There are so many meditation techniques out there that can really help you attain some more peace in your life. They can help us quiet down out our loud minds and really provide countless other benefits to our life that deal with our physical, psychological and mental wellbeing. The best thing about meditating is that it can be done by anyone, no experience is necessary, along with the fact that you don’t need to be part of any religion or faith to utilize meditation as people from all religions and beliefs utilize meditation to better their lives.
Below we delve deep into the how to meditate for beginners as well as meditation 17 different meditation techniques that you can use to achieve more peace through mediation. Enjoy!
Lying Down vs Sitting Up
Generic advice would be to tell you to not lye down when meditating as it is so easy to fall asleep while doing so. But everyone is different and it is possible that you can reach your most relaxed and peaceful conditions lying down. But for the general population, it is advised to sit up while you are meditating, especially at first so that you are less prone to drifting of during your meditation sessions.
Now that we have covered the two most used ways of meditating, I want to give you a little bonus for making it this far, so we are going to talk about meditating while lying on your side. First off, before you shout at me for thinking that this is a goofy or ludacrous way of getting your Zen on, let me tell you a little fun fact. The Buddha himself used lying side meditation, which is well more known and referred to as the “reclining Buddha pose” a lot, which it is well documented by the myriad of images of the Buddha doing so. Here’s one if you don’t believe me!
Pictures of the Buddha lying on his side and with his hand supporting his head, these are pictures of him in deep meditation. The other pictures of him peacefully lying and not supporting his head are actually documentation of the Buddha passing on.
So utilizing the reclining Buddha poses can allow you to lye down and still has been shown to be beneficial for staying awake and still reaping the benefits that meditation offers. It is advised that the best side to lye on is going to be your right side, with your right arm supporting your head and your left arm lying across your ribcage and left hip.
Although it is suggested that you be as still as possible, this position often causes meditators to have hand cramps, which it is OK to shift your hand position, but do not place to much emphasis on it, instead be mindful the movements that are taking place in your hand, head and neck when you are shifting positions.
Meditation Postures and Positions
There are so many positions that you can assume when getting ready to start your meditation, here are the 7 the most common mediation positions:
Easy Pose – This is a very great place to start for those looking for seated mediation techniques. You simply sit on your butt with both your feet lying on the ground, with your legs crossed. You can also enter into the quarter lotus posture by simply putting your feet underneath each opposite knee.
Seiza Position – This is where you will simply be kneeling on the ground. You can place your hands flat on your knees and place either a towel or pillow as a prop between your legs to keep them from falling asleep.
Chair – You can also simply sit on a chair while you meditate. You can also put a rolled up blanket or pillow behind you and sit more at the edge of the chair, allowing you to keep your back straight, instead of using the back of the chair as support.
Standing – You can actually meditate while standing. You simply want to place your back against the wall and either allow your arms to hang loosely along your sides or interlace your fingers and place them right below your navel and keep them there.
Lying – Like we said before, you can be prone to falling asleep when using lying mediation, but it still is a great option for those who don’t want to sit for long periods of time. You will want to lye on your back, which the most used lying mediation posture is to have your knees up when lying. This will relieve pressure on your lower back, giving you better spinal and pelvic stability.
Half Lotus – This is where you will be placing your left foot upon your right thigh, then you will tuck your right food underneath your crossed left leg. According to a great article on how to get into the half lotus position, it is actually great for stretching your hips, thighs, ankles and knees but is used for those who are mostly looking to go into longer timeframes of meditation.
Full Lotus – This position takes some practice and lots of core flexibility, and should only be implemented once you have mastered the half lotus. It can be attained in similiar fashion as the Half Lotus where you will both of your feet will rest on the opposite thigh. This position is known to be one of the most ancient and historic mediation postures known.
Hand Positioning For Meditation
Prayer Position – This is when you simply hold your hands together with both palms facing each other, and then bring them into your chest. This position is actually said to symbolize the heart opening up.
Venus Hands – This is when you place your hands in your lap in either an interlocked fashion or simply with one hand lying on the top of the other palm. You will then want to place your thumbs so that they are touching tips.
Budhi Mudra – This is when you place the top of your wrists on your knees with your palms facing up. Once in this position you will then want to simply touch your thumbs to your pinky fingers. If this is uncomfortable on your finger tendons, you can modify it by touching the thumb to your index finger, also known as Gyan Mudra or Prithvi Mudra where you touch your thumbs to your middle fingers.
Hakini Mudra – This is where all your fingers are touching and your palms are opened out.
This is just the tip of the iceberg for hand positions used during mediation. Here is a picture of various other hand positions you can use during your time of mediation.
Eyes Closed vs Eyes Open
Ok so this subject is similar to what we talked about above about lyings versus seated meditation when it comes to falling asleep. Closing your eyes relaxes your eyelids muscles which makes your more susceptible to falling asleep when you start your meditation session.
