Meditation is a good way to finding answers you are seeking for, especially when you are ready to look within to find these answers. There are several ways you can do this.
When you go inside to find the answer you are expecting to get an answer in some sort of way, you just do not know how yet. It is always a good thing to start with wondering how you will get your answer and not if you will get an answer. You simply trust that you will get an answer.
Guided vs. unguided meditation
Choosing between guided and unguided meditation is often the first step in starting a meditation practice. In a guided meditation, someone guides you through the basic steps of the practice, either in person, in an audio, a video or via a meditation app. This type of meditation is particularly useful for beginners because the teacher is usually experienced and trusted. This kind of guidance can be key to helping those who are new to the practice to get the most out of the experience. Most guided meditations follow a similar format: the teacher explains what you have to do and you follow the instructions. This is also a good way when you find it difficult to keep your mind quiet because your mind will be distracted by the guidance.
In unguided meditation — also called silent meditation — you meditate on your own, without someone else guiding you. Unguided meditation often involves sitting in quiet and paying attention to what is happening in the body and your mind for a set period of time. In other situations, it involves using some kind of techniques they’ve learned.
Calming vs. insight meditation
When you are choosing your right meditation practice, you might start by asking what it is that you want to achieve. Are you just looking for ways to release stress, to relax? Or are you trying to find the answer to a problem that is bothering you? Or it may be that you are trying to change something in your vibration, your awareness, etc.
Meditation techniques are often described as being either calming or insight meditation. The intention of a calming meditation is to cultivate a quieter, more peaceful state of mind and improved concentration. Most calming meditation practices get you to focus on something. This can be your breath, a mantra, a visualization, a physical object, or even physical sensations within your body. And whenever you get distracted or notice that your mind has started to wander off again, you return to that.
People who practise insight meditation often set an intention to transform their minds. They do this by developing qualities such as wisdom and compassion. Insight Meditation is a simple and direct way to “see things as they are,” free from distortion. When we see ourselves and the world with greater clarity, we begin to bring understanding to our habitual patterns of being. Insight meditation involves focusing on the breath. At the same time, you are being aware of and noticing all the physical and mental sensations that arise.
The mind learns bit by bit to let go of its programming through the continuous use of mindfulness and concentration. Then it begins to experience a kind of peace that is independent of changing circumstances.
But the interesting thing about meditation is that it doesn’t have to be either one or the other, i.e. calming or insight. In fact, many meditation techniques actually combine elements of both. These meditations are helping us to find calmness and a quiet mind for ourselves. And they also help us to improve your feelings of well-being, happiness, and empathy for others.
Focused attention. This form of meditation is quite straightforward because it uses the breath to focus on. This way you can anchor the mind and maintain awareness. And when you notice that your mind is starting to wander, you can return your attention to the breath.
Body scan. Often, our body is doing one thing while our mind is busy elsewhere. This technique is designed to sync body and mind by performing a mental scan, from the top of the head to the tips of your toes. Imagine a photocopier light moving over your body. This will also bring attention to any discomfort, sensations, tensions, or aches that exist. At the same time, you can relax each part of the body you are paying attention to, this will enhance your calming.
Noticing. Here you are also focusing on the breath or sitting quietly. With this technique, you are noticing what comes up in your mind. You are going to find out what keeps coming back in our thoughts or emotions. This could cause us to lose our awareness of the breath (or whatever we were focussed on). When we notice the thought or feeling in our awareness, we create a bit of space, as a way of letting go. This way we learn more about our thought patterns, tendencies, and conditioning.
Visualization. This type of meditation invites you to picture something or someone in your mind. We are replacing the breath with a mental image to focus on. It can feel challenging to some, but it is not much different than recalling the face of an old friend in your mind. You do the same with this meditation. And when you are creating a specific visualization, you not only can observe the mind, but you also could focus on any physical sensations.
