Meditation is getting a lot of press at the moment – especially mindfulness, but you don’t have to be into incense, omming and chakras to get the benefit.
I’ve talked before about how important I think meditating is for a happier, calmer mind. I really hope you’ll all give yourself the time to spend just a few minutes a day meditating. It really can have amazing consequences!
Here is my beginner’s guide to meditation, including a selection of techniques to choose from.
Getting meditation into your routine
Just like exercise, chances are if you set yourself up with too big a goal, you might be setting yourself up for failure.
So for all you beginners out there this is the way forward: start small and stick to it!
A little commitment
What’s your commitment? I’m talking daily. Can you realistically commit to THREE minutes a day? Great! Then that’s the place to start.
The next vital thing is to choose your time – morning or evening? How about both? 7.00am or 6.15am or 9.30pm. Set a time and stick to it.
Space to breathe
Now find a space to meditate, and ALWAYS meditate in that place. To encourage yourself, aim to have a nice space. Make sure it’s clean, uncluttered, not too hot and not too cold. If you only have one room, select a corner of the room, make it nice and sit there.
Make a deal with yourself
Once your time starts, close your eyes and make a deal with yourself to remain still. DON’T fidget, and ignore any itches, irritations or interruptions. If you have to cough, of course do so – it’s common sense to be comfortable – but just sit still and be. This is your training.
Rinse and repeat
As you know, I always say repetition is the mother of all skill, and as you repeat the daily meditation you will gain emotional control and an ability to self-regulate thoughts, feelings and reactions, thereby becoming a master of meditation.
Obviously once you have got your three minutes a day under your belt and are doing this effortlessly each day, you can start to extend the time to five minutes, then seven, ten and so on.
In no time at all you’ll be meditating effortlessly for 30 minutes a day and enjoying the amazing benefits that come as a result!
Which Style of Meditation is the best?
Western research is still in its infancy on the different styles of meditation and we’re starting to see more appearing, with a number of universities getting funding for studies.
A recent study in Norway looked at the differences in brain activity between concentrative and non-directive meditation. It found that non-directive meditation – where you focus on your breath or a sound, and allow your mind to wander – actually showed more brain activity than concentrative – where you focus on breathing and also on specific thoughts to suppress others, thereby concentrating the mind.
The activity in the brain was in the area that processes memory and emotions, the area that is normally active when we rest. Non-directive meditation made this area even more active than it is during rest, which suggests that meditation might actually be more effective for processing your memories and emotions than a restful sleep!
Mindfulness meditation is showing promising early results in a number of studies, including one testing mindfulness meditation on stressed out marines.
How Do I Know Which Meditation style is right for me?
1. Breath Focus
Who’s it for? It’s particularly good if you are more kinesthetic, you can feel the breath in the nasal passages and follow its journey into the body.
This is the simplest method (taken from Power Tool 9 in my book ‘I Just Want To Be Happy’).
Start with a regular daily practice of two or three minutes. Sit quietly where you won’t be disturbed. Close your eyes, and take your awareness to your nostrils. Be aware of breathing in and out through your nose for a few breaths and then silently count 1,2,3,4 as you breathe in and 1,2,3,4 as you hold your breath then 1,2,3,3 as you exhale and 1,2,3,4 as you pause.
Do this for 10 breaths. If it helps imagine your are breathing around a square.
You will probably find that your mind wanders. This is true for all of us since the nature of the mind is to be constantly moving. When this happens simply go back to ‘one’ and start again. This is a mental discipline and the ultimate aim is to get to ten breaths uninterrupted by thoughts.
Who’s it for? Mantra isn’t for everyone, however it could be very useful if you happen to be highly auditory – i.e. very tuned into sound – or if you really have a poor attention span!
So which mantra? It could be something from any faith, for example the Lord’s Prayer, or it could be a Buddhist Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, or a yogi’s Om Namah Shiva, or even the repetition of a western word such as Peace, Relax, Be or I am Still.
You choose the one that works for you. Then repeat it mentally and silently over and over for the duration of your mediation.
It should also be said here that some of the more ancient chants such as Om are said to be imbibed with a powerful resonance, said to bring extra benefit to the meditator. Sounds great to me!
This might be preferred choice if you tend to be more visual, or if your eyes are tired from too much computer work.
You do need to be sitting still and probably in the privacy of your own home for this one. Light a candle about two to three feet away from you at eye level. Remove contact lenses. Relax your body, sit up straight and soften your gaze to one of receiving the light into your eyes rather than staring.
As soon as you blink or your eyes water, gently close your eyes and hold the image of the candle flame in your inner eye. As soon as the image fades, open your eyes and begin again.
NB Traditionally in yoga, Trataka is considered more of a Kyria (a purification process) than a meditation.
So which one is my favourite?
My favourite is No. 1 – Breath Focus. It can be done open-eyed, and even standing in a queue or sitting on a train. It can be done in addition to your regular practice and used any time you need to control your mind, emotions or body.
You could also try to develop a system. Something like this: bring your awareness to your breathing on the hour every hour – or as near to it as possible.
The most important thing is once you have found a method that works for you, STICK to it. If you keep chopping and changing you’ll never establish a discipline, and that’s the key.
So, don’t take my word for it. Do it yourself. Commit to a month and see the benefits for yourself.
Please let me know how you get on, and if you have any questions remember to post them or email me and I’ll do my best to answer them for you.
I suggest you refrain from Meditation if you have been diagnosed with any personality disorder or mental illness.