So keeping them open would seem to be the best and most logical way of meditating then, right? Well technically yes and technically no. The best way to meditate is to actually keep your eyes half open. This form of meditation actually has a name and that is “Lion’s Meditation”.
Now this method is very symbolic in meaning, which to look at this method we actually need to see it as your eyes half open as well as half closed. A great article that I found goes into depth about this, saying how you are putting your focus both on the physical and subconscious plane, a very powerful place to put yourself in, also talking about how your eyes half open symbolizes Mother Earth while your eyes half closed represent Heaven.
Mantras, Chanting and Breathing Meditation
If you are unfamiliar with the word “manta” well it is simply saying a word or phrase out loud or to yourself in a repeated fashion. A lot of group meditations will use mantras for meditation in the form of chanting, in which the whole group will repeat there word or phrase in
No matter how you choose to repeat a mantra while meditating, the main purpose of doing so is allow you and your mind to focus on one thing, blocking out the distractions of the outside world as well as the constant thought stream that happens when your subconscious thoughts are made conscious during meditation.
Now you can also meditate without having to utilize one of the above mantras, you can just use words or phrases that resonate with you. Some words that people use are:
No you can also utilize meditation without having to chant any mantra at all. The two favored and most powerful methods that you can use without mantras are to watch your breathe as well as watch your mind.
It is a very powerful place to be in when you are witnessing your thoughts and/or breath. Focusing on your breath is not only the most simple way of meditating but the most powerful way of meditating as it has been shown to be the most used technique for those who have attained enlightenment and happened to be the way that the Buddha meditated for the first time and the way he reached enlightenment through, which he promoted to his students as being the best and most powerful form or meditation.
When utilizing breathing meditation simply be aware of your breath by feeling the sensation of air going in and out of your nostrils. Also be aware of how your body is moving through the process of inhalation and exhalation. Be aware of your best expansion possible abdominal expansion during your breathes.
Thich Nhat Nhan, one of the most well known Buddhist teachers was also a huge advocate of breathing meditation, which he stated about this form of meditation:
“Breathing is a means of awakening and maintaining full attention in order to look carefully, long, and deeply, to see the nature of all things.”
You become the “watcher”, which right away your mind is on it’s best behavior because it is being watched instead of running amuck which happens when it isn’t being watched. The first one,in it’s highest form, a mantra is actually chosen for you by a teacher or guru in which they feel the mantra resonates with your individual soul and essence. But since you may not have a teacher and are still looking to reap the benefits of mantra meditation, below we provide 5 mantras for beginners that are some of the most ancient and powerful mantras to ever exist.
OM – This actually both the most simple mantra as well as the most sacred of them all. A great articletalks about how it is in fact broken down into 4 different parts in reference to it actually being “AUM”. The first letter “A” means “ahhh” and represents the creation of the universe. The second letter “U” as “ohhhh” represents both the maintaining of the universe’s energy and along with small impressions of our minds. The letter M as “mmmm” represents the transforming energies of our universe. Lastly the mantra includes the silence, also known as the “anagata”, which it characterizes pure consciousness. You can learn how to mediate with the mantra OM below!
Gayatri – This mantra was translated by Sir Monier Monier-Willams whom was the second Boden Professor of Sanskrit in which he stated about the mantra the following “Let us mediate on the excellent glory of the divine vivifying Sun, May he enlighten our understanding.”
Om Mani Padme Hum – Being that this mantra is comprised of 6 syllables, each one actually has meaning, all of which are to go against internal forces that cause human beings suffering. These 6 syllables are also referred to as the 6 perfections in which every Buddhist is actually in pursuit of through meditation. The great in depth article on the subject talks about how the ultimate goal of attaining the 6 perfections has to do with breaking free of the attachments of the ego, jealousy, desire, prejudice, possessiveness and hatred. This is coupled with the goal of establishing generosity, ethics, patience, perseverance, concentration and wisdom.
White Tara – Also referred to as the mother of all Tara’s and represents the deepest form of motherly compassion. The color white is supposed to characterize her truth, wisdom and purity.
Om Namah Shivaya – This mantra has been known to be great for healing of a myriad of different bodily ailments. A great article goes deeper into the meaning of this ancient mantra talking about how it brings to the individual reciting it peace as well as joy in their hearts. Along with being an aid in the collapsing of the ego and the awakening or rebirth through the mediation process.
Being Aware Of Your Posture
Mediation can be a great time for more bodily awareness, being present and consciously aware of how your body is reacting. Our society has creating sedintary posture from prolonged sessions of being in a seated position, which of often times we can bring in the same posture to our mediation sessions. Slouching during meditation can reinforce these subconscious habits of slumping. In order to get away from having bad posture during meditation, you can meditate with your back against a chair or wall to make sure your are full erect.
