Ommmm: Meditation 101

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woman-meditating-in-bedroom-3772612Meditation is a practice where you use a technique to train your attention or awareness; it can help you to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state. A regular meditation practice can help you to reduce stress, anxiety and depression and improve self-awareness. There are hundreds of ways to practice meditation.

Unguided vs Guided

Broadly, there is unguided and guided meditation. In unguided (or silent) meditation, you practice alone and there’s no one explaining the process or what to focus on. Some people sit and notice their body while others may use meditation skills and techniques they’ve learned from guided meditations. Guided meditations have a teacher or instructor giving verbal cues about a particular meditation technique and suggests how to implement these techniques into your life.

Calming vs Insight

Calming meditations help you improve your concentration and calm your mind down. You focus on a particular point (breath, a mantra, physical object, etc.) and come back to that object whenever you get distracted or thoughts start to wander. I think this is what most people think of when they think of meditation.

Insight meditation is a little bit different – you set an intention for a state of being or quality you want to promote (for example, compassion). Then, you focus on breath but make a note of or name all the physical and mental sensations that arise while meditating.

Meditation Themes

There are lots of different styles of meditation that fall into the previously mentioned categories. Different styles will work for different people so give them all a shot and see what works best for you!

Focused Attention: Use your breath as an anchor or focus and maintain awareness of it. When your mind starts wander, come back to your breath. You don’t have to use your breath – any point will work. You could focus on your forehead or the soles of your feet and this will still work.

Body Scan: This technique tries to link up our brain and body. You slowly complete a mental scan from your head to your toes and notice any sensations, discomfort, etc. in your body. This one is typically done while lying down. Personally, this is my favourite style of meditation.

Noting: This is similar to focused attention but when something comes up, you “note it” or name it. Acknowledging it can help you let it go. This can increase your awareness of your thought patterns or habits since you may notice the same thing comes up repeatedly.

Visualization: This is sometimes used in sports; you create a mental image of something in your mind and then you focus on this image. This may sound challenging but it’s similar to remembering an old memory very vividly.

Loving Kindness: In this style, we focus positive energy and vibes to ourselves and then turn it outward to create a ripple effect to others. This can help us let go of negative feelings.

Reflection: This style starts by asking yourself a question in the second person. For example, “what are you most grateful for?”. Then, notice what feelings (not your thoughts) arise in response to the question.

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