Updated: May 2
Meditation is a practice of focusing the mind, whether on an object, a thought or activity, such as breathing, it trains attention and awareness. There are different techniques for meditation like mindfulness or loving-kindness meditation that help to clear the mind and create a feeling of emotional calm and stability.
The Origins Of Mediation
Meditation is practiced in many different religious traditions. The earliest records of meditation (dhyana) are found in the ancient Hindu texts known as the Vedas, but meditation can be found in other religions including Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism and Taoism. In the 19th century, Asian meditative techniques started to spread to other cultures, particularly in the West where they have become popular as a way to reduce stress and improve health.
Different Types Of Meditation
There is no right way or wrong way to meditate, just what works for you, but in more formal meditation practice there are several different ways to meditate, these include guided versus unguided meditation, where the choice is to have someone talk you through the meditation, or to do it without the guidance. Here are some forms of meditation, there are many more than this list, but it's a start:
Focused attention. This form of meditation sounds simple but can be quite hard to get used to. It uses an object or activity to focus your attention, most people focus on their breath, the feeling of it going in and out without trying to control it. Others prefer to look at something, a pen on a table, the flame of a candle, to draw the attention to one point. When you feel your mind starting to wander just bring your attention back to the aim of your focus.
Noting. This technique is similar to focused attention and the two can be used together. While you are meditating your mind will start to drift, thinking about something that happened that day, what you need to do later. During noting meditation you draw your mind where your focus has gone, you recognise it then decide to let it go. Whatever you're thinking about will still be there but during the meditation you don't need it. This practice is good for helping you learn about your thought patterns, are you drawn to more negative thinking or are your thoughts more of an escape or, maybe that need for control?
Resting awareness. This technique involves removing all focus, all thinking. You simply clear your mind and be. Easy right? This kind of practice is great to practice when in a natural space, a park, beach, or forest. You allow yourself to just be there with nature happening around you. If you can't go out try sitting by a window, whether you look out or close your eyes, this can be very freeing. If you have a tendency to fall asleep easily this type of meditation may not be for you.
Body scan. Body scanning is just what it sounds like, you mentally scan your body, you can start at the top of your head or the tips of your toes. Slowly moving your focus through your body, going through every inch and through every layer, skin, muscles, bones, all of it. You bring your attention to any discomforts or pains, tingles or even feelings of light happiness in your body. You don't have to do anything about the sensations that you find in your body, just be aware of them and keep scanning.
Visualisation. In visualisation you take focused meditation and add a picture to your mind. Instead of focusing on your breath or something in front of you you choose something in your mind to draw your attention to, it could be a sunset that you remember, your pet, a friend, anything that you can picture and put all of your attention on.
Loving kindness. This way of meditation will benefit you in wonderful ways, you extend loving feelings outwards, spreading them everywhere you go. It is done by first loving yourself, you imagine yourself experiencing complete physical and emotional wellness and inner peace. You draw that into a feeling of perfect love for yourself, thanking yourself for all that you are, knowing that you are just right as you are, your are what you were always meant to be. Focus on this feeling of inner peace, and imagine that you are breathing out tension and breathing in feelings of love. Once the feeling is complete in you take it and share it, pouring this loving feeling onto your loved ones, friends and strangers. Loving kindness meditation is a great self-care technique that can be used to boost well-being and reduce stress and also draw good feelings and happiness to you. This feeling will shine out of you and infect others.
Skillful compassion. Skillful compassion meditation is like a combination of visualisation and loving kindness. You focus on a person you know or love and pay close attention to feelings that start to fill your body and mind. Apply the loving-kindness to that person, wish them well and be happy for them. By opening our hearts and minds for the benefit of other people and not ourselves we will create feelings of, happiness and peace in our own minds.
Reflection. In reflection meditation you will ask yourself a question and, instead of thinking of the answer, you draw your attention to the feelings that are created within your body and not the thoughts. You are not trying to answer the question, you are exploring the feelings that the questions makes inside you. The questions can be positive, such as "what are you most grateful for?", but you could also ask yourself about negative things. Explore the feelings and let the thoughts go.
When choosing the type of mediation to practice read about what the meditation aims to achieve and how it is done then choose one that feels right for you. If you don't like it then try something else next time, if you find it hard keep going, don't give up. If you struggle meditating on your own you can take a course, join a meditation group or use an app, such as headspace , there are also millions of meditation videos on YouTube. There are guided meditations for those that prefer them but also unguided videos for those that feel more comfortable without assistance. Meditation is a practice, you keep doing it and you get better, you relax faster, clear your mind better and you will feel fantastic the more you do it.