When we think of meditation, I think we all envision a monk sitting calmly under a beautiful tree, sitting perfectly straight, possibly levitating, with his legs crossed and hands rested on his knees or in his lap. Even though this is the traditional way of a meditation practice, there are many different ways to practice mindfulness and meditation.
By definition, meditation is the action or practise of meditating. Therefore, meditation can be whatever you wish it to be.
I personally practice Transcendental Meditation (TM), where we are given a mantra specific to us and we meditate for 20 min, 2 times a day. This practice is meant to be effortless, you allow your thoughts to come and go as you repeat your mantra with your breath over and over again. The other part of this practice is you sit comfortably, if that is cross-legged and in a straight posture, great, but for myself, I will sit with my back rested against a wall or the back of a chair or couch with either my legs crossed or straight out in front of me.
This is the perfect practice for me, but for yourself, this may not work. Mindfulness is about finding what works for you and your individual needs. It’s paying attention to what gives you anxiety or upsets you through the day, but also finding out what calms you back down after those situations have passed. There is no sense in trying to force something that does not work for you, however, to know if it works or not, you need to first give it a try.
Here are 5 meditation practice methods you could give a try:
- Transcendental Meditation
As I mentioned above, this is the practice I personally do every day. This is not paid advertising for TM, but my own personal experience with it and how much it has helped me through the years. This is a technique that you learn through a teacher and a course, but it is very understandable and does not take weeks or months to perfect. Once you learn it, you’re good to go and practice everyday. On their website they state, “In the TM course, you learn how to effortlessly transcend — go beyond the surface level of your awareness. This state of deep inner silence is typically unavailable from meditation apps and other techniques.” As I mentioned, you are given a mantra specific to you and you are to practice the technique 2 times a day, 20 min each time. If you want to learn more about TM, click here for their website and to find an instructor near you.
There is a lot of talk starting to arise all over the internet about breathwork. So what exactly is it? Breathwork is any type of breathing exercises or techniques. There are many different ways to practice this technique, all from sitting and being mindful of your ribcage rising and falling, to counting breathwork where there is a sequence of breaths in an order like 4-4-4 (inhale for 4 seconds – hold the breath for 4 seconds – slowly release for 4 seconds). This is an afordable (as you could learn this technique for free on the internet/in a book or through an instructor) and an available technique for everyone. As mentioned, one example of a breathwork technique is through a sequence of numbers. For example, 4-4-4, you want to slowly inhale your breath in paying attention to the expansion of your ribcage and through your nose for 4 seconds, then hold that breath for 4 seconds, and end by slowly releasing your breath for another 4 seconds. You can also play with these numbers as well to make it easier and more challenging by having your numbers as 3-3-3 or 10-10-10, or even 5-10-15.
Another technique that is very effective is alternate-nostril breathing. This technique is one type of pranayama or breathing practice, also known as nadi shodhana. With this technique you want to sit comfortably, bring your right hand up to your nose and move your forefinger and middle finger out of the way. Place your thumb on your right nostril. With this nostril covered, close your eyes and exhale fully and slowly through your left nostril. Once you’ve exhaled completely, release your right nostril and put your ring finger on the left nostril. Breathe in deeply and slowly from the right side. Make sure your breath is smooth and continuous. Once you’ve inhaled completely, exhale through your right nostril. Release your ring finger and close your right nostril with your thumb again. Breathe in fully and exhale fully from your left nostril. Repeat the full process two or more times.
As mentioned there are many types of breathwork techniques to explore and try to see which one works for you!
Another helpful practice is counting. This one ties in with breathing as while you are counting you will be paying attention to your breath. Sit comfortably, and inhale through your nose as much as you can while you count 1, then exhale. Inhale again saying 2 either outloud or to yourself, and exhale completely. Repeat this pattern until you count to 10, then start over again from 1. Try to sit doing this technique for around 5 minutes to start and slowly increase from there. The point of this exercise is to get you slowing your breath down and to pay attention to how you are breathing as well. Which brings me to my next point…
- Being Mindful
Did you know being mindful of your everyday life and living in the moment can also be considered a form of meditation? When was the last time you went for a walk without headphones or a phone and payed attention to everything happening around you? This can be a form of active meditation or mindfulness. For example, go for a 10 minute walk and listen to all of the sounds around you, feel the sun or wind on your skin, pay attention to what you are seeing as you walk. Just by tuning into your senses for only 10 minutes to start, it can be a wonderful way to get a mindfulness practice in if you are not ready to try meditation just yet. You can do this with not just walking, but when you’re painting or drawing, playing a musical instrument, playing a video game, reading a book, etc.
One more technique you could try, which ties into all types of mindfulness and meditation, is diaphragmic breathing. Laying on your back place one hand on your chest and one on your belly. You want your breath to start from your diaphragm, so the hand over your belly should move first and the next movement is your chest. Imagine as if you are blowing up a balloon from your stomach, as that balloon gets bigger there is a bit of movement into your chest and when you let that balloon go, the exhale will go from your chest back down to your stomach. Another way of thinking of it is you want to expand your ribcage from the front, side and into your back so you get the full surface area of your thoracic cavity (the area inside your ribcage where your lungs are located). This can be a bit frustrating at first, but keep at it and you will have it down in no time.
- Listening To a Recording
This is another popular choice and for good reason. There are so many different apps you can download like Headspace or Calm, but they all have one thing in common, it’s an easy and affordable way to try out mindfullness and meditation. They typically have recordings on them that either take you through a story, help you be mindful of how you are feeling from head to toe, they will take you through a breathing technique or help you with counting a sequence. Most apps will have a free trial, but some eventually have you paying for the app as a one time fee or monthly fee. With technology as it is these days, almost everyone has a smartphone or tablet they can use to access these types of apps. They are a great place to start, but if you wanted to try something else or this type of meditation does not work for you, trying one of the other techniques mentioned above can be just what you are looking for!
You do not need fancy crystals or rocks, weighted blankets, or a cusion specifically for meditation to sit on. To try out meditation and build yourself a consistent practice that works best for you, all you need is yourself and somewhere to comfortably sit. Give one of the techniques mentioned above a try and let me know on here or on my Instagram which one works best for you!
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