In a nut shell, meditation is a form of relaxation. It has been practiced for thousands of years in many, many ways. Basically, there is no wrong way to meditate. You may already have your own method and just don’t realize it.
Do you find yourself peaceful, relaxed, calm and present when you take a walk? Maybe when you listen to classical music, read poetry, paint, cook or sew? I find myself in this beautiful state when I am working in my garden. My husband is there as soon as he steps into the canoe with a fishing pole.
Anyone can practice meditation. It's simple and inexpensive. Meditating doesn't require any special equipment and you can practice it wherever you happen to be —out for a walk, riding the bus, waiting at the doctor's office or even in the middle of a difficult meeting.
There are endless benefits to meditating for both your overall health and emotional well-being. They include a sense of calm, peace and balance. And these benefits don't end when your meditation session ends. Meditation can help carry you more calmly through your day and can even improve certain medical conditions.
According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation may help relieve such conditions as anxiety, depression, pain, stress and insomnia. Combined with conventional medicine, meditation may also improve cardiovascular health, rheumatologic conditions and digestive problems.
Mayo Clinic offers meditation as a treatment for various medical conditions. The practice can relax and rejuvenate the mind and body, and helps many patients refocus and gain happiness and inner peace. More than 200 Mayo patients have participated in meditation treatment and their responses have been overwhelmingly positive.
The Cahill Meditation Atrium in the Cannaday Building at Mayo Clinic in Florida is dedicated to the spiritual needs of patients and visitors. The art glass wall is called "Healing Garden."
Research is being conducted on the benefits of meditation for addiction and other medical conditions, especially those that can be worsened by stress.
So how do you start? Which type is best? Meditation comes in many styles and forms. Whatever style you choose, the end goal is the same. Peace of mind, heart, and spirit. How you approach any type of meditation makes a big difference to the outcome. Trying too hard will only increase your stress. You'll get much better results when you just let go... The secret is not to expect things to turn out a certain way.
Some forms of meditation are:
1) Mindfulness meditation. This type is based on being mindful or having an increased awareness and acceptance of being in the present moment, task or act. You focus on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions but let them pass by without judgment.
2) Concentrative meditation. Focusing all your awareness on an object, sound or thought is another way to keep your mind from wandering. Often a candle flame is used as the focal point.
3) Paced-breathing meditation. Combines slow, deep breathing with aspects of mindfulness and concentrative meditation.
4) Guided meditation. This is sometimes called guided imagery or visualization. While practicing this method of meditation you form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing. You try to use as many senses as possible - smells, sights, sounds and textures. You may be led through this process by a guide or teacher.
5) Mantra meditation. In this type of meditation, you silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts. You can create your own mantra, whether it's religious or secular or be given one by a teacher.
6) Transcendental meditation. You use a mantra, such as a word, sound or phrase repeated silently, to narrow your conscious awareness and eliminate all thoughts from your mind. You focus exclusively on your mantra to achieve a state of perfect stillness and consciousness.
7) Breathe deeply. This technique is good for beginners because breathing is a natural function. Focus all attention on your breathing. Concentrate on feeling and listening as you inhale and exhale through your nostrils. Breathe deeply and slowly. When your attention wanders, gently return your focus to your breathing.
8) Scan your body. When using this technique, you focus your attention on individual parts of your body. Become aware of your body's various sensations, whether that's pain, tension, warmth or relaxation. Combine body scanning with breathing exercises and imagine breathing heat or relaxation into and out of different parts of your body.
9) Engage in prayer. Prayer is the best known and most widely practiced example of meditation. Spoken and written prayers are found in most faith traditions. You can pray using your own words or read prayers written by others.
10) Read and reflect. Many people report that they benefit from reading poems or sacred texts, and taking a few moments to quietly reflect on their meaning. You also can listen to sacred music, spoken words or any music you find relaxing or inspiring. You may want to write your reflections in a journal or discuss them with a friend or spiritual leader.
11) Focus your love and gratitude. In this type of meditation, you focus your attention on a sacred object or being, weaving feelings of love and gratitude into your thoughts. You can also close your eyes and use your imagination or gaze at representations of the person or object.
If you are the type of person that really does not enjoy being still these forms of meditation may appeal to you:
12) Yoga. You perform a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises to promote a more flexible body and a calm mind. As you move through poses that require balance and concentration, you're encouraged to focus less on your busy day and bring your attention to the present moment.
13) Qi gong. This practice generally combines meditation, relaxation, physical movement and breathing exercises to restore and maintain balance. Qi gong (CHEE-gung) is part of traditional Chinese medicine.
14) Tai chi. This is a form of gentle Chinese martial arts. In tai chi (TIE-chee), you perform a self-paced series of postures or movements in a slow, graceful manner while practicing deep breathing.
15) Walk and meditate. Combining a walk with meditation is an efficient and healthy way to relax. You can use this technique anywhere you're walking — in a tranquil forest, on a city sidewalk or at the mall. When you use this method, slow down your pace of walking so that you can focus on each movement of your legs or feet. Don't focus on a particular destination. Concentrate on your legs and feet, repeating action words in your mind such as lifting, moving and placing as you lift each foot, move your leg forward and place your foot on the ground.
Of course, there are classes, books, cd’s and dvd’s that can teach you all these different ways to meditate. The most important thing is to find a way that relaxes you. Don't let the thought of meditating the "right" way add to your stress. Sure, you can attend special meditation centers or group classes led by trained instructors. But you also can practice meditation easily on your own.
And you can make meditation as formal or informal as you like — whatever suits your lifestyle and situation. Some people build meditation into their daily routine. For example, they may start and end each day with an hour of meditation. But all you really need is a few minutes of quality time for meditation.
Please don't judge your meditation skills! This will only increase your stress. Meditation takes practice. Keep in mind, for instance, that it's common for your mind to wander during meditation, no matter how long you've been practicing meditation. If you're meditating to calm your mind and your attention wanders, slowly return to the object, sensation or movement you're focusing on.
Experiment, with curiosity and a joyful heart, and you'll likely find out what types of meditation work best for you and what you enjoy doing. Adapt meditation to your needs at the moment. Remember, there's no right way or wrong way to meditate. What matters is that meditation helps you with stress reduction and makes you feel good!
There is a 21 day meditation on-line beginning next Monday, November 3rd with Oprah and Deepak Chopra titled 'Energy & Attraction - Manifesting your Best Life'. It's free! An email is sent to you every day. I'll be on my mat!