With so many different styles of meditation out there, it is difficult to pick which one best suits you. But, the answer is simple. The meditation style that best suits you is the one that you resonate with the most. Many people find it difficult to sit still and be quiet for long periods of time, but that is a common misconception about meditation. You don’t need to do either to meditate. There are many variations that require movement, chanting, talking, and music. With so many different styles of meditation, you are bound to find one that fits your personality.
Buddhist Zen Meditation
This is what typically comes to mind when most people think of meditation. For this technique, find a comfortable seated position (usually cross legged) and try to quiet your mind. Beginners, especially in the West, may have difficulty with this method because it goes against our contemporary culture. In the US, we are constantly multitasking and usually have the TV or music on as background noise. You have trained your brains so well to be constantly on the go and thinking about what needs to be accomplished, that when you try to sit down and push thoughts out of your head it is nearly impossible. But that does not mean it cannot be you cannot have a successful Buddhist zen meditation.
Last spring I had the privilege of attending a meditation workshop at a Buddhist Temple in Chiang Mai. Most of the people in this workshop were beginners. Throughout the day we experienced several different meditation styles, most of which were variations of the zen meditation technique. By the end of the day, almost everyone in the course reported that they were able to experience a meditative state, even if it was for a couple of moments.
To try this style, find a quiet space where you can sit comfortably. In traditional Buddhist style you may sit on a pillow, but do not have anything supporting your back. Place your hands palms down on your knees or stacked on top of each other, with your palms facing up and dominant hand on the bottom in your lap. Now close your eyes, breathe normally, and quiet your mind. If thoughts come up, acknowledge them, and then push them to the side. Continue for as long as you’d like.
Some people find this style a bit easier to complete because it requires movement and is usually practiced outdoors. If you want to enhance your practice, take off your shoes. Walking barefoot during a meditation will combine the benefits of Earthing and meditation. Earthing is a therapeutic technique in which you are in direct contact with the the earth’s surface (aka walking barefoot on sand, grass, dirt, etc.).
There are several types of walking meditation. My personal favorite is practiced barefoot and outdoors. To complete this meditation, choose a path or an area with plenty of room to walk. Begin by taking a step and concentrating on the movements in your body. Notice as you shift weight from one side to the other and begin to lift your foot off the ground. Concentrate on lifting your heal, the arch of your foot, and finally your toes. Then be mindful of the movements you make as you lift your foot in the air and place it heal first on the ground. Again feel the weight shift as you being to lift your other foot heal, arch, toes.
Of the students I have taught, this one is reportedly the easiest because it occupies your mind. Like all other meditations, it can be practiced inside or outdoors depending on what is accessible to you. For this style get into a comfortable seated position, preferably cross legged on the floor. Next bring awareness to your breath and feel your body begin to calm down. Feel your mind stop racing and your heartbeat slowing. Then begin to count using your breath. As you inhale, count 1, as you exhale count 2. Continue at like this until you reach 10. Then inhale and count 9, exhale and count 8. Continue like this until you reach 1. Then exhale for 2 and inhale for 3. If you lose your place, start back at one. Continue for as long as you’d like counting up to 10 and down to one.
Guided meditation is my favorite style. There are so many options you can choose from such as: chakra balancing, trauma-healing, yoga nidra (a completely meditative style of yoga), violet flame (higher consciousness spiritual energy), self-love, stress reduction, mindfulness, developing your intuition, and many more. Basically, there is a guided meditation for almost any emotional turmoil or imbalance.
In this meditation, start out by either sitting comfortably or lying down. You can practice at home with guided meditations online or by attending a workshop. Either way, you will receive similar benefits. Guided meditations allow you to relax without worrying about your mind wondering since you are listening to someone talk and waiting for instructions. These meditations can take you on journeys and even out of your body to discover new aspects about yourself.
Mantras are a form of meditation in which you repeat sentences designed to help you work through an emotion. These sentences can either be created to personalize your healing process or you can use one of the many established Sanskrit mantras. To practice this style of meditation, find a quiet space where you can relax. Get into a comfortable position and repeat the mantra to yourself or out loud three times. Doing this will allow your body to relax and the repetitive words will start to change the way you are thinking to make room for healing.
During my last trip abroad, I developed anxiety about health concerns. I became hypervigilant about encountering germs and what I was touching. This was completely unlike me. I grew up on a farm and was constantly outside playing in the barns or the woods, so touching weird things was my jam. Throughout the trip when I would feel my anxiety levels rising, I would repeat to myself “I am safe. I am healthy. I am loved.” Until the feelings went away. This helped me to process through what was happening and come to a conclusion about why I was suddenly afraid.
In the beginning of your practice, meditation can be very challenging but be patient and set yourself up for success. Meaning don’t expect to meditate for hours, but rather start off by trying a technique for three to five minutes. Even though it is good to experiment with different meditation styles, don’t change your technique every day. Work through the same one for a minimum of two to three days before switching, this will help your brain adjust to the new approach. Like with any new task you may not fully grasp it at first but with time it will get easier. Meditation works best if you schedule it in for the same time every day. Traditionally it is best recommended to meditate between 3:00AM-5:00AM, but if you are like me and believe that it is morally wrong to wake up this early any time of day will do. Practicing at the same time every day will train your brain into relaxing and help you to slip into meditative states more easily.