Ask three different people what meditation is and you will get three different, but slightly similar answers. It’s an ancient tradition, a practice of faith, a way to connect with yourself, or all of the above. The common thread would be that meditation is a state of awareness, a profound state of consciousness different from the normal waking state that give a deeper sense of peace than your deepest, most restful sleep. It occurs when the mind, while completely alert and inwardly focused, is at rest, clear, silent, and calm.
You can find many people willing to teach you how to achieve this state of calm awareness, and there are even books, articles, and videos on how to meditate. What these resources will tell you is that there are many ways to meditate – there really is no right or wrong way to do it – but you have to overcome the biggest obstacle first, which is the mind itself.
When you try to “not think of anything,” you end up actually thinking of everything, from what happened earlier in the day and the tasks you still have to do, to some wild imaginings about that trip abroad you’ve been looking forward to for months, and telling yourself “No, don’t think about that!” Meditation does sound easy on paper, but in real life the mind wanders. There are so many things you need to think about in order to not think at all and keep your mind still. But yes, you can do it.
Simply being able to meditate isn’t enough, however. You need to form a habit of it – and stick to it. Only then will you be able to reap the full benefits of meditation, which we will discuss later. First, let’s look into the most common types of meditation practice you can try out. Choose the style that feels comfortable and comes the most naturally to you, and you’ll be on your way to forming a meditation habit.
Mindfulness meditation involves a combination of awareness and concentration. You pay attention to the thoughts passing through your mind and take note of any patterns. In this meditation style, you detach yourself from your thoughts – you simply observe what is happening in your mind, emotions, and body while focusing on your breath.
This meditation style takes its roots from Buddhist teachings and can be practiced alone, making it ideal for those who don’t have a teacher to guide them through the process.
As the name suggests, this is an active meditation style where movement guides you. Practicing yoga, doing some gardening, taking a walk through the woods, or any other activity with gentle motion can be considered movement meditation. If you are the kind of person who is at peace when you let your mind wander and find relaxation in action, this meditation style would be beneficial for you.
“Focus” is a short and straightforward word that is really difficult to do, especially if you get easily distracted and you end up thinking of different things, sometimes all at the same time. But as they say, there’s no better way to get better at something than practicing it.
In focused meditation, you use any of your five senses to concentrate on something. It may be internal, like your heartbeat or your breath. You can also focus your attention through external objects. Stare at the flame from a candle, count mala beads, listen to a gong – whichever works for you to hold your focus.
In spiritual meditation, you reflect on the stillness and silence surrounding you and seek a deeper, more meaningful connection with your God or the Universe. It is in many ways similar to religious prayer – in fact, it is used in religions such as Daoism, Hinduism, as well as in Christian faith. Those who practice this meditation style use essential oils such as sage, palo santo, sandalwood, cedar, myrrh, and frankincense to heighten their spiritual experience.
Spiritual meditation is good for people who thrive in silence and want to seek spiritual growth. It can be practiced in a place of worship or at home.
In mantra meditation, you use a repetitive sound – a word, a phrase, or any short sound (“Om” is a popular mantra) – to clear the mind. You can chant the mantra quietly or loudly, it doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that saying the mantra makes you more alert and in tune with your surroundings, allowing you to achieve a deeper level of awareness.
Mantra meditation is practiced in Buddhist, Hindu, and other teachings. Those who find silence uncomfortable and prefer repetition would benefit from this meditation style.
Transcendental meditation has been the subject of many scientific papers and it is perhaps the most popular meditation style around the world. It also involves a mantra, but the words used are specific to each person practicing it. People who are serious about maintaining a practice of meditation as well as those who like structure would find this style beneficial.
Making A Habit Of Meditation
The next challenge for people who practice meditation is making it into a habit. What’s great about meditation is that over time, you will learn to do it anytime and anywhere, so there’s really no excuse for not doing it. Follow these tips to form a daily meditation habit.
- Start by committing to at least 2 minutes a day. As you form a habit of doing mini-meditations, lengthen the time to 5 minutes, then 10 minutes after two weeks, then 20 if you’ve been meditating every day for a month.
- Pick the most convenient time and tie it to a meditation trigger, like as soon as you wake up, or while taking your lunch break. The ideal trigger is something that you already do on a regular basis, like brushing your teeth or taking your shoes off once you get home from work.
- Choose the right environment that will allow you to sit comfortable and focus on meditation. It’s important to find a quiet spot where you can stay for a few minutes without anyone bothering you.
- Select a meditation method you feel most comfortable with.
- Track your progress by keeping a meditation log, using an app, or marking your calendar after every practice.
Benefits Of A Meditation Habit
Practicing meditation on a daily basis has numerous benefits physically, emotionally, and mentally. Here are the top benefits you can gain from a meditation habit.
- A daily meditation habit improves concentration and memory.
- Meditating regularly enhances self-awareness, clearing your mind, helping you develop a deeper and stronger understanding of yourself, and making you more comfortable in your own skin and encouraging you to make positive changes.
- It also makes you a happier person. Meditation increases the activity in the part of the brain responsible for positive emotions. This means that the practice also benefits your emotional health by decreasing depression, contributing to improved well-being overall.
- Daily meditation makes you a healthier person by improving immune and cardiovascular health.
- A regular meditation habit reduces stress and anxiety, and also reduces the symptoms in those who have medical conditions triggered by stress. Less stress also means reduced anxiety, especially in high-pressure work environments.
- A meditation habit tends to reduce genes that can up your risk of certain diseases such as allergies or cancer. Meditation affects the genes positively by changing the gene expression and helping you cope better with chronic inflammation.
Meditating every day is one of the best and most beneficial habits you can start today. Simply follow the tips listed above and motivate yourself to stick to the habit by reminding yourself of the many benefits you can receive from it. We hope those pointers help you in making your meditation journey something to look forward to every time.