Nothing clears your head better than a good session of mindfulness. Conrad picks what he thinks are his best meditation techniques for you to try.
Some people might say that meditation is not for everyone. I’m no psychiatrist but my thought on that is it’s like saying thinking is not for everyone. It might be that the technique you are trying doesn’t fit, instead. So, in that case, here are three very different techniques for you to have a go at.
What is meditation, then?
Meditation is really about pointing your attention in one direction, and allowing your mind to become still as a result. Everyone does that in one shape or form. Driving with close concentration on the road, rather than listening to the radio, is pretty much a meditative state. Going out into the forest and admiring the trees and plants is another if you are absorbed into your surroundings.
However, if you’re still not quite with me, here’s what meditation is not. Meditation is not zoning out so you lose awareness (that’s sleep, or some variety of it). Nor is it thinking about what you have to make for tea or what chores are outstanding.
It is, then, pretty much everything else. And that’s great news because it means you get a variety of meditation techniques at your disposal to suit your personal temperament. It also means that if one technique is suddenly not working for you, I wouldn’t feel bad about switching it up.
That might seem like some sort of cardinal sin. Many will comment saying it is, but let me explain all this as I go.
The first of my best meditation techniques – breathing
This is one of my best meditation techniques for a number of reasons.
It was one of the first techniques I learned, and I was lucky enough to learn it firsthand from practising Buddhists. As an aside, that doesn’t mean I had to climb a mountain or anything – there’s plenty of their centres dotted around cities across the western world. So, if this whets your appetite, I would see if there is a Buddhist centre near to you.
Whats great about this meditation technique is that it brings you into an awareness of the present, whilst at the same time it ties up the rational mind so it won’t pester you. As you experience breathing mindfully, your brain is busy counting the breaths. That means it is far less likely to mentally wander off and think about that outstanding project at work.
How to do breathing meditation
Breathing meditation is also easy. That’s another major reason why it’s one of my best meditation techniques. Here’s a 20-minute variation, although you can make it longer or shorter to suit.
- First, find somewhere comfortable to sit. Somewhere where you will not be interrupted.
- Relax your body from top to bottom slowly, un-tensing each muscle as you go.
- Then set a timer for five minutes, one with an alarm that is not too loud.
- Close your eyes or leave them just slightly open.
- Breath in and out however is most comfortable: nose, mouth or both. Follow the sensation of the breath right down into the lungs and out again. Feel it.
- At the end of one complete breath, count in your head: one.
- Repeat breathing and counting until you reach ten. Then begin again. If you lose count at any point, start from the beginning.
- When the timer goes off, set it again for five minutes and this time count each time the breath goes in. So that’s ‘halfway’ through the complete breath cycle. Otherwise, its the same as last time.
- After another five minutes, restrict your concentration on sensations only as far as the top of the windpipe. Don’t follow the sensation down into the lungs. Count at the end of a complete breath like before.
- Then concentrate on sensations in and out through the mouth or nose (pick only one – one which you have been using so far) for the final five minutes. Just concentrate on the sensation of the breath going in and out of this single point. Count at the end of each breath cycle. Repeat to ten and then start again.
- When the timer goes off you are done! Take your time returning your concentration to the outer world: stand, stretch and get on with your day.
The second of my best mediation techniques – the imagination trip
Not all meditation techniques are for everyone. As I suggested before, that’s why I wanted to share three of my best meditation techniques. The second is completely different from the last meditation technique. It works at times when your brain may not be happy about doing the first technique: maybe you’re too tired, maybe you feel too foggy, or maybe it just hasn’t worked out for you. Now some will argue with me on this one – perseverance key, they will say. They will say you should not abandon whatever meditation technique you begin with.
But for me meditation is not a success or fail business. Nor is it all about forcing your brain to do what you want it to do. It’s about gently moving the flow of the mind to where you want it to be. For instance, famed hypnotists and therapist Paul McKenna talks about how the mind has wants and needs throughout the day. Sometimes that need is to enter a state where it is imagining things. Daydreaming. That helps it to de-stress.
Better then to use that as a force for good rather than deny your mind this important, stress-relieving experience.
How to do the meditation trip
Here is a very fast rundown:
- Find somewhere quiet to sit, where you won’t be interrupted.
- Relax from head to toe slowly. Concentrate on the stress leaving each limb as you go.
- Set a time for no more than 20 minutes.
- Close your eyes.
- Picture somewhere nice. It could be a beach, a fresh snowy mountain range. Anywhere you feel at peace. As you do, experience the feelings in the air about you. It is crisp or warm? Is there a breeze or is it still? Is there a scent in the air? Touch the ground in your imagination. What is it like? Is it gravelly or soft? Is it dry or covered in dew? Stand up and walk around in this imaginary space. Know it is a safe place where only pleasant thoughts flourish. Nothing can get in. Feel the ground under your feet as you walk. Listen for any sounds. Let your eyes skim the scenery. Relish every colour in the sky and across the landscape.
- Explore. Walk up hills or down mountains. Skip across beaches. Dive into an ocean. Fly. Do whatever you want to do.
- When the time is up, open your eyes. Stretch. Take in the rest of the world slowly as you readjust on your return from your adventure.
Some might ask me how this is meditation. Is this not your mind wondering? Well, not quite. You are immersing yourself in your mind. You’re being are of what the mind is doing, and any unexpected details conjured by your subconscious. In that sense you are being very aware, just like a mindful walk. When we are not meditating we don’t see with the eyes. The eyes take in the data, and our brain and mind are what interprets it.
The third of my best meditation techniques – the mantra
This one is a bit of a cop out, as although it is definitely one of my best meditation techniques, it is also best understood through a book I’m going to recommend. And no, this is not some affiliate link thing, it’s just I’d rather not rip off what someone set out to encapsulate in a whole book.
Mantra meditation is very potent: it helped me at a very worrying moment in my life. I’d built up a new business, working 12-14 hour days, and then one day I just stopped. I couldn’t get up off the sofa. I wasn’t tired: I was burned out.
There was nothing I could do for days. It was worrying. I had to tell my clients I couldn’t go into work.
I picked up this book, and I began to get better in minutes. It’s called Deep Meditation by Yogani.
Consider it further reading. Try the above two techniques first. Then, if you catch the bug, I’d recommend giving Yogani’s book a go. It really helped me brighten up the corners of my mind which felt like they were not working.
As always I’m not an expert. Indeed, despite what they might say almost nobody is truly an expert in this field. Not that’s alive, anyway. Everyone feels like a beginner. If you have severe emotional difficulties, get professional help or advice from professionals before beginning meditation.
See you in the next post.