Tips For Keep Meditation Part Of Your Daily Routine
You may have heard the benefits of mediation and what it can do for you when practiced regularly, which if you haven’t heard of the benefits, they can include:
- Stress Reduction
- Increased Compassion
- Improved Concentration
- Improved Mood
- Increased Happiness
- Reduces Depression
- Pain Reduction
- Increased Focus
- Better Memory
- More Creativity
- Reduced Blood Pressure
- Help reverse diseases/disorders
- Slower resting heart rate
- More Optimism
- Improved Relationships
- More Forgiving
- Increased Self Acceptance
- More Energy
- Increased Blood Flow
These benefits are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how beneficial meditation can be for you. In order to reap those benefits, meditation techniques need to be practiced a few times a week but preferably daily. You can really engrain the habit of mediation into your daily life by using these 5 tips:
- Accountability Partner – Find a meditation buddy, someone who you want to help better reach their spiritual goals this year, in which they can do the same for you. Have a text system where you ask them if they have done their meditation each day. If you can’t find a buddy to keep you accountable than create accountability by setting an alarm on your phone that signifies that it is time to meditate, email yourself, put sticky notes up. Whatever it takes to keep you on track.
- Why Are You Doing It? – Getting clear on the reason why you are wanting to start meditating is the biggest key to long term success. If you see mediation as being worth the time instead of a waste of time, then you will make less excuses for not practicing it.
- Have a Schedule and Stick To It – Set a time where you will do your meditation, whether that be in the morning or night or both, and stick to it each and everyday.
- Don’t Listen to the NaySayers – People will be against your goals, especially those who don’t want you to succeed or pass them up. Stick to your goal to meditate no matter what anyone says about it. Do it for at least 21 days as this is the timeframe that has been shown as the length of time it takes to create a habit. If you end up not liking it then that is OK, but do it for a prolonged time frame that gives you time to really get a feel for it, all while not listening to anyones opinion of it!
- Reward Yourself! – This is the best part of forming a new habit that is often forgotten! Feel free to treat yourself to something small and special during the process of staring your meditation journey. Maybe you can treat yourself to a night out when you meditate daily for a week!
More Methods You Can Use
It is often easy to get distracted when meditating especially at first when you are just learning how to quiet the mind. It gets a lot easier the more you practice, which after a while of practicing meditation, you can almost instantly quiet your mind upon entering into your meditation session.
Candle – You can light a candle and simply observe the flame. This also allows you to still keep the your physical sense of vision content by focusing on something outside your body, instead of staying inside your head with a mantra. When a thought arises or your become distracted, simply bring your focus back to the flame.
Picking One Thing To Focus Upon – This can be a spot on the wall or an object in your room. Focusing your sight on one thing can allow your to place your focus only on that thing and allow distractions to fall away more easy.
Being Bodily Aware – Tension is inevitable when you start meditating. There is resistance to the new process. But you can lessen the tension by being aware of your body during you time of meditation. You can do a body scan every so often and consciously relax the muscles in your body that are tensed up.
You can also mix both the techniques above with a repeating mantra, utilizing both techniques to reach stillness during your meditation.
13 Things to Keep In Mind When Meditating
Don’t Worry If You Are Doing It Right – This thought crosses every new meditators mind when learning how to meditate. Being that it is a foreign act, naturally we feel like we may be doing it wrong, but it is just like trying anything else that is new. You will feel awkward for a while, but after doing it more and more you will feel a lot more comfortable. This goes for not worrying about where you are doing it as well as meditation can be done ANYWHERE! This also includes not worrying about having your extremities in the right place. You don’t have to go full on YOGI yet and sit in a lotus position! Simply get comfortable.
Bring Your Attention Back When Your Mind Wanders – Distractions, whatever they may be will come. There is no need to judge the distraction or get discouraged that it took you off track, simple bring your awareness back to your mantra or your breathing, whatever meditation technique you are using. This also includes examining toxic thoughts and staying with them until they dissapte, what you resist persists so simply stay with the unwanted feeling or thought instead of supressing it. Once you make it conscious, it tends to have a smaller affect on you instead of being stuffed in your unconscious.
Find A Distraction Free Area – It doesn’t have to be the same place each time, but try to find locations in which you can meditate without being distracted or bothered. This will allow you to go deeper into your meditation sessions, bring you better and faster results.
Where Comfy Clothes – If you aren’t comfortable when you are meditating, your awareness will be on the particular uncomfortability. Try meditating in sweat pants or at least clothing that isn’t super tight and restricting on your body.
Try Guided Meditation – Guided meditations can really allow you to get to know the technique of meditation as well as take the guessing game out of it for you. You can allow videos or a teacher to guide you at first, in which after you are comfortable with it, you can then go off on your own and meditate alone, or simply mix together both methods.
Breath Deep Breaths – Start your meditation sessions by filling your lungs with air, envisioning yourself breathing in life and positivity and exhaling negativity. Starting this way will supply your brain and blood cells with more oxygen, allowing you to go into your meditation time more relaxed and at ease.
