In my twenties and early thirties, I tried meditation, but wasn’t sure if I was doing it “right.” It was almost a Herculean feat to turn off my mile-a-minute mind. And then I realized, there’s no one “right” way to meditate.
Meditation can be anything that allows you to BE and connect with yourself. It’s the practice of focusing one’s mind for a period of time. Yes, you can meditate like a Tibetan monk, sit in stillness, and hold the mind’s focus through pure will. But you can also use guided or walking meditation, sit in nature, listen to the sound of the ocean, dance, music, art, prayer, and binaural beats. Binaural beats are sounds that train your brain by putting it in the same activity state as when you are meditating using traditional methods. (There’s a free download through Sacred Acoustics website if you want to give it a try.)
How do you know which practice is right for you? I’ve found that in order to be successful, meditation needs to be simple, comfortable, and have results that make you want to keep showing up daily.
There’s a great deal of evidence that demonstrates meditation can help:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce anxiety
- Decrease pain
- Ease symptoms of depression
- Improve sleep
Keep reading to learn more about different types of meditation, how to get started, and which one is right for you…
I myself began with guided meditation to both ease into the practice and tame my monkey mind.
Also called guided imagery or visualization, the inspiration comes from Buddha, “The mind is everything. What you think you become.”
Led by a guide or teacher, you form mental pictures or situations that you find relaxing. It’s often suggested to use all five senses to bring about a sense of calm. You can discover many guided meditations on Youtube.
BREATH AWARENESS MEDITATION
This is a type of mindful meditation using your breath. You breathe slowly and deeply, focusing on your inhalation and exhalation. You can either count your breaths or just focus on them for a period of time. The goal is to ignore all thoughts that enter your mind. If a thought enters, come back to your breath. Start with a small increment of time and work your way up.
This involves concentration using any of the five senses. For instance, you can focus on something internal like your breath (like above), or you can use external influences to help you focus your attention. You could hold a crystal in your non-dominant hand, listen to a gong or chime, or stare into a candle flame.
This is a good practice for beginners because it’s difficult for them to hold their focus for longer than a few minutes at first. If the mind wanders, just bring it back and refocus your attention.
This is also a good practice for those who want to work on their quality of attention in their life.
This active form of meditation may include walking through the woods or on the beach, gardening, qigong, yoga, and other gentle forms of motion.
This practice is good for those who find peace in doing, or who are more kinesthetic.
In Buddhist and Hindu traditions, among others, mantra meditation uses a repetitive sound to clear the mind. It can be a word, phrase, or sound like “Om.”
Your mantra can be spoken aloud or silently for a period of time. This allows you to experience deeper states of awareness.
You might like this type if you find it easier to focus on words rather than your breath, or if you don’t like silence.
BODY SCAN or PROGRESSIVE RELAXATION
This meditation encourages you to scan your body for areas of tension. The goal is to become aware of the tension and allow it to release.
One usually starts at the feet and moves slowly up to the head. Some people tense and relax their muscles as they move up their body. Others visualize a wave washing over their body to release tension.
This is a wonderful meditation to do before sleep, to help with pain, or to induce a feeling of calm and relaxation.
LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION
Also called Metta meditation, Loving Kindness Meditation is the practice of directing love towards the self and others. The goal is to cultivate an attitude of love, kindness, and compassion toward everything.
For example, you sit in a relaxed, comfortable position. After some deep breaths, you repeat the following words slowly and steadily (or whatever words resonate with you): “May I be happy, safe, and well. May I be at peace.”
After a few minutes of directing the loving kindness to yourself, you then begin to picture a family members or friends and repeat the mantra again, this time replacing “I” with “you.”
As you continue, you can visualize other people, even those whom you have difficulty with.
Finally, you can end the meditation with a collective mantra: “May everyone, everywhere, be filled with joy and at peace.”
This meditation can help those affected by anger, frustration, resentment, and conflict. It may increase positivity and has been linked to reduced anxiety and depression.
Ultimately, you have to find what resonates with you. The benefits of meditation are immense. Since I began to meditate, I’ve felt clearer, particularly in my decision-making process, more alive, more present and loving towards myself, and more at one with God.
I myself was skeptical until I really tried meditating over a period of time. To reap its benefits, like anything else, you must practice. It’s trial and error to figure out what works for you, but well worth the investment.
HOW I PERSONALLY MEDITATE
- I meditate whenever I can in my day. If you can schedule it, great. But sometimes, life happens so flexibility is key.
- I pray to God, Jesus, Mother Mary, and the Holy Spirit before I meditate. Prayer is a consistent part of my life.
- I choose different methods depending on my mood. But I really enjoy binaural beats.
And if you’re still on the fence about meditation, there was a study conducted to achieve peace through synchronized global meditation. The study observed three different groups of over 7,000 people from Iowa, Holland, and Washington, D.C., meditating each morning and evening for three consecutive weeks. The results were astonishing. According to the think-tank, the Rand Corporation, “acts of global terrorism resulting in fatalities and injuries were reduced by 72%.”
Essentially, the 7,000 people created a Field Effect of harmonious coherence, a type of synergy that spread throughout the collective, which in turn, reduced the acts of terrorism (chaotic energy). Since then, the effect, also dubbed “The Maharishi Effect,” has had over 600 scientific studies conducted in 33 countries. The evidence demonstrates a positive correlation between synchronized group prayer and meditation with political, social, and economic benefits to the world. Positive correlations were also observed and confirmed in the health of the individual.
Pick a style that resonates with you and give it a try.