Many people have come to me and asked me how I meditate. They say they are frustrated in their attempts to meditate and just cannot do it. It’s a shame, really, as we unfortunately attempt the most difficult type of meditation right off the bat.
In our minds eye, we envision ourselves sitting on the ground in lotus position, with our eyes closed, our minds clear, and our hearts full. We hold this image of pure bliss and expect to attain it within the first few moments. We imagine if only we had the time to sit quietly, we would achieve utter bliss. Really, why would we ever think that? What in our lives has prepared us to be able to do this?
Here’s the deal. There are many types of meditation and this one, the sitting with a clear mind in utter bliss, is one of the most difficult to achieve. There are many easier methods of meditation that do not get good press. I am going to explain a few of these methods for you to choose to see what, if anything, appeals to you.
My advice is to try a few and see which one(s) feel best. I won’t lie to you, the sitting in lotus with a clear mind and just being, is truly utter bliss. However, it’s not always practical and it’s not always achieved.
I am all about things fitting into your back pocket and your life. So here are the meditation methods in order of ease:
Guess what? Many of us already meditate on a regular basis. If you look up the definition of meditate, it means to think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time… as a method of relaxation. It can be for a religious or spiritual purpose and it can be as a result of silence or chanting. Guess what? It doesn’t have to be, it can be.
So, moving meditation is just that, it can happen while you are moving about doing something else. It could be while you’re walking in nature, running, dancing, swimming, skiing, skating, or doing yoga. It happens when you clear your mind and focus on the activity at hand.
Sometimes, you even become one with your body. You are completely focused on moving your body and not thinking about anything else at that moment.
Most times, when you finish one of these activities, you feel better, more centered, and more alive. This is because you have just experienced a moving meditation.
(Now if you’re talking with someone else or watching television while doing one of these activities, you are not going to achieve that state of focusing your mind and clearing it to all else but the activity. While fun, this is NOT a moving meditation.)
There are many, many guided meditation experts who walk you through the steps for relaxation and help you to clear your mind by having your mind follow what is being said aloud by them and not by the tape forever running in your head.
Guided meditations are wonderful for those who feel that meditation should be about sitting quietly in a peaceful spot, but have trouble quieting their mind.
You will need to take a little bit of time to find a guided meditation that ‘speaks’ to you. I HIGHLY recommend listening to each practitioner for at least a minute. There are some people who will drive you batty after a few moments and other who will soothe and relax you.
If you have an iTunes account, go into iTunes and search on ‘guided meditation’. You will find apps for your iPhone, free Podcasts and guided meditations for purchase.
If you are not an iTunes or Apple user, you can go to www.amazon.com and perform the same search. Again, listen – actually close your eyes and listen. Do not get discouraged if you listen to 5 or 6 people and feel like throwing your machine through the window. This is normal. Take a few deep breaths and try again. You will find someone. For me, I can only listen to two people, both men, John Holland and Brian Weiss. Who knows why I can listen to these two and no one else?
If you would rather not go through Amazon.com, conduct a www.google.com search. Ironically, the first one on the listing is Transcendental Meditation (TM). I would recommend skipping over that one on your first try. There are YouTube videos and Tara Brach www.tarabrach.com is about ¼ down the page. One of my dear friends loves her and I just listened in. She is really good.
With guided meditation, you can focus on something you have been meaning to work on such as: stress relief, weight loss, forgiveness, etc. Start with something easy. Start with something fun. I just saw one for the Inner Smile. Now that sounds fun.
This type of meditation focuses your mind on the breath and relaxes the body through the breath. There are guided meditations online that will help you did this as well. Note: you should start this type of breathing with belly or yogic breath. It’s slow, gentle and very relaxing.
www.meditationoasis.com has a beginner breath awareness meditation that is very good.
If you have not found a ‘guider’ that resonates with you and want to do this on your own. You can print out a script or instructions from an on line source and memorize them. (It’s not that hard as with breath awareness, it’s really all about inhaling and exhaling.)
The monotony of the breath soothes the mind and relaxes the body. After awhile, you will feel centered and connected in a way that your were not before you began.