Don’t Worry About How Long – There is no need to try and meditate for a certain amount of time. Start with just 5 -10 minutes, which if you can’t even make it that long it is totally OK. Don’t beat yourself up about it or get frustrated, simply come back the next time with a positive attitude about it and see if you can go longer. The best thing to do is to set a timer for a small amount of time, using your phone alarm.
Hold Onto the Positive Aspects – At first you may not see any benefit at all. But if you take into account some small positive things about your time during meditation you can be more likely to doing it regularly. Consider how you felt after the meditation session was over, as in less stressed or feeling a small sense of bliss. Or what it felt like to quiet the mind a little less. The more benefits you hold onto, the more it will prove to yourself that you are on the right track.
Eat Something Small – You don’t want to be experiencing hunger pangs during your time of mediation as it can be a big distraction. Try eating a banana or some nuts before you begin your session.
You Don’t HAVE To Do It Everyday – Yes there are awesome benefits to daily mediation, but you can still obtain more peace and wellbeing in your life by meditating less than every day. Don’t feel pressured to have to be perfect, just go into it with an approach of moderation.
Find YOUR Style – We talked about this a bit above, but it is crucial to find a style of mediation that fits your own personal style and wants. Doing so will keep you from stopping mediation as well as allow you to go deeper into your meditation sessions. Some techniques may feel to weird or new age for you, while some will really hit home. This includes the time that you do it as well, whether that be first thing in the morning or before you go to bed at night.
Think About Your Goal – Before you start your time of meditation, think about the goal and your intention of why you are meditating. Think about it and visualize it while you are meditating, creating a better connection with your goal allow you to better attract your goal and dedicate your time going after what your want and need out of your session. This can change with each session as well, not having to involve the same goal each time. It is best to focus on one goal at a time though so you don’t place your awareness on too many things.
Relax Your Body – Allow you body flow, whatever arises, be with the feelings. Whether that best stress, aches and pains, ailments, etc. Simple give them permission to be there. Most of the time we are saying NO to these feelings, try simple acknowledging them and even saying YES to them to break up the bodily resistance. This is very important when starting your meditation time, simply try to get as relaxed as possible before really going deep into your meditation. This will allow you to get your mind quiet faster as your only emphasis will be to quiet the mind, instead of getting fully relaxed before doing so.
Meditation Techniques – Breathing, Sound, Moving and Object Meditation Techniques
There are a myriad of different meditation methods and techniques you can use. Zen meditation being the most renowned and most used methods is a very pure form of mind meditation and is essentially the picture everyone gets when they think about what meditation is. This form of meditation is done while being seated where you are simply witnessing your breath and mind. By becoming the witnesser, you will put yourself in the here and now, which is what is referred to as our true nature. It will keep you from thinking about the past and worrying about the future. We have also expanded on 16 different meditation techniques that beginners and advanced meditators can use to attain more peace. Check them out below!
Zazen means “seated Zen” or “seated meditation, and, as the reference to Zen implies, this style of meditation comes from the Buddhist tradition. Those who cannot lower themselves to the floor can perform this meditation while seated in a chair, but traditionally, it is performed while seated on a mat or on the floor with the legs crossed, or in semi lotus or lotus position.
While meditating, keep your spine straight, keep your gaze lowered to a point on the ground two to three feet in front of you, and keep your mouth closed as you breathe slowly through your nose.
Focus your attention on your breath, your breathing, and the movement of breathing inward and outward. In a variation, you can count your inhalations, starting with 10 and counting down to one, and then starting over with 10 hi. Should you become distracted and lose count, simply refocus and begin again at 10.
Pranayama is the breathing discipline practiced in yoga, and is not, technically, a form of meditation on its own. It does, however, provide a way to calm and focus the mind while preparing for meditation. One common technique is called the 4-4-4-4. You inhale and exhale through your nose, allowing your breath to completely fill your lungs, all the way to your diaphragm, allowing your abdomen to expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale. Count to four as you inhale, hold your breath for a count of four, breathe out for a count of four, and then hold for a count of four. Repeat for a few cycles. A variation on this is to pinch the left side of your nose closed and inhale through the right side, and then pinch the right side of your nose closed and exhale through the left side. Another variation, which is called the dynamic cleansing breath, should only be repeated three to five times. Breath in through your nose, and then purse your lips as if you are about to whistle, and use your abdominal muscles and diaphragm to expel the air forcefully as you exhale through your pursed lips.
Present Awareness Meditation
Shikantaza means “just sitting,” and it is another Buddhist meditation. The goal is to become aware of being perfectly and completely in the moment while remaining perfectly and completely detached from the moment.
To perform the meditation, you may sit on the floor or in a chair, as you would while performing zazen. During shikantaza, however, you seek to remain aware in each moment of all that passes around you and within you. As you remain in the moment, you observe the objects and activity around you along with the thoughts that pass through your mind. However, you remain detached from them, without focusing on them, dwelling on them, becoming attached to them, or reaching any conclusions or judgements about them. Simply let them come; let them be; and let them go.
