Meditation

What is meditation?

Meditation is a set of  techniques to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state. 

Does meditation work?

There is scientific evidence to prove that meditation helps to reduce stress, improves sleep, controls anxiety, improves self-image and a more positive outlook on life, reduces depression, helps you develop a stronger understanding of yourself and helps fight addictions and pain control. 

Not every type of meditation will help you with all the symptoms I have mentioned above. Certain types of meditation like mindfulness meditation will help you with a particular symptom while visualization meditation will help you with another. It also depends on the person and their preferences. And on your state of mind. As a person that has been meditating since I was 14 years old, I can tell you that sometimes it didn’t work because I was too upset. I had to do something else like affirmations or exercise. When my body was tired enough, I was ready to meditate to quiet my mind. 

So does meditation work?

Yes, it does, but you will have to find the right type of meditation for yourself and maybe combine it with other tools like an aerobic exercise, like running or swimming. Maybe you will feel the need to write your feelings in a diary. 

Effects of meditation

The mental health benefits of meditation include better focus and concentration, improved self-awareness and self-esteem, lower levels of stress and anxiety, and fostering kindness. For your physical health, as it can improve your tolerance for pain and help fight substance addiction. 

How do you meditate?

How to meditate depends on the type of meditation. Some types of meditations can be done sitting up, others lying down and others require movement. 

It helps if you remove distractions like phones or turn them off.

Loose and light clothing will make you comfortable and better receptive to energy.

A clean and odourless (or the smell of incense / essential oils) space will make it hassle-free for you to meditate.

If you prefer, place a deity or an image of your choice in the meditation space to increase positivity and good vibes.

Types of meditation

1. Mindfulness meditation

In mindfulness meditation, you pay attention to your thoughts as they pass through your mind. You don’t judge the thoughts or become involved with them. You simply observe and take note of any patterns. This practice combines concentration with awareness. You may find it helpful to focus on an object or your breath while you observe any bodily sensations, thoughts, or feelings.

This type of meditation is good for people who don’t have a teacher to guide them, as it can be easily practiced alone.


2. Spiritual meditation

It’s similar to prayer in that you reflect on the silence around you and seek a deeper connection with your God, Universe or Source. Essential oils are commonly used to heighten the spiritual experience. Popular options include: frankincense, myrrh, sage, cedar, sandalwood, palo santo

This practice is beneficial for those who thrive in silence and seek spiritual growth.


3. Focused meditation

Focused meditation involves concentration using any of the five senses. For example, you can focus on something internal, like your breath, or you can bring in external influences to help focus your attention like counting beads, listening to a gong, or staring at a candle flame.

This practice may be simple in theory, but it can be difficult for beginners to hold their focus for longer than a few minutes at first. If your mind does wander, it’s important to come back to the practice and refocus. As the name suggests, this practice is ideal for anyone who requires additional focus in their life.


4. Movement meditation

Although most people think of yoga when they hear movement meditation, this practice may include walking through the woods, gardening, qi gong, and other gentle forms of motion.

Movement meditation is good for people who find peace in action and prefer to let their minds wander.


5. Mantra meditation

Mantra meditation is prominent in many teachings, including Hindu and Buddhist traditions. This type of meditation uses a repetitive sound to clear the mind. It can be a word, phrase, or sound, such as the popular “Om.” It doesn’t matter if your mantra is spoken loudly or quietly. After chanting the mantra for some time, you’ll be more alert and in tune with your environment. This allows you to experience deeper levels of awareness.

Some people enjoy mantra meditation because they find it easier to focus on a word than on their breath. This is also a good practice for people who don’t like silence and enjoy repetition.


6. Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation is a popular type of meditation. This practice has been the subject of numerous studies in the scientific community. It is more customizable than mantra meditation, using a mantra or series of words that are specific to each practitioner.


