“Quiet the mind and the soul will speak.”Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati
Meditation is probably one of the most successful modalities for improving mental health that requires the least amount of effort on our part. It’s a practice that can be easily incorporated into everyone and anyone’s daily life, of all ages, even children.
Meditation is simply staying focused for a certain amount of time in a way that improves our mental fortitude. This may be focusing on an object, a sound, a visualization or an activity and nothing else, for a few minutes to a few hours. The purpose is to clear our mind space, giving ourselves a break from the intrusive anxiety inducing and negative thoughts we all experience from time to time.
If we are to genuinely sense and feel into the definition of meditation, it’s easy to see why it can encompass many different activities. Much in the same way there are different forms of exercise, there are different forms of meditation. The image that most people identify with meditation the most is a yogi sitting with their legs crossed, which is absolutely a great form of meditation. However, meditation can also be focused dancing, exercising, singing, yoga and even tantric sexual practices. The key word here is focused. When I reframed this definition in my own mind to include a broader range of activities, I found this improved my confidence in just being able to keep to a daily ‘meditational’ practice that worked for me. I’m not going to go into all the things that ail me but flat out, I have trouble focusing or keeping to a daily regime. When I can get my meditation in through various modalities, it has definitely helped improve my mental health and confidence related to the practice just in that I’m actually able to complete one practice daily, even if it looks different than the day before. If I was to try and make sure I sat everyday for 15 minutes in the same corner, listening to relaxing music with headphones, forget about it… it would probably never happen. I have tried many times over my nearly 40 years of life to make many daily habits and have been successful at very few even with alarm bell reminders.
So what do daily nuanced meditational practices that actually work for me look like or what can they look like?
Many people believe meditation is solely a religious act and while it is attached significantly to Buddhism in particular, it’s a much more transcendental practice. Anyone can freely practice and incorporate meditation into their lives, regardless of their spiritual or religious framework. During spiritual meditation, this may be a time to convene or talk with deities we believe in or simply the earth, nature and the universe. This is a specific means of meditation with higher powers in mind and an attempt to communicated with those energies.
Mindfulness meditation is a time when you sit and think calmly focusing on singular thoughts about your life and mostly about all you have to be thankful for. You allow yourself to just “be” as you are, to seek and find the truth of things through your true nature. Focus on your breathing and your body. Ask yourself questions you are seeking answers to and see if the answer comes to you naturally. Relax. Digress. Process. You might lay in your bed in a comfortable position or sit in a seated position with your legs crossed.
This meditation is very broadly encompassing anything that you’re doing that requires movement but also focus. Most commonly, it refers to dancing, martial arts or tai chi. However, it could also be things like gardening, exercising, playing tennis or walking your dog. You might choose to take a path around your house or a local park that you repetitively walk around. For me personally, there are few forms of meditation I love more than dancing. I revel in this form and being able to move in all the unique ways that we can.
While all meditations require some focus, this form is a mix between mindfulness and movement. These are activities that may require only a little movement but you’re doing an activity nonetheless and not just laying or sitting in one position. You’re focusing all of your thoughts and energy into this one specific activity. A common and traditional example is drinking a cup of tea or coffee. However, it’s important to note you’re not doing anything else while you’re drinking the tea or coffee. You’re not checking your phone or letting your mind wander too much. You focus on the tea or coffee itself, the warmth, the aroma, the sweetness or the texture of the cup in your hand. Another type of focused meditation would be sex and tantric sex practices. In this case, you would be focused in on the person and activity you were participating in or particular part of the body, action or motion. And what a joy and a wonder it is to engage in these intimate activities with our dearest one.
Visualization or Guided Meditation
This is a very beneficial technique for many people that have a hard time controlling how much their minds wander during other forms of meditation. Visual meditation gives you a more specific blueprint and map so to speak of where you want your mind to go. The most common visualization I find is one where we are walking on the beach or shores of a lake. I believe this is because there is something intangibly healing about the various sensations and visualization of water. You might imagine you’re on the beach, sitting and then walking, touching your toes in the sand and in the water, feeling the breeze on your face or watching the sunrise or sunset. You “go” someplace else temporarily during guided meditation. If you have trouble coming up with new ideas or have a tough time guiding yourself, there are a ton of really wonderful and fun guided meditation videos on youTube.
Chanting or Music Meditation
Chanting meditation is again a critical aspect of the Buddhist spiritual framework. During chanting meditation, we simply focus on the sounds we’re making usually and naturally those that are repetitive. Repetitiveness or patterns typically elicit a deeper sense and form of relaxation and meditation. “Om” is a common sound used here. However, chanting or music meditation could also be as simple as singing in our cars or the shower. It could be expanded to instrument use in general. We could also sit or lay down and listen to any type of music we desired and simply focus on the music and nothing else. One type of music I particularly enjoy doing this with is binaural music. This is a type of music that is consistent with a deeper and more predictable tone, tempo and volume that easily elicits a trance like state.
In nearly every Indigenous and ancient Native culture, repetitive sound and meditative behaviors have been recorded and used to find answers or accomplish spiritual, emotional, mental or physical wellbeing. I truly believe that by deepening and broadening our relationship with this idealism, by feeling and leaning into all the various ways we are naturally able to meditate and focus our energy, we can live a much more full, vibrant and relaxed life.