4) Third Eye Meditation
Third eye meditation is a yogic meditation that stills the mind. Focus your attention on the third eye or the ajna chakra, the spot on the forehead between the eyebrows. If you become distracted by thoughts or your attention wanders, simply refocus. Another way to focus attention on the third eye is to close your eyes and visualize looking at that spot. As you become better at this form of meditation, the periods of mental stillness become longer and the need to refocus diminishes.
5) Atma Vichara (Self-Enquiry) or the I Am Meditation
In sanskrit, atma vichara means to investigate, and this meditation leads you to investigate your true nature. When you practice other forms of meditation, your focus is on something other than self – a sound, an image, a physical sensation, or a concept. Atma vichara places the focus on self.
If you consider who you are when you are caught up in your daily life, you might describe yourself in terms of the work you do; your relationships with others; some talent or mental attribute; or some aspect of your physical body.
However, in this meditation, you reject all of the verbal labels and all of their attached thoughts and feelings when you ask yourself, ”Who am I?” Instead, you seek something deeper and more profound. You seek your pure core, an awareness of yourself as simply existing, as simply being, unshaped, unfettered, and untouched by thoughts or feelings, existing beyond any such temporal, limited, and limiting concepts. You can use atma vichara with other meditations to distance yourself from and diffuse any distracting thoughts or feelings that arise.
When you become distracted during this or any other meditation, ask yourself, “Who is experiencing this thought or emotion?” The answer is, of course, “I am.” Then, distance the concept of self from the thought or emotion by asking, “Who is observing this thought or emotion?” Again, the answer is, “I am,” but the phrasing of the question provides a different perspective on the self in relation to the thought or emotion. You are no longer connected to the thought or the feeling through experience. Instead, you are separate from it and merely observing it. Finally, ask yourself “Who am I?” From the perspective of yoga, the body contains five sheaths or koshas, each one nested within the previous one. They represent the physical body, the breath or life force, personhood, the intellect, and the true, supreme self. The first four koshas are limited, limiting, and finite, and thoughts and feelings exist within the finite koshas. The supreme self, your true self, is of the fifth kosha, the anandamya kosha. It is separate from and exists outside of and beyond the finite, outside of and beyond thought and feeling, and it is not bound by or to the finite. Within the anandamaya kosher, beyond the limit of thought and feeling, you simply exist. You are one with the I Am.
Kinhin is a Buddhist walking meditation that is practiced with a number of variations of hand positions, stride lengths, and walking speeds. The goal is to sustain the detached observation and awareness gained from motionless meditations into daily activities.
Shashu Hand Position
The most common hand position, or mudra, is the shashu hand position. With your left hand, form a fist and tuck the top of your thumb inside of it. With your forearm parallel to the ground, place your fist on your solar plexus, just below your rib cage. The front of your wrist should touch your body as the back of your hand turns away from your body. With the fingers and thumb of your right hand held together, place the palm of your right hand on top of your left hand so that the base of your fingers are on top of the knuckles of your left hand. Your fingers should rest on the back of your left hand with your fingers pointing left.
Keeping your forearms parallel to the ground or floor, move your elbows slightly away from your body, and lock your forearms in place by rotating your hands so that they face slightly upward. Some are more comfortable with their right knuckles pointing at a 45 degree angle, while others prefer keeping them more vertical. Locking your forearms in this way will help you keep your forearms horizontal more easily.
An Alternative Hand Position
A popular alternative to the shashu hand position is to place the palm of your right hand on your solar plexus with the fingers extended to the left. The base of your fingers should be centered over your solar plexus. Place the palm of your left hand over your right hand with your fingers pointing right, and form a triangle with your thumbs. Your thumbs should barely touch while the fingers of each hand should be held together with no separations. Lock you forearms as described under the shashu hand position so that you can keep them parallel to the floor.
Stand and place your hands and arms in the mudra of your choice. Straighten your spine so that your vertebrae are stacked on top of each other. You may want to tuck in your chin to keep your spine straight. Gaze downward at about a 45 degree angle. Kinhin is traditionally done in a large circle, but you can perform it in a narrow space or even outdoors if you can do so without too much distraction. For safety’s sake, you should maintain some awareness of your surroundings and what is on the floor or ground. Indoors or in an area without obstacles, you can focus less on what is in front of you and more on your inward experience, on the movement of your feet, and on the feel of your feet on the ground or floor. In areas where you might encounter obstacles or fall hazards, however, maintain more outer awareness.
Begin walking with your right foot. Your heel should touch the floor first, then your instep and arch, followed by the ball of your foot, and finally your toes. As safety allows, become increasingly aware of, and focused on, the movement of your feet, your steps, and the feel of the ground or the floor. If any thoughts come to mind, simply let them come and go. Observe them without attachment or judgement. You can coordinate your breathing with your steps, lifting your foot as you inhale and lowering it as you exhale. You can walk very slowly as you focus almost completely on the completion of each step, or you can walk briskly. You can walk in long strides or in baby steps. Experiment until you find the pace and type of stride that works best for you.
