Types of Meditation
There are MANY forms of meditation ranging from the ancient Taoist, Buddhists and Hindu traditions to more modern forms that have taken hold in the West. All are just a means to train the mind. Some are simply to reduce stress or become self aware... while others are to experience inner peace and that "effortless inner silence" that leads to deeper states of consciousness. The examples below are simply to point you in the right direction. You can further explore on your own.
Mantra Meditation: This is a common form of meditation. You can sit in a chair, on the floor lotus style, or lay down. Take a few deep breaths then you focus on a word (mantra) or phrase. When your thoughts come (and they will) gently release them and return to the mantra. It is all about focus. There are many mantras and you can do an internet search to find an overwhelming variety. If you are familiar with Transcendental Meditation (TM), this is a form of mantra meditation. If you have ever done a Chopra Center meditation, they are often mantra meditations. The words can hold a meaning, or can hold no meaning at all but rather focus on the sound of the syllables. Some mantras are said out loud while others are silent. Om (Ohm) is a lovely mantra and is said to be the sound of the universe.
Example: inhale and focus on your mantra - or if you don't have a mantra repeat silently in your mind the word Allow on the inhale (you are allowing healing energy) and the word Release on the exhale (you are releasing stress and toxins). After a few minutes you might find a rhythm to your breathing and your body will feel like it is 'breathing you'. You may start to feel like your hands and feet are a mile away as your focus is centered on your mantra. If you want an added challenge, try focusing on the back of your eyelids or between your eyebrows to center your focus. You may see a spiraling of colors wash across your eyelids, mixing with the darkness like a lava lamp. Or perhaps you will see the brain firing off geometric shapes or kaleidoscope patterns. You may start to feel even more detached. As your mind wanders just bring your focus to the mantra. Your breath is rhythmic and hypnotic and you will slip into a relaxed state of awareness. You will still be aware of the room and noises but they will feel like they are in the background. With practice you will find that this will get easier.
The real magic happens after meditation. Meditation actually re-directs the blood flow to the frontal cortex of the brain and away from the primitive survival 'fight or flight' part of the brain. Within 30 minutes to an hour I notice an elevation in my mood. The brain is producing more neurotransmitters and less cortisol and adrenalin. I have less brain fog and I am often in a sing-songy mood. Nice!
Rhythmic Breathing: This is similar to the mantra method but you put your focus on your breathing rather than a mantra.
Example: Breathe IN to a count of 3 then OUT to a count of 5. Repeat for 5 or 10 minutes to start. Add some music if you like. Very relaxing. Ahhh!
Guided Visualizations: There are many guided 'meditations' to download from the internet (visualizations, affirmations, binaural beats, DNA activation, guided imagery, etc.). While many do not consider these true forms of meditation they are still considered mind-body practices. Travel to the beach in your mind or soar above the mountain peaks. Enter into your cellular structure or the vastness of the Cosmos. Explore your thought patterns and emotions. Listen to sounds that clear the energy centers (chakras) or lead to enlightenment. The visualizations vary but are guided so all you have to do is listen and follow. Find one that best fits your personality. But be aware of any anxieties around the subjects...for example, don't pick one that deals with the ocean if you have a water phobia.
Moving Meditation: Can’t sit still? This may be the form of meditation for you. Practices like Tai Chi or Qigong use graceful movements that follow the breath. You can even add a 'squat' here and there to work out your core and leg muscles, burn more fat, and improve your balance. Yoga is also considered a form of moving meditation. When you focus on the poses you calm the mind. You also unblock stagnant energy and strengthen the body.
Mindfulness Meditation: There are several forms of mindfulness meditation but they all focus on the body, breath, thoughts and environment. Some are done with eyes closed and some with eyes open in a soft focus to the ground or wall. Some are done seated and others are done walking.
Example: While seated, take a breath from the nostrils and draw it into the body. There are no special breath counts or manipulation of breath in this meditation. You don't want to affect the breath in any way, you just want to notice and follow the breath in its natural state. The objective of this meditation is not to stop thought, or create an altered state, but rather to be mindful of what we already are in the moment. Notice your thoughts as they come and go, and in-between your thoughts bring your attention back to your breathing. Let your thoughts float away like clouds, gently observing then letting them go. Be in the moment, not in the past or the future. Feel the breath as it enters the nose and travels down the throat. Is it warm or cold? Do you feel the fabric on your skin as the abdomen rises and falls? Can you feel the floor beneath you? Is it soft or hard? What noises do you hear in the room? Do they come from behind you or in front of you? Above or below? Other thoughts will come and go. Don't try to chase them away. But in-between your thoughts bring your attention back to your breath. Back to your body. Back to your environment. There is no judgment. You are just an observer.
Mindfulness In The Classroom: With the current growing awareness of the phyisical and mental health benefits of being Mindful, programs exist that specialize in bringing Mindfulness training into schools. The exercises may focus one day on being mindful of the breath, while another day being mindful of listening, tasting, seeing, or being heart-centered. A schoolroom mindfulness session may end with an art project or journaling exercise ("write one word describing how you felt this morning, then write one word describing how you feel now") . Mindfulness builds focusing skills and teaches 'emotional intelligence'. This emotional self awareness gives children tools to deal with anxiety and anger issues at school as well as at home. It gives children the space to think before acting, a life skill that can be carried into adulthood.