Want to lower your stress, increase your focus, improve your sleep, relieve pain and even become more attractive to others? Then meditation is definitely for you. But meditation is not a one size fits all practice. It's not all about clearing all your thoughts and ignoring that itch on your nose. There are many different types of meditation and it's important to experiment with different types before proclaiming that meditation just isn't for you.
Here are my top three meditation styles that help me stay focused and feeling like the best me.
Mindfulness is a buzz word these days. It's in all the blogs and even the email threads being past around at your work place. Mindfulness meditation is all about training your brain to focus on the present moment. We spend so much time dwelling on the past or worrying about the future that we actually program our brains to ignore the present moment. This causes higher levels of stress than necessary and keeps us from not only enjoying what's happening in the moment but reduces our ability to focus.
Mindful meditation starts with a focus on breathe, then moves on to performing a body scan where you focus your attention on the sensations in your body. It also emphasizes observing any thoughts that arise with compassion and a sort of third person curiosity, as you label any emotion that arises (this is anxiety) and let it pass by without getting absorbed by it.
Loving kindness Meditation
An important tool for healthy living is compassion. Compassion towards others as well as towards yourself. Loving kindness meditation is a great way to strengthen your compassion muscle! Practicing kindness has been linked to diminished stress, happier mood, reduced inflammation in the body, and can even make us more attractive to others! One of the most valued traits we seek in a partner has been shown to be kindness.
Loving kindness meditation is initiated by bringing to mind people who have shown you love and kindness. This person could be alive, passed on, in your life currently, from your past, a friend, parent, teacher or even a beloved pet. Imagine that person (or pet!) right next to you sending you their love and well wishes. After bathing in these feelings for however long you'd like, direct your own love and well wishes back to them. Then you can pick a neutral person, the mailman/lady or a barista at the coffee shop and practice sending your well wishes to them as well. Sometime a loving kindness meditation will then have you send love to someone you may be having difficulty with, or simply sending love and kindness to the world as a whole.
Guided Imagery Meditation
The mind-body connection is a powerful tool. The sense of zen you experience walking on the shores of a white sand beach, with the smell of the ocean and feeling of cool breeze on you skin can be experienced without having to leave your work cubicle. The body responses to mental imagery almost identically to the actual physical experience. This is also why your heart starts to race, breathing gets shallow and palms get sweating at the mere thought of the presentation you have to give to your boss at the end of the month even though you are safe and warm in bed at night. Guided Imagery can be used in a myriad of ways from simply changing your mood from fearful to grateful, to healing your body, by imagining diseased cells being taken over by healthy ones.
Guided Imagery meditation is usually most effective when administered by an experienced individual who understands how to properly use symbols and metaphors while skillfully integrating the senses. Although simply closing your eyes and imagining yourself in your happy place will increase your wellbeing and mood within 10-15 minutes. So give it a try!
Often associated with the benefits of meditation in half the time, Binaural beats is the most recent meditation I have been experimenting with. In short, Binaural beats work to calm the mind by guiding it to a lower frequency. You wear earphones as tones of different frequency play in each ear. Your brain combines the frequency of each tone to create a new, imagined tone, which can quickly induce the same benefits as traditional meditation. I have been listening to binaural beats to help fall asleep at night and have so far found them effective. As I continue to experiment with this alternative I will be sure to post any updates on my progress.
While you can research and create your own scripts for each of these meditations I recommend starting with a recording to guide you. There are many great meditation programs out there you can buy, but I recommend the "insight timer" app as you can search and experience many different types of meditation for free while you search for the right one for you.
What's your favorite type of meditation? Have you tried any of the ones I listed? Let me know your experiences in the comments. I'd love to hear from you!