Have you ever got confused by different meditation techniques or don’t know where to start? Perhaps you’ve tried mantras, breath work or some other technique? In this article we hope to guide you through to a deeper understanding about meditation and the common techniques adopted.
A key understanding is that the goal of meditation practice is to move you towards a meditative state. A meditative state is impossible to describe in words, as it is the experiential state of “no mind”, “being present” or “fully awake or aware”. In fact most things that are described as “meditation” are not meditation at all. They are the techniques that lead to a meditative state. Confused? Well maybe this will help:
According to Osho (a contemporary mystic) there are broadly three characteristics or indications of a meditative state:
A state of being non-judgemental
A state of openness to what is/relaxation
A state of self-witnessing or dissociation
All meditation techniques are aimed at helping you to achieve at least one of the above characteristics. In fact it could be said that the more meditation characteristics are induced by a meditation technique the more complete it is. Pick a meditation technique that works best for you in moving you to the meditative state. Note that although many meditation techniques are based upon “concentrating” the mind, the meditative state is one of openness and relaxation (seemingly the opposite). As concentration is not the goal of meditation – a concentration meditative technique can only act as a stepping stone towards helping you to become open, relaxed and aware. To understand this apparent contradiction you will need to play with the meditation techniques, some of which we outline below.
So let’s take a look at some of the common types of meditation techniques and check how they might lead us towards the meditative state:
One of the most widespread techniques involves taking your attention to your breath. When you do this you will find that it is virtually impossible to judge the breath. The breath is just there, there is no such thing as a “good breath” or a “bad breath”. This technique therefore ticks the box for the first characteristic of the meditative state which is non judgement. Breath-work also involves us witnessing a part of ourselves, our breath, and it allows us to dissociate from our busy mind so it can also lead us towards a state of witnessing too (the third characteristic of the meditative state). Many people find that breath-work can help them to relax, however it can also take a lot of focus and bring up some agitation so you have been warned!
By definition guided visualisations work directly with the mind. Their power to lead us towards a state of no mind is therefore limited. However most visualisations are designed for us to become calm and accepting.This technique can therefore be great for remaining open and relaxed. It can also help us to distract ourselves from the judgemental part of the mind.
Mantras (repeating words or sounds).
Again, mantras tend to be linked with the mind. If you like mantras we suggest that you work those which are neutral to the mind and have a secondary calming benefit from the melody or vibration. The “word” om is used in Kundalini yoga and has a spiritual base. The mystics tell us that the sound “om” takes us back to the creative origin of the universe and so can lead us quickly to the meditative state.
Staring at a candle (or any object).
This technique helps us to move away from the judgemental part of the mind, so can help as a meditation technique. However the main basis of this technique is to concentrate the mind. The challenge for the candle meditation is to “concentrate” but remain open so you can feel relaxed, open and aware.
Mindfulness techniques are characterised by taking your attention away from your thinking mind towards your senses. For example you can take your attention deeply into taste sensations as you eat or the sensation of your body as it moves if you are walking. You can then become very present to whatever is happening in the moment. With mindfulness, the object of your attention is not important. What is important is that you take your awareness fully into the object. You will notice that when you are fully present, you are not in your thinking mind and therefore it is difficult to be judgemental. Mindfulness can also be extended to witnessing of yourself, like your breathing, bodily sensations or emotions. This makes mindfulness a very flexible technique. As mindfulness can also be practiced anywhere at any time it is a very popular method of meditation.
There are almost an infinite number of ways to meditate. Meditation is a journey of discovery about yourself. You will be amazed at what positive changes will occur in your life from a sustained period of meditation. We recommend doing something every day and building it into your normal routines so it becomes a habit for you.
Each meditation technique has different effects, so our advice at La Crisalida is to try out a few techniques and see what you like and don’t like. Settle on one or two techniques that ‘click’ with you and go deeper into them. Whatever you do meditation should be enjoyable so listen to your intuition and go with the technique that fits best for you. Happy meditating!