Want to calm your mind, relax your body, improve your health, and live a meaningful and happy life?
Might I suggest meditation?
It can be confusing to know where to begin. After all, there are hundreds of meditation traditions from around the world and they all seem to contradict each other at times. One says to focus on your breath, another says to chant a mantra. One teacher tells you to listen to special music while another insists that absolute silence is necessary. No wonder most beginners can't get past the distracting question, Am I doing this right?
Well, I'm here to tell you to relax and breathe.
I've dedicated my life to studying meditation techniques from around the world. What I've learned is that all meditation techniques fall into one of four categories, and they’re all helpful in different ways. They’re like different gears in a car—fourth gear is great for highway driving, but you wouldn’t use it to navigate a parking lot.
By practicing each style of meditation, you’ll keep your mind flexible and enhance your life both in and out of meditation. You'll be able to effortlessly "switch gears" whenever you need to.
To help you practice, I’ve worked with MindBodyGreen to distill this timeless wisdom from around the world into one course, The Essential Guide To Meditation. Our goal is to give you the tools you need to practice anytime, anywhere.
Here are the four types of meditation and the ways they can change your life:
1. By cultivating awareness, meditation can help you find peace in the present moment.
In some forms of meditation, you practice non-judgmental awareness of the present moment by bringing your attention to the cycles of your breath. This centers you in the present moment whenever your mind wanders into the past or the future. By learning to keep the mind’s temporal pendulum in the center, you become mindful in every moment, even when you’re under pressure. Anxieties and traumas from the past begin to fade as you become more involved in the present and less fixated on the story of how you got here. Experiences that previously appeared dull and bland become textured and nuanced leading you to be more involved and interested in your life.
2. By bringing your mind into sharp focus, meditation can help you be your best.
In these forms of meditation, you keep yourself focused on a visualization, a chant, music, a person’s voice, a prayer, or some other object of attention. You may be instructed to imagine a desired future or re-contextualize past experiences. After a short period of time you’ll, find yourself drawn into your focus and you’ll be effortlessly attentive. This state is very similar to a trance and is extremely useful for achieving specific goals like overcoming fears, becoming more productive, or letting go of dependencies. Many athletes and business-people practice this form of meditation without even realizing that they’re meditating. It can also be of great benefit for spiritual growth such as gaining greater compassion, acceptance, and universal love.
3. When you transcend your ego, meditation helps you discover yourself.
In these forms of meditation, the ideal outcome is to transcend the ego and intellect and directly experience a deeper, unbounded aspect of the self. So, for example, instead of thinking I am a 32-year-old graphic designer from San Francisco who loves cats, the most accurate description of your self-experience in that moment would simply be, I am. Most people need to train with a knowledgeable teacher so they can learn to go beyond the stressed and busy surface mind and experience this state. Most techniques in this category use mantras (simple repetitive sounds), chosen for their calming effect and sometimes specifically tailored for the individual. Unlike the focus techniques, though, you’re not supposed to keep your mind fixated on the mantra, but rather go through a cycle of repeating it and letting it go; allowing the mind to follow the mantra into quieter states of consciousness.
4. When you control your breath, meditation energizes your body.
You may be surprised to know that some forms of meditation are supposed to energize the body and mind rather than calm it. When you hear someone say “exercise is my meditation,” this is what they are talking about. The runner’s high is a well known experience in which inner calm is combined with maximum performance. However, you don’t have to be an athlete to experience runner’s high and athletes could benefit greatly from refining it. The most common techniques for energizing the body revolve around breath control. In India, the subtle energy flow from the breath is called “prana.” In China, it’s referred to as “chi,” but whatever you call it the result is the same. The nervous system is stimulated and balanced leading to a feeling of flow. In this state, you feel tapped into a deeper source of energy; you’ll be less prone to injuries when you run and you’ll be able to move deeper into your yoga poses.
Daily meditation should be as simple and as much a part of your routine as brushing your teeth. Twice a day you clean out your mind and make it minty fresh! Join me and get started today.