Does your idea of meditation look like being perched on a mountain top, alone in a cave, with only the clouds and rocks for company? Devoid of contact from others, sitting cross-legged and chanting ‘Om’ for hours on end, waiting for the lightning bolt of enlightenment to hit?
It doesn’t have to be this way. Well, it can’t be this way, can it? We all have full and busy lives, with many responsibilities and commitments. Work, family, community, and sometimes you would rather hang with your friends, not the eagles.
We talk about slowing down, taking time out for ourselves, and just trying to clear our minds of non-stop thoughts and stresses. But what’s the best way to do this?
Meditation and mindfulness, of course. With this article, we aim to introduce you to different forms of meditation and mindfulness and help you get started.
What are some forms and types of meditation and mindfulness practices?
Many types of meditation and mindfulness practices are available, including walking meditations, visualizations, body scanning, journaling and spiritual reflections.
We’ve listed some ideas below for you to try.
Guided meditations are very popular and can be found on apps and YouTube. They are led by a teacher and can be in-person, video or audio based. You listen to someone else as they guide you through your meditation practice.
Focusing on another person’s instructions helps stop your mind from wandering during the session. It is a great way to begin your meditation practice without wondering if you are doing it correctly.
Vipassana, or insight meditation as it is sometimes called, is the oldest of Buddhist meditation practices. It is said that this is the meditation Buddha himself practised.
Vipassana is more specific than mindfulness meditation in that you simply observe your thoughts and emotions without judgement or response. A study that included Vipassana showed a decrease in anxiety and depression symptoms of the participants. It can also help lower stress, increase mental wellness, and even help with addiction.
Meditation with mantras
Another way of meditating is to use a mantra. A mantra is a syllable, word or phrase repeated during meditation, either out loud or in the mind. Think of the mantra as a tool for helping to focus your intention on what you want to get out of your practice, and as a way to concentrate your mind.
You may be familiar with the word ‘Aum’ (pronounced ‘Om’) commonly used during meditation or maybe a phrase such as ‘I am calm’. There is no one perfect mantra to use, only what is best for you.
Mindful breathing is a simple yet powerful meditation practice. Its purpose is to focus the awareness on the breath, noticing the feeling of the inhale and exhale, and noticing your natural breathing rhythm.
Focusing on the breath allows the mind to relax and release its grip on any stress you carry. It is perfect for beginners as it is an excellent ‘entry level’ to understanding and practising meditation. It is one of the most accessible types of meditation and very portable, with no requirement for any specialist equipment or setting (apart from little or no distractions).
How can I get started with these practices?
The great news is you don’t have to do it alone, and there are many options available for beginners…
Apps for meditation
Download one of the many apps available. Most people have heard of Headspace, Calm or Insight Timer, and many more are available, some free and some paid.
YouTube meditation videos
YouTube is another fantastic resource with a wide variety of meditations to try.
Guidance from a teacher
Or you may prefer to learn in person with a teacher. Search online for a centre near you, or maybe a friend can recommend someone.
Getting Started on your own
And maybe the simplest and easiest way to start is to find somewhere to sit quietly, preferably without any distractions or interruptions, and, as you breathe, focus on your inhale and exhale.
how to meditate: 5-Minute Intro Video
Find a quiet place where you can listen to this introduction and guided meditation without interruption. Don’t be too concerned about getting it right or clocking a certain time on your first few attempts.
Simply sit upright (on the ground or chair) while keeping your back relaxed. Place your hands on your lap or knees. Hand position (or mudra) does not matter at this stage. And close your eyes to reduce distractions.
Breathe in and out. Observe your breath.
Feel the breath as it travels through your nostrils and out of your mouth. Feel the rise and fall of your chest or the movement of your abdomen. Count your breaths if that helps to keep your focus. When your mind wanders, gently acknowledge it and then return to your breathing.
Do this for a few minutes just to see how it feels. I bet you keep going!
The bottom line: Start small & build on your success
You can see that there are many types and ways of practising meditation and mindfulness. They are something that everyone can do but can feel complicated and uncomfortable at first. Remember to start small and build on your successes.
It takes time, intention and consistency to master; however, the benefits for your overall well-being are immense.