From Buddhist Monks high-up in the Himalayas down to celebs in LA, the ancient practice of meditation has gone mainstream. The buzz of mindfulness as marketable peaked with adult colouring books and mandala tattoos on 20-somethings. Partial to fame, a lot of us now know the benefits of meditation - less stress, deeper relaxation, lowered blood pressure, etc - but has the practice actually permeated into our lives? Short answer: no. Long answer: we wish we could get the benefits, but it's hard to know where to start and if we're doing it right.
When what we hear of meditation and mindfulness is that; a) it's really good for us, and b) all we have to do is sit and "clear" our mind; our comprehension of the practice is flawed from the beginning.
What is meditation
Meditation is the practice which trains our minds to concentrate, much like the way we use exercise to train our bodies to be strong. Centuries of practice, and modern scientific studies have shown that consistent practice cultivates emotional stability, helps practitioners to adapt to new situations, cope with stress in a positive manner, and aids creativity.
Like the way the word sport encompasses many disciplines, meditation encompasses many techniques or practices. To train our minds meditation has two distinct schools of practice, both of which hold sub-categories of practice techniques. The two schools are; focused awareness meditation and free awareness meditation. Focused awareness meditation is also referred to as meditation with a seed, wherein essentially we are using the anchor of an aid such as a mantra or mala beads to keep our minds from wondering.
Whereas free awareness meditation or meditation without a seed does not utilise an anchor, free awareness meditation is generally considered an advanced practice. Free awareness is particularly tricky because we can’t focus on any one thing for too long, that’s where this fear and frankly myth, of having a completely “clear” or “empty” mind comes from.
Both free and anchored meditation lead to the same results;
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved blood circulation
- Lower heart rate
- Less perspiration
- Slower respiratory rate
- Less anxiety
- Lower blood cortisol levels
- More feelings of well-being
- Less stress
- Deeper relaxation
- Better focus
Mantra Meditation: Mantras are words or saying which have a positive vibration or intention, in mantra meditation, we repeat this word or sentence over and over to help us maintain focus. When our mind starts to wander we come back to our mantra.
Moving Meditation: Tai Chi are Qigong forms of moving meditation, in these our anchor to concentration is our movement. For people who easily get into the zone, running is a form of moving meditation. Yoga and walking can also be forms of moving meditation when you practice them with mindful awareness.
Breath: One of the most common and simplest focused awareness techniques is using our breath as an anchor, wherein we stay focus by and relaxed by counting each breath, up to 10, 50, or 100, and then start over again.
Vipassana Meditation: Vipassana is a free awareness practice in which you observe all the sensations that arise in your body and the thoughts that emerge in your mind. You aren’t focused on any one thing, sensation or thought, rather you’re letting everything pass across the screen of your awareness without reacting to it. You simply observe, note, and let it pass on by.
Beginner Meditation Practice
Sit or lie comfortably, preferably in a quiet room where you won’t be disturbed.
Close your eyes
Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath. If you find your mind wandering and getting caught up you can try counting your breaths up to ten, then starting over.
Maintain this meditation practice for two to three minutes to start, and then try it for longer periods. Meditation is the perfect complement to your yoga practice, occasionally Salt Power Yoga run meditation classes and workshops, but even if there’s nothing scheduled, you can ask any of our teachers to advice on your meditation.