As a society, we’ve made meditation and mindfulness complicated. We've created step-by-step regimens to create a perfectly purified atmosphere, and we pay boat loads of money for trainings and retreats to learn how to master it...
All for one simple goal: to feel calm. To know peace. To be here now.
Are those the only ways to achieve bliss? If your budget doesn't have room for a retreat or training program, are you hopeless? NO. Here's why:
The benefits of meditation have been proven a thousand times over, across cultures, religions and medicinal modalities. Recently, meditation has been proven to alter your brain chemistry with more capability to focus, regulate emotions and produce more positive thoughts. You become more compassionate, connected, and have a higher emotional intelligence when around other people. Meditation has even been proven to decrease inflammation and pain in the body.
Meditation, or mindfulness, is the ultimate multivitamin with zero side effects.
The thing is, it’s no wonder mindfulness is an elusive creature to so many of us - we seem to be going at it all wrong! We don’t need to be holed in a faraway cave with incense and sage and amethyst and "Infinite Oms" playing on repeat to enter a state of mindfulness. That all makes a beautifully serene atmosphere! But it isn’t mandatory.
And we aren’t always in control of our external environments. When those environments become far out of our control and comfort is when we can use meditation the most. Then, mindfulness helps us remember what we can control (and to not lose our shit over what we can't).
The word itself may be partly to blame. We fill our minds and external spaces to go after mind-FULL-ness. But it isn’t about more, it’s about less.
It also isn’t about wiping every miniscule thought from your mind, since that which we resist is what persists. Put effort toward stopping all thoughts, and you’ll be battling even more of them.
So, to set the record straight, mindfulness isn’t about less thinking. It’s about less exhaustive mental effort. Our mental efforts tend to fire on all cylinders over what we’re doing for lunch and if we’ll be able to retire someday, what that person now thinks about us after we said that stupid thing last week, and how to complete the task directly in front of our eyes.
Here’s a simply way to notice how much juggling your mind is doing:
If you’re anxious, you’re imagining the future. If you’re depressed, you’re imagining the past. If you’re calm, you are here - in the now.
So if you want to feel calm, stop juggling! Take the pressure off the multitasking, and off of yourself. No matter how hard you try, you cannot pressure your mind into quieting, so be kind to yourself and to your mind (which is just doing its job).
Let it be easier than all that.
You can meditate anytime, anywhere. Because meditation is mindfulness...it's presence.
You can also think of it like this: your mind is full of this present moment and only this present moment. When life needs you to contemplate a future concept, like if you’re free to grab dinner with your friend tonight, then fill your mind with that. Once you’ve reached your answer, drop back into the now.
Whatever your present moment looks like, be all in.
That’s mindfulness. That’s meditation.
Meditation can look like being completely present while chopping vegetables or doing the dishes, or it can look like any one of these 7 forms listed below. A little help and creativity can spark mindfulness and give a sweet taste of meditation, so why not try some of these to get you started!
Listening to someone guide you through strategic imagery, for a specific theme, can help drop you into a meditative state quite quickly. Often the guide will have sounds playing that are known to bring your brain waves into an optimal meditative state, too.
Do you struggle with insomnia? Depression? Eating disorders? Relationships with people or with money? Finding your passion? Forgiveness? There are guided meditations for just about everything you can think of.
Created by Osho, dynamic meditation is practiced in the early morning as the sun is rising. The meditator is guided through different stages of Pranayama (breathing techniques), movement, sound and stillness - all while blindfolded. This form of meditation is for those who are wanting to get deep and primal for a conscious emotional release. Osho also has similar active meditations, such as the Kundalini Shaking Meditation where the body is used to get out of the constant noise of the mind.
3. Transcendental Meditation
Yogi Maharishi Mahesh coined Transcendental meditation, or TM, from an ancient Vedic tradition in India. He brought it to the west in 1959, where it’s become popular around the Hollywood celebrity scene.
TM is all about effortlessness. It is designed to produce positive thinking and positive energy from a place of restfulness and silent mantra repetition.
If you repeat a word or phrase 108 times, it is said to become activated and powerfully magnetic. In mantra meditation, the meditator uses a tool to keep count (most often a Mala - a string of 108 beads) while chanting a specific word or phrase 108 times in one sitting.
The chanting can be done silently or aloud, in the original language of Sanskrit or the meditator’s native tongue. There are many Sanskrit phrases that target specific themes, like removing obstacles, calling in more light, or knowing oneself more deeply.
Yogi Bhajan is the creator of Kundalini yoga and the original guide of Kundalini meditation. Often practiced after Kriya (postures, breathwork and sounds), this meditation is paired with Mantra or music. Sometimes the meditator will wear a scarf or shawl over their head to shield their aura.
There are hundreds of ways to practice Kundalini meditation.
Satsang is a Sanskrit word that means “to gather with truth”. Simply put, meditating on the concept that you are truth increases your awareness of truth, opens your heart and calms your mind.
As you can imagine, there are any number of ways to meditate on this. One way is to chant to yourself “Satnam”, which is Sanskrit for “truth is my identity”. Another way is to listen to audio recordings of philosophers or spiritual guides like Baba Ram Dass, Alan Watts, Osho, etc.
The thread that weaves all meditation practices together is your breath. It’s the easiest tool that you are always carrying with you. Become conscious of your breath, watch your body and mind create deeper and more fluid rounds, notice the space in between the breath, and you will find your mindfulness.
A great breathing technique to quickly dissipate anxiety is the 4-7-8 breath: Inhale for the count of 4, hold your breath in for the count of 7, then open your mouth and let it all out for the count of 8. Repeat at least 3 times.
If you struggle with meditating, stop trying so hard. It isn’t about effort, it’s about showing up. If your mind wanders elsewhere, that’s okay. Come back to the now. Over and over again. There is no final destination, anyway. There is only NOW.
What’s your favorite way to practice mindfulness? Share your meditation tips or insight with our community in the comments below!
Rachel Brathen - Meditation for Mindfulness
Bring your awareness to the present moment with this beginner-friendly meditation. Practice it anytime, anywhere to calm the mind and open the heart. Watch here!