Get Your Bliss On
Five Meditation Techniques to Try Now
It’s no secret that the ancient Eastern practice of meditation has gained favour and popularity in the modern West. Even our medical community is acknowledging what spiritual communities have known for centuries: that meditation positively and powerfully affects mind-body-spirit wellness. Still, many of us struggle with exactly how to meditate.
Whether you’re an avid meditator or a curious beginner, it may help to understand what meditation actually is. The word meditation stems from the Latin word meditari, which means “to think, contemplate, devise or ponder.” No matter what style of meditation you try, the one commonality all techniques share is this “dwelling upon something.” The idea is not to stop thoughts or push them away but to place your attention on something without strain, so that the mind becomes still naturally.
Understanding that meditation is not about resisting thoughts certainly takes some pressure off, but where do you go from there? First, know that the most basic way to meditate is to just focus on your breath and when thoughts come – and they definitely will – let them pass and bring your attention back to your breath. That said, contemplating the breath alone can be challenging, so here are five techniques that can enhance and deepen your meditation practice:
1. Repeat a Mantra
Mantras are sacred sounds that have been used by sages and monks for thousands of years as meditation aids. Repeating them silently or aloud centers the mind and elicits physiological and spiritual benefits. A simple and effective mantra to use is “So Hum,” which is said to be the true sound of the breath. The mantra translates to “I Am That,” and means being one with all that is. When meditating, repeat “So” on the inhale and “Hum” on the exhale. Of course, you can use any word that feels good to you, just try and pick a two-syllable word like peaceful or happy, chanting the first half on the inhale and second on the exhale.
2. Work Those Hands
Affectionately known as “yoga for the hands,” mudras are another ancient tool used by yogis and sages in meditation. With over 4,000 nerve endings at the tips of our fingers, making specific gestures with them activates the flow of energy to the physical and etheric bodies. There are hundreds of mudras that can help you achieve anything from weight loss and clear skin to increased energy to enlightenment. For our purposes, the gyan mudra is a great one to start with for clearing the mind, increasing memory and focus, bestowing wisdom and eliciting joy. Simply connect the tips of your index fingers with the tips of your thumbs, letting the other three fingers point out straight while resting your hands softly on the knees.
3. Contemplate an Object
If you find it difficult to meditate with your eyes closed, it can be very helpful to focus on something with a soft gaze instead. This is especially useful if you tend to fall asleep while meditating. It’s best to pick an object that helps bring a feeling of calm or a sense of spirituality. Objects found in nature, like stones, flowers, plants and crystals are good choices. Using something that continuously but gently moves, like the flame of a burning candle or the flow of an indoor waterfall can be very beneficial for an agitated and restless mind. Just soften your gaze and gently stare at the object while allowing everything around you to blur away. As thoughts come and go, keep bringing your attention back to the object.
4. Connect to Your Heart
"The longest journey that you will make in your life is from your head to your heart.” This quote by acclaimed spiritual teacher Gary Zukav eloquently captures the profound difference in living from a place of love and compassion instead of fear and judgement. In meditation, the simple act of dropping your attention from your mind and placing it into your heart can help you experience this shift. At a very basic level, this technique helps you focus inside your body by connecting you with your heartbeat, which naturally soothes and so helps you meditate more deeply. Over time, you may find your heart unfolding and that you start living from a place of inner peace, deeper joy and greater love.
5. Open Your Inner Eye
If you find your mind is overactive, then use this to your advantage by directing your attention on an intended visualization. This way, even though your mind is engaged, you’re still practicing the act of contemplating something, and therefore meditating. Just make sure to choose a visualization that helps you feel good. Some suggestions include a favourite memory, something you’re grateful for, something you’re looking forward to or a beautiful place in nature. You can even create an inner sanctuary by imagining your own private temple – give it form, colour and life. Whatever image you choose, really embody its essence and let its goodness flow through you, that it may expand beyond your meditation and into your life.
Like everything else in life, meditation takes time, commitment and perseverance to learn and master. But since it has hundreds of benefits and you now have five ways to try it, there are zero reasons to not start.
Additional tips to develop your daily meditation practice:
- Create a designated space for meditation, keep it clean and add objects of spiritual significance.
- Mark meditation time in your schedule as you would any other appointment and try to keep this time consistent.
- Start with even two minutes a day and slowly build your way to 20 minutes in the morning and evening.
- If you live with others, let them know when you’re meditating and ask that they respect this time by not distracting or interrupting you.
- Make a special playlist of relaxing music just for your meditation time.
Syma Kharal is a Toronto-based Holistic Healing Practitioner committed to helping her clients heal, grow and flourish. Visit her at flourishinglotus.com.