Find the method that suits you and start meditating today
“Meditation is the perfect antidote for our demanding 21st century lives,” says meditation teacher Will Williams (willwilliamsmeditation.co.uk). “So many of us have to deal with what’s known as chronic background stress. From heavy workloads, hectic social and family lives and insufficient sleep – demands like these tax the nervous system and stimulate the body’s fight-or-flight response. The result is that we have an abundance of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, leaving us feeling anxious, unable to focus and with digestive issues or at worst heart disease.” Meditation helps counteract these negative emotions by putting distance between you and your problems, helping you maintain clarity and calmness.
If you think meditation could work for you but aren’t sure where to start, Lucy Edge, author and founder of Yogaclicks (yogaclicks.store), and yoga and meditation teacher Anna Ashby (annaashby.com) share some different approaches.
Best for… practical people who like a scientific approach
Mindfulness meditation originates in Buddhist teachings and is the most popular meditation technique in the west. Now on the NHS in some areas, it’s proven to decrease stress, improve sleep and boost wellbeing. The idea is to observe your thoughts, sensations and feelings from a distance, watching them as if they were falling leaves or passing clouds. You don’t judge them or become involved with them. You simply note any patterns and move on, eventually learning that you have a choice in how you respond to your thoughts.
Try it… with a listening and feeling meditation
1. Take a comfortable seated position. Close your eyes.
2. Start by becoming aware of your physical body – your feet on the floor, your back against the chair, your hands in your lap, the temperature on your skin, your breath and the rise and fall of your chest. Check in with every part of your body in turn.
3. Then turn your attention to any sounds in the room, or outside. Don’t judge them or get involved with them, just observe them as they are.
4. Treat any thoughts as clouds passing across the sky. Become aware of any space between the thoughts and drop into that feeling of deep calm. Enjoy the feeling of freedom that accompanies the sense of peace
Best for… people who find it hard to sit still
Though yoga is the obvious choice of moving meditation, any kind of repetitive action can be a meditation. Try walking, gardening, t’ai chi or even running. The aim is to calm the mind by becoming the movement, absorbing all the physical sensations – sights, sounds, smell, and touch – as they occur.
Try it… with a half sun salutation
1. Start with your hands in prayer. Take a breath – experience your centre settling as you connect to the beat of your heart and the rise and fall of your breath.
2. Inhaling, reach your hands above your head, observing the expansion of your chest and the rise of your diaphragm. Exhaling, return your hands to prayer position, feeling the contraction of your chest and the settling of your diaphragm.
3. If you don’t have any back issues and would like to take it further, repeat the above but instead of returning your hands to prayer position, bend at the waist and knees, and swan dive your hands towards the floor. Stay here a moment, taking another breath, releasing your head, shoulders and back. When you are ready, keeping your knees bent, sweep your hands up, returning to prayer position.
4. Remember to merge your breath with the movement as you flow through the form. Immerse yourself in every sensation, absorbing every sight, sound and feeling in the moment.
Best for… people who prefer working with images
Guided visualisation uses your imagination to direct you to a heightened sensitivity and relaxed state of being. You create the experience of being somewhere, employing great detail to involve all of your senses, so that what you’re imagining feels real. The practice puts you in touch with your bodily sensations and emotions, slows your breathing and creates a sense of being at peace with the world.
Try it… by visualising your favourite place in nature
1. Lie down on a rug or mat and cover yourself with a blanket. Get really comfortable.
2. Choose one of your favourite places that brings you joy. It could be a tropical beach, a mountain or a country walk. Start to imagine it in detail – filling it out in full. What colours is the sun casting across the sky? What are the birds singing? What’s the temperature? What scent is in the air? What can you touch?
3. Now place yourself in the picture. Imagine your worries dissolving into the ocean waves and feel your personal connection with the energy and healing power of the earth. Feel yourself responding, noticing the sensations moving through the body, as your sense of self expands. Invite yourself to sit in the beauty of that spaciousness.
Best for… or people whose mind is always chattering
This type of meditation is rooted in the yoga tradition of tantra. Chanting a mantra, whether it’s a word, phrase or a sacred sound such as om, slows the nervous system, transporting the mind beyond the usual patterns of thinking, towards an expanded, elevated state.
Try it… by chanting om
‘Om’ is a sound rich in meaning. It vibrates at the same frequency as the natural world, and chanting it can create a feeling of wholeness, a sense of connection to all beings, and an expanded experience of reality. Om is made up of three syllables and each one, A, U and M, is said to have its own significance and meaning. Together they represent all aspects of consciousness.
1. Choose somewhere you can make sounds without feeling self-conscious or disturbing anyone. Find a comfortable seated position.
2. Open the mouth and start the A at the back of your throat. Stretch it out, pronouncing it “aaahh”.
3. Roll the U from the back of your mouth, pronouncing it “oooh”. Feel the vibration in your nose.
4. Close the mouth and prolong the “mmmm”, allowing yourself to merge into the vibration of the sound. Letting go of all other thoughts, imagine the power of the lineage moving through you, experiencing a spacious mind and expanded state of being.
Best for… people who find it hard to concentrate
This meditation focuses your attention on an object, sound or your own breath, rather than on attempting to clear your mind. Methods include watching a sunset or observing a candle flame. Whatever the focus, try simply to experience it – using your five senses to be fully present in the moment.
Try it… with a moon meditation
1. Stand or sit in a quiet spot outside at night, making sure you’re wrapped up warm.
2. Notice the smell of the night air, any cool breeze against your skin and any sounds near or far. Take a deep breath and exhale slowly, raising your eyes slowly to the sky as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Allow your eyes to adjust to the blackness and start to distinguish the colours of the night – the many hues of silver, blue and grey, the contours of the moon, any passing clouds, the stars and their myriad constellations.
3. Now reverse your position so that you are observing your place beneath this canopy. See how small you are, and yet how big – expand your sense of place in this beautiful world, and see yourself sitting at its heart.
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