7. Progressive relaxation

Also known as body scan meditation, progressive relaxation is a practice aimed at reducing tension in the body and promoting relaxation. Often times, this form of meditation involves slowly tightening and relaxing one muscle group at a time throughout the body. In some cases, it may also encourage you to imagine a gentle wave flowing through your body to help release any tension.

This form of meditation is often used to relieve stress and unwind before bedtime.


8. Loving-kindness meditation

Loving-kindness meditation is used to strengthen feelings of compassion, kindness, and acceptance toward oneself and others. It involves opening the mind to receive love from others and then sending positive energy to loved ones, friends, acquaintances, and all living beings.

Because this type of meditation is intended to promote compassion and kindness, it may be ideal for those holding feelings of anger or resentment.


9. Visualization meditation

Visualization meditation is a technique focused on enhancing feelings of relaxation, peace, and calmness by visualizing positive scenes or images. Many people use visualization meditation to boost their mood, reduce stress levels, and promote inner peace.


Popular meditations

1. Candle meditation

Most meditations are done with your eyes closed, focusing attention inward. Trataka is a different type of meditation, where you keep your eyes open and focus on a small point or object. Frequently a Trataka is done with a candle, and your attention is focused on the flame. This candle gazing meditation helps bring energy to the third eye, increases concentration, and improves memory.

Because this meditation is done with the eyes open, it’s a great option for people who have trouble containing their wandering mind. By concentrating on a physical object, it can be easier to stay focused. If you’re struggling with meditation, you should try a candle meditation and see if you have more success.

When your gaze is focused on the flame of a candle, you see nothing else. This allows your mind to fully focus on the candle as everything else in the room fades away from your awareness. At the same time, any invasive thoughts or distractions will also fade away.

Before you start, choose a quiet and darkened space where you will not be disturbed. Dim light is best for candle gazing, so close the curtains if it’s daytime. 

Select a level surface for your candle. This needs to be free of flammable materials and near eye level when you are sitting. Place the candle on the surface and light it.

You can do a candle meditation with any candle, but depending on your goals, you may find meditation with a candle of a specific color will increase the effectiveness of your meditation. When buying candles, pay attention to what the candles are made from and avoid any candles that contain toxic substances. Soy wax or beeswax candles are non-toxic and burn longer than other candle types.

The qualities of different colors:

White candle: peace, purity, healing, divination

Gold candle: abundance, prosperity, wealth, spirituality

Black candle: safety, protection, banish negativity

Brown candle: house blessing, pets, earth, stability, locating lost items

Orange candle: creativity, justice, joy, ambition, sensuality and sexual energy

Purple candle: spiritual powers, reverence, higher consciousness

Yellow candle: sun, intelligence, memory, masculinity, positive attitude

Indigo candle: imagination, insight, wisdom, clarity of thought

Blue – creativity, self-expression, communication, truth

Green or pink candle: forgiveness, compassion, inspiration, hope, love

Red – courage, strength, survival, family bonding


2. Pyramid meditation

What is Pyramid Meditation?

Pyramids are storehouses of energy as they are built to incline towards Earth’s magnetic field and are perfect receivers and transmitters of cosmos energy. Meditating under such a structure is called ‘Pyramid Meditation’

To do a Pyramid you can either go to a building that is shaped like a pyramid or build one yourself with natural materials like wood or marble. If you want to make one, you have to make sure it is at least three times bigger than you in height and width.

You should also avoid gadgets during this type of meditation because devices will cause a rift in the transfer of energy vibrations and spoil the whole purpose of the meditation. Remove any leather and metal objects as their absorbing properties will cause a reverse effect. If you really need it, you could have a device to play soothing music but keep it outside the pyramid.

After the above arrangements have been taken care of, sit down on a comfortable mat and start your meditation by exhaling and inhaling deeply and feel your breath while you do so. 

Some of the benefits that have been reported are eyesight improvement (in combination with eye muscles exercises), hearing improvement, lower blood pressure and memory sharpening.


3. Shower meditation

You might think, you are very busy and don’t have time to meditate, but you probably do take time to have a shower. If that is the case, a shower mediation might be what you need when you are busy and just want a sense of calm. It is a way to take those five minutes that you have in the warm water and make them totally matter.

