Meditation – three simple ways to meditate as part of your spiritual journey
Meditation – what is meditation?
I’ve often been asked “What are the best ways to meditate?” and “What is a good meditation to use?” It is easier than you think to bring even a small amount of meditative practice into your day, busy parent or not.
Meditation in my opinion is a simple shift of your focus of attention that creates a relaxation response and helps you to feel more focused, quiet and relaxed in your body and your mind. It sounds simple but it does require regular practice to achieve really good results.
Even science tells us that meditation is good for us – from lowering blood pressure to improving memory and attention span
There is now scientific evidence from MRI testing (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) in the United States that regular meditation practice changes brain structure for the better, reducing the size of the amygdala for example, an area of the brain that is used to respond to stress.
Here’s a link to a January 2011 posting of the latest research from the New York Times if you like the science.
My experiences of meditation – you don’t necessarily need to hug a tree or sit like a pretzel
Most people who practice regular meditation will feel good enough about it to tell you they don’t need to read any scientific research to keep meditating.
I use a number of methods to meditate. I do my best to meditate once in the morning and once at night, but if for any reason I miss these opportunities – something to do with having two school aged children 🙂 – then some short and simple methods also work for me.
Here are three methods I like to use from the ‘short and simple ways to meditate’ category.
Meditation Method 1. Using an object as a focus for your meditation – this works well for visual people
If you are a strongly visual person, you will like charts, forms, plans and designs and will prefer to have explanations given to you in this format because you can process them well this way. So start your meditation practice the same way!
I walk my dog every day, often in the same direction. Sometimes I pick an object or event on the walk (like a rabbit running across the road or seeing a brightly colored butterfly) as the focus of my meditation.
The other day I noticed this treetrunk, which I have never noticed before. I walk with my phone so I took a picture. Then I can imagine the tree in my mind’s eye while I meditate.
Whatever you’re imagining, just do your best to make it as clear an image as possible and make that your meditation, even just for a few minutes to start with. That’s it.
Meditation method 2. whilst walking or moving – this works well for people who like to move whilst processing
If you are a person who likes to move while processing, you will find it hard to sit still for long periods and find yourself ‘jiggling’ or ‘fiddling’ when at an office desk or in a classroom for example.
This could mean that you process best through the ‘kinesthetic’ channel of the mind, that simply means processing by moving first before choosing any other kind of input.
Choose a movement that is easy to repeat, match it with an inward and outward breath. For example, hold your hand horizontally at heart level, raise it to the level of the top of the head on an inbreath, and down back towards your heart on the outbreath. Focus on the movement and the breathing. Repeat.
Meditation method 3. – using your hearing – this works well for people who learn well from the auditory input
People who learn well from the auditory channel (hearing) prefer to listen to explanations of new subjects whilst learning and often mutter or talk to themselves to help themselves remember things. (Yours truly!). I will often say the page number of a book I’m reading in order to remember it for later.
Using this channel of the mind for meditation, your meditation practice can be as simple as listening to a quiet musical track that resonates for you. (If you’re using music during meditation, then music without words is better, it’s less distracting to the mind).
Or you can simply focus on one word or phrase and repeat it in your mind. People who favor the auditory channel can also remember words to music very easily, in fact it’s a very important part of the music for them.
I’m currently using a phrase I recently learnt from a lovely meditation video called The Great Bell Chant “In the garden of my heart, the flowers of peace bloom beautifully.” Your phrase can simply be one word that is meaningful also, a full sentence is not required.
Whatever words or word you use, just make sure they have positive associations for you and avoid those that give you a feeling of sadness or discomfort.
Bonus! Meditation method 4. – now lets put it all together
Once you have found a method that you are most comfortable with and are used to it…you can start to move around and first of all try any of the other two methods I’ve suggested.
So, let’s say you are an ‘auditory’ person, move around the meditation circle and practice ‘seeing’ images for several days, then take the next step and focus on moving during a meditation.
You are not only meditating to receive all the benefits, but growing the way that your brain can process and take in new information.
So here’s a 4th meditation exercise which combines all the other three methods plus something else…an essence of the spiritual, mystical or magical aspect of meditation practice…you’ll be receiving information from the inner voice, inner guidance or spirit that you didn’t know you could get.
You can sit, stand, jiggle or sit cross-legged if you’d like.
Now simply ask inside yourself and ask to see what your energy, spirit or soul looks like. (If none of these words resonate, substitute your own word). Spend some time focusing on how this looks to you, how it sounds and if there are any feelings or movement associated with it.
When you get these kind of impressions, it’s a good idea to write it down. Enjoy your practice!