Meditation and You
Do you hear people talking about different meditations all the time? Read everywhere how meditation can help you but only know it as a religious or hippie practice? You will find below seven different meditations, who uses them and why. Therefore, continue to read to find out why most people that use meditation aren’t worshiping, neither are they subscribed to a movement or cult.
Mindfulness is a practice in itself and is exactly what it says on the tin, being mindful. Those who set the intention to live mindfully use meditation to achieve a mindful way of life. Mindfulness involves living with full presence and awareness, without judgement and with acceptance.
There is confusion between meditation and mindfulness. Are they the same thing, are they different things used together? Mindfulness is a way of living. Meditation is thought of as a structured practice to achieve a particular state of mind. In other words, regular meditation practise helps to achieve the incredible state of mindful being, which is like a permanent state of meditation.
Any form of meditation that brings your awareness to yourself is a step towards living mindfully. Read my blog post on mindful meditation to learn three different meditations that you can start using today to begin your mindful way of life.
As an example; you can use your breath, the feelings within your body or your emotional feelings as a focus. If you find that your mind drifts bring it back to the focus you chose as often as you can.
Introduced to the World by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1950s, transcendental meditation is a specific technique, with practitioners taught at the Transcendental Centre.
The recommendation is that the technique is practised twice daily, for twenty minutes each time. Moreover the transcendental meditation centre reports that their technique turns on the whole brain so that it functions as a holistic unit. Peak performance sports people, creatives and business masterminds recognise this state of mind.
The intention of transcendental meditation is to transcend beyond the level of your awareness, beyond the ego towards self actualisation. Meditation tries to achieve conscious awareness, transcendental meditation goes beyond this thinking process.
Transcendental meditation is the repetition of a mantra with the eyes closed. You can use this anywhere at any time, as there is no requirement to the sitting position or space.
Progressive relaxation is a technique that focuses on relaxing the body. This is a common way for hypnotists to hypnotise their clients. Read my blog post on the relationship between hypnosis and meditation here. There are different ways to use the progressive relaxation, each one exploring the body in a progressive way (from top to bottom or bottom to top) and relaxing all areas of tension. A progressive relaxation is a good beginner’s meditation. When you practise with a guide (either in person or on a recording) to begin and you learn how to practise alone.
As you use this technique regularly you will become more aware of the everyday tension within your body. The awareness allows you to physically relax which helps mental relaxation. A progressive relaxation takes as much or as little time as you choose. A comfortable position is beneficial but not necessary.
Breath awareness gives the user something to focus the mind. There are many things to notice about the breath. The way the air feels as it comes into the body. Notice the expansion of the lungs and the part of the body that rises – the chest or the abdomen. The speed at which the breaths happen. The feeling of the breath as it travels out of the body.
Every now and then your brain may divert to a thought. As soon as you become aware of the distraction bring your focus back to your breath. Being able to stop the constant mind chatter is always a work in progress.
The yoga nidra takes the practitioner into the savasana (corpse pose) – laid out on the back, with the feet separate enough to be comfortable. The arms resting out slightly separate from the body with the palms facing up.
Yoga nidra is generally a guided meditation and can vary in length. Yoga nidra can induce relaxation as a restorative practice or set and work on an intention. The yoga nidra may explore the five layers of one’s Self (koshas) to achieve this. You may experience the yoga nidra at the end of a yoga class or you can attend specific yoga nidra classes.
Kundalini yoga is a combination of breath, movement and sound. It brings the energy coiled at the base of your spine, up through the seven chakras and out through the top of your head.
A kundalini meditation focuses on breath and mantra – the beginner’s mantra often being ‘Sat Nam’. With Sat being chanted on the inhale and Nam on the exhale. There is a focus on the breath, which should be through the nose. Generally when practising practitioners will sit with a straight spine with the hands in the lap, the palms up and the right hand on top of the left. The eyes are almost completely closed.
The focus on the mantra and breath can prevent the mind wandering, when the mind does wander you can redirect it back to the breath as soon as it’s noticed. Allow thoughts in and then allow them out.
Meditation originated in India. Often synonymous with the Buddhist religion, prior to Buddah’s teachings it was part of the Hindu religion. There are many spiritual traditions that include different meditations.
For a theistic tradition meditation supports the relationship with the Divine. In non-theistic philosophies, for example Buddhism and Taoism spiritual meditation supports the relationship with thy self. In addition there is a purpose of achieving self actualisation and awareness – or Nirvana in the Buddhist religion. Therefore, spiritual meditation often includes loving kindness and compassion.
Buddhism believes in the ability to take control of our own states of mind. Buddhist meditation uses techniques to improve the mind to achieve a calmness and an ability to see the true nature of things. Regular meditative practices provide a space to learn about your own mind. How it behaves and to develop more positive ways of being. The result can be transformative. Those who follow the Buddhist faith believe mindfulness, concentration and emotional positivity to be the base of all different meditations however within the faith there are many different types of meditative practice.
Benefits to health
The above seven different meditations are a snippet of who meditates and why. Similarly, there are millions of other people in the World using different meditations as part of their life that would not fall into one of the above categories. Certainly, there are significant, positive impacts on health. A recent report published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland states;
“Crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic show that change is the only constant. Meditation and mindfulness can offer a helpful way to live with this constant Change” (Behan, 2020)
”Both learning and having a regular meditation practice ourselves can only benefit our patients and ourselves. Meditation and mindfulness are useful skills that can help us to sit with our fears and our circumstances and to observe that like our thoughts, this period in our lives too shall pass.” (Behan, 2020)