When you first start meditating, it is important to choose a simple technique in which the chance of external distraction is minimized. In the simplest techniques, we lead our focus to an object. This focus may be our breathing, or a word that we repeat, our body, or an object that we look at, etc.
If you are in doubt on where to start you may want to try a guided meditation at first. This type of meditation is great for a beginner because you are guided through the process step by step from beginning to end. There's nothing to think about or wonder if you are doing it right. You just follow the instruction of the teacher or recording.
Another type of meditation great for beginners is mindfulness or mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) developed by Jon Kabat Zinn.
The reason why MBSR is a great starting point if you are just getting into meditation is because of its simplicity as well as having a straightforward structured approach. There's also a lot of learning material available in the form of books, workshops and classes.
In this article we will review five of the most used forms of meditation. From here you can get a better idea of what might be a better fit for you to start your journey.
Types of Meditation
There are many types of mediation available. Because it has been around for so long, meditation has also evolved into numerous versions and disciplines. For this section, we'll focus on the types of meditation that will be useful for you to achieve deeper relaxation and peace of mind.
This is a form of meditation where a teacher or trained professional instructs or guides a person or a group of people in the process of meditating. This meditative process is also referred to as ‘guided imagery’ or ‘creative visualization’.
The reason for this is, often the most effective meditative process involves the practice of visualizing or generating mental imagery that stimulate the mind.
During guided meditation it is not uncommon for the teacher to ask the participants to re-create in their mind certain images, smells, flavors, textures, behavior or movements.
Participants are asked to re-visit past experiences by unpacking their memories and bringing those experiences, no matter how small or trivial, out into the open. When they do so, they are then asked to identify the emotions that the sensory or memory recall generates.
When going through guided meditation the teacher will ask the participant to take note of everything about the guided meditation session. This is a very important component of this meditative process.
This is because it reveals important information about the authentic thoughts and feelings of the participant.
The information extracted from guided meditation participants can lead to solutions that allow them to better manage the sources of stress in their daily lives. This eventually leads to the improved general well-being of the person.
The dictionary definition of mantra is ‘instrument of thought’, speech, sacred text or speech, a prayer or song of praise, a sacred formula addressed to a deity, a mystical verse or magical formula, incantation, charm, and or spell.’
In the traditional sense, a mantra is a set of words that are strung together to mean a variety of things. It could be the name of a deity. And it can be recited in praise of the sacred characteristics of the deity.
It could be a part of a prayer that is meant to protect or elicit joy. It could just be a string of words that do not necessarily mean anything but has the effect of calming the senses and the mind as it is repeated again and again.
Some examples of mantras are:
Om shanti shanti shanti : Om peace peace peace
Sabbe Satta Sukhi Hontu : May all beings be happy
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha : The Prajnaparamita Mantra
Mantras can be recited out loud by a group or a single person. They can also be recited quietly or even internally in the mind. Whichever way a mantra is recited the expected result is a calming of the mind.
Because a person is focused on repeating a mantra in their mind, it quiets regular chatter inside that causes stress and replaces it with the reverberation of the mantra.
If we are stressed and are feeling overwhelmed by the demands of work, reciting a mantra can still the mind and remove all anxieties caused by the mundane tasks we have to deal with at work.
Mantra recitation is also great for those moments when we are experiencing anger, emotional stress, worry, or irritation. It just effectively quiets the noise.
When the mantra stills the mind, it results in mindfulness. Because we are able to increase the mind’s ability to be more attentive and focused, with the things that matter right at that very second, we are able to be fully present in the moment.
Having a mantra to recite is a great way to bring your awareness to one focus and let go of all other distractions.
A form of meditation that originated from China is Qigong. When translated to the English language it means: Qi or Chi means life energy. It refers to the energy circulating all through the body.
A more popular definition of ‘chi’ is universal energy which includes light, heat and electromagnetic energy. Breath, gas, air, spirit and the relationship between physical and spiritual matter are also often associated with the word ‘chi’.
Gong or Kung means work. Gong means to practice with great skill, merit, mastery, service, achievement, result and accomplishment. It is the Kung in Kung Fu.
It is the very popular Chinese martial art system that cultivates the balance of life energy for the benefit of a person’s health.
So, Qigong then means ‘life energy cultivation’. It is a holistic system of meditation, breathing, martial arts training, and coordinated body posture and movement that results in improved general well-being.
The Chinese people and other eastern nationalities have been using Qigong as a daily meditation technique that allow them to, relieve the daily stresses of life, improve quality of health and increase spiritual awareness.
