Finding the best type of meditation for you

Part 5 in our Six Step program to making meditation a habit in your life

Did you know there are many ways to practice mindfulness meditation? And the best ones are the ones that work for you!  That way you’ll be more likely to meditate regularly because you enjoy it more.

You’re probably well aware that the foundation practice of mindfulness meditation is breath meditation. No doubt you’ve tried this out: just focusing the mind on the sensation of breathing.  This was the practice that the Buddha himself told his followers to use.

Breath meditation is great for many reasons: the breath is always there in the present, rising and falling so it’s a wonderfully consistent and convenient thing to focus on. The rising and passing away of the breath is also a great metaphor for how everything in this life rises and passes away.

But there are other meditation objects you can try. And since the breath is always there anyway, it’s usually the background to these other approaches:

1. Body sensations
Apart from the breath, there are many other body sensations going on in your body at any time and you can focus on these as your meditation object. The Body Scan Meditation is based on this – where you sequentially focus on the different parts of the body. It’s a great option for people who might need a bit more grounding in the physical present, for example if your mind is very busy.  If you have pain in your body it can be good to move your focus into then away from the painful sensation after a few seconds if it is a bit much. You may find this sort of meditation helpful in changing your relationship to the pain.

2. Sound
A favourite of mine! Just letting the sounds around you come to your ears and absorb your focus can be a powerful approach to meditating. It’s important not to analyse what the sounds are, but just let the sound waves touch your ears simply as sound vibrations. Any sounds will do, so just meditating on the ambient noise around you is fine. Or you could go somewhere like the beach where there is bigger sound, like the waves crashing.
3. Movement
Walking meditation or mindful yoga or tai chi movements can be a great meditation focus. You can do these with your eyes closed to allow for greater focus (as long as you won’t lose balance!). It’s really important to do the walking or movement practice very slowly and let the movement consume your attention. Walking the dog or walking to the bus stop is a good mindfulness practice, but is not the same as a concentrated meditation!

4. Heart-based practice such as Loving Kindness
Loving kindness meditation is a practice where you consciously generate loving feelings or intentions towards yourself and others. It’s different for everyone, but usually involves bringing the loving feeling into your body and mind by thinking of a person dear to you, and then fostering that feeling. An alternative is to simply meditate on the feeling that you notice in your heart centre (generally an emotional tone is present there).

Why is loving kindness included in mindfulness courses? It’s because kindness to others and ourselves is a skill most of us need to develop more – just as being present and concentrating are skills we work on in meditation.

If you haven’t tried loving kindness meditation before, I’ve put a free guided meditation on my web site for you to try! Go here and experience 20 minutes of loving kindness.

5. Open Awareness
This is a bit more advanced – it basically involves sitting and letting whatever objects you notice just come into your awareness. So you will feel the breath, then notice a sensation in the body, and then perhaps hear a sound. It all just passes through your awareness like clouds passing in the blue sky.

There are many other methods of meditation, such as using visual objects, a mantra (word) you repeat, or special music or sound techniques. Approaches such as these tend to just focus on just the concentration aspect in an effort to crowd-out thoughts. This does not allow any awareness of what is in the present nor does any insight develop into what the mind and body does. Therefore for mindfulness practice the methods listed above are what we recommend.

Whichever method of mindfulness meditation you choose, the main thing is that it works for you – it becomes something you want to do again because you can feel the benefits over time. So please experiment until you find what’s right for you.

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