“Meditation – that’s not for me!” Did you ever hear you think or say that, too? Maybe you never dared to try it, or, if you did, you felt pain in your back or your legs because of sitting still for a long time? Or, you tried and simply never felt any effect because your mind was getting in your way all the time? There are many reasons why meditation feels difficult for many people… so, in today’s article, I want to show you that meditation does not equal meditation and that there definitely is the right method of meditation for everyone to calm their thoughts and be in the Now.
I, for my part, meditate almost daily for 30 to 45 minutes at dawn and it gives me so much strength and inner calm. I am less nervous, less stressed and simply so much more focussed on what matters thanks to this routine. For this reason, I would like to give you a short introduction to different methods of meditation so that you might find the right one for you in order to make your life more focussed and less stressed, too.
Where does meditation come from?
Many people find meditation a little suspicious and inaccessible – for various reasons that might vary: some might find it too close to Far East religions and not very accessible for our Western standards. Some might find it too New Age. Some might think that meditation is too spiritual for them or too hippie-culture. When we think about meditation, we often have skinny, very old yogis in mind that sit on a stone for years, meditating and not doing much else. Naturally, we can’t quite identify with that…
And of course, meditation has a very long tradition in the Far Eastern part of this world – deriving from religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism or Jainism. At the same time, in our day and age full of stress and busy lives, as well as in the current Corona-crisis, meditation has been on the rise with the help of apps like “Mindspace”, “Insight Timer” or “Calm” – all of which can be found in the App Store.-
Traditional ways of meditation often include sitting in stillness for long hours which many of us don’t find very accessible, but there are many ways of meditation, also in movement, which I would like to present to you right now.
Meditation techniques for our modern day and age
Of course, it is not for everyone to sit in stillness for many hours to reach an empty mind and finally, even enlightenment. If you are simply looking for some calming of the mind, for a more relaxed attitude towards stressful situations and mental strength, there is a large variety of meditation techniques you can try and they are definitely not all to be conducted sitting on the floor in a cross-legged position. You can, for example, always meditate sitting upright on a chair! The following techniques, I learnt during my 200-hours Yoga Teacher Training and I use all of them very often… so you might want to try them, too.
This meditation practice comes from Buddhism and is all about watching your own thoughts come and go without judgement. While practicing this, you are not clinging onto any of your thoughts, but simply notice them as an external watcher and let them come and go. By becoming an external watcher of your thoughts, you automatically get to be in the Now and completely let go. This will lead eventually lead to short and then longer gaps between the fluctuations of your thoughts and as these gaps grow larger, you start feeling the emptiness of the mind as a soothing energy to become completely aware and calm in your mind. Eventually, you are stopping the fluctuations of the mind completely – this is the goal.
If you are focussing solely on the movement of your breath in and out of your body, you will very soon start to feel the effects of this meditation. Especially, with apps like “calm”, with a guided breathing pattern that you can listen to, or by counting your breath, you can get very easily focussed on a single point and free your mind from its fluctuations and become aware and still. This breath-meditation is particularly suitable for beginners in the field of meditation as it offers a very clear focus.
Many religions of this world use mantra-meditation, and not only the ones from the Far East. The intense loud praying to God, for example in Christianity or Islam, could also be named mantra-meditation. Through the chanting of words or sentences like “OM / AUM” or praying to a specific God, you reach a feeling of one-pointedness and strong connection to your specific Deity. I, also love chanting and mantra-meditation. I can sit for half an hour, only chanting OM and feeling utterly focused and empty in my mind. It is a beautiful practice that you should definitely try. But warn your neighbors before chanting OM for half an hour, hehe.
4. Guided Meditation
Guided meditations recently have become very popular in our western World. You can find them in meditation-apps, on YouTube or websites or you take part in meditation workshops in which the teacher is guiding the meditation with his own words. This guided meditation leads the students through vivid visualizations like nature-experiences or travels into our own Self. These meditations are wonderful to reduce stress or to improve sleep.
Mindfulness-Meditation helps to be in the Here and Now completely as we become completely aware of what is. We can, for example, scan through our body from the top of our head to the tips of our toes, being aware of every sensation on our body parts and then actively relaxing them down to the ground. But you can also practice mindfulness in everyday-life situations: you can mindfully walk the stairs, mindfully pour hot water into your tea mug – smelling, feeling, hearing or mindfully eat your food – noticing every taste and smell your food offers you. This kind of meditation can be integrated everywhere and at any time of the day and that makes it so accessible for everyone.
How often are we indeed grateful for all that exists in our life? Definitely not enough – that much is certain. That is why I particularly enjoy doing gratefulness-meditations very often. If you want to practice it, too, take a pen and a notebook or gratefulness-diary and sit down at a place where you feel truly comfortable and happy. For me, this is in nature, in a garden or a park. Then, you simply sit and contemplate on all the things you are currently grateful for. That can be anything from the air that you breathe to your health or the people in your life. And as soon as one of these grateful thoughts comes up, you write it down into your notebook in the form of “I am grateful for…”. This meditation can truly change your view on the world and your life if you practice it regularly. It really can make you a happier person.
In this meditation, you simply are completely aware – while walking mindfully. You are watching your placement and living of your feet while you are walking slow, mindful steps. This movement, you are watching carefully and with your complete and full attention. In this way, you are completely focussing your mind on this mindful walking. I prefer doing mindful walking meditations in nature – in a garden or a park without shoes on.
8. Dynamic Meditation / Dance
Active dancing and shaking helps to feel yourself strongly in your own body and stepping out of your thoughts and into the Now. In this kind of mediation, you are moving intensely for about 1 hour and really get sweating – afterwards, you find stillness in a comfortable seat and feel the vibration in your body that connects the whole universe.
By the way, this meditation was made popular by Osho – a guru and controversial healer that has many fans up until this day.
Which meditation practice is the perfect one for you, though? Well, you can only find out by trying out different ways and then feel which brings the most calm and stillness to your own mind. This will be the perfect one for you and once you’ve found it, you can work on deepening and intensifying it.
PS.: I will soon publish some guided meditations and yoga nidras on my own YouTube channel Yoga with Ricarda* which you can use for free to calm your mind and find new strength. So, keep your eyes open and follow me on Instagram @catsanddogsblog for all news. You may also share your personal experiences on the topic of meditation in the comment section under this post!