Shower meditation is also known as waterfall meditation, mind cleansing and water meditation is the practice of using the water as a mechanism to wash away the stress, tension and anxiety within your body. The best reason to try shower meditation is that it does not take any additional time in your day. It is a way to make the moments you already have matter because you are using them with intent. 

To start, turn on the shower, and listen. Hear the sound the water makes. Feel the air around you start to change and become warmer. You'll feel the steam in the bathroom, and notice every little thing happening around you. Breathe it in, feel the air expand in your lungs and notice the steam hit your skin. 

When you step into the shower take a second to feel the water on your skin. Feel the little droplets running down your body and over your skin. Feel the water washing down your body and imagine it taking your stress, anger, regret, sadness and negativity with it. Imagine these feelings as dirt on your skin that can run down the drain. Feel the water take everything with it.

 

This is the time to massage your shampoo into your hair. Feel how your fingers touch your scalp and what your head feels like. As you rinse out the products from your hair imagine that you are rinsing out the negative thoughts from your mind. Let yourself cleanse your thoughts and wash them down the drain. Imagine the soap taking everything from your mind, so you are clear and light. 

With your mind clear and your head very light, start to cleanse your body. Take a moment to notice how your shower gel smells, feels and is. You can enhance this feeling by adding essential oils to your gel. The perfect type of gel depends on the feelings you want to enhance.

Start massaging the gel (or soap) into your skin. Start at your shoulders and arms, feel the way the gel invigorates your skin and is cleansing you. Take every single stroke with dedication, and really imagine it washing away the tension and stress in your body. Imagine it taking the stress out of your shoulders.

Work your way downward, pushing your stress and tension into the floor as you wash your lower back, legs and feet.

Take one more moment to feel the water. Let it wash the rest of your stress and tension away. Breathe in the steam around you and just notice how your body actually feels. Let the water do one last rinse, and then you can turn it off. Now you can feel clear and light for the rest of your day, and it didn't take you any additional time.

4. Qi Gong meditation

What is Qi Gong meditation?

Qi Gong (pronounced “chee-gong”) meditation is an ancient Chinese healing practice that combines meditation, controlled breathing, and gentle movement.

It’s roughly translated as “the master of one’s energy” and combines two important concepts of traditional Chinese medicine. Qi roughly translates to “vital life force,” while gong means mastery or cultivation 

This practice is meant to cultivate the energy and strength of nature into one’s body to promote better mental, physical, and spiritual health 

In traditional Chinese medicine, poor health is the result of blocked energy that flows through the twelve meridians – or sections – of the body. Thus, Qi Gong is believed to promote health by allowing your energy, or qi, to flow through the body. 

Qi Gong is popular in China for exercise, recreation, relaxation, preventative medicine, and physical and mental healing. 

There are several types of Qi Gong meditations but the main categories are active (controlled, slow movements) and passive (stillness and calm breathing) Qi Gong

Some of the reported benefits are improved balance, greater mental focus, lower levels of stress and anxiety, and decreased chronic disease risk. 

So if you’re interested in calming your mind and body, you will want to give Qi Gong a try.

5. Chakra meditation

Chakras are energy centres in your body. Sometimes they can be blocked and that can cause disruption in our mental and physical wellbeing. By practising chakra meditation we cleanse and balance out the energy of our chakra system. Chakra meditation is all about focusing on each chakra, from root to crown, to control and restore the energy that flows through them.

Each chakra has strong associations. Knowing a bit about each one beforehand will make chakra meditation easier. You can use guided meditations for some extra support. 

There are a ton of ways to balance the chakras through meditation, like colour visualization, yoga poses, mantras (powerful sound or vibration/sacred utterance), eating and even wearing chakra-coordinated clothes

This is a brief overview of each chakra.

During your meditation, focus on each chakra starting with the root and imagine its corresponding colour located in the corresponding energy centre. Visualize energy flowing through each chakra one at a time. 