7) Qigong (Chi Gung or Chi Kung)
Qigong, like tai chi, combines focus, breathing, and graceful postures that flow from one to the other. However, while tai chi is an art of self defense, qigong derives from traditional Chinese medicine. Its goal is to control, direct, and improve the flow of chi, or the life force energy, through the body in order to improve and maintain health. Consequently, qigong movements are less complicated than those used in tai chi, which makes qigong easier to learn.
Each qigong practice, or series of postures or positions, accomplishes a different purpose. Many postures also have evocative names that relate to what the movement portrays and its intent, meaning, or the feeling it is meant to convey. For these reasons, the postures within a particular practice and the order in which they are performed are fixed and should not be varied. For example, the Five Elements Practice, demonstrated in this YouTube video, improves the harmony and balance between the five elements — wood, fire, earth, metal, and water — that, in Taoism, are the basis of life. Thus, this practice also is intended to improve harmony and balance in your daily life.
Qigong can be adapted to benefit almost everyone of any age, from children to the elderly. Even those who cannot stand or do the steps can benefit from doing the upper body movements of the practices while seated in a chair. As with kinhin, your breathing is coordinated with each movement. Again, as with kinhin, the focus is on your breathing and on the feel of your body as it moves slowly, smoothly, and gracefully through the postures and from one posture to the next.
8) Tai Chi
As mentioned above, tai chi and qigong are very similar in the use of focus, breathing, and constantly shifting movement. However, the intention behind the two is very different. Tai chi is a system of Chinese martial arts, and every posture and motion can be used for self defense when more speed, force, or effort is applied. A system designed for self defense, however, requires more movements that are more complex and that, in some cases, may need to be performed with more precision. As a result, tai chi practices, or forms, contain more postures than do qigong practices, and they require more concentration, more patience, and a longer period of time for mastery.
Rather than meeting an attack with an opposing force produced through muscle tension, tai chi uses coordination, relaxation, and leverage gained from the position of the joints in performing the various movements to neutralize or move with an attack or to launch a defensive counter movement. There are five styles of tai chi – Chen, Yang, Wu, Hao, and combination; but they all generally include neigong and qigong, which improve awareness, movement, breathing, and meditation; tuishou, which are drills of movements used to respond to attacks; sanshou, which are self defense moves; and taolu, which are movements used in combat with the hands and various weapons.
The original style, the Chen style, is named for the Chinese village where it was developed. With its low postures formed by deep bends of the knees and hips, its forceful stamping, and its jumping kicks; it is the most physically demanding and athletic style of tai chi. Unlike the flowing movements of the Yang and Wu styles, Chen forms begin from nearly stationary positions and are comprised of rapid bursts of large movements that extend out farther from the body. It was developed, however, during the eighteenth century when it was common to wear armor in battle. Some criticize the Chen style because, if the movements are not performed properly, the deep body positions and stamping can result in injuries.
Yang Luchan first learned the Chen style, but then developed the style that bears his family name. He slowed the speed at which the movements are practiced because he reasoned that it is easier to correct a movement that is being performed improperly when it is being done slowly than it is when the movement is done more quickly. Also, after observing that combatants rarely assume the low postures taught in the Chen style, he reduced the amount of bend in the hips and knees. The slower movements also make it easier to learn how leverage is generated by the various movements. In addition, armor had become less common during the nineteenth century when both the Yang and Wu styles were developed.
The Wu style is a more internal style of tai chi that uses a more erect stance and smaller, more compact movements than are taught in the Yang style.
While the Yang, Wu, and Chen styles are the most popular, the Hao style is rarely taught, even in China. It is the most internal of the tai chi styles, and uses the smallest, most subtle movements.
The combined style of tai chi mixes forms from the other four schools of tai chi as well as other forms of martial arts.
In all forms of tai chi, your breathing is coordinated with the movements, and the focus is on your breathing and the feel of your body as you move through the postures. Short, medium, and long forms or sets of movements have been developed for some of these styles of tai chi, and some teach both fast and slow forms. So, like qigong, tai chi can be learned by almost everyone of any age, and even those with balance or mobility issues can benefit from performing the upper body movements.
Michael Gilman offers an eight lesson master class series on the Yang Tai Chi short form on YouTube. This is lesson one
9) Hatha Yoga
Yoga is a practiced by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jainists, and is comprised of physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines. Traditional yoga includes breathing exercises known as pranayama; the familiar physical postures known as asanas; four meditative practices – pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi; and rules of conduct known as yamas and niyamas.
