So Many Meditation Options - lets find some that work for you
Before I started meditating, I wasn’t sure what meditation really was. Like me, you might think it’s new age “woo woo” stuff, sitting on the floor, legs crossed, eyes closed repeating a “mantra” over and over. You may be hearing a lot more about meditation and mindfulness lately and wonder, “Hmm, is there really a meditation practice that would work for me?”
You might hear people say how great meditating is and think, “ok, but how, why, and what does it really do?”
You might think it is something that is only done by hippies, or those vegan philosophers who go on silent retreats, or people who practice Eastern Religions. These were some of the preconceptions I had about meditation.
“Meditation cuts across different religions and cultures. It’s less about the faith we subscribe to and more about becoming more mindful, focused, and peaceful; more aware of our thoughts, speech, and actions; and more attuned to how our choices affect others” (mindworks.org).
(It is) about becoming more mindful, focused, and peaceful; more aware of our thoughts, speech, and actions; and more attuned to how our choices affect others.”
When I decided to start practicing mindfulness, after learning about all of the scientifically proven benefits, I downloaded an app to my phone – the Insight Timer app. I don’t remember how I selected it. I think I even had a different one (Head Space maybe) before that.
That’s when I found out about all of the different types of meditation. At first, I only wanted to try shorter sessions that were, to me, basic breathing exercises. I’ve since realized the various benefits of the different practices.
On the Insight Timer app, you can choose from different Guided Meditation practices.
If you feel relaxed, rejuvenated, or inspired by music, meditating with sound can be wonderful. Music itself is a “cure-all” for many people.
I really like sounds of nature (like storms or waves). There’s something about nature that is extremely calming, right? The sound of rain can lull me to sleep. Ocean waves can bring back that “I’m on vacation/calm feeling.” (Then, there’s running water that just makes me feel the need to run to the bathroom!)
If you’re a person who doesn’t like to (or can’t) sit still for a period of time, try Movement Meditation, which can range from walking to stretching/yoga. I have literally only done one walking meditation – and it was in a group and we walked in a big circle. The problem with that was that it was at a training and not everyone was “on board” or comfortable doing it, so the vibe was not as calming as it could have been.
I would like to try this during a walk outside sometime (by myself). Some people like this because they don’t prefer to sit still for a period of time. I’m usually ok with that, but there are times when I feel fidgety for sure!
Sometimes this can bring up some difficult emotions, but that is actually good! Guided self observation meditations will many times offer questions to reflect upon, either during the meditation or to write about afterwards. Or, it might just be to pay attention to your thoughts and feelings – all of them, without judgement. Stay open to “observing” yourself.
Ah…this can be hard for many people. Meditation really works this “muscle.” When you focus on one thing (breathing, an object, or a mantra), it helps you learn to develop the ability to stay calm, focused, and present. It leads to being grounded, which includes allowing things to slide off, having confidence in your own beliefs, feeling in control of your emotions, and just having that overall sense of peace (more on this here).
Mindfulness meditation is why I made meditation a constant in my life. There are four types of Mindfulness meditation (further explained here):
- Breathing meditation: where you focus your attention on the sensations of breathing.
- Body scan: where you focus on each individual body part one at a time, from head to toe.
- Loving-Kindness meditation: deigned to foster love and compassion, initially toward a close loved one and then to yourself, others, and eventually the whole world.
- Observing-thought meditation: where you to notice as thoughts arise, possibly label them, but let them “float away” and avoid getting absorbed in them.
This is where you focus on a word or phrase (mantra) or a particular sound that is repeated over and over. If you’ve ever heard of Oprah and Depak Choprah’s 21 Day Meditation Challenges, the meditations offered through those challenges (which are free by the way), include gentle repetition of a mantra. They call this an “anchor” that you focus on and bring yourself back to, when you notice that your mind has wandered.
During visualization meditation, you are asked to picture a goal or situation that you want to manifest in your life. You picture yourself in the situation and really notice all of the details, like smells, temperature, who is around you, what you are doing, what it looks like, etc. You’re imagining/experiencing the feelings associated with the desired goal/situation. Many people swear by this activity. I believe it could really keep you focused on your goal and the steps you need to get there. It is something that I plan to add to my routine. (Will keep you posted!)
You will notice that many of these tend to overlap and a lot of guided meditations combine several of the above practices I really appreciate that because I like when I get “more for my money” (or my time).
Some things I’ve realized or learned about meditation are:
- You don’t have to sit on the floor cross legged.
- You don’t even have to sit up (although if I lie down, there’s a good chance I’ll fall asleep).
- There is no “right way” to meditate.
- It’s perfectly normal for your mind to wander. It’s actually part of meditation.
- What’s important is that you don’t judge yourself or feel badly for what you do or don’t do, during a meditation experience. It’s all ok.
- Not every type of guided meditation will work for every person. And, by “work” I mean “fit.” It also can be that it’s just not the day or time for that particular kind of practice. Another day/time may be better.
- There’s no “magic” place you go to when you meditate, but some days you’ll feel yourself “going deeper” than other days.
- It does get easy to “drop in” and just be super relaxed in your body and in the moment. (But not every time is it equally easy.)
I personally cannot say enough about the positive benefits of meditation. Just like every subject, you can dive way deeper, get technical, and learn about the scientific reasons to meditate and the biological affects a person experiences.
For me, what’s most important is that IT WORKS and IT HAS BEEN PROVEN to help improve a person’s mental, physical, emotional health. It is FREE. There are NO negative side effects! AND it’s not difficult or time consuming!
More Stuff to Check Out (Real Quickly…If You Feel So Inclined)
Intro to Meditation — The Joy of Self-Observation By Devi Sawh
A great article on Meditation and how truly amazing it can be.
How to Use Meditation to Visualize Your Goals: Super helpful step-by-step guide.
What do you think? Do you meditate? How has it helped you? If not, do you think you want to try it? (see me encouraging you here…).
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This Post Has 3 Comments
Movement meditation? I have never heard of that but it sounds like my kind of meditation. I will have to try! Thanks for this.
This is a great overview on meditation, Lisa! I especially like the quotation you included near the beginning about meditation cutting across different religions and cultures, as I think it’s important that people realize that it doesn’t mean signing up for a whole new belief system. I’ve been dabbling in mindfulness meditation off and on for a couple of years, plus doing yoga, and I really feel like it’s been very beneficial to me. Just the act of focusing in on my breath can often be enough to get me through a stressful experience. You’ve reminded me here of why I need to be better about meditating more regularly … the benefits are worth it!
Thanks for sharing your experience Lauren! And, for reiterating that you don’t have to change your beliefs to practice meditation and/or mindfulness. : )
Always appreciate you!