The word might conjure up robed monks sitting in caves- but as meditation comes mainstream, millions of people are using this tool to not only decrease stress, but also increase happiness.
Why meditate? Research has shown it can:
•Lower blood pressure
•Strengthen the immune system
•Increase feelings of well-being
•Lessen pain response
Don’t think you can sit on a cushion for 30 minutes a day? No problem, meditation is more about consistency than quantity. After 10 years of practicing mantra meditation, I’ve built up to 30 minutes each morning; pick one that resonates with you, and you’ll find your bliss in no time.
• Mindfulness Meditation: Awareness is on your thoughts and emotions in the present moment with acceptance and non-judgment. Focus on the breath, and be mindful of what you experience while sitting, without letting the mind move to the past or the future.
• Mantra meditation: Pick a word or phrase that resonates with you, and focus on it to prevent distracting thoughts from battling with silence. It could be a simple word like “peace”, or a phrase such as “ I am grateful.”
• Tratak: “Fixed gazing” is where you concentrate on a small object, most often a candle flame, to bring the mind to one pointed concentration. This method first focuses the eyes, then ceases the restlessness of the mind as you go deeper with your gaze.
• Guided meditation: Also dubbed “visualization;” if you’re a visual learner, this one’s for you. Create a mental image of a place or situation you find relaxing, such as the beach, and try to involve as many senses as possible; tastes, sounds, sights, and textures. Imagine yourself there, with a relaxed state of mind—fruity drink in hand. http://www.tarabrach.com/audioarchives-guided-meditations.html
Can’t stand the thought of stillness? These moving meditations will calm your mind en route:
• Walking meditation: When you bring your attention to the sensation of each step you take, you notice each crackle of leaves under your feet, or mud squish as you press down your shoe. When your mind starts to wander, breathe deep and bring it back to the rhythmic stride of left, right, left, right.
• Qi gong: This method of traditional Chinese medicine combines meditation, relaxation, physical movement and breathing exercises all in one to relieve stress and restore balance.
• Tai chi: Performing a series of self-paced movements in a slow, attentive manner, combined with deep breathing is a wonderful way to stay present.
• Yoga: You must be present when trying to balance on one foot in tree pose, or you’ll fall over. Synchronizing flowing movements with your breath, and combining balancing poses is a surefire way to snap to attention. I have a video library on my site www.xenstrength.com where you can learn how to flow, breathe, and calm the mind.
After 15 years of practicing yoga, it’s the meditation that has had the greatest effect on my life. It has helped me to be a better mother, a better wife, a better friend, and a more compassionate teacher. It has taught me to be okay with myself, with the moment, and with whatever the universe throws my way. I promise, if you explore the links above, you’ll find at least one type of meditation that will resonate with you and it will absolutely be one of the best gifts you will ever give yourself.
Already have a meditation practice? Let us know your favorite kind, and how you got started below.