What is the best meditation practice for you?
There are four, widely used, types of meditation practice. They are all suitable for any stage of your meditation journey – as they do not represent a hierarchy with one being more advanced than another. How they differ though, is in the meditation experience they give you and how they strengthen the skills of relaxing, focusing, and being mindful.
Four types of meditation
- Body and Breath awareness.
- Mantras and Affirmations.
- Using your senses (your vision, your sense of smell, your sense of hearing).
Meditation Practice: Body and Breath Awareness
Body and Breath Awareness is an ideal type of practice for you to sense and then release, any mental or physical tension that has taken hold. As a way to relax, it’s perfect.
I’d recommend it for beginners because learning to relax is one of the meditation skills to master. This sort of practice is an easy way of doing that.
I’d also recommend it for when you’re tired. After a day at your desk when you have ‘brain ache’, shoulder, neck, or backache, paying attention to your body is an easy way to ‘let go’. It makes sleep easier too.
Meditation Practice: Mantras and Affirmations
Mantras and Affirmations take the form of a single word, a sentence, or a paragraph that you can repeat over and over again. This practice can be done several times during the day, or like me, just used once a day as one part of your meditation.
This year I’ve been using the mantra;
“Always have the support of a cheerful and optimistic state of mind”.
This is how I use it:
- When I’ve been feeling a bit low or down about things (like Mum’s dementia), I want to lift my spirits.
- I think about what I’m worried about, say the mantra, then pause in silence for a bit.
- This pause gives my mind time to come up with a different way of looking at whatever is happening.
- Sometimes my mood changes immediately, sometimes later in the day as my new way of ‘looking’ settles into me.
Mantras and Affirmations are really good ways of changing your mind from one state into another. They also train your mind to stay focused on what you are thinking about. Good for mindfulness!
Beginners can and do use them but you can also use them to add variety if you’re getting bored with your current practice.
Meditation Practice: Visualisations
Some people find visualisation really easy to do, some find them quite hard. I find them hard! However, I still have a go at doing them, because you get lots of practice at staying focused.
Your mindfulness becomes more powerful too. By ‘powerful’, I mean you’ll be able to use mindfulness more and more effectively in everyday life, outside of your actual meditation time as well as within it.
I recommend using visualisations when you’re able to relax easily into meditation and you’re ready to strengthen your mindfulness. ‘Mindfulness’ meaning your ability to remember what you’re doing at any moment in time. This also progresses you towards being able to ‘look’ at your thoughts as they arise. When you reach this level of awareness it becomes easier to stop negative thoughts in their tracks or just let them go.
Meditation Practice: Using your senses
This is where you’re using one of your senses like vision, hearing, touch, etc. For example:
- Looking at an object like a leaf, a flower, or a stone.
- Listening to the sound of rain or wind, to a clock, to some music or chanting.
- Sensing how something feels – like the ground under your feet as you walk barefoot. Hugging a tree. How does a live branch feel compared to dead one?
- Sniffing! Wood, soil, leaves, the air after it’s rained … only your imagination is the limit on what you could use!
These techniques are really good to build your meditation skills as they give your mind something tangible to focus on. That makes it easier to concentrate, notice when your mind is wandering and bring it back.
If your practice is becoming stale and needs a refresh, sensory meditations are perfect, especially if you move outdoors. They’re also brilliant for beginners as a powerful way of changing your mind from its usual ‘busy thinking’ ways of being to being temporarily stopped in its tracks. This feels sooo good and is deeply relaxing as well. Come to think of it, I recommend this practice for when you’re feeling fed up or tired too.
“Where do I start?”
If you’re wondering, “Where do I start?” my recommendation would be to start with a breathing-based meditation practice. You can download the Nine Breaths by clicking on the link. Use it to experience a short relaxation as you meditate.
If you’ve got any questions about anything that you have read, email me using this link.
PS. For further support on starting meditation download the free PDF Your Meditation Starter Kit. It includes 5 steps to get the basics in place and guidance on what to expect from your meditation. I think you’ll find it really helpful!