Since the 1970s, mindfulness meditation has been the preferred meditation method psychiatrists and clinicians use. They recommend mindful meditation to people who suffer from depression, chronic stress syndrome, and a variety of other mental and physical conditions.
Research has shown that worry and overthinking lead to mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. The regular practice of mindfulness meditation has shown that it can reduce the negative effects of overthinking and worry.
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing the attention of a person to the external and internal feelings they are experiencing in the moment. This state of consciousness can only be achieved through a form of meditation that is geared towards mindfulness or increased awareness.
Mindful meditation is simple enough. To start with, schedule 10 minutes of your day to go through the meditation process. Look for a quiet and comfortable place to sit and meditate. Find a comfortable chair or any comfortable surface to sit on.
With back straight, crossed legs and eyes closed, start breathing in and out. Focus on the movement of your abdomen. Then notice your breathing. Count as you breathe in and out of your nostrils.
If your mind starts to wander this means you have allowed yourself to be distracted. That's fine. Just put all of your attention back to what you are doing. Just get back to focusing on what’s happening in the moment.
Be mindful again of the moment. Do so until you feel your entire body and mind relax.
Here are some of the benefits of mindfulness meditation:
1. Focused attention
2. Stress relief
3. Awareness of the body
4. Regulated emotions
5. Better sense of responsibility
6. Good character
7. Healthy self-acceptance
10. Healthy sense of identity
Yoga meditation is not that different from the set of physical exercises we call yoga. In fact, when we do yoga poses we are engaged in the process of meditation. Yoga meditation is part of the whole of yoga. It is the art and science of observing, understanding, accepting, training all levels of our being so that we are able to arrive at a heightened state of consciousness.
Yoga meditation engages all our senses. It engages our entire body including our breathing. It levels the mind in order to tap into our consciousness. When we are able to attain a more aware and conscious mind, through Yoga meditation, then we are able to better manage all the forces that are at work around us.
Including, and most especially, the things, situations and people, that cause us stress. This is the reason many people attest to the effectiveness of regular yoga as a remedy for stress.
Yoga can be in the form of meditation. It can also be in the form of contemplation or deep thinking. Prayer is also a form of yoga as much as mantra recitation. That it offers very many ways to achieve inner peace is the reason it is called a holistic art & science.
There are numerous ways to practice yoga. Many techniques for a person to be able to make the most of its equally numerous benefits. At its best, yoga is able to let a yogi - a person who practices yoga, experience the pure and eternal center of consciousness. Not quite nirvana but comparable to it.
The Practice of Meditation
In order to practice meditation you may want to choose between the five popular types of meditation we just discussed. Although the similarities in method are many for all five types, a few have nuances that give it distinction.
Guided meditation, for example, requires a recording or a teacher to guide you through the meditation process.
Whichever form of meditation you choose, here are a few points to consider to make the experience more beneficial:
So you are about to make a very important sales pitch to your company’s top client. Your nerves are all over the place and your stress level is through the roof. It may be a good idea to take an hour to yourself and find a quiet place somewhere in the office to meditate.
When you do so, make sure to go through some deep breathing exercises. The oxygen that enters the brain when we take deep breaths allows the neurons in the brain to breathe and relax.
Check Your Body
Make sure your posture is right when meditating. It will not benefit the meditation process if you are slouched and/or in an uncomfortable position. The position of the body and the level of comfort it is in, while you are meditating, will make the difference between a successful meditation session or a challenging one.
Again make sure you are comfortable and have the right body position or posture while meditating. It helps to have your hips elevated and tilted slightly forward, pushing your tailbone backward, and an erect upright spine.
If following the mantra method of meditation, choosing a mantra that you will recite in your mind is very important. Make sure you choose only one mantra. You're not likely to achieve a quiet mind if you keep on changing the mantra you are reciting in your mind during a meditation session.
It will be much more productive to have only one so that your mind is better able to focus. It can be as simple as repeating internally; In, while breathing in, and Out while breathing out. Choose something that you find to be calming or centering.
Meditate While Walking
Like we said earlier, meditation is not limited to a quiet room. It is possible to meditate while walking or being more active. Meditation after all is the process of centering the body and the mind so that we are present to everything that is happening in the moment.
To meditate while walking you may want to focus your attention to the cadence of your walk, notice every step, the speed and consistency of the movement. Quiet the mind. Tune in to the movements of your body. Notice as one foot moves ahead of the other in succession.
There are many different types of meditation. Some types are more beginner friendly than others. It's beneficial to choose a type of meditation that is simple and easy to follow if you are just starting out.
Hopefully, with this introduction to a few types of meditation it will help to point you in the right direction to get started and have the most success on your meditation or yoga journey.