Meditation. Everyone is doing it these days, and I am here to tell you that for each person who claims to meditate, there are that many ways to do it. There is no “wrong” way. There is just your way! You can’t make a mistake, and your path in meditation is yours alone.
Many people find the meditative process intimidating but here is no need for that. The answer is to find a way that works for you, be it guided meditations, reciting a mantra or chanting meditation, sitting with ambient music (which is what I do), sitting in silence and focusing on the breath, walking meditation, working meditation – I meditate when I wash the dishes, and Kimm does when she sweeps the floor – the point is to feel comfortable and at peace during the meditation and to be present and acutely aware of all that is going on inside you and around you. Meditation is nothing more or less than focus, and we all have the capacity to focus.
- Guided Meditation
A lot of folks say that their brains are just too noisy to focus. Focus takes practice and for those of you for whom this is true, perhaps beginning with guided meditations would be best. The sound of someone’s voice is often the remedy for people who can’t quiet the mind. I have done many guided meditations in my journey and one person that has been helpful to me has been Kelly Howell. She will take you on a journey of sorts and sometimes asks you to visualize, and I have found her method very useful during times when my mind was full of chatter.
2. Mantras and Chanting
Repetition either silently or out loud is very often the choice for meditators. Kimm has done a great deal of chanting in her day and swears by it. And it is quite easy on the internet to find a mantra that speaks to you. Some say a mantra must be given to you by a teacher or mentor, but I think there is precedence for choosing your own. Mantras and chanting provide instant focus for many.
I love working with ambient music. As a musician I get into harmonies and rhythms and patterns and my brain is freed up to wander and just be. Many visions have come to me this way and my mind-chatter almost ceases entirely. But the important thing about this method is to stay away from loud and popular music. And never anything with words. Ambient sounds, music labeled “Meditation Music” is best.Find something that resonates with you. Experiment until you feel in sync with what you are hearing. Trust your instincts. You will know when you have hit upon the rights sounds for you. And just as an aside, I use ear buds to block out other noise.
4. Focusing on the Breath
One of the best ways to enter into sitting meditation is to get comfy and focus on the breath. The Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes that a good way to get started is to count the breaths: “I breathe in 1, I breathe out 1, I breathe in 2, I breathe out 2…” all the way up to 10 and then work your way backwards. This really helps you focus and relax. And you can count out loud or silently. I have employed this method when I have not been relaxed at the beginning of a meditation. It really works!
5. Walking Meditation
You can meditate while in motion too. Once again Thich Nhat Hanh gives a brilliant and simple instruction on how to do walking meditation in his book called The Miracle of Mindfulness. Be aware of the surface you are walking on and feel your entire foot beneath you. Walk slowly and deliberately , heel to toe. Focus on your gait. On your rhythm. Stay alert and aware.
6. Working Meditation
You can accomplish much if you meditate while doing some kind of work. As I mentioned earlier, I can get into a meditative state washing the dishes or cleaning the bathtub. The key is to stay very present and focused on your task. Play music – any kind. Find a rhythm to your movements. Sing along. You will find that your work is done before you realize it. And you are buoyant and alive!
Keep in mind that meditation does not have to be a mystical experience, though it can be for some. And you are not doing it wrong if you can’t lower your body temperature or levitate. It is a kind of focusing that brings peace and awareness. Your unique way of meditating will work for you, and do not let anyone tell you that you are not really meditating just because you are not sitting cross-legged in silence. There are many paths on the road to enlightenment – as many as there are of us humans. Feel good about yourself and your efforts. And remember that you will feel more comfort the more you practice.