I’m sure by now you’ve probably heard the benefits of meditation for all kinds of things, and maybe you’ve even tried to meditate, but for one reason or another, it just didn’t work out. Maybe your mind drifted too much, or you got bored. That doesn’t mean meditation is not for you. It just means you need to find a different kind. In this post, I’m going to tell you about all the forms of meditation, as well as how my journey with mediation has evolved.
I came across meditation while in college. It was a dark time for me. Sheltered kids can go one of two ways when experiencing culture shock. They can either go to one extreme with partying it up and indulging in the risky behavior that they may not have been permitted to explore when at home, OR they can become extremely anxious and depressed. The anxiety and depression route was the one I took. I remember not having the strength to leave my dorm to go to class. While I wanted to go for writing and art, I knew my parents wouldn’t support that and I couldn’t think of a career that would make us both happy.
The only class I seemed to have enough energy to go to was a yoga class that was hosted at the University gym and was free for students.
I remember my first meditation experience. The instructor told me and about twenty other students to lay on our mats in corpse pose. I remember following the instructions to close my eyes, and focus on my breath and envision being engulfed in a bright white healing light. I was a bit skeptical, but I was also desperate for some relief from my anxieties. At the end of the session, I remember feeling a level of peacefulness that I hadn’t experienced in a really long time. It got me really interested in how meditation works.
I still experience anxiety and depression from time to time, but meditation has always helped.
Commonly it’s believed that meditation is about stopping your thoughts and just focussing on your breath. This is one kind of meditation, but there are actually many more that you can use for different things. For example, if I’m dealing with a fear or a worry, I might meditate to slow my mind down so I can think clearly and logically about a situation or problem. I might use a guided meditation if I find my mind to be noisy and full of fast panicked thoughts. I might also use mindfulness meditation, during a time I might not be able to sit down and close my eyes. A basic definition of Meditation is that it’s an intentionally set time where you focus on your mind.
Meditation can be so life-changing that science has investigated people who practice it and found that’s it’s actually all that people say it is. It can reduce stress, lengthen your attention, controls anxiety, helps with emotional health and healing, enhances self-awareness, generates kindness, and can even increase your brain’s gray matter!
I’m going to go down a list of different kinds of meditations and then tell you which ones I started with and how my meditation practice has evolved.
1.) Sound Bath Meditation: I enjoy this kind of meditation. It’s when you close your eyes and you listen to music that is meant just to be heard during meditation. It’s usually played at a certain frequency that is believed to influence your mind and emotions and do things like lift your mood, or help you focus. I’ve been to meditations where someone will play singing bowls, or repetitively beat a drum, but if you want to experience something similar, just go to YouTube and look up Binaural Beats these are best enjoyed with headphones, but you might find that they really affect how you feel and might even help with anxiety. All you have to do is sit there and listen to the music. The one above is what I like to listen to when I just need quiet to either think about something specifically or just be in the moment.
2.) Chakra Meditation: I’ve touched on this a few times on this blog. It’s believed that your body is made up of central areas of energy called chakras. You have seven. The root chakra is located at the tailbone, the sacral is between your hip bones, the solar plexus is two inches above your belly button, the heart chakra is located at your heart, the throat chakra is at your throat, your third eye is located between your eyebrows, and then your crown chakra which is located at the very top of your head. Each chakra corresponds to different needs. So the root is all about how safe you feel, the sacral is all about how you enjoy pleasure in all forms, the solar plexus is about your personal power, the heart is all about how you love, the throat chakra controls how you express yourself, the third eye is about your knowledge and intuition, and your crown is responsible for transcending your limitations and your spiritual connection.
If you find you NEED TO THINK while you’re meditating, it might be helpful to do a chakra meditation. There you can focus on the location, the color, and the meaning of each chakra in connection with you and your body. If you go on YouTube you can find guided meditations that will give you positive affirmations for each chakra, or you can look for an individual chakra, OR you can use music that is toned to each chakra and a bell rings as you go to the next. I really enjoy the one above and often use my Mala Necklace to help me focus on an affirmation or breath if I’m particularly wound up. If you want to look into Malas Necklaces you can read THIS POST, or you can visit my SHOP.
