I’ve been practicing meditation for so long I assume that everyone vaguely interested in spirituality meditates, and everyone knows how to meditate. I have been surprised a couple of times lately when people have told me that they don’t meditate, or they don’t know how to meditate.
In my experience meditation is one of the most important keys to mental health and wellbeing. In this post I share some benefits of meditation, some different types of meditation and give an outline of my personal meditation practice.
Benefits of Meditation
From what I’ve seen, a lot of people say they can’t meditate as they can’t stop thinking. Meditation is not about stopping your thoughts, it’s about observing them. I’ve been meditating for around twelve years or more now and most of the time my mind is still pretty active. I’ve had a few experiences of deep meditation where I’ve gone into a kind of trance. Those experiences have been amazing, and I’d love to have them more often. Unfortunately, they are the exception rather than the rule, but I believe that any meditation, no matter how active or quiet our mind, is still beneficial.
I find that I am generally calmer and Happier when I am regularly practicing meditation and/or Buddhist Chanting. I aim to do both every day.
Healthline have published an article about the 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation.
There are even studies that indicate mediation can reduce crime! An article by Sage Journals, entitled Societal Violence and Collective Consciousness: Reduction of U.S. Homicide and Urban Violent Crime Rates states, “A number of published studies have examined this predicted effect for crime and violence reduction at the city, state, national, and regional or international levels. (In the research studies, this effect has been termed the Maharishi effect after Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who predicted it as early as 1960 based on the Vedic knowledge.) The early studies examined the percentage of Transcendental Meditation participants in cities in relation to crime rate changes using annual data. The first published study found that when small cities reached 1% of their population instructed in the Transcendental Meditation technique, they showed reduced rate of FBI Part 1 crimes the next year and a decreasing trend the following years, compared with matched control cities.”
Meditation can also help with the law of attraction. Law of attraction teacher, Abraham Hicks says that trying to manifest what you want without meditating is like hoovering the whole house but not plugging in the hoover.
I find that I often get creative ideas, solutions to problems or aha moments when I’m chanting or meditating. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if this is my intuition or a red herring. Abraham Hicks says, you can tell by the way it makes you feel. I have had a lot of red herrings sent to me by the Universe though, which is puzzling. Sometimes I think the Universe just likes to play with me!
Types of Meditation
One way to meditate is to simply watch your breath. Your mind will inevitably wander and when it does simply notice that it’s wandered and go back to observing your breath.
Guided meditations are a great way of getting started. Personally, I’m not a big fan of guided meditations as I don’t feel they give the brain a chance to stop. Having said that, guided meditations can be a useful tool to teach you the basics.
Personally, I do use guided meditations but only in addition to other practices that encourage my mind to slow down. Guided meditations can be a great way to address a specific problem or issue. I particularly enjoy shamanic journeys, especially Sacred Cacao Ceremonies.
One of my favourite guided meditations is the 6 phase meditation from Vishen Lakhani at Mindvalley. Vishen claims that this is the only meditation practice you need. Although personally I believe we all need a practice where we let our mind slow down, as I already mentioned.
In a mindfulness meditation you become aware of your five senses and everything around you. What can you see, hear, feel, smell, taste? Headspace have a great app that can teach you the basics of mindfulness practice and meditation.
One of my favourite ways to meditate is while walking in the countryside or by the sea. I combine walking with mindfulness. I find this is a powerful way to connect with the beauty of Mother Earth. Again, Headspace have a great guided walking meditation to get you started. I find walking can be quite meditative and can be a good way to gain clarity.
Many people, especially Buddhists, practice chanting meditation. Sounds can be very healing. I first came across chanting when I practiced Zikr in Egypt. Zikr is one of my favourite spiritual practices, that unfortunately I’ve neglected since returning to the UK, as there are no Zikr groups local to Ipswich that I’m aware of. I now practice chanting as part of my Buddhist practice every morning and evening. I chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, which literally means I devote my life to the mystic law of cause and effect. You can read more about my Buddhist practice in my previous post Why I practice Nicherin Buddhism with SGI. You can find out how to chant here.
A Course in Miracles meditation
Someone recommended I read A Course in Miracles when I was quite new to the spiritual path. They said that it’s quite deep so start with A Path to Light. What I found was that A Path to Light was also quite deep and to be honest, it was a bit of a head fuck! I have tried A Course in Miracles a couple of times since and always struggled with it.
What I did find useful is Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return to Love. This is one of my favourite books and it explains A Course in Miracles in layman’s terms. I later started doing the daily lessons from A Course in Miracles workbook with Marianne Williamson’s Mornings with Marianne programme. The daily lesson includes a short meditation. Marianne reads the lesson of the day and then explains it. I absolutely love it. It does what it says on the tin. It really is miraculous, and I highly recommend it.
Journaling is a type of mediation in the sense that is a brain dump for everything that is going around in your head. It can also be useful to journal before you meditate as it can help to quieten your mind.
When I have more time, I like to spend some time colouring. I find this can be very meditative and calming. I play my mediation playlist while I’m doing it.
I sometimes find that sounds can help me to quieten my mind. I play my mediation playlist or focus on everything I can hear. Sounds can be distracting but if you focus on them and absorb yourself in them, they can be a tool to help you go deeper.
Every now and again I turn off my phone, computer and TV and have an afternoon, day, or weekend of silence. This is hard but really beneficial. I talk about how to do this in my Silent Retreat and Overcoming Loneliness blog posts.
How to start
A Zen proverb says that you “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” Although this is probably true, in reality it can be difficult to fit in time to meditate, especially if you’re busy.
I suggest starting off very small. The important thing is to start. I started with just five minutes and built it up from there. Pick one of these techniques and try it out. There are lots of apps out there that can help you get started. I started using the Headspace app a few years ago and I found it was a great way to improve my meditation practice, as well as enhance my mindfulness techniques.
If you are too busy, try to find a way that you can fit a meditation practice into your daily life. You could mediate while you are washing up, doing the housework, having a shower, driving etc, if you do those things mindfully. Obviously be careful if you do this while driving. One of my favourite ways to meditate is in the bath, with Epsom salts, essential oils and candles.
My meditation practice
On a good day I get up at 6 am. I sit with my coffee for five minutes of quiet time where I don’t do anything except drink my coffee and cuddle the cats. In the warmer/lighter months I do this in the garden. I then journal or do my morning pages for around 20-30 minutes. After that I chant for about 40 minutes and combine that with the 6 phase meditation. I finish with A Course in Miracles meditation.
I sometimes do a walking meditation on the way to work or during the day.
In the evening I do 20 minutes of chanting, where I just focus on the sound of the chanting and how it feels in my body and/or I repeat my Course in Miracles meditation for the day, sometimes in the garden or in the bath.
Please note the following important points:
- Start off small as I mentioned above.
- The practice I mentioned is what happens on a good day and I rarely manage the whole lot. I try to at least chant, even if that’s all I do.
- Find ways to make it easy, enjoyable and fit it in to your life.
I have been meditating for years and I still find it difficult. What about you? What’s your experience of mediation? If you are new to meditating, which of these techniques are you going to try out? Let me know in the comments or in the Happiness Club Facebook group.
Click here to receive a regular dose of Happiness in your inbox. You will also receive my free guide – Happiness Club for Unlimited Self-Esteem.