As you and I both know, there are many things in life that are taken into the hands of the universe and are completely beyond our control. However, what we do have complete control over our own state of mind, and the ability to change it in the current moment. For many, meditation is the only cure we have to heal our own personal sorrows, anxieties, fears, general confusions and even hatreds.
Meditation is used as a means of transforming the mind.
By incorporating a meditation practice into your daily routine, you begin to learn the patterns and habits of your own mind. And over time, this practice creates the abilities within you to cultivate new and more positive ways of simply being. Meditative techniques encourage concentration in our lives and develop clarity, positivity, and a calmer, more pure vision of the true nature of things around us.
Meditation is considered one of the most effective ways to train and focus your attention.
But how does Meditation work?
When you sit down to meditate, you allow yourself to become very still and relaxed, yet alert. Once you have worked towards this, you focus your attention on one thing. It can be anything really, but most commonly it is either your breath or a mantra—a word or phrase—which you repeat to yourself for the duration of your meditation.
My biggest concern when I first started meditating was "how do I even know If I am doing this right?"
Please know that your mind will wander at first. That’s entirely natural. The practice of meditation is all about bringing your attention back to the one thing you’re focused on. Regardless of the noise, environment, energy, people or places you may be surrounded by at that moment in time. Your thoughts will distract you temporarily. That’s fine. Your only job when you practice meditation is to bring your attention back when it strays from your object of focus. As well as remind yourself to stay relaxed and still while you practice.
As you do this over and over again, you’ll slowly enter into a highly relaxed and focused state of mind. This is often accompanied by a feeling of deep well-being. And now, science has shown us that the meditative state has extremely positive physiological and neurological effects.
FIVE TYPES OF MEDITATION
Many of the emails and messages I receive ask questions about certain types of meditation or specific techniques that are used. I am sharing the work below with you all to help answer some of those questions. Tamara Lechner discusses five popular types of meditation and shares insight on some of the "finer details" involved. Please feel free to spend time experimenting and testing a few of these out for yourself.
5 Types of Meditation Decoded
by: Tamara Lechner
As a meditation teacher, I’m frequently asked which type of meditation is the best or the most effective. People also want to know if meditation is possible without a religious connection or belief in God. Then there are questions as to whether busy type A personalities can slow down enough to meditate.
In order to be successful, meditation needs to be simple, comfortable, and have results that make you want to keep showing up every day. As far as the details go, whatever works for you is the right approach, and you have plenty of varieties to choose from. The key is making time every day to sit, breathe, and connect with the self.
Primordial Sound Meditation
Primordial Sound Meditation (PSM) is a silent practice that uses a mantra. The mantra you receive is the vibrational sound the universe was creating at the time and place of your birth. It’s calculated following Vedic mathematic formulas and is very personal and specific to you.
Repeating your personal mantra silently helps you to enter deeper levels of awareness by taking you away from the intellectual side of the brain. The focus is on comfort, and PSM is generally practiced sitting down. Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. David Simon founded this method. This is the method of meditation taught at the Chopra Center and by Chopra Center certified instructors all over the world.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Started by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 and now offered in over 200 medical centers, hospitals, and clinics around the world, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) classes are often taught by physicians, nurses, social workers, and psychologists, as well as other health professionals, to create a partnership in care between the patient and the medical team.
This technique uses both breath awareness and body scan. Breath awareness is as simple as it sounds—you focus your attention on the inhalation and exhalation. Body scan is a process of focused attention on the physical body starting at the toes and working your way up with heightened awareness and the potential for release or relaxation of tension. The practitioner may be seated, laying down, or walking depending on the focus of practice.
Zen is also referred to as Zazen, which literally means “seated meditation.” It comes from Buddhism, which is more of a philosophy than a religion. You acquire insight through observing the breath and the mind, and through interaction with a teacher.
Zen emphasizes the attainment of enlightenment and the personal expression of insight in the Buddhist teachings. These Sutras (scriptures or teachings) and doctrines are taught through interaction with an accomplished teacher. Sometimes chanting is involved.
Founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Transcendental Meditation (TM), made popular by famous followers like the Beatles, uses a mantra or series of Sanskrit words to help the practitioner focus during meditation in lieu of just following breath.
The mantra given to the student will vary according to a number of different factors, including the year in which the student was born and in some cases their gender. The year in which the teacher was trained will also affect the mantra provided. The teacher will have been given a list of mantas to use and this list varies depending on which year they received their instruction. TM is a seated meditation.
Meditation in the Kundalini Yoga tradition contains specific, practical tools that carefully and precisely support the mind, and guide the body through the use of breath, mantra, mudra (hand position), and focus. The range and variety of meditation techniques in the Kundalini Yoga tradition is very large.
Yogi Bhajan, the founder, passed on hundreds of meditations tailored to specific applications. There are meditations that reduce stress, work on addictions, increase vitality, and clear chakras, to name a few. Since these meditations are so specified, working with a teacher is a large part of this tradition.
Research shows that spending time in mindful meditation of any type can combat anxiety, stress, and depression while heightening optimism, creativity, and vitality. Pick the style that resonates with you and give it a try.
Wether you already incorporate meditation in your life or not, Here is a simple 8 step beginner’s guide to meditation:
1. Sit tall
The most common and accessible position for meditation is sitting. Sit on the floor, in a chair or on a comfortable bench/stool. If you are seated on the floor it is often most comfortable to sit cross-legged on a bolster or pillow. If you have tight knees or hips, no worries. Comfort is key, so find a position that you know you'll be able to stay in for at least 10 - 20 minutes. I have discovered through my yoga practice that imagining a thread extending from the top of your head, pulling your back, neck and head straight up towards the ceiling is a great way to self critique your own posture. Sit tall, you're already doing something right.
