Most of you found this blog after scouring the internet for advice on how to meditate. You have probably studied dozens of methods. It is important to remember that not every method works for everyone. Also, the meditation method only will quiet the mind and allow for deep meditation. This blog post will help you to sift through the information and concentrate on developing the method that works for you.
When deciding on a meditation method a person must determine their primary avenue for viewing the world. I have determined there are three types of people visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. These three types of people will find specific meditation methods more useful than others. A visual person will have an easier time visualizing during meditation. An auditory person will have an easy time using a chant or mantra. A kinesthetic person will need body scanning or prayer beads to aid in meditation.
To determine what type of person you are, think back to a found or unpleasant memory. When you recall this memory what stands out to you the most, the looks on people’s faces and scenery, the words spoken and music playing, or how you felt emotionally and energetically. If the faces and scenery stand out most, you are visual. If the words and music stand out the most, you are auditory. If the emotions and energy stand out the most, you are kinesthetic.
A person can also just sit back and notice what is around them. Notice if sites excite you more than sounds. Does the wind against your skin give you chills? If you are close to traffic, do you hear the engine before you see the cars? Do your surroundings fill you with emotion? Do you feel like you need to do something?
Body scans are good for anyone of any faith and are chiefly a kinesthetic method of meditation. A body scan is when a person focuses her attention on one part of the body and move up or down focusing on the sensation of each part of the body. When I do this method, I start at the top of my head and feel all the sensations around my head then move to the neck, chest, stomach, legs, and finally feet. This method works great for a person that chiefly operates from feelings.
If you determine you are primarily visual you will want to do a meditation that involves visualization. The most traditional type of visualization will require a mandala. A mandala is a picture that represents an energy center called a chakra. Mandalas come from Hindu and Yogic tradition. They do not represent a deity, but they are not part of the Judeo-Christian faith. When stray thoughts come up, bring your attention back to the mandala.
If you are a Christian and want to do visualization you can use a religious painting. Before beginning meditation look at a religious painting that is dear to you. After you have committed to memory all the different aspects of the painting, close your eyes and recreate the painting in your mind with vivid detail. The mental recreation of the painting will have the same effect as a mandala. If stray thoughts come up, refocus your attention back to your mental painting.
If you are Atheist and visual, you can choose a painting or photo that calms you down. Take this photo, study and memorize it and recreate it in your mind. When your mind wanders, bring the attention back to your painting or photograph.
If you are auditory, you can use a chant or mantra. A chant is a short phrase, or single syllable said out loud. A mantra is a short phrase, or single syllable said silently in your head. The most traditional are “Om Mani Padme Hum”. The phrase is a mantra, so old no one knows the origin. Standard one-syllable mantras or “Om” or “Ram”. Both are significant mantras in the Hindu / Yogic tradition.
If you are auditory and Christian, you can use any Bible verse that is less than six syllables. If you prefer a one syllable mantra use “G-d.” An Atheist can use “Love” or “Peace” as a Mantra. Always bring your attention back to the mantra or chant when your mind wonders.
The final method will be the use of prayer beads also known as malas. The use of a mala will be useful for people the fidget or frequently move when attempting to meditate. Follow the mantra or chant advice above but add a mala. Move one bead after saying the mantra once. Feel the bead pass through your fingers. Be diligent in making sure only one bead moves at one time. Do this until you completely cycle through the beads and begin again. A traditional Yogic mala will have 108 beads. There is a Hindu myth that explains why a mala has 108 beads, but I will not get into that here. A rosary will serve the same purpose for a Christian. There are also Muslim prayer beads that have 99 beads broken into 33 bead sections. I use the Muslim beads. The cycling of the mala will cause the thoughts, feelings, and actions to unify. The movement of the beads will calm the mind.
Once the mind is quiet, meditation will begin. Once the mind is calm, stop doing your mantra or visualization. Just sit and let your mind relax. Thoughts will still come up. You will not engage them as you did at the beginning of your sit. The thoughts will begin to come and float by your awareness. These are the states that you will enjoy, and they will motivate you to continue to meditate. Remember meditation is not the method, it is the state the method induces. Do not be afraid to modify your method or completely change your method. Once you find a method that works, stick with it, continue to cultivate that method.
One thing to not worry about is your body positioning. Many people recommend lotus position. Lotus position is the traditional cross-legged position that you see in all the Buddha statues. This position works if you are used to being in the lotus position and it is comfortable. Lotus position will make most people’s legs fall asleep. The most common meditation position for westerners is to sit in a straight back chair. Make sure your back is straight, feet flat on the floor, and your hands are open with your first finger and thumb touching. The seated position allows for the best circulation of blood and highest amount of comfort. Have your palms face upward to receive energy, have your palms face down for grounding.
In closing, I will add one more piece of advice. Do not worry about how long you meditate. It takes some people 5 minutes to get in a meditative state others 30 minutes. If you give up after 20 minutes, shrug it off and try again tomorrow. Stop judging yourself! You do not have to be good at everything. There will be sits in which you never get into a meditative state there will be some in which you are in a meditative state for a full hour. Have a time goal as just a general guideline or to keep you from giving up too early. Remember your meditation time is the time that you listen to G-d. Just sit and let states come and go.