FIVE ON FRIDAY … five meditation techniques
Here are five meditation techniques to try – explore each one to discover which technique works the best in calming your nervous system and bringing you into a more present and quieter state.
1) Mantra – Primordial Sound/TM
I posted on Primordial Sound Meditation here. Similar to Transcendental Meditation, this meditation technique focuses on stilling the mind in order to reach ‘The Gap’ or the state of ‘no mind’ between your thoughts. The vehicle to reaching this state is via the repetition of a mantra – usually issued to you by a certified PSM or TM teacher. Often this mantra reflects the vibration of the universe at your time of birth (as with PM) or something similar. Your mantra is meaningless and meant to be that way. The less meaning you connect to the word the more opportunity you have to use it, simply as a tool to quiet the mind whilst preventing a thought pattern to emerge from your ideas around the meaning of that word.
Simply sit, breathing softly and quietly rolling the mantra around in your mind – like the gentle repetitive movement of the wave; each wave is different, big, rough, smooth, small, as is your mantra, sometimes it’s louder, softer, clear, undefinable, jumbled.
I find this technique incredibly relaxing but difficult to reach that point of stillness – that delicous state of deep consciousness when you are both present yet removed. Despite that, some people achieve an incredible calm state with visualisation so it is still worth a go.
Visualisation is often best experienced when guided by a teacher – either on a cd or at a meditation workshop. By drawing your attention onto the descriptions the teacher is conjuring up you are slowly able to empty out the clutter and jibberish knocking about in your mind. This is turn allows the body to relax into the visualition – sunrise, never-ending ocean, tropical island – which then encourages deep physical and mental relaxation
3) Yoga Nidra
Also referred to as psyhic sleep where the mind stays awake and the body goes to sleep. Yoga Nidra is something I recommend everyone seek out and try. I first experienced it during my hatha yoga teacher training and fell in love with it. The beautiful, ever peaceful Naomi Nahoum took our class on a journey that left each of us energised yet completely blissed out. Yoga Nidra is a guided meditation that quietens the mind by first stilling the body. A teacher will invite you to bring your focus to different parts of your body, rotating from your right foot, all the way around finishing at your left foot. From here visualiations, breathing exercises and spatial/physical exercises will work to take you deeper and deeper.
Ultimately, a thorough Yoga Nidra session will take you into a XX brainwave pattern, which is a highly active brain wave pattern, however you are simultaneously in a deeply restful state. 1-1.5hr Yoga Nidra session is equivalent to 3-4hours of restorative sleep.
4) Mindfulness meditation
This is learning the art of living and being in the present moment. As a collective consciousness we spend too much time dwelling in the past and waste energy worrying and planning for the future. But if you were to ask yourself, despite your problems, concerns, life issues, and ask this question, “what is the problem, right now, in this moment?’ usually, there isn’t one. If you think about it there is nothing too great a concern to warrant the stress and anxiety we often dwell in. Meaning, stressing over that deadline, or what you are going to cook or picking up the children are all tasks for the future. Your anxiety over it now doesn’t serve a purpose, except to overtake the ‘now’ with future worries.
Often when I’m having a bad day/moment I run through these three questions – something I learnt from Eckart Tolle and his hugely popular book “The Power of Now’. First I ask – 1) Can I change it? If I can, then I do so. If not, then I ask 2) Can I leave it – the situation, the conversation, the argument? If I can then I do and if neither of these questions can be answered then I finally ask 3) Can I accept it? By the time I’ve reached question three, the reality is that I have no other choice but to accept the situation. And as soon as I do, as soon as I let go of the stress, concern and anxiety that I am creating, then the situation is bearable, manageable and I begin to learn from the situation. Instead of fighting against the unchangeable, in that moment, I have entered the present. The now. Becoming mindful of all that the situation has brought about – the good, the bad, the ugly.
So mindfulness meditation is practicing how to be in the now. And it can be done in the most mundane of daily tasks. Cooking – set yourself up and then focus your heart and mind on the task. No distractions – just you and the art creating. When you are eating – take yourself away from your desk, magazine, phone conversation and just sit with your meal. Focusing in on the taste, the smell, the way your body reacts and just allowing your body to absorb. Or singing with gusto along to your favourite song. Have you ever noticed when you are driving and singing along to a great song before you know it you have arrived at your destination with no recollection as to how you got there? All you know is that you were belting it out, loving life. That is being and feeling the ‘moment’! P.s, I don’t really recommend this, for safety purposes and all… but hey, it happens.
5) Pranayama/Breath work
Not necessarily classified as a ‘meditation’ technique, but to me the cleansing and mind-calming properties of pranayama/breath work achieve a similat goal to most meditation techniques. Prana in sanskrit means Life Force, and Yama refers to restraint or control. So Pranayama is the control of the Life Force that resides in our energetic body. The parallel of Life Force in our physical body is the breath. By working with various breathing techniques we learn to both cleanse the energy channells of the body, whilst expanding the breath and nourishing our mind/body/spirit with the Life Force we each have within us. Various breathing techniques like Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril breathing) or Kappalbhati/Bastrika (forecful breathing) encourage stillness of mind as you focus in on the quality, sound and feeling of the breath. However, the main goal is to reach an elongated Kumbhaka (breath retention). Similar to mantra meditation where the aim is to reach ‘The Gap’ or space between the thoughts, in pranayama, when the breath is held for an extended period of time the mind quietens, like a roaring lion that has been silenced. There is pure stillness in that breath retention as everything is literally suspended.
Or even, simply focusing in on the breath for 5 minutes a day – noticing how it feels as it enters and exits the body. Feel the texture of the breath and observe the quality. Simply focusing on the breath will encourage it to slow down, which then aids the body in moving out of fight or flight mode into the parasympathetic mode – the more restorative, calmer state.