Meditation gets a lot of buzz these days, and for good reason – a consistent meditation practice is associated with reduced anxiety and depression, improved creativity, better focus, and legitimately changes your brain.
But if you’re anything like me, you’ve resolved to start a meditation practice many times, and subsequently haven’t follow through with it, either because the actual practice of meditation is unfamiliar, or you begin and can’t seem to take the time every day to practice.
However, there is a very real possibility that your difficulties with starting and sustaining a meditation practice stem from the fact that you haven’t found the right meditation style for you. You see, we hear the term meditation and assume that everyone does it the same way or that there is a right and a wrong to meditate. In truth, there are many different styles of meditation – sitting, moving, with a partner, in a community, or all on your own. Chances are, you simply need a different style of meditation to “get” why it’s so life changing and so practiced around the world.
The best analogy for finding the right meditation style for you that I can think of is the comparison to choosing a workout routine. Perhaps you first try running. Maybe you instantly feel awesome and are so happy. Great! Or maybe you find after a week that running just isn’t for you. But you don’t say that you hate all exercise (hopefully!) Because the next week, when you go to a spin class, you have found your calling and are ready to go. We all need different styles. Same is true for meditation.
So today, I’m sharing 5 different styles of meditation, in the hopes that you can find a style that fits your needs and lifestyle. Happy meditating!
Use an App
I know, there’s an app for everything….even mindfulness. I loved building my daily meditation practice with an app because it gave me a sense of accountability, even though I was doing meditation on my own. My personal favorite app for meditation is Headspace. Their “Take 10” program is free (!!!!) and introduces you to many principles, challenges, and benefits of a daily meditation practice. It’s fun to see how many days in a row you have been practicing, and their “SOS” meditations – 2-minute meditations for when you’re in a stressful situation or feeling not so great – has been a lifesaver on multiple occasions. Can’t recommend Headspace enough!
Similar to using an app, but without all of the extra technology, you can use a guided meditation. Especially if you’re having a hard time sitting still for 10 or 20 minutes at a time, a guided meditation can help you stay put and relax. The trial and error here can be finding a meditation teacher whose style (and timing) resonate with your own. I personally love the guided meditations from Tara Brach.
Sometimes you just need to go solo. Meditation is about listening to your inner voice, right? That’s the beauty of meditation – it can happen anywhere, any time. 2 minutes or 20 minutes. The most important thing is that you’re actually taking the time out to do your meditation, however that works for you.
How to set up for your own meditation practice: find a quiet (or not so quiet) place, set the timer on your phone, and take your seat. Sit up tall, but relax. Bring your attention to your breath. Your brain will wander, and that is okay. When you notice that it wanders, simply bring it back to your breath. More good tips for a self-guided practice here.
Use a mala // mantra.
In the Indian style of meditation, you use a mantra – a repeated word or phrase – during your meditation. This has the great effect of keeping your brain busy, so it doesn’t wander all around while you sit in meditation. Malas are a necklace or bracelet you can use to keep place of where you are. A full mala has 108 beads, so you would repeat your mantra 108 times during your meditation. Many mala bracelets have 27 beads (108 divided by 4), so you would count the mala beads 4 times during your meditation.
How do you choose a mantra? A mantra can be any phrase or word in English you would like to enhance in your life. Some examples are calm, peace, love, abundance. You can use phrases like “I am enough”, or “I am worthy”. This article has great suggestions if you are looking for a Sanskrit mantra.
It’s not something that most people are used to, but walking meditation can be a powerful practice. It’s pretty simple to do: you walk with full mindfulness. You drop intentions to get somewhere or to go fast, and instead concentration on the feeling of your feet against the pavement, or your legs as they move. You are simply present in the world. I particularly love the form of meditation practiced by Eric Zimmer of the One You Feed podcast. His meditation practice is to get outside, and to simply notice what is around him. He sees the birds, looks at the trees, and takes a second to appreciate those things for what they are, and then he simply moves on. So he practices presence to what comes into his field of vision, or what he hears, without getting caught up in thoughts and judgment about them. Eric describes this much more eloquently than I do in his interview on the Lively Show.
What’s the takeaway? There is no one way right way to practice meditation. Your daily routines and preferences might determine which version of meditation you find most compelling. It’s less important what type of meditation you practice, as long as you are taking some time for mindfulness in your daily life. I promise you, you will feel an added sense of calm and peace in your life. It is pretty extraordinary.
Do you have a meditation practice? How do you practice, and what benefits has it brought to you?