  • The first chakra is the Muladhara/ root chakra (Red)

Located at the base of the spine, it’s the chakra of stability, basic needs, and grounding. A balanced root chakra makes us feel grounded, centered, strong and secure. A blocked root chakra can cause anxiety, fear, joint and lower back pain, and a poor immune system.

  • The second chakra is the Swadhisthana/ sacral  chakra (Orange)

The sacral chakra is located just below the belly button (the pelvic area) and is all about relationships, creativity, and sexuality. When this chakra is balanced it makes us feel passionate, friendly, and joyful. When the sacral chakra is blocked we may experience sexual difficulties, a lack of creative inspiration, uterine or bladder issues, or emotional instability. 

  • The third chakra is the Manipura / solar plexus chakra (Yellow)

Located just between the ribcage and the navel, the solar plexus connects us to our individual power, affects our relationship to the world and how we see ourselves within it, and our actions. A balanced solar plexus makes us feel confident, productive and energized. An imbalanced solar plexus causes low-energy, muscle cramps, insecurity, procrastination, and digestive issues.

  • The fourth chakra is the Anahata / heart chakra (Green)

The heart chakra is located within the heart. It’s right in the middle of all 7 chakras and unites the Chakras of Matter (the lower three) with the Chakras of Spirit (the upper three). The heart chakra is our source of love, emotions, and connection. When this chakra is balanced we are forgiving, spiritually aware, givers and recipients of love, and are able to form emotional connections with others. When the heart chakra is imbalanced it can cause loneliness, hatred, circulation problems, and chest pains. 

  • The fifth chakra is the Vishuddha / throat chakra (Blue) 

Located in the throat, the throat chakra is all about communication and speaking our truth. When our throat chakra is balanced we’re able to communicate constructively, consciously listen, and express our true, authentic selves. When it’s imbalanced it can cause suppressed emotions, social anxiety, sore throat, thyroid issues, and tension headaches.  

 

  •  The sixth chakra is the Ajna / third eye chakra (Indigo)

Located on the forehead and between the eyebrows, our third eye is our centre of intuition, divine wisdom, and insight into our and the spirit world. When our third eye is healthy and balanced it allows us to see the world through clear lenses, have active imaginations, and communicate with the universe. When our third eye is blocked it can cause anxiety, depression, lack of self-trust, headaches, and problems with the pituitary and pineal glands. 

 

  •  The seventh chakra is the Sahasrara / crown chakra (Violet)

The crown chakra is located right at the top of the head and is our direct connection to the universe and the world around us. A balanced crown chakra allows us to accept and process divine guidance, makes us feel enlightened, open-minded, and one with the universe. A blocked crown chakra can cause feelings of emotional distress, confusion, materialism, migraines, and problems with the nervous system. It’s difficult to open the crown chakra, so don’t be discouraged! It takes a lot of practice.

6. Vipassana meditation

Vipassana, which means “to see things as they really are”, is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. It aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation.

It is a way of self-transformation through self-observation and focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind.

The laws that operate one's thoughts, feelings, judgements and sensations become clear. Through direct experience, we notice how we produce suffering. And because of that, we will have increased awareness, non-delusion, self-control and peace.


7. Walking meditation

Walking meditations are designed to bring body and mind in sync while we’re out and about. And if you don’t like to sit and close the eyes to meditate, this is a great alternative that still trains the mind in awareness.

Walking is such an established, habituated action for many of us that we tend to do it on auto-pilot. The moment we step out the door, our mind tends to go wandering, and is caught up in remembering, dwelling, planning, worrying, or analysing.

Each time that happens, we move away from the present moment and away from the chance to connect with nature and our surroundings. We forget to appreciate the simple pleasure of walking.

Meditating while walking is a way to get the mind to walk with us and to bring a relaxed focus to this everyday pursuit. It’s amazing how different we feel when paying attention to what’s going on around us rather than what’s swirling in our head.

