits yourself. Let me know your favorite type of meditation in the comments below!