By Katherine Pham, ELE Personal Development & Wellness Writer
I’ve been a daily meditator for the last 4 years and the transformation has been more profound than I could have imagined. While most people might picture meditation as sitting cross-legged and eyes shut in a quiet room thinking about “nothing” meditation is much more accessible and probably more diverse than you think.
Contrary to what most people might think, mediation is a state of full concentration, not full relaxation. It is the ability to remain focused on a single point, whether that be your breath, your running, your eating and even on your thoughts.
In this post, I will be sharing the different types of meditation available to you and how you can start incorporating it into your life today.
This meditation practice is about becoming more aware and focused on your surroundings. It can be done eyes closed or open but the practice is really about concentrating on a single-point of focus. Examples of mindfulness is just sitting and listening to the sounds around you, feeling the temperature of the air and the room, becoming aware of the space in the room in which you sit, even of the tastes in your mouth.
Try taking a moment now to do nothing but just listen to the sounds around you and taking it all in. Can you hear the whizzing of the electronics, the ticking of a clock, the creaks of trees and rustle of leaves outside, the sound of cars driving by? Listening without judging and letting thoughts creep in (much) is one way to get a feel for mindfulness meditation.
Ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life:
- Sit in your room and just notice everything around you – space, temperature, sounds
- Eat your meals and chew consciously, savouring the flavours and chew your food until it becomes liquid before swallowing (great for digestion as well)
- Drink your coffee and enjoy and savour the tastes without your phone in hand
This is the most traditional form of mediation, being a central practice for Buddhists for thousands of years now across the world. It is essentially the same practice as mindfulness except we are focusing only on the breath. The best thing about breathing meditation is that you always have your breath available to start tapping into to meditate and anchor yourself into the present moment. You can do this at your desk, on the train, in the car… well, anywhere really since you are always breathing.
A type of breathing meditation is deep breathing which involves breathing deep into the belly or diaphragm. It has been linked to reducing stress, improved blood flow, increased energy level and improved digestion to name just a few benefits. As young babies we breathe only from the diaphragm but as we grow older we breathe in the chest more and have lost our belly breathing. Chest breathing is linked to the flight or fight response, a function of the sympathetic nervous system. In other words, chest breathing signals to the brain that you are under threat and the body then responds by increasing your heart rate, blood pressure and respiration getting us ready for fight or flight. Great if we were actually getting ready to fight, but in most cases, we’re just at our desks or on couch and feeling stressed for no good reason!
Ways to incorporate breathing meditation into your life:
- Tuning into your breath when feeling stress and start deepening and lengthening your breath
- Stepping outside and breathing in the fresh air minimum of 3 times before setting off on your day
- Traditional meditation by sitting and noticing the tip of your nose and the breath as it enters and exits your nostrils
Reflective meditation means reflecting on a particular topic for example “why things went wrong?”, “the meaning of life” or “how can we solve our plastics in the ocean problem?”.
Our minds are thinking all day long but most people don’t allow deep and focused thinking, which can be deeply insightful and can help you to generate new ideas. Taking the time out to think about things differently, you create new pathways of thinking which can rewire your brain. Given research has shown that 90% of our thoughts are repetitive thoughts and 80% are negative, I would say that creating new thought pathways is a great way to think and create new ways of being!
Reflection allows us to re-evaluate and take reaction and emotion out of a situation, it allows new ideas to flow and allows a moment to reflect on how we could improve in the future.
Ways to incorporate reflective meditation into your life:
- Give yourself time to think about a big world issue and how you would solve it
- If stressed about a situation, think about how you could or could have done it differently (it’s infinitely more useful than fretting about it)
Visioning involves imagining how you want to be in the future in certain situations. For example, you might be leading a group or a team, you might be playing music to crowds of 1000’s, you might have published your first series of books. The whole idea with visioning is that you imagine yourself more and more in an ideal state or end result. The more you do this, your subconscious mind starts taking in the images and thoughts and your body then follows as though it has already happened.
It’s not just a wishful thinking activity. Sports psychologists have been training olympians and elite athletes to use this technique to prepare for competition for years. The sportsperson train picture their sport for every possibility in the game and therefore when it does happen in reality, they are prepared and can respond swiftly.
In a study, it was found that when people imagine skiing, the brain sent electrical signals comparable to when the athlete was actually skiing, and the muscles reacted similarly as well.
It’s a hack to start creating things that you want in your life, before having all the skills and capability to actually do it, because your body and mind will just act as though you are already doing it.
First you think it, then you will act it and then you’ll be it!
Ways to incorporate visioning into your life:
- Before going to bed, imagine all the things that you want in your life i.e. career, relationships, home life and feel and see it with your whole body
5. Moving Meditation
This is actually a subset of mindfulness meditation but deserves a category of its own because most people don’t realise that exercise or physical activity can be a form of meditation, also. Let’s take running as an example.
When you are so focused on each step and movement, your mind is so concentrated on it and there is no more room for thoughts which makes this an easy shortcut into meditation. Another great moving meditation is yoga. Holding some of those poses requires such focus that no other thought can enter the mind.
Ways to incorporate moving meditation into your life:
- Take up dancing
- Do yoga
- Go running
- Get off a stop early on your way to work and walk
- Do any form of exercise!
Meditation is so diverse that you can almost find any moment in your day to meditate. It’s important to know however, that meditation is a practice, and should be practiced regularly for the best results. Perseverance and consistency is key.
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