Meditation is a wonderful way to relax, relieve stress, and connect with your body and mind.
If you are new to meditation, you may not know what meditation is or how to do it effectively. You may even be tempted to give up as soon as you’ve started because it’s not just right for you.
While you may be tempted to quit, hang in there a bit longer. There are many health benefits to having a meditation practice and it’s a lot simpler than people think.
Change of thought
Unrealistic expectations are a big hindrance for those trying to implement a meditation practice. In western society, we focus a lot on outcome goals which are goals that are focused on having a specific, final product or outcome. When we approach meditation with the end in mind, we miss the whole of what meditation is.
Instead, think of thinking of meditation as a destination, think of it as a process. As you do meditation more frequently, you will learn and grow from each individual session. You will gain new insights, find beauty in the nuances, and have different experiences every time you meditate.
When you approach meditation in this way you are opening yourself up to learn from the process.
What is meditation?
Dr. Richard J Davidson told the New York Times,
“In Buddhist tradition, the word ‘meditation’ is equivalent to a word like ‘sports’ in the U.S. It’s a family of activities, not a single thing,”
In general, those who are not familiar with meditation do not realize that there are so many different types of meditation. As with sports, they all fall under the same umbrella but have unique areas of focus and different processes.
Here are some examples of different meditation types or techniques.
To engage in concentration meditation, you start by placing your focus on one of the five senses: breath, touch, taste, sound, or sight.
Focusing on the different senses could mean staring at a candle flame, listen to repetitive music, speak a specific mantra that you repeat aloud over and over again, etc.
The key is to hyper-focus on the sense.
As you concentrate on your sense of choice, your mind will wander, especially if you are a beginner. THIS IS OKAY! It is part of the process. Gently refocus your attention.
In mindfulness meditation, you practice being in the present moment. It is hearing the sounds around you, noticing how the chair feels against your skin, or being aware of the thoughts as they come and go.
The goal in meditation is to keep the mind clear. For mindfulness, you may not be able to sit with a clear mind at first. As the stray thoughts come into your mind, acknowledge them, and let them go. The goal is to not engage in or continue with the thoughts.
The American Psychological Association wrote an article called What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness. They describe mindfulness as,
” Rather than dwelling on the past or dreading the future, mindfulness encourages awareness of a person’s existing surroundings. Crucial to this is a lack of judgment. So, rather than reflecting on the annoyance of a long wait, a practitioner will simply note the wait without judgment.
Mindfulness meditation is something people can do almost anywhere. While waiting in line at the grocery store, for example, a person might calmly notice their surroundings, including the sights, sounds, and smells they experience.”
They also went on to report research evidence that showed mindfulness helps:
- reduce fixation on negative emotions
- improve focus
- improve memory
- lessen impulsive, emotional reactions
- improve relationship satisfaction
The goal of the loving-kindness meditation is to foster a sense of love and kindness towards oneself, people in the practitioners’ lives, and a general feeling of love for life in general.
The loving-kindness meditation is done by the practitioner focusing on the feelings of love and kindness. They send love and kindness to themselves internally and send it outward to others.
The more you are able to feel these emotions in meditation, the more you will be able to feel them throughout the rest of the day. This meditation has been linked to the reduction of PTSD symptoms, anxiety, and depression as well as being a general mood booster overall.
Body scan or progressive relaxation
This meditation is known by both names, the body scan meditation or the progressive relaxation. To practice this meditation, you do a progressive scan of the body releasing tension as you go.
There are different variations of progressive relaxation. For one variation, you begin at one extremity of the body, moving through the body inch by inch, finding any tension and then releasing it. You focus on one body part at a time until you have worked through the whole body.
Another way to do progressive relaxation is to work through the body in a similar fashion to the one above. The difference is that instead of just releasing the tension in each body part, you purposefully tense up all of the muscles of each section and then release that tension. Repeat through each section of the body.
A third variation to help release the tension in the body is to imagine yourself floating on a cloud, drifting in the ocean, being weightless, or any other similar variation. The idea of floating weightlessly helps the body relax.
Movement meditation combines rhythmic movement with meditation. The rhythm of the movement helps focus and center the mind. This type of meditation may be easier for some people as they don’t have to sit still.
The movement most associated with this meditation is yoga, but other types of movement can be movement meditations as well. Tai chi, swimming, or walking are examples of other movements that could be used for a movement meditation.
Meditation is a much simpler practice than it may seem at first glance. It is very individual and based on the practitioner’s intentions for each practice. Try one today and reap the many rewards meditation can bring!