Loving kindness. Focusing on the face of a certain person is integral to this technique. Here it does not matter if we know them or not, nor if we like them or not. We direct positive energy and goodwill first to ourselves, right into our heart. And then, as a ripple effect, to others. This helps us let go of any unhappy feelings we may be experiencing ourselves. All it takes is the imagination of energy that is being sent out from the heart into the environment.
Skilful compassion. This is like the loving kindness meditation technique. It also gets you to focus on a person you know well and/or love while paying attention to the sensations arising from the heart. By opening our hearts and minds for the benefit of other people, we have the opportunity to foster a feeling of happiness in our own mind.
Resting awareness. With this technique, we are allowing the mind to rest. Thoughts may enter. But you will not allow them to distract you or pull you away from the present moment. You simply allow them to drift away. You do not pay any attention to your thoughts.
Reflection. With this technique you to ask yourself a question: this could be something such as, “What are you most grateful for?” By asking yourself a question using the second person, you will discourage the intellectual mind to answer it rationally. Be aware of the feelings, not the thoughts, that arise when you focus on the question.
Some specialised meditations
Here are some other forms of this ancient practice that you may want to explore. (Note: Many of the following techniques should be learned with an experienced — and in some cases certified — teacher to be most effective.)
Zen meditation. This ancient Buddhist meditation technique has you sitting upright and following the breath. You will particularly be paying attention to the way it moves in and out of the belly, and allowing the mind to “just be.” Its aim is to get a sense of presence and alertness.
Mantra meditation. This technique is like focused attention meditation. But instead of focusing on the breath to quiet the mind, you focus on speaking a mantra over and over. This could be a syllable, word, or phrase. The subtle vibrations associated with the sound of the repeated mantra can encourage positive change. This may be a boost in self-confidence or increased compassion for others. It also helps you to enter an even deeper state of meditation.
Transcendental Meditation (TM®). If you are interested in the Transcendental Meditation® program you can visit the Maharishi Foundation’s website. The Maharishi Foundation training of the Transcendental Meditation® program is personalized and individual. This is only trained by licensed instructors on a one-on-one basis. This practice is about sitting comfortably with your eyes closed for 20 minutes twice per day while engaging in the effortless practice as instructed. Students will practice twice a day. This often includes a meditation session in the morning, and another session either in the mid-afternoon or the early evening.
Yoga meditation. There are many different styles of yoga, like Kundalini yoga, that aim at strengthening the nervous system. This enables us to better cope with every day’s stress and problems. But, to integrate the neuromuscular changes that happen during yoga and to get the greatest benefit from the practice, we must spend time with savasana or Shavasana. This is known as corpse or relaxation poses and allows the body to relax and relieve tension.
Vipassana meditation. Another ancient tradition, which invites you to use your concentration. This is to examine certain aspects of your existence with the intention of possible transformation. Vipassana pushes us to find insight into the true nature of reality. You will be contemplating several key areas of human existence, like suffering, unsatisfactoriness, impermanence, non-self, and emptiness.
Chakra meditation. This meditation technique aims at keeping the body’s core chakras — the energy centres along your spine — open, aligned, and fluid. Blocked or imbalanced chakras can result in uncomfortable physical and mental symptoms. Chakra meditation can help to bring them all back into balance.
Qi-gong meditation. This is an ancient and powerful Chinese practice. It involves harnessing energy in the body by allowing energy pathways — called “meridians” — to be open and fluid. Sending this energy inward during meditation helps your own body to heal and function better. And sending the energy outward can help to heal another person.
Sound bath meditation. This form uses bowls, gongs, and other instruments to create sound vibrations that help you to focus your mind and bring it into a more relaxed state.
Did one or more of these meditation techniques speak to you? Remember, in the end, it doesn’t matter which technique you choose. As long as you choose a style that allows you to integrate the qualities, like calmness, empathy, mindfulness, that you experience during meditation practice into the rest of your day.
The easiest way to begin with meditation is with a guided meditation. Below is a link to a guided meditation by Dawn. You do not need to meditate for hours on end to benefit right away. A few minutes per day will already do wonders for your mind and your stress levels. So get started today!
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