Meditation. We know (or at least have been told) that it’s good for us. Scientifically speaking, meditation has been proved to reduce stress, relieve anxiety, enhance concentration, improve sleep, decrease chronic pain, increase emotional resiliency and boost immune function. Benefits we could all use, so why don’t more of us meditate?
For starters, the mere idea of sitting quietly still for any length of time is enough to send most people running out the door. A lot of folks simply think they can’t meditate; that it’s not for them. They think that their minds are too busy, they have too much to do, there are too many distractions, their bodies are too stiff, and so on, to sit down and meditate. And it’s not as if you meditate for the first time (or 10) and immediately feel calmer. It takes a fairly consistent practice to truly reap the many benefits.
My best advice: Don’t make meditation such a big thing. Keep it simple and find what works for you. If you can’t devote morning time (or find a quiet space in your house), there are plenty of creative ways to incorporate moments of mindfulness throughout your day. It doesn’t have to be a 20-minute sit-down session to be of benefit. In fact, you don’t even have to be sitting down. Meditation can be a few moments of mindfulness practice just about anywhere.
There are endless ways to meditate. Finding the techniques that best suit you and your lifestyle will help you establish a more regular meditation practice. After all, the more you enjoy it, the more success you have and the more likely you are to make it a priority—and the better you feel, the more you crave it.
So how do you choose? Most of us know by now what type of “learner” we are or rather the way we like to receive, engage and process new information. And the way we like to do one thing is usually the way we like to do all things. It’s fair to say the same is true for meditation.
For example, kinesthetic learners are going to be more engaged in meditation if it’s rooted in the body. Visual leaners are generally going to enjoy meditations with a visual component, while auditory leaners do really well with verbal- and sound-focused meditation.
To help point you in the right direction (and get you started on your journey), here are a few different meditations for those who consider themselves more visual, auditory or kinesthetic.
Rather than focusing on a mantra or simply the breath, visually oriented people may have an easier time focusing their attention on an external object, such as a photo, flower, mandala or, most commonly, a candle flame. An ancient technique, gazing meditation (known as trataka) is a highly effective way to calm anyone’s mind down and become present, leading to greater concentration and an expanded state of awareness.
Mandalas are considered sacred circles that have been used as a form of meditation and spiritual practice across religions (most notably Buddhism and Hinduism) for centuries. More recently, they’ve emerged in the form of popular coloring books—combining meditation and art therapy. Surprisingly soothing, coloring mandalas can help relieve stress and anxiety (taking your mind off other things) while also allowing you to express your creative side.
Guided Imagery Meditation
Although done with the eyes closed, visual people tend to love guided imagery meditations, which use calming and peaceful imagery to reach a state of deep relaxation. Widely used as a stress-management technique, there are endless guided visualization recordings available online, many of which aim to evoke certain emotions, cultivate certain qualities of being and/or bring about positive change.
Any of the senses can be used at any moment to focus the mind and become present, including hearing. One simple and quick way to that is by actively tuning in to all the sounds around you, hearing all the noises coming and going, without labeling or becoming fixated on any one particular sound—just listening to everything taking place in the immediate present.
Mantra and Chanting Meditation
A mantra is a word, syllable or phrase rhythmically repeated silently to yourself during meditation. Rather than attempting to clear all your thoughts (a nearly impossible task), mantra meditation gives your brain something to do—effectively stopping the stream of incessant thoughts. Mantras also can be chanted aloud, incorporating more of the breath and the vibration of sound to help reach altered states of consciousness.
Intentionally, and mindfully, listening to relaxing music, chanting tracks or the sound of ‘om’ over and over again can have profoundly peaceful effects (especially for those who become anxious with silence). Rather than focusing the mind on a single object or mantra, music meditation is about just being with the music, relaxing into the moment and staying fully immersed in the felt-sense experience—paying attention to the feelings and bodily sensations the music and/or sound evokes.
Kinetic learners tend to have better success meditating while moving than sitting still and trying to focus on a mantra or the breath. A simple mindfulness technique that can be practiced anywhere in nature, walking meditation is exactly what it sounds like: walking at a slow, even pace while paying close attention to bodily sensations, such as how your feet feel on the earth with every step.
Tai Chi Meditation
Originating as a martial art, tai chi is another form of moving meditation involving slow, relaxed circular movements, each flowing into the next. The mind-body practice is incredibly centering and grounding, and it is known to reduce stress, boost mood and improve sleep, as well as reduce the risk of falling and enhance overall well-being. And it’s not just for the elderly!
Body Scan Meditation
Meditation can be a bit heady, which can be challenging for kinetic learners. The body scan meditation is all about bringing your awareness to the physical body—scanning every inch to notice what’s being experienced on a subtler level. A quick and effective way to calm the mind, become present and release tension, the meditation technique is also extremely beneficial for building personal awareness and emotional resilience.
Photo credit: Stephanie Moors, Unsplash