How to do a walking meditation? There is not a right way to do it, but I can share my personal way. We start with by keeping our attention on the soles of our feet while we are walking. Then during the walking meditation we do a body check to be aware of how our body feels, we observe our pace, we tune into what’s going on around us (like the sounds, smells and other physical sensations) When we are almost done, we gently bring your attention back to the sensation of the soles of your feet. 

You can also switch your awareness from one sensation to the other. You can start with focusing on the sounds for 5 minutes, and then on the smell for 5 minutes and so on. Regardless on how to do it, the most important part is to start and try to see the style you like the most.

8. Sexual meditation

Sexual meditation can be performed solo or with a partner and with a guide or without one. It centres around the technique in which you focus on the present moment, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judging or labelling them. 

In sexual meditation, you focus on sensuality and the current state of your body. Your goal is to let go of distractions and concentrate on touch and sensation. If you’re practising sexual meditation with a partner, there’s an added goal: to heighten the link between you and become more aware of both your own body and your partner’s. 

If you want more direction, many studios and therapists offer suggested meditations, including sexual meditations, online. In general, a short summary will focus you on specific sensations or questions, giving you a suggested timeline.

But many people find it hard to meditate on their own, and sexual meditation is no different. It’s easy to get distracted or frustrated. There are many guided meditations available, both for free and for purchase. You can also find material specific to couples or to solo exploration. In addition, there are podcasts and apps that cover sexual meditation.

9. Pregnancy meditation

The intention of today’s meditation is to give you the space to be one with your pregnancy. To connect with your growing baby inside of you, to let go of any anxiety you may be feeling about labour and delivery, to breathe through any physical discomfort you may be having and ultimately, to honour the incredible miracle that you are experiencing.

In this meditation you close your eyes. Place your hands on your belly and see your baby in your minds eye. As you do, you feel the warmth of the palm of your hands. Your hands start to glow with love for your baby. While you are sending this love to your baby, talk to him or her. His or her higher self will understand you. Introduce yourself in your mind, thank him or her for coming into your life. Tell him or her how grateful you are with his or her arrival, how welcome he or she is. You can tell him or her that your body may have been feeling uncomfortable lately. Perhaps you’re feeling nauseous, low on energy, tired or even in pain. Tell him or her how this discomfort will soon be over and that he or she will soon be in your arms. Tell him or her that your body is doing magical and hard work right now. And it’s complicated, detailed work.

Ask the higher self of your baby about all the fun stuff you will be doing together besides loving each other deeply. After asking, you might feel your little one move around inside you. Tell the little one that you will check in with him or her later. Try to do this each morning and afternoon.

Then you take a moment to bring to mind all the physical discomforts you’ve been feeling during your pregnancy. If any related thoughts, worries or judgments about your body come up, just recognize them and visualize yourself letting them float away into the sky. You have the strength and wisdom from generations of women within you. Everything is going to be okay. Breathe in and out several times after, and you are ready to open your eyes and go about your day 

10. Zazen (seated meditation)

To practise Zazen (Zen meditation) we sit in the middle of a zafu (a round and thick cushion). We cross our legs in the lotus or half-lotus position, so that our knees are rooted in the ground. There is a specific posture that we have to learn to do Zazen. Depending on our health, alternative postures are possible.

Because of the specific posture and mudra (a symbolic gesture of the hands and fingers), our breathing will become gradually calm, long and deep. After a while, we can simply observe the breathing, without modifying it, by being fully present to it. 

The longer we practise zazen, the more we understand that our thoughts are devoid of substance, that they come and go. We realize that there is a universal consciousness, completely different from our usual self-awareness. If we maintain the right posture and let our breathing become deep and peaceful, our mind will also become vast and peaceful.

The functioning of the brain will naturally become clearer, returning to its normal condition. The dualistic way of thinking of our ego is cast off and original unity with all beings is realized. Universal consciousness, thinking without thinking voluntarily, occurs naturally when we concentrate on posture and breathing.

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