Real wisdom is recognizing and accepting that every experience is impermanent. With this insight you will not be overwhelmed by ups and downs. And when you are able to maintain an inner balance, you can choose to act in ways that will create happiness for you and for others.– S. N. Goenka
Meditation is a truly wonderful thing. An ancient practice refined through generations, the internal and external benefits of meditation are truly amazing.
There are no best ways to meditate. But with so many ways to meditate out there, it can be tricky to know where to start, which one is best for you and how to perform them correctly – which is exactly what we’re here to help you with.
Whether you’re new to this journey or a seasoned meditator simply seeking new ways to meditate, in this guide we’ll show you four simple ways to meditate, step by step. Specifically, we’ll be looking at:
- Focused breathing meditation
- Sound meditation
- Mandala meditation
- Walking meditation
4 ways to meditate
#1: Focused Breathing Meditation
Breathwork, also referred to as pranayama, offers a great entry point into meditation. By directing our attention to the rhythm of our breath, we establish a tangible connection with our body’s innate rhythms, providing a focal point that we can consciously regulate.
Unlike most of our biological processes, which are thought to be unconscious, breathing is one of the only semi-conscious biological processes – that is, it can occur largely automotically, but we can if we choose to, control it with conscious thought.
There are a number of different ways to meditate using slow, focused breathing – from nadi shodhana to ujjayi and many more. Below, we’ll give you instructions for Box Breathing – widely recognized for its incredible calming and centering effects.
Also known as “four square breathing”, the term box breathing refers to the four sides of a box, represented in the four parts of the practice as you breathe in, retain, and breathe out, retain for four seconds each.
- Begin your box breathing practice in a calm and quiet setting, where you can fully immerse yourself. While this technique can be performed anywhere, it’s useful to minimize distractions for a more focused experience.
- Then, start by taking a few natural breaths before you start the 4-4-4 rhythm. Gently place one hand on your chest and the other on your lower stomach to connect with your breath.
- Once you’re ready, begin to breathe deeply for four counts, while becoming aware of the sensation of air entering your body.
- Direct your attention towards the subtle expansion in your stomach as you inhale. Notice the natural movement without exerting any force on the muscles, allowing them to gently expand and contract.
- After the in-breath, calmly hold your breath for another slow count of four. If this feels uncomfortable or puts strain on your lungs/chest, then try holding for just 2 seconds, and work your way up slowly to the full 4 over time.
- After the retention, begin your exhale, again spreading the out-breath over 4 calm counts. Be conscious of the feeling of the air leaving your lungs – notice things like heat, tingling, and other sensations if you can.
- Throughout the practice, prioritize a state of relaxation by consciously releasing tension in your muscles. Instead of actively engaging them, focus on letting go and allowing a sense of ease to permeate your body.
- While practicing box breathing, keep your attention on your breath and the rhythm of the four-step pattern. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring your focus back to your breath without judgment.
#2: Sound Meditation
Also referred to as sound healing or sound therapy, sound meditation is a rich meditative practice that makes use of sounds and vibrations in order to bring about meditative states in the practitioner.
This practice revolves around harnessing the potency of sound to craft an environment and technique conducive to meditation and serenity, thereby facilitating individuals in attaining a profound deeper state of relaxation and focus.
Similar to Focused Breathing Meditation mentioned above, there are a number of different ways to meditate with sound, including using gongs, vocalizations, tuning forks, devotional music, and nature sounds to mention just a few!The technique outlined below makes use of a great singing bowls video on YouTube (check it out here!). If you have singing bowls at home, feel free to use these instead.
- Begin by closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths to relax your body and clear your mind. Inhale slowly through your nose, allowing your abdomen to rise, and then exhale through your mouth, letting go of any tension.
- When you’re ready, start the singing bowl video on YouTube making sure that the volume is not too high or too low – you want to be able to hear the resonance without being overly stimulated by loud sounds.
- As the singing bowls play, gently direct your attention to the sounds, allowing them to fill your awareness, and try to follow its rise and fall. Notice the tone and pitch, the vibration and texture, the duration and decay of each passing sound.
- If your mind starts to wander or thoughts arise, don’t get frustrated – it’s completely normal. Instead, just smile at the monkey mind, acknowledge the thoughts, without judgment and gently guide your focus back to the sound of the singing bowl.
- As the singing bowl’s sound starts to fade, take a few moments to appreciate the stillness and calmness you’ve cultivated.