Visualization or Focus
This type of meditation is all about giving your mind something to do. Keeping it occupied while you relax. You can use guided visualization or a script from an online source or you can just visualize a scene in your head.
However, doing it yourself will help you achieve better control over your wandering mind as you continue your meditation practice.
You can visualize with your eyes open or closed. If your eyes are closed, you can visualize a beach with waves crashing on the shore or a meadow with lots of flowers blowing in the sunny green or a brilliant blue sky with puffy clouds floating by overhead. You can even zoom in one wave, one flower, or one cloud.
If you want to keep your eyes open, focus on a favorite object. Perhaps you have a shell or vase or picture that you love. Focus your eyes on that and sit quietly for several moments. You will notice that your breath becomes relaxed and that your mind doesn’t wander as much as you continue to do this.
If however, this does not work for you, one very successful focus can be employed every time your mind wanders. Imagine your thoughts gathering together in front of you in a beautiful white bubble. As your thoughts stray from your focus, put them into this bubble. Once this bubble is filled, imagine blowing it away, even exhale to help this image. At first, you may have to do this a lot, but over time, you won’t need to employ the bubble as much.
Mantra, Chanting or Transcendental Meditation
This type of meditation involves mantras or chanting that helps to quiet or focus the mind while the body relaxes and a meditative state is achieved. Also, if you say the mantra, the vibration of your voice and the mantra itself is said to lift you to a higher state of consciousness.
There is an entire movement called the Transcendental Meditation movement that employs a particular set of mantras. You could explore this or use other mantras, chant or songs.
I have personally experienced group meditation chanting OM for 4 hours and I have to say it was an AMAZING experience.
However, by yourself and in a 20-minute block, you will want to do something less ambitious. You can go to iTunes and find apps and mantra audio files. Again, listen and see what resonates. I have two favorites, Snatam Kaur and Deva Premal who you may want to try.
Here it is, the Holy Grail of meditation – that perfect image of sitting in that lotus position with a clear mind, full heart and connected soul. Notice that I have listed this LAST as it involves a few elements we discussed in other types of meditation. It also involves sitting in complete silence and being aware of everything around you as well as your thoughts and your feelings. This, my friend, is not for the feint of heart.
To perform mindful meditation, you need to be open, accepting and forgiving of all of your thoughts and feelings in a completely compassionate manner. Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful, but perhaps not for your first go.
In approaching this type of meditation, I would even practice sitting in quiet contemplation with soothing music, drumming or nature sounds in the background before getting into complete silence and full awareness. If you don’t need to do this, perfect. However, if you try this complete quiet and cannot do it at first, ease into it with some soothing sounds.
So, sit quietly, either with or without music (Two easily accessible recommendations: Dave & Steve Gordon: Drum Medicine or Soulfood: Shaman’s Way).
Then notice your breath. Use your breath to relax and soothe your body and connect with yourself. You then notice everything in your mind’s eye. You notice your breath in a whole new way, you are aware of your thoughts and your feelings. You are hyper aware of every bit of quiet and bit of disquiet.
Mindful meditation is not about clearing your mind of all thoughts. It’s about letting your mind wander and welcoming what comes. It’s about connecting with yourself at a whole new level. It’s about self-compassion and self-awareness.
Believe it or not, it’s actually peaceful.
Think about starting a new thing in your life. When you do this, you prepare yourself, do some research, perhaps make some purchases, and get ready to begin.
Whether biking, cooking or gardening, you need to have the right equipment, know something about it, get yourself into the mode of doing it and begin. Once you begin, even if you burn your first meal, you usually don’t quit after that first time. You continue, you practice, you tend, you get better and over time, you usually come to like or love the activity.
It’s the same with meditation. It’s a process and by following a process, you build up to a predictable ability.
Your first time biking, you probably did not bike 10 miles over hilly terrain. Your first time cooking, you most likely did not make a chocolate soufflé. And as a beginner gardener, you would not plant orchids without any prior gardening experience.
So, my recommendation is to start small, make it easy and be kind to yourself.
So, turn off your phones, tablets, TV and ahh…..no outside distractions– the very first step.