If you’ve been following my blog since the beginning, or if you have recently joined but got really into it and went back and read all of my posts several times each, you know how much I love meditation. I talk about it A LOT and by now you know what it is and why it is so beneficial for everyone—college students in particular. However, maybe you are still confused about how to start meditating. I don’t know why this would be the case though since I have two amazing guided meditations, led by the one and only Seagull Strength, available right there on my website absolutely free of charge!
But maybe, just maybe, you don’t like the sound of my soothing and relaxing voice and you would rather try meditating on your own. In that case I would point you towards many great free meditating apps, but my favorite (and the one I use) is Insight Timer.
But maybe, just maybe, you are afraid of technology. Or more likely, you again don’t want to listen to other people’s voices while meditating. Or even more likely, you don’t want your phone around you while meditating since it is an enormous distraction.
If any of those cases apply to you or you're just here to learn about the different types of meditation that you could potentially perform, but never will, just so you can impress your friends on your next Zoom meeting, then you're going to enjoy this:
· Mindfulness meditation is one of the most basic forms of meditation and really just focuses on being aware and mindful of your body and its surroundings.
· All you have to do for mindfulness meditation is sit in a comfortable location, close your eyes and simply relax. Your mind will inevitably wonder, and that is completely okay. Once you realize that your mind has wondered, simply say to yourself, “thank you for giving me these thoughts, but I don’t need them right now,” and return to your relaxing. Continue this act for as long as you wish and then gently open your eyes and slowly start moving and continuing on with your day (Mindful Staff, 2019).
· I, like many beginner meditators, started my meditation journey with mindfulness meditation and it is a great practice to do if you're just starting out or even if you’ve been meditating for a while. Also, I’ve found that whenever I start overthinking or having bad thoughts, I say to myself “thank you for these thoughts, but I don’t need them right now,” and no matter how stupid that seems, I swear to you it works for me!
· Focused meditation is similar to mindfulness meditation, except for the fact that it gives you a specific object to focus on with all five of your senses.
· This object can be a sound you're listening to or an object that you’re staring at but the idea is to keep your focus on this object for the entirety of the meditation and if your mind does wander, gently bring your attention back to the object you are focused on (Bertone, 2020).
· I find that focused meditation is helpful when I am in a public setting and I don’t want to look weird and close my eyes. I just pick an object to focus on, and start studying it, what color is it, how is it moving, does it make any sounds…etc. As I am focusing on this object, I start tuning out everything else that is going on around me and that usually brings a sense of calm and relaxation with it. I will admit, however, that I am still a work in progress, and I can’t yet do this successfully in extremely busy and crowded areas.
· Breath Counting Meditation, or BCM for short is a great form of meditation that forces the meditator’s focus onto their own breath and away from any outside thoughts or worries. It is also great for panic and anxiety attacks because it forces the meditator to calm their breathing rate.
· BCM was designed by a man named Dr. Andrew Weil and he explains that in order to perform BCM correctly, you simply sit in a comfortable place, close your eyes and count every single exhale. However, every time you get to “five” breaths, you return back to counting from “one.” You should never go above five, and if you do, you will know that your attention has wandered, and you should gently re-focus on your breath (Weil, 2016).
· I have never performed this exact form of meditation before, but I have done the 4-7-8 breathing exercises that Dr. Weil also came up with and I write about in my panic attacks post, and I love it. So, Dr. Weil and his meditation ideas are definitely something to check out!
· Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a form of meditation that is designed to help with loosening the body up during an anxiety or panic attack when the body tenses and tightens.
· Progressive muscle relaxation works by focusing on one body group (head, neck, shoulders, arms, legs etc.) and flexing and tightening it as much as you can and then slowly relaxing and releasing the tension. You then progress throughout your entire body and repeat this for each body group (Vader, 2020).