- After you’ve finished your practice, take a moment to reflect on how you feel. Notice any changes in your mental state, relaxation level, or overall sense of well-being. I really encourage journalling at this point, too!
#3: Mandala Meditation
Mandalas, a Sanskrit term broadly understood to signify a ‘sacred circle,’ are a type of spiritual and geometric artwork carefully crafted to visually encapsulate and convey existential thoughts, events, morals, and other meanings, often for meditative purposes.
Typically taking the shape of a circle, these unique designs have been embraced by a number of cultures as a subject of meditation – a testament to their ability to help people focus, reflect and meditate on whatever story or meaning is represented in the image.
There are a few ways to meditate using mandalas, which you can check out here. The technique outlined below is called contemplative observation.
- First, find or create a mandala that speaks to you visually and symbolically. There are lots available online and in books, but if needed, you can also craft your own with colors and patterns that resonate better with your purpose.
- Next, pick a serene, comfortable spot. I recommend setting up cushions to help you sit with a supported, upright posture.
- Position the mandala on the floor within sight, or mount it at eye level on a wall. If using a mandala from the internet, consider printing the mandala (avoiding staring at screens is preferable!)
- Now, relax and center yourself. Inhale deeply, release any pent-up tension, and clear your mind. Let your body be completely at ease, as if the body were asleep.
- Now you’re ready to start by softly gazing at the mandala’s core. Allow your focus to rest here naturally, without strain.
- During your gaze, thoughts and feelings might emerge – smile, observe them without judgment and let them go. If your mind keeps wandering, don’t worry, simply keep returning your focus to the mandala.
- After a while, let your gaze shift gradually outward. Explore the interplay of colors and patterns and the feelings it conjures in you. What does the mandala represent to you? How does it mirror your experiences, fears or cravings?
- After you’ve observed the whole mandala in detail, or simply when you feel ready, conclude by gently shutting your eyes, taking a few breaths, and redirecting your awareness to your body and the present moment.
- I like to finish my mandala meditations by reflecting on such questions as: What emotions did the mandala evoke? Were there any memories or insights? How did my focus change from the center to the details?
#4: Walking Meditation
With its origins rooted in Buddhism, particularly Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, walking meditation is somewhat of an umbrella term to describe techniques that intertwine the art of walking with the introspection of meditation.
With various takes on the technique each featuring its own breathwork, subject of focus and paces from leisurely to brisk (sometimes almost resembling a jog!) there are a number of ways to practice walking meditation.
And what’s great about walking meditation is its versatility. Not only does it easily blend into daily walks, but it can also serve as a break during seated meditation, giving the body a break from stiff postures, or it can stand alone as an honorable distinct meditation method.
- Start by finding a quiet and peaceful place to practice where you won’t be disturbed. Stand still in an upright but relaxed posture, with your arms resting naturally by your sides, or you can place your hands in any sustainable, comfortable position.
- Tip: If comfortable, try to perform this barefoot to connect to more sensations.
- Next, take a few deep breaths and become aware of your entire body. Feel the contact of your feet with the ground, the sensation of your weight being supported, your posture and mind. Allow this to be a moment of grounding to connect you with the present.
- Begin walking very slowly, taking small steps at a pace much slower than your normal walking speed – this deliberate slowness is important, especially at first, as it allows you more time to experience each movement and sensation.
- As you walk, you might find it easiest to focus if you try to synchronize your steps with your breath. For example, I like to take one step for each inhale and one step for each exhale. This helps anchor your attention and keeps you in the present moment.
- Be mindful of the different components of each step – notice the sensation of lifting your foot as you take a step, feel the gentle movement of your leg as it swings forward, and experience the sensation of your foot making contact with the ground.
- Now, direct your full attention to the sensations in your feet and legs. Feel the pressure, warmth, or coolness as they touch and lift off the ground. Allow any distractions or discomfort to simply be, gently guiding your attention back to the sensations.
- Keep your pace slow and deliberate. If your mind starts to wander, remember that this is a natural part of the process. Just smile at your human mind and then gently bring your focus back to the physical sensations of walking.
- Keeping your primary focus is on walking, also be aware of your surroundings without getting lost in thoughts about them. Notice the colors, shapes, sounds and textures of the environment around you.
- When you’re ready, slowly come to a stop and stand still for a few breaths, feeling the transition from movement to stillness. Reflect on your experience – notice how you feel, any changes in your mental, emotional or physical state, and the overall sense of presence.
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