3.) Mantra Meditation: Coming from Hindu and Buddhism is a repeated sound or word to help focus the mind. More than likely you would think of the sound “Om” in meditation. Om is believed to be a universal sound, meaning that as you say it and let the end hum out, you resonate with all living things around you. On a less metaphysical level, (if you are a skeptic like me), saying a one-syllable word over and over allows your mind to worry about one small action that is repeated which prevents it from drifting too far. To do a mantra meditation you can use the video above. Just sit comfortably, and say “Ommmmm” in sync with the other voices. This is extremely helpful if you’re trying to slow your mind when dealing with racing thoughts or anxiety.
4.) Body Scan: This is an excellent meditation to do if you experience panic attacks. Panic attacks can feel horrible (I know because I often have them). When I was learning how to work with them, the first step was to just FEEL, what they FEEL like. At that time I was doing exposure therapy and this involved breathing through a stir stick to induce a panic attack so that I could have one knowing that I was safe and that it was just my body’s response to not having enough air. I can also experience panic when my heart rate is elevated like on a treadmill or working out. Part of my treatment was to understand 1st that I was safe, but secondly to take all the emotion out of the panic attack and just feel where it was in my body. A body scan meditation is a guided meditation where you are asked to focus on a particular body part one at a time. You focus on feeling everything you can about it. For me, my anxiety resided a lot in my stomach. I would do a body scan and be asked to focus on how my stomach felt. I would acknowledge that it felt tight, maybe I’d have skin prickles on my neck, or maybe my mouth would be dry. Sometimes just acknowledging “I feel anxiety here” was enough to stop the anxiety altogether. This is a great way to get out of your head and into your body. So if you (like me) are a thinker and live a lot of your life in your thoughts and feelings, it’s nice to go downstairs once in a while and see the rest of the “house” you live in called your body!
5.) Guided Meditation: Guided meditations are what I started off with when I was really struggling with anxiety. Sometimes hearing another person’s voice and listening as they guide your mind to focus on different things. For me, when I panic I often struggle with racing thoughts. I started off listening to guided meditations that took me on a walk-in imaginary woods or to sit by a beautiful pond deep in the woods. As I grew away from my anxieties, the guided meditations I chose changed too. Right now, I’m really into this morning meditation by Michael Sealey, he’s Australian and has a nice voice tone that I don’t find distracting. There are all kinds of guided meditations too from healing your inner child to meeting your spirit guides.
6.) Loving Kindness Meditation: This is a beautiful meditation especially if you’re trying to cultivate self-love or love towards others. It starts off by really concentrating and wishing yourself love because all love for others really starts with the love you have for yourself. From there, you send your love to others who are special in your life and even those you may have issues with. It’s just a gorgeous meditation and very healing.
7.) Mindfulness Meditation: This is a meditation you can do if you don’t have time or if you’re not comfortable sitting still. You can do this while walking, and I often do this when I have a lot of house chores. Turn off all electronics. No music, no distractions just you, and the world around you. If you’re walking, notice how your feet feel walking. Notice your body. Notice the world around you. What do you see? What do you smell? How does this make you feel? I often do this when I’m washing dishes. I smell the soap and feel the water temperature on my hands. I focus thankfulness for each of the dishes that I wash. If my mind wanders, I acknowledge that it’s wandered and bring it back to focussing on what I’m doing. This is a good meditation to do if you’re not feeling particularly anxious but would like on being more in the moment. It’s like what they say, “If you’re depressed you’re living in the past. If you’re anxious, you’re living in the future. If you are at peace you’re living in the moment”.
I hope these quick morning meditations really help you start your day off right. If you’d like to be kept up to date on future posts, and giveaways please SIGN UP HERE. May you have a gorgeous day to match your gorgeous morning! -Heather Astaneh