I have been a ‘fair weather’ meditator for many years. I started meditating when I was training to be an actor in 2005. My acting teacher was, and still is (I believe), a buddhist and avid meditator. He would frequently mention Buddhism and the benefits of meditation during class.
I have always had an active brain, what some forms of Buddhism refer to as the ‘monkey mind,’ restless and somewhat uncontrollable. Eckhart Tolle, (in my opinion), one of the greatest spiritual teachers of our age, refers to the busy mind as the egoic mind. Whilst I appreciate that on occasion an active mind may serve me, it certainly does not help to create a calm and centred self.
There are so many different types of meditation out there, which can be a little overwhelming for those that have never meditated before or those (including myself) that are seeking the right meditation for them. I have felt so confused in the past that I personally went from one meditation to another type of meditation, until I eventually stopped meditating all together.
Recently I have been thinking about meditation a lot and speaking to others about their practices, which has inspired me to start meditating again. I am curious as to which mediation would benefit me the most, and therefore have written this article as a way to fathom it all out myself and hopefully inspire some of you to join me in meditating # increase global consciousness.
So what is meditation?
The act of being in the present moment. The daily practice of meditation can help oneself remain in the here and now, rather than incessantly being immersed in one’s thoughts. The mind is like any muscle in the body, it needs to be exercised. Meditation has an accumulative effect, therefore the more regularly you meditate the more sustained benefits you will reap. The serious meditators will say that meditation is much more than just sitting still with with your eyes closed, however this may be the very beginning for you, the act of putting time aside and sitting quietly, observing what you can hear, may be the kickstart to regular practice.
So what type of meditation is best for me?
There are so many forms of meditation. There is no quick answer, or one size fits all. The only way to truly find out what type of mediation suits you is to try as many as you see fit and see which one resonates with you the most.
Guided or Visualisation meditation may be a good place to start your meditation journey, as your mind will be focussed on the teachers voice and suggestions, rather than your own busy stream of thoughts.
Focus meditation may help those with a busy mind, as your attention is placed on something, for example, your breath, a candle flame or a particular sound. If this sounds good to you, then it will be worth researching, Kundalini, Mindfulness or Zazen meditation practices.
Spiritual meditation helps to connect with the divine, God as you understand him/her or the universe. This type of meditation is usually focussed on a specific prayer or question.
Mantra meditation – Traditionally known as Vedic meditation is also said to be good for those with a wilful,busy mind. The teacher provides each student with their own personal mantra, which is to be kept to yourself. The mantra is repeated over and over for a duration of around 20 minutes twice a day. This type of meditation can be a good fit for those who like a more structured approach. Vedic meditation has been around for years. A particular form of this Vedic meditation was developed by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi which is very popular today and is known as Transcendental Meditation. There are millions of meditators around the world who find this form form of mediation hugely beneficial. Also known as ™ meditation.
Movement Meditation is also a thing.
The most popular types of moving meditation are yoga, tai chi and walking. Walking meditation is also a Buddist practice, whereby you place full attention on the sole of the foot as it lands and lifts from the ground. There are so many types of yoga, again this will probably be a case of trial and error until you find the one you like the most. I personally love Bikram and Kundalini yoga for two very different reasons, I love the way Bikram makes my body feel and I love the effect Kundalini has on my mind.
How to get started…
You could start with an app on your mobile telephone such as Headspace, Calm, Buddify to name a few, or you could try the following simple meditation
Sit comfortably, crossed leg on the floor or on a chair. Hands, palms up resting on your knees, spine upright, relaxed yet aligned body. Close your eyes. Breathe in and out from your nose (if possible). You may want to place your attention on your breath, the rise and fall of your stomach or the air going in and out of your nostrils. Be the witness to your thoughts and feelings. Allow them to pass by. Thoughts may be persistent and try to demand your immediate attention, acknowledge the thought and take your focus back to your breath.
Recommendation is to start with 1- 2 minutes, increasing the time gradually each week. It can help to have a set time of day dedicated to meditation, so that it easily becomes a part of your daily routine.
If you find it hard to sit still, it may be best to attempt this when you feel at your calmest, i.e first thing in the morning, or just before bedtime. It is probably best initially not to try to sit in stillness when you are feeling strong emotions, or irritation as this may create a feeling in yourself that “meditation is impossible” or “I cannot meditate.” Everyone has the ability to do some form of meditation, it just takes practice.
Some people find it possible to meditate on the bus or train or in the park during your lunch hour. I prefer to be in a warm, quiet room. I often light incense or a candle prior to meditating , so as to signify that this is a time for myself and the smell instantly relaxes my body, enabling me to sit still a little longer.
Is there any point in practising meditation? What are the benefits of meditation?
Meditation has been recognised by many as a way to produce a feeling of calmness and mental clarity. It may also help with stress, anxiety and depression. Some report that it helps deepen their sleeping, in fact one well known teacher of meditation, Will Williams of Beeja Meditation, started meditating to cure his own insomnia.
I will end with a quote from Eckhart Tolle:
“If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place”
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