· I have done progressive muscle relaxation a couple times in the past and I do enjoy it and find that it definitely does leave the body feeling looser and more relaxed afterwards. However, for me, personally I find that when I am anxious, the physical response is with my breathing and heart rate, so I prefer BCM. But if you have problems with being tight and tense when you feel anxious or just in general, then this form of meditation will be great for you!
· Visualization meditation is the process of picturing positive images, ideas, or symbols in your head while you are meditating and relaxing.
· This form of meditation is thought to be a great way to manifest your dreams and goals as well by imaging that you have already completed them (Estrada, 2020).
· I find that the best way to perform this type of meditation is to go to “your happy place.” Put yourself in the place where you felt the happiest and describe it out loud to yourself. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you feel? What do you hear? How do you feel?
· Simply stay in this happy place for as long as you wish and soak up all of the positive and happy vibes!
· Transcendental meditation, or TM for short, is a form of meditation that is designed to distract the mind from any unwanted stresses, thoughts, or worries by repeating a mantra over and over again (Wheeler, 2020).
· TM is suggested to be practiced for 20 minutes, twice a day.
· The idea of transcendental meditation is, however, owned by a non-profit organization and therefore must be taught by a “certified TM teacher,” which does cost money (tm.org, 2020).
· As I have never paid for meditation before, I have never tried TM before, but I have read numerous studies claiming how amazing and beneficial it is. I do believe these studies and I do believe that TM can be beneficial, but I also believe that there are other, free forms of meditation that may work just as well for you, and again, are FREE.
· Body Scan Meditations are my current favorite form of meditation and I find them to be the perfect mix of all the best parts of the previously mentioned meditations.
· In order to perform a body scan meditation, all you have to do is sit or lay down in a comfortable place, and when you are ready begin focusing on one certain area of the body. I like starting at my head and moving towards my feet, but you can start and end anywhere you would like.
· Focus on this area of the body and how it feels, what it's touching, and what is touching it. Then when you are ready, focus on relaxing this part of your body on your next exhale.
· Continue this all throughout your body and bring special attention to any areas of high stress or tension as this may tell you something about yourself.
After you finish any meditation, you should slowly and gently open your eyes and bring your attention back to the room you are in. Slowly wiggle your fingers and toes and then your arms and legs until you are fully back in consciousness and read to continue on with your day.
Well, there you go! Seven different forms of meditation and how to do them. Try the one that sounds the most interesting to you, try the one that seems the most difficult, try the one that has the coolest name, but, no matter what your criteria, do try one—you’ve got little to lose and a whole lot to gain! I know I’m glad I started meditating!
Bertone, Holly J. “Which Type of Meditation Is Right for You?” Edited by Daniel Bubnis, Healthline, Healthline Media, 2 Oct. 2020, www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/types-of-meditation.
Estrada, Jessica. “Visualization Meditation Is the Key to Achieving Your Goals.” Well+Good, 5 July 2020, www.wellandgood.com/visualization-meditation/.
Staff, Mindful. “How To Practice Mindfulness Meditation.” Mindful, 18 Oct. 2019, www.mindful.org/mindfulness-how-to-do-it/.
“How Does TM Work?” TM.org, 2020, www.tm.org/transcendental-meditation.
Vader, Ken. “Progressive Muscle Relaxation Meditation.” HelpGuide.org, May 2020, www.helpguide.org/meditations/
Weil, Andrew. “Breathing Exercises: Three To Try: 4-7-8 Breath: Andrew Weil, M.D.” DrWeil.com, May 2016, www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/stress-anxiety/breathing-three-exercises/.
Wheeler, Tyler.“Transcendental Meditation: Benefits, Technique, and More.” WebMD, WebMD, 27 Jan. 2020, www.webmd.com/balance/guide/
A special thank you to all my friends and family who have not only supported me on my journey but have helped along the way. None of this would be possible without them. Remember to take time to appreciate those in your lives!
Copyright © 2020, 2021 Nick Siegel, all rights reserved