It is said that the Buddha gave 84,000 different kinds of teachings to meet the needs of every kind of being. In the same spirit, an individually tailored approach may be exactly what you need to break through into a regular meditation practice.
From the perspective of Buddhism, mental and emotionally induced feelings of depression is a closed-off or frozen mind state in which one has shutdown from positive feelings and sensations.
The practice of meditation helps us to show up to our experience with a gentle, focused presence, helping us sort through unpleasant feelings. It is a matter of shifting how we experience, rather than trying to shift what we experience. Sometimes this is the most powerful way to change the contents of our experience, by shifting our focus to the place within, where those feelings first arise. This is similar to shifting our attention from the crashing of a wave, to the vast oceanic depths where the wave was born.
If you've been feeling down or exhausted, sitting in silent meditation might seem torturous and next to impossible. Fortunately, sitting still in silence is only one style of meditation. Even the weary of heart or mind can can find restoration through other meditation practices.
Here are three potent styles of meditation to help de-stress, quiet the mind and cultivate wakeful presence:
1. Mantra recitation.
Reciting mantra is the repetition of a phrase in a steady rhythm to help declutter the mind. You can repeat mantras silently to yourself, or in a low, monotone voice to help with your focus.
If your mind starts to wander while saying your mantras, simply pause and bring your attention back to the phrase. It is optimal to begin with a set of 108 repetitions, using a string of malas (108 beads) to help keep track of your progress.
Mantras can be attained by a meditation teacher, but there are many you can also get on your own. There's the well-known, "Om Mami Padme Hum," for instance — the mantra for compassion and freeing of suffering.
2. Guided visualization/meditation.
If you have trouble concentrating for long periods of time, or if you get distracted by thoughts and stories that run through your mind, try listening to a guided meditation to help relax you. Guided visualization also works to help you create the life you want for yourself. Try this guided visualization to harness your creativity.
3. Somatic meditation.
Breathing practices are one of the most accessible methods of meditation, especially for beginners. By bringing our attention to the breath, we can break through the thickness of dull states of mind, and help alleviate depression and distraction. Body-based meditation practices are an immediate way to release tension and get present.
The simplest form of breathing practice is to count your inhales and exhales as you start to notice the sensations inside your body. This is the somatic practice. Count the number of times that you inhale, and try doubling the count on the exhale, making them longer. The counting will help you to notice when you start to drift away form the present and give you an attainable goal to work toward.
The most important secret to developing a successful meditation practice is to practice every day. Consistency matters more than the duration of time, and quality matters more than quantity. Try starting with 10 minutes a day, first thing in the morning. This way you will have completed your meditation before other activities and demands of your day can distract you.
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