By Kayla Bayens
Meditation, the brooding ruminations of thinking about reflecting on contemplation. The mystical magical mysterious art of ancient societies long since gone. An art shrouded in musings whose secrets to mastery are closely guarded by the few. It is incomprehensible, unattainable, and likely to cause a headache.
Or at least that is what most people would have you believe when it comes to that ‘M’ word. In reality meditation isn’t all that hard. All it is simply a practice of quieting the mind. Think of it like cleaning out the cobwebs and organizing your thoughts. If you do it regularly your mind will run smoothly and efficiently. Go too long between cleanings and you can become easily frazzled, distracted, and flustered. Just like everything it takes making it a regular routine for you to notice a change. But pretty soon your mind will be a whole lot quicker on the up take. To help ensure such an ascent into the cognition foray I’ve went ahead and made this helpful post with all sorts of intellectually enlightening goodies to help you on your path to pondering paradise.
When it comes to meditation there isn’t a one size fits all formula. There are so many different kinds of meditation you can do that you have your pick for one that fits with your personality, needs, and time restrictions. You can dance, walk, run, lay down, sit. There are no bounds to what you are doing when you are meditating. The only rules of meditation are that there are no rules. There is only a goal: inner peace. Or as others like to say “the understanding of your body & mind, the control of both“. By taking time to clear our mind and organize all the goodies that reside in there, what you are really doing is stretching it. Working out your mind and disciplining it. Now I know saying there is an infinite number of ways to meditate is a little daunting to those just starting out so I’ve included what I consider the “Best of Meditation Collection”.
Shikantaza Zen Meditation
This meditation can be done sitting on the floor or in a chair. The most important part to sitting to this is to make sure you keep your back completely straight from your hips to your neck. Your mouth should be closed and your eyes lowered to gaze at the floor a few feet in front of you. Do not use any specific object for this meditation. Just be aware and observe what thoughts float through you mind. Do not dwell on them or attempt to follow them. This form of meditation should be seen as effortless.
Think of this meditation form as meant to bring you insight or clarity (as the it is a Pali word meaning just those things). You will want to start off with a mindfulness of breathing. This will help you develop concentration through something referred to as a samatha practice. All of your attention from moment to moment should be focused on your breathing. The sensations of your chest rising and falling, the length of breathing in and out, the sensation of the air passing in through the nostrils and out through the mouth. Naturally you will notice other things while doing this like sounds and feelings, you should notice them and then return your attention to your breathing. Think of these other things as background noise as you make the object of your attention your breathing.
Once you have mastered access concentration through using the samatha practice you switch to attention being the object of your concentration. This is done via either thought or bodily sensations. You observe and are aware of them without attachments, you let them come and go of their own accord. Do not try to hold on to them or follow them.
This is a western adaption of traditional Buddhist practices, particularly of the Vipassana described above. However this is often stated as being the easiest one for beginners to get into which is why it made our best of list. Essentially during this form of meditation you will be intentionally focusing on the present moment. Accepting without judgement or comment any sensations, thoughts, emotions, or outside disturbances that may happen. Typically this is done much as Shikantaza is as far as the position that needs to be held during the meditation. The object is to be aware of what is going on without losing yourself to them. You will get distracted by things but when it happens you must recognize it is only a distraction and then bring your attention back to focusing on the present as it happens.
Loving Kindness Meditation
Sit in the standard meditation pose either on the floor or in a chair, close your eyes. From here generate in your mind and heart feelings of kindness and benevolence. You are working towards developing wishes of happiness and well-being for all. It can be helped or added by reciting specific words or sentences that evoke warm hearted feelings, be visualizing sending love to those in pain, or by imagining the state of emotion of another and wishing them happiness and peace. The more this is practice the more joy it seems to bring to your life. There will be a progression to this meditation as before you can do it for others you must do it for yourself. The generally agreed upon progression for this meditation is listed below.
A good friend
A “neutral” person
A difficult person
All four of the above equally
The entire universe
Trataka (Gazing) Meditation
Take the standard mediation pose, now fix your gaze on an external object. Normally this is a candle, image, or a symbol. Start with your eyes open and focus later moving on to alternating between gazing at the object and visualizing it in your mind with your eyes close. Hold the image in your minds eye when your eyes are closed to help train both your concentration and your visualization powers.
Vedic & Yogic Hindu Mantra Meditation
Sit with your spine straight and erect, and eyes closed. Repeat the mantra in your mind, silently over and over again during the whole sessions. You may always pair this with the practice of being aware of your breathing in order to coordinate the two things. The mantra may also be whispered very lightly and softly as an aid to concentration. Variations allow you to practice this mediation for a certain period of time, or for a set number of repetitions that are normally either 108 or 1008. If you are going for the 1008 something helpful like beads to help you keep count are useful. Eventually you may find that the mantra continues by itself like a background humming in your mind, or it may disappear altogether to leave in with a deep state of inner peace. Below listed are some of the most well known and tradition Hindu mantras, though anything can be used.
Om Namah Shivaya
Om Mani Padme Hum
The concept of this may seem daunting at first, but do not fear! When you really get into this type of meditation it can be very invigorating,uplifting and relaxing. You may start standing or sitting in the normal meditation pose. Close your eyes and start by focusing on your breathing as you slowly begin to try out different gentle repetitive flowing motions. Focus your attention on your movement just as you would focus your attention on your breathing or mantra. Simple. I find taking a small selection from a session of tai-chi I was taught to work very well here.