Which meditation practice is best for you?
You've made your first step in your meditation journey. You did your research and now feel overwhelmed by all the forms of meditation available to practice. Don't worry, this article will help steer you in the direction of which meditation is best for you.
First, let's take a step back and do some self-evaluation. There are a few questions you need to ask yourself to help understand the reason you want to meditate and which practice(s) will be best suited for your personality. Feel free to jot down the answers to the following questions:
Why do you want to practice meditation?
Do you feel like you are lacking something in your life? How are you feeling, physically? Are you feeling mentally overwhelmed? Do you find yourself wanting nourishment, connection, more energy, purpose, etc?
What benefits are you looking for?
Do you want to feel less stressed? Be able to focus better? Culture more equanimity? Enhance your overall well-being (mental, physical, spiritual, etc.)?
How often should you meditate?
Is this going to be a (solo) daily practice for you or are you looking to work it into your daily routine? Are you planning on taking a large chunk of time out of the year to devote to meditation? Meaning, are you going to go on a retreat(s); utilizing days or weeks to a formal discipline. Another important question is, "How long do you plan on practicing meditation?" Your answer can vary greatly, whether it be a short time (weeks or months) or decades to come.
These are just a few questions to help get you started narrowing down possible meditative options that may be right for you. Don't restrict yourself only to these questions. If there is something that keeps coming up for you or a circumstance that needs to be factored in write it down. It can only help make your decision better tailored for you in the long run. Remember, this article is intended to be a guide. No matter which meditation you choose you will find benefits both expected and unexpected. Meditation is a life skill that never becomes obsolete, no matter how much time has passed or circumstances have changed, it can always benefit you.
Now let me lay out a few meditative practices available to you. Some of these are more popular than others but all of them can benefit you in one way or another:
1. Mindfulness :
Rooted in the Buddhist tradition, mindfulness is an ongoing life practice that helps you to accept all that arises without judgement. It addresses what is going on in the moment and works to release it right away. You cultivate the practice of surrendering and placing attention on that which helps you grow and evolve in a positive direction. In the words of spiritual leader and Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh: “Mindfulness helps you to go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes.”
a. Helps to refocus attention
b. Decreases stress response
c. Helps shift toward a positive mood
d. Enhances self-awareness
e. Improves health and well-being
There are many ways to practice mindfulness, including just taking moments throughout the day to notice how you feel and what’s going on around you. To help you get started, this quick meditation technique called “S.T.OP.” can help you deal with stressful moments. It allows you to pause, take in what’s happening, and then act with more awareness and wisdom.
Stop what you’re doing.
Take a breath and pause.
Observe what is happening in your mind, body, and external environment. Notice any default behaviors such as anger, fear, etc.
2. Loving-Kindness :
If you want to start changing your perception of the world, Loving-Kindness Meditation can begin to help make this shift. It uses words, images, and feelings, to invoke qualities of love and friendliness toward yourself and others. In recent years, research on this particular type of meditation has shown a range of benefits from improving general well-being to providing relief from illness and increasing social connectedness.
a. Increases self-love
b. Enhances relationships with others
c. Increases social connections
d. Aids with physical healing
e. Improves mental well-being
3. Mantra :
This is a common and beloved meditation practice; prominent in many teachings, including Hindu and Buddhist traditions. The word “mantra” means vehicle or instrument of the mind and can be used in different ways. Mantras can be sounds, words, or phrases and are often silently repeated for the duration of a meditation, helping keep the mind focused and serving as a vehicle to reach higher states of consciousness. 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.
a. Satisfies a need for structure
b. Focuses the wandering mind
c. Reduces stress
d. Improves mental and physical health
e. Helps to gain clarity into your true desires
4. Movement :
Most people may think of tai chi or yoga when they hear movement meditation. This practice may include walking through the woods (i.e. shinrin yoku, a Japanese term for “forest bathing”), gardening, Qigong, and other gentle forms of motion. It’s an active form of meditation where the movement guides you. Movement meditation is good for people who find peace in action and prefer to let their minds wander.
a. helps reduce physical pain and boost the immune system
b. focuses the mind and promotes deep sleep
c. lowering blood pressure & increased blood flow to the brain
d. identifies and balances emotions
e. can help with creating you day and making grounded decisions
Zen meditation, sometimes called Zazen is a form of meditation that can be part of Buddhist practice. Many Zen practitioners study under a teacher because this kind of meditation involves specific steps and postures. The goal is to find a comfortable position, focus on breathing, and mindfully observe one's thoughts without judgment. This form of meditation is similar to mindfulness meditation but requires more discipline and practice. People may prefer it if they are seeking both relaxation and a new spiritual path.
a. quieting down of "mind chatter"
b. feeling more connected to all living things, with more love and compassion
c. enhanced brain power, memory, and cognitive recall
d. clear, lucid thought, with high levels of creativity
e. easier access to your subconscious mind
As I mentioned earlier this is a guide to help you choose a style of meditation you might like to try. There are so many different styles of meditation that if one doesn't appeal to you or fit into your lifestyle, just try a new one. I mentioned a few here that are good gateways into exploring this important daily practice. Keep it simple and have fun with this process! You will know when you have found a style that resonates with you.