When it comes to a meditation practice, there really are several paths available. Naturally, some techniques are known to deliver more benefits than others and of course, as an individual, some styles of meditation will resonate with you more and others, less so. Irrespective of this, any time spent in quiet contemplation is of benefit to our general mental health, to our nervous system and our overall sense of wellbeing, so it’s well worth making this a regular part of your overall routine.
Below is a brief summary of a few different types of meditation. In the coming weeks, I’ll be taking a deeper dive into each technique and creating a breakdown of how you can integrate each approach into your daily life.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali states that concentration is at the root of all meditation. For the majority of popular and effective techniques, this is totally true. Meditation is not the act of clearing the mind, but the act of focusing one’s thoughts, either to become more mindful and aware, or to shift into a deeper, more relaxed state of consciousness. Concentrating on a particular object or sound and giving this your full attention for a short period of time is a great way to achieve this.
This is ultimately a type of concentration meditation. Most techniques on meditation apps or online today come into the category of mindfulness. So essentially this is where you stop time travelling (dwelling on the past or being anxious about the future) and focus your mind on the present moment. There are several ways to do this.
Breath Awareness: The great thing about mindfulness is that it’s totally accessible, and this has to be one of the easiest techniques to engage with. Basically, you observe the natural flow of your own breath.
Body Scan: Beginning at the top of the head, slowly scan through the body and bring your awareness to each section. Sometimes it can be good to release tension in the physical body as you think of the different area, but this is not always necessary.
Noting: This is where you begin to observe the mind as if you are looking in. Begin focusing on the thoughts, feelings and sensations passing through and note whether you are experiencing a thought or a feeling at that particular time. Sometimes visualisations help this type of meditation – for instance, you can imagine grouping your thoughts and feelings into different buckets.
This is also known as benevolence or loving kindness meditation. A beautiful technique, this has the power to uplift the spirit. The clue is in the name – the ‘aim’ of this meditation is to encourage kind, loving thoughts to yourself, to your loved ones and ultimately to all of humanity. How gorgeous!
There are different phases to this meditation and depending on how much time you have, I would recommend sitting with each stage for at least 1-2 minutes before moving onto the next. Eventually, it’s advised to sit with each phase for 5 minutes, but if you’re busy, something is always better than nothing.
The Self; starting with the self, you direct feelings of kindness towards your own heart and repeat in your mind the following phrase* “May I be happy, may I be free from suffering, may I live life with ease.”
You then think of someone you care for dearly and extend these thoughts of kindness towards them. “May you be happy, may you be free from suffering, may you live life with ease.”
Then using the same words, you think of a ‘neutral being’ – wishing well to the people in the world that you don’t know.
This is the trickier part – we now think of someone who makes us feel bad – traditionally, this is spoken about as thinking of one’s enemy, but unless you’re living in a soap opera, someone who triggers a negative feeling within you will suffice.
Lastly, we direct these phrases to every living being: establishing a connection with the universe at large and directing our love to the collective consciousness.
*By the way, the phrases you use don’t have to be rigid. It’s better to really feel the sentiment of the meditation, so change up the words to kind thoughts that feel true to you if that’s better.
Wowza, there’s such a lot to say about Mantra that it definitely needs a post in its own right. Broadly speaking, we can think of two different types of Mantra; mantras which have a meaning or a literal translation – generally with the intention to empower or uplift, and then there’s the more traditional kind, where the focus is on the vibrational quality of the sound. Depending on the technique, you can speak a mantra, listen to it or just think it. As I say, more on this to follow in a deeper, frankly mind blowing post in the next few weeks…
Sometimes known as Integrated Meditation, this is an ancient technique from a body of knowledge called the Veda. It involves the mental repetition of a Sanskrit mantra in order to access a deeper state of consciousness and ultimately to transcend to a deeper state, traditionally known as bliss or samadhi. Your mantra is completely individual and passed to you from a teacher or a guru from the lineage.
If you don’t have your personal mantra, then it’s possible to use a generic Sanskrit mantra such as Om or So Hum as a tool to help you gain a clearer state of mind too. These sounds have that vibrational resonance which help to settle the consciousness if repeated over and over.
This is where you think of your own mantra – something which moves you and helps you feel supported and uplifted. A short word or phrase is usually the ticket, something like “I am enough.” “I am strong.” “I am loved.” Basically, “I am” and then whatever your heart needs to hear. Nobody can tell you that your mantra is wrong as it’s whatever makes you feel good. You can take some time to sit and meditate this mantra by repeating it either in the mind, or out loud. If it’s useful, you can come back to it from time to time during your day to remind you of the voice within.
Ultimately, in the context of World Mental Health Awareness week – the key word here is awareness: not only of the issue at large, but more specifically the awareness of ourselves. Any of the techniques above can be used to cultivate this connection to the Self and to find the space we all need to feel whole, present and accepted. When we give ourselves the time we need to become aware of our state, we establish our sense of belonging. Hopefully, if more an more people commit to work of this nature, we will all feel a little bit better and be kinder to one another.
Read more: yogamatters.com