However, although the asanas of hatha yoga are placed in a separate category from the meditative practices, they are, when performed with mindful presence, movement meditations. Unlike kinhin, qigong, and tai chi, the postures of traditional yoga do not flow from one into the other. Instead, the asanas are held for given amounts of time. Breathing is coordinated with your movement as you assume the posture and then release it, and the focus is on your breathing as well as the feel of your body and your muscles as you move into, hold, and move out of the asanas. Holding some yoga asanas requires establishing balance between two muscle groups. In other cases, you will notice that an asana that stretched one group of muscles is balanced by one that contracts that same muscle group. Western adaptions of yoga postures differ from traditional yoga in that, instead of being held, an asana may be performed as repetitions in a set or used as a base for moving into and out of another exercise, such as a lunge.
YogaJournal.com has a section for beginners, intermediate, and advanced yogis and yoginis. At Yoga.com, you will find short videos that demonstrate how to do yoga postures. You can filter the videos by level to find beginner, intermediate, or advanced or by type to find, for example, standing postures, seated postures, balances, or inverted postures.
At its simplest, chanting simply means repeatedly producing an audible sound as a focus. You can repeat an extended vowel sound such as “oh” or “ah.” You can follow this WikiHow exercise for chanting the traditional “aum” or “om,” or use it as a preparation for any chant. You also can use longer traditional chants such as “om mani padme hum.”
In most cases, the sound is more important than the meaning of the chanted word or phrase. When the sound is most important, focus not only on the sound, but also on the variations in the sound, on how your heartbeat creates pulses within the sound, and on the reverberations the sound creates within your body.
In other cases, both the meaning and the sound are important, and the focus should be on both.
For example, when chanting “aum,” it is the feeling of the vibration moving through the body that is important because Buddhists believe that the “aum” is the sound that vibrates through the universe. As it vibrates in the body, it unites the body, mind, and soul with the universe and brings the calm of attunement. So, while in the case of the “aum,” the vibration is the focus, the meaning of the sound has significance as well.
The “aum” and “om mani padme hum” are examples of mantras. A mantra is a repeated syllable, word, or short phrase. When a mantra is chanted with mindful but detached focus, the process becomes a transformative form of meditation. Other mantras include:
- Om namah
The Maha mantra, which was the basis of a song for the Broadway musical Hair and which also was woven into the lyrics of My Sweet Lord by George Harrison, is comprised of repetitions of the three Sanskrit names of the Hindu supreme being — Hare, Rama, and Krishna. This mantra becomes an example of japa, or a devotional use of a mantra, when the names are chanted with love.
The mantra is:
hare krishna hare krishna
krishna krishna hare hare
hare rama hare rama
rama rama hare hare
Dharanis are longer than mantras, but as with mantras, the focus is on the sound. The chanted syllables are usually in Sanskrit, and may have no meaning at all. Buddhists believe that the sound of a dharani contains the essence of a Buddhist teaching that can subtly effect the mind of a chanter and invoke or release a latent, beneficial power or ability that is related to the teaching, such as the ability to heal.
Gathas are short verses and may be chanted, sung, or recited. Because the meaning of the Gatha is more important than the sound, they are often translated for chanters.
Some chants consist of all or a part of a sutra or sutta, sermons written either by the Buddha or a disciple. As with Gathas, it is the meaning of the sutra that is important.
11) Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental Meditation, or TM, is a form of meditation that is based in the Hindu Vedic tradition. It was developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and it is the form of meditation studied by the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Moody Blues, Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithful, Mia and Prudence Farrow, and Donovan in the late 1960s. Many other celebrities also have studied this form of meditation. It is taught only through the organization founded by the Maharishi. TM instructors provide students with mantras, which are selected from among the names of tantric gods and goddesses. However, in transcendental meditation, no audible sound is produced.
When meditating, you silently hold the mantra in your mind.
12) Nada Yoga
In nada yoga, instead of producing a sound, you begin the practice by listening to calming, ambient external sounds such as recordings of pan flutes or Native American flutes. Focus on simply hearing the tones and the variations in the sounds and in the music. Allow the focus on the music to still your mind. Eventually, move to listening to the internal sounds of your body, such as your heartbeat or your breathing. Ultimately, the goal is to be able to hear the para nada, or ultimate sound, a sound without vibration that permeates the universe which is represented by the “aum.”
Trataka is a gazing meditation, and one variation is the familiar meditative practice of gazing at a candle flame. This form of meditation is a yogic meditation. It consists of gazing at a symbol, an image, or an object, such as a candle flame. As you gaze at the focus of your meditation, hold it in your mind. If you are using a candle flame, focus on and visualize the color and height of the flame and the candle, the circumference of the candle, the way the flame flickers and moves, the way the wax melts and drips. Continue to hold the object in your mind and visualize it as vividly as possible as you close your eyes. As you focus on the details of the object and on holding it in your mind, you improve your skills of concentration and visualization.
14) Yantra Meditation
A yantra is a visual mantra. They are beautifully designed and colored and often complex geometric symbols contained within a mandala or sacred circle. The geometric symbol usually represents the essence of one of the Hindu goddesses, and focusing on the yantra during meditation serves as a way to open the mind to the attributes of that goddess. Yantra meditation is a form of trataka. Follow the same procedure as outlined above. Focus on the yantra, on its overall shape, on its separate elements, on any motifs or patterns contained within it, on its colors. Hold it in your mind, and then close your eyes while still visualizing the yantra.
