Before we even get into this blog, let’s start by getting centred and in the present moment. Take a deep breath through your nose, filling your belly entirely with air. Now, slowly exhale through your mouth. One more time, take a deep breath in through the nose and exhale through the mouth. How are you feeling? A bit more relaxed? Isn’t it amazing how only a couple of deep breathes can make such a difference? Join us for another fun-filled adventure as we explore the magic of meditation. This month we’ll touch base on the different types of meditation, how to carve out time for reflection in our busy schedules, and so much more!
What is Meditation?
The term “meditation” has been buzzing around the health and wellness community for years, so some may feel it’s “new age.” But, the earliest forms of meditation actually date back to 1500 BC. According to Positive Psychology, the oldest record of meditation comes from India, but there is another school of thought. The writings by Chinese philosopher Laozi, from as far back as the 3rd century, also mention meditation practices, but really, no one can say for sure how far back it goes.
So, what exactly is meditation? Good question. While Merriam-Websters dictionary defines meditation “to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.” As someone who partakes in meditation daily, this didn’t feel like the right choice of words, so I did some more research and came across this beautiful definition from Headspace:
“Meditation isn’t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. It’s about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feels. You’re learning to observe them without judgement. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well.”
Are There Different Types of Meditation?
When I first started meditating, I wasn’t sure where to begin. My research uncovered a laundry list of practices, so I needed to narrow my search by asking what I wanted to achieve through meditation. This gave me the clarity I was looking for and led me to discover the following (great for beginners or seasoned meditators):
This is an excellent jumping-off point for anyone just starting their journey. This practice urges you to stay in the present moment and aware of your thoughts. Research has found mindfulness meditation can assist with:
- Reduce fixation on negative emotions
- Improve focus and memory
- Lessen impulsive, emotional reactions
- Improve relationship satisfaction
Mindfulness meditation is an ideal option for those who suffer from anxiety and/or depression.
Do you carry tension in your shoulders? Maybe you clench your jaw when you’re stressed out? Body scan meditations are an idyllic tool to help alleviate those tight muscles caused by tension. By focusing on these areas, you can bring awareness to what you are feeling and release the unwanted physical attributes of stress by physically flexing and releasing the muscles in the said area or through visualization. Both methods will leave your overall body and spirit relaxed.
This is one of my favourites! Think back to the beginning of this article, we took a couple of deep breathes to get centred and bring us into the present moment – this is precisely what breathing meditation is all about, plus it is known to:
- Reduced anxiety
- Improved concentration
- Improved emotional flexibility
I will add a disclaimer about this practice (and really any form of meditation), it’s a lot harder than it sounds. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve trailed off on another thought, and completely forgot about breathing, let alone being present. The keyword here is “practice.” Meditation is a life-long commitment to improving your overall mental, physical, and spiritual health. It takes time and practice, but how much time should you be dedicated to meditation? Well, that depends on you. Meditation is a personal journey, but if you’re just starting out, you may want to try a couple of 5-minute sessions, two or three times a week and work your way up from there. Find what fits and works for you and your lifestyle.
Where Should I Meditate?
I’ve always wondered how many people are turned off by the thought of meditation because it means sitting on the floor, cross-legged, in an uncomfortable position. Or because they think they need to have a specific meditation room in their home. Folks, it’s not like the movies. If you feel more comfortable laying down on your couch or bed, go for it. Want to just sit in your favourite chair and practice, perfect. I even meditate in my car if I need too (not why driving, of course). My only recommendation is to start out in a quiet place or use headphones. Once you have more practise under your belt, you may be able to completely tune out the outside noise and distractions.
Where do I Start?
If you are a tech junkie like I am, there are some excellent apps available for meditation. Below are some of my personal favourites:
- Relaxing Melodies
You can always check out YouTube, which has a massive selection of meditations, guided and unguided, that are fantastic too.
I’ll leave you with one last bit of advice when looking for a meditation – don’t be afraid to try a few options. If you find one that doesn’t speak to you or doesn’t feel right, that’s ok, give another one a try until you find what works for you.