Meditation is a great way to calm your mind, release tension and experience bliss consciousness — but there are more ways to practice than you may think
Every day it seems like there is more compelling research about why we should be meditating. According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation can reduce stress, increase our emotional and physical health, make us more creative, and help us be more patient and tolerant people. In other words, meditation may just be the fastest, most reliable route to your best self.
Have you tried it once or twice?
Maybe all that stuff about focusing on your breath and letting go of your thoughts wasn’t for you, because let’s be honest, it’s not for everyone. It certainly wasn’t for me.
When I first tried meditating, I felt so frustrated. This was not surprising given that I have the kind of brain that overflows with thoughts and ideas even when I am at my most calm. The moment I was told to let go of my thoughts they started multiplying like bunnies on Viagra. Meditating definitely wasn’t helping me to feel calm. Actually, in the beginning, it felt like a new way for me to get stressed… and I definitely didn’t need to add to that list.
But after a bit of research I learned that the silent practice of focusing on your breath and letting go of your thoughts is a style of meditation described as ‘mindfulness meditation’. But this is only one of the ways to meditate. And the good news is that if you don’t like this style, there are plenty of other ways to meditate that can give you the same amazing benefits.
Here are 3 additional ways to meditate (and I’m betting there’s one that is right for you!):
Guided meditations are great for people who’ve given mindfulness a try but felt overwhelmed by the cacophony of their thoughts. With a guided meditation you’re not alone in your head because you’ve got someone else to listen to — someone who will gently and expertly lead you into a relaxed state, often with the added bonus of calming music or nature sounds. There are tons of guided meditations to choose from for free on YouTube, simply choose one and click play. And there are many meditation apps for your smartphone, as well.
Guided meditations are often done while lying down. This means they offer the mind and the body a way to deeply relax.
And to be clear, deep relaxation is different than simply lounging around on the sofa, binge watching Netflix! When you are in a state of deep relaxation your mind is still and your body is free from all tension. This creates a healing state and an effortless way to reduce stress and calm yourself fully.
Do you want to meditate but have a hard time sitting still? No problem! There are plenty of ways to kick that cushion to the curb and put some movement in your meditation. When people hear the words, ‘moving meditation’ they often think of yoga. While it’s true that yoga can be a form of moving meditation, if all that stretching and pose-holding isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other ways to meditate on the move. For instance, you could practice Tai Chi or Qigong. If that’s still too slow, try putting on some music and start dancing. Prefer some nature in your meditation? Go outside for a walk, a hike or a run. If you can do this amidst the beauty of nature, all the better. If there is a labyrinth near you, try walking it to get calm (bonus: you can take a picture of it and post it on social media. Seriously, how many of your friends are going to be posting about being at a labyrinth?).
Here’s the truth: Just about anything can be a moving meditation as long as you move with intention.
That means pulling out the ear buds and actually becoming aware of your body and your surroundings as you let go of the competition and the (self) judgment.
Mantra — or chanting meditation as it is sometimes called — is simply the practice of repeating a word or short phrase. You can do this out loud or silently in your head. The wonderful thing about mantra meditation is that it gives your mind something more concrete to focus on, instead of something less tangible like your breathe.
I like to think of mantra meditation as a way of giving your monkey mind a banana, which is a lot easier than trying to wrestle it into submission.
A mantra takes all the chaos of your thoughts, worries, fears, memories, and stress, and then replaces them with one single word, or short sentence, to focus on. Essentially, it takes you from all that internal bustle and noise, to the serenity of a single, calming sound. Sounds like a mini vacation for the mind, doesn’t it? To find a mantra, search Google to find one that resonates with you, is easy to remember, and helps you to feel calm and relaxed. And there are YouTube videos to teach you how to pronounce those fancy Sanskrit mantras, so even if you’re not able to act like a guru all the time, at least you’ll be able to sound like one!
You may also enjoy reading Mantras in Motion: Leveraging the Medicine of Movement, by Erin Stutland.