You may even discover that you’ve already been meditating without realizing it.
First, let’s discuss what meditation is. There can be many points of view on what it is. I’m not trying to make my definition the ONLY definition, neither am I trying to make up a new definition. Meditation is a practice. Meditation is a holistic practice. Meditation is a strategy to combat stress. Meditation is a spiritual and/or religious practice. Meditation is a conscious relaxation process. [i]
This conscious practice of activating the relaxation response in ourselves is what I am talking about. I realize that many people are interested in beginning to meditate, but they may not know how to begin for various reasons and then they just don’t begin or begin but drop it after some attempts. I really want you to know that Meditation is for everyone and you CAN develop this practice for your own well being.
Why in the world do you want to begin to meditate?
Maybe you are already doing it. Did you know that you can meditate in lots of ways! Let’s see. The basic variations/techniques of meditation are primarily broken down into two main categories:
Focused and non-focused. What this means is that for focused or concentrative meditations you practice putting one thing in the foreground and letting all other things pass by in the background. In this one, you focus on the chosen object and “just watch” the background stuff pass by. The non focused means there is no focal point or object of focus. Keep in mind that sometimes these two distinct styles converge into one meditation.
Alright, are you ready for the basic meditation variations? I can tell that you are. Here we go.
Basic Meditation: This is about getting in a comfortable position and just trying to quiet your mind and do nothing. Warning! Not so easy to do if you tend to have ants in your pants and keep lots of what’s been said in your head. However, if you want to try this way to start, it may help to think of yourself as an observer of your thoughts, just watching what’s going on but letting it just pass by and not get involved with it.
Focused Meditation: This is about focusing on an object such as breath, for example. Other examples are a rose, a sound or music (all sensory objects) that you may have thoughts on, but you don’t engage with your thoughts. If you feel yourself doing that, you go back to the object of focus. The object can really help to keep you in the present, the present moment.
Activity Oriented Meditation: This is my personal favorite technique, only because I love engaging my body. This style of meditation is one where you get into a feeling of flow in the activity you are engaged in. Some active forms of meditation may be walking, washing clothes, chopping wood, carrying water, water vegetables, or drive the car. Whatever we are DOING, as long as we do it with the energies of mindfulness and concentration and insight in our mind and body, then we are practicing meditation.
Mindfulness Techniques: I think this style ties with the activity oriented meditation in terms of personal faves. The mindfulness technique simply involves staying in the present moment. Your object of focus can be the sensation you feel in your body. This works to help stay present. Equally effective is to focus on your emotions and sense where you feel them in your body. Remember, though, don’t caught up in the thinking process, just experience and sense all of this.
Spiritual Meditation: This refers to meditation as a spiritual practice that may or may not be associated with religion. Meditation can be a form of prayer. For example, in Christianity, meditation has been described as the place to come to listen to God rather than to petition to God. But, you can meditate on a single question or meditate to clear your mind and accept whatever may come your way on any given day. This style of meditation has a nourishing and healing effect on your body and mind.
I want to touch a little bit more on focusing and our senses in meditation. As you sit still, do nothing and just watch your inner dialogues without reacting, you’ll find that your mind doesn’t want to just do nothing. It’s virtually impossible to just do nothing. Our mind will find something to think on (and thinking is being busy) and before you know it turns into something to do. So, when we want to a break and do nothing we need to feed our minds an object of focus. The object is like an anchor for us, slowing the mind down and holding us still for a moment. If you experience a stressful or troublesome thought, you pull free from it as you return to the anchor. Author of How Meditation Heals, Eric Harrison says “Focus, detachment, a passive awareness – these are the core skills in meditation.” Most meditation objects are sensual, like the breath, the body, sounds, music, a repeated word or phrase (mantra, affirmation, chant etc.). Using our senses shifts us from the dark side of thinking to the lightness being and the simplicity of just feeling and just seeing.
The physiology of meditation, what is happening in our bodies?
- A major drop in metabolic activity
- A reduction in lactate levels and muscle tension
- Slower breathing,
- Drop in blood pressure (for those whose pressure is high)
- A shift in faster beta brain waves to slower alpha, delta, and theta brain waves, experiences of peace and relaxation.
This is the body’s relaxation response, and meditation helps to bring it on consciously. It is possible to put the mental noise aside and create a sacred space to simply listen, feel, and just be, in peace.
Quick Meditation Tips
- To relax, shift from thinking to sensing and come into the present moment.
- Core instructions for almost every meditation anywhere in the world are:
- Focus on an object
- When the mind wanders reel it back and
- Let all other sensations and thoughts pass by.
- Don’t try to force something to happen
- Don’t over analyze the meditation
- Don’t Try too hard to make your mind go blank and chase thoughts away
- Don’t place emphasis on doing it right
Here are two videos that describe two different approaches to a meditation practice.
[i] How Meditation Heals, Eric Harrison