2. Relax your entire body
Close your eyes and begin to mentally scan your body, relaxing each body part one at a time. I love to begin from the bottom up, starting with my toes, then feet, ankles, legs and continue to move up slowly. Don’t forget to relax and alleviate amy tension or pressure in your shoulders, neck, eyes, eyebrows, mouth and tongue.
3. Be Silent. Be Still
Be aware of your surroundings, your body and all sounds around you (for example, my neighbor's young daughter must be some type of ninja or spy, who always seems to know exactly when I sit down to meditate before she enjoys her daily screaming tantrum.) But, don’t react or attempt to change anything. Just be aware of her shrieks and yells for now.
For beginners, (myself included) the easiest focal point to channel my attention to is my breathe. Breathe silently, yet deeply. When meditating I usually focus on my ujjayi breathing (often called "Ocean Breathe," inhaling and exhaling through nostrils only, with a closed mouth.)
5. Establish a mantra
A mantra is a sound, word or phrase that can be used during your meditation. Mantras are repeated consistently throughout your meditation and can be spoken aloud or silently. A few simple mantras are
OM : The sound of the universe. It's the first, original vibration, representing the birth, death and re-birth process.
Ham - Sah : meaning I am THAT.
Or simply say to yourself "I am breathing in, I am breathing out."
6. Focus and calm your mind
Try to bring your attention to your breathe and avoid dwelling on your thoughts. Some days your mind will be busy and chaotic, other days it will remain calm and focused. Don't stress when you're experiencing a hectic day. Neither is good, nor bad.
7. Knowing when to end your practice
There is no correct length of time to practice meditation, as it differs for every individual and their state of being. If you are a beginner, or new to meditation, you may only be able to sit for 10 minutes or so. As you become more comfortable with your practice, you'll be able (and hopefully want to) meditate longer. If you prefer to meditate for a predetermined length of time, set a quiet alarm on your iPhone or clock.
8. Ending your meditation
When you are ready to end your practice, slowing bring your conscious attention back to your surroundings. You can do this by gently wiggling your fingers and toes, nodding your head"yes" or "no" before slowly opening your eyes. Acknowledge your presence in the space around you and move slowly.
A FEW FINAL TIPS
Remember, Consistency is more important than quantity. Meditating for 5 minutes every day will reward you with far greater benefits than meditating for 90 minutes once a week. Try to put aside some time every single day, or even 5 days a week (work days) to sit down and meditate.
Practice wherever you feel comfortable.
Many beginners find it easiest to meditate in a quiet space at home, but feel free to begin exploring new places to practice. Meditating outdoors in nature can be very peaceful - and usually very gorgeous here in Hawai'i. While taking the opportunity to meditate during your commute to work (not while driving though!) or in your office chair at lunch break can be excellent for stress relief.
Need a little more help? Consider trying a guided meditation online! Here are a few of my favorites
Why should you consider practicing meditation for athletic performance?
Written by Kristen Keim
1. Stress Reduction
Stress reduction is vital for optimal performance. Racing and competing when under stress has been proven to negatively impact athletic performance. A study published in the Journal of Health Psychology showed that the results of meditation are associated with reduced stress levels in addition to decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Being relaxed and centered increases the ability to remain calm under pressure and also improves focus and concentration. By consistently practicing meditation, your body will learn how to relax in stressful situations, building self-confidence and ultimately achieving a more positive mindset.
2. Improved Sleep Patterns and Speeding Recovery Time
Sleep is imperative to all human beings, especially athletes. A study published in theJournal of Sleep showed that athletes who are not able to get enough sleep will experience a number of negative effects including: weight gain, mood disturbance, increased anxiety/depression, inability to maintain focus/concentration, and decreased motor control.
Athletes who consistently practice meditation can help their body to recover quicker from training, racing, and even injury. While physical training is good, it also places high levels of stress on the body, including muscle fiber tears. Recovery time from many common sports injuries can actually be reduced. In addition, meditation boosts the immune system, preventing illness that can hinder your training and/or performance. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Health found that those who practice meditation experience fewer acute respiratory infections, as well as a shortened duration and severity of symptoms from the common cold. Therefore, meditation aids in improving the quality/length of sleep and the immune system.
3. Enhanced Endurance
This might be one of the most popular reasons to include meditation into your training routine. By practicing meditation that utilizes visualizations, athletic endurance can be enhanced. Athletes who visualize accomplishing specific objectives/goals, combined with the regular practice of breathing exercises can train the body to work harder and for a longer period of time in training and competition.
4. Improved Sense of Identity, Self, and the Body
Meditation in sport can help athletes conquer those common “blind spots” that tend to make performance challenges seem worse than they actually are. These blind spots negatively impact performance and meditation helps you recognize your blind spots. By recognizing these blind spots, you can work on improving your physical/mental training, skills, and coping mechanisms. This serves to build your athletic identity, self-confidence, and improve performance. Furthermore, the meditator learns to enhance awareness of each muscle, which can help pinpoint an injury and prevent further damage. Finally, meditation in sport can greatly improve the mind-body connection, allowing you to discover your optimal zone of performance.
Meditation in sport is not only helpful for performance, but can also aid athletes who experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health illnesses. The practice can help athletes through injury, as well as overcome challenges such as the transition back into sport or out of sport (e.g., retirement).