15) Guided Meditation
Guided meditation can be practiced in a few ways. You can listen to recorded tapes, or, for some types of guided meditation, you can find books that allow you to read the meditation or record it in your own voice. Guided meditations include traditional meditations, guided imagery meditations, yoga nidra or relaxation and body scans, affirmations, and binaural beats.
Recorded traditional meditations are meant to help you strengthen your growth in your meditative practice. They feature the voice of an instructor who offers periodic suggestions or illustrations that are intended to guide your attention toward a meditative state. For example, a recording for performing the loving kindness meditation may suggest a focus for the meditation, such as your own body or a difficult person. It may explain the reason for performing that meditation using the suggested focus. It may suggest ways of sending feelings of kindness and compassion to the focus of the meditation, such as using your breath to send feelings of acceptance and love throughout your body. It may focus your attention on your breathing as you inhale and exhale. The recording may include music, the deep gong of a large prayer bell, or stretches of silence between the spoken guidance.
Recorded guided imagery meditations may include soothing background music. They often lead you to envision one of various types of paths that lead you to one of a variety of beautiful, peaceful scenes. The path and the scene may be described for you, or you may be led to visualize one from your own memories. You may be led to meet someone or discover an object along the path or in the space you envision. At some point, you may be directed to pause the tape while you relax in that space, meditate, listen to what the one you met has to tell you, or reflect upon the meaning of the object you found or the message you were given. Resume the tape when you finish meditating or talking to the one you met, and the recorded suggestions will guide you back along the path and out of the meditative state. Books of written guided meditations also are available. You can read these, or you can record them in you own voice to use for meditation.
Tapes of recorded affirmations often will include guided imagery to further enhance the message of the affirmation. The presentation of the affirmations and imagery may be preceded by relaxation techniques to increase receptiveness to the message you want to imprint upon your mind and in your thoughts. Positive affirmations can be used for many purposes, from improving confidence and increasing self esteem to accomplishing more specific goals, such as providing motivation to achieve athletic or fitness goals or to quit smoking.
Yoga nidra means “yogic sleep,” and it is a deep relaxation technique developed in India. In the United States, it is being used to help addicts overcome substance abuse, to help veterans suffering from PTSD, and to help alleviate depression. You can attend classes, but with recorded guidance, you can practice yoga nidra at home. Yoga props used in the practice include a yoga mat, a blanket to lay on, a blanket to place under your head, a blanket to lay under, and a bolster to elevate your knees. If you do not have any of these props at home, improvise with what you have. A traditional yoga nidra recording will guide you through the five sheaths or pancha-kosas that are layered, one inside the other, inside the body. The koshas are:
- The annamaya kosha or foodstuff sheath representing the physical body.
- The pranamaya kosha or energy sheath representing the vital force that holds mind and body together.
- The manomaya kosha or mind-stuff sheath representing personhood establishes diversity by creating a distinction between I, me, and mine versus you and yours.
- The Vijnanamaya kosha or wisdom sheath representing intellect and the knowledge to judge or discriminate among things and ideas and to determine or to will what becomes and what doesn’t.
- The anandamaya kosha or bliss sheath represents the causal body or supreme self that maintains separation between the self and the finite world, even when the mind and intellect lose function and awareness in deep sleep.
Yoga nidra tapes may include relaxing instrumental music, sounds from nature, a gong, singing bowls, or the instructor may simply rely on tone of voice. In Western adaptions, the koshas may not be mentioned. Instead, the instructions will more likely begin with some stretches for relaxation. Then, after getting comfortable with your blankets and bolster, Westernized instructions will begin with one area of the physical body and move to adjoining areas until the entire body has been covered. The instructions will lead you to focus on your breathing and on tensions and sensations within each area. If you have opposite sensations, such as tenseness and relaxation, you will focus on each separately and then both together, forcing your mind to stay in the present moment. Disassociate from distracting feeling or thoughts by using the self-inquiry of the I Am meditation.
16) Binaural Beats
The use of binaural beats for meditation is based on experimental work that has thoroughly established, through the use of electroencephalograms (EEGs), that the brain waves respond to and synchronize with the frequencies of flashing lights or pulses of sound, and that subjects report feeling more relaxed and being in a better mood.
However, binaural beats are actually an auditory illusion. By striking two different tuning forks and placing them near the ears of the subject, early experimenters discovered that the subject heard the tones emitted by the tuning forks plus a third tone, which is referred to as the binaural beat.
So there you are my friends, now you know how to meditate with the mediation techniques and tips that we have provided. At the end of the day there are so many different styles of meditation, so the best thing to do is to try a few different types. This will enable you to find the style that best suits you and your needs. This will also allow you to stick with the process longer, hence reaping the benefits of using meditation in your daily life!