There are numerous types of meditation. One of the difficulties most beginners have is to know which the “correct” style is. The plethora of information can be paralyzing and may dissuade the beginner from continuing. All forms are effective if you don’t get stunted by whether or not you are doing the “correct” one. The commonalities between each type includes: spirituality and belief, breathing, mantra, object of attention, and lastly, mindfulness.
Spirituality and Belief – All meditation may be practiced without adopting a specific system of spiritual or religious belief. There are factions who believe that meditative practices and attempting to tap into one’s higher consciousness is sacrilegious. However, it is an individual choice although the traditional practices were developed within specific spiritual or religious contexts. Some practices developed for purposes other than spiritual enlightenment (i.e., Tai Chi and Qi Gong). Although Yoga has spiritual and religious elements, it is more of a system of metaphysics and psychology.
Breathing – Just as in any form of exercise, how you breathe is foundational. Breathing in meditation can be incorporated passively (no conscious thought over inhalation and exhalation; breathing is “natural”.) or actively (conscious control over inhalation and exhalation). This may comprise of breathing through the mouth or nostrils; breathing rate; breathing shallow or deep; and, the control of other body parts (i.e., relaxation of the abdomen).
Mantra – A mantra may or may have a meaning in and of itself; however, the sound, word, or phrase that is recited repetitively, usually in an unvarying tone, is an object of concentration. It is also a way of checking vibration and taking one’s focus away from thoughts. A novice meditator may find absence of thought especially challenging. Mantras may be chanted aloud or silently. The most familiar example of a mantra is “Om” (pronounced Oh-m), which ancient sages identified as the most basic tone in nature. To them, it signified unending universal consciousness and an awareness of the divine.
Object of Attention – Regulating one’s attention is crucial to the practice of meditation. Thoughts still exist, but are simply discouraged – a state called “thoughtless awareness.” It is being in the present moment, rejecting thoughts of the past and the future (ego infiltration). The ego’s interference can actively be removed by mentally reducing it like minimizing a computer screen.
Mindfulness – In contrast to “thoughtless awareness”, “mindfulness” meditation techniques aim to cultivate an objective openness to whatever comes into awareness (i.e., by focusing on a single activity or bodily sensation). Breathing is used as an anchor to keep the meditator in the present moment. Mindfulness approaches differ from relaxation or mood management techniques but are useful in daily activities. Mindfulness increases self-awareness and understanding so that a person can respond to events without impulse, but with reflection.
Meditation strengthens the mind, body, and spirit connection, super-charging your overall fitness and well-being. Physical practices, such as yoga or tai chi, added to mental practices are even more effective. All have proven health benefits. Even if you miss a day or two, do not give up. Practicing is cumulative and may still go a long way in improving even situational stress and discomfort.
Reduces the Inflammatory Response – Inflammation is how the body responds to toxins and other foreign substances in the bloodstream. Reduce your body’s inflammatory response and the chances of stress related conditions such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease may be decreased.
Provides an Emotional Boost – Deep relaxation allows the mind to let go of the day’s stressors and worries. This leads to improved mental focus and a general sense of well-being. Physiological changes create more energy in every cell of the body through increased serotonin production. Feelings of rejuvenation and peace usually follow, improving mood and behavior.
Improves Eating Habits – Those practicing meditation receive constant emotional boosts which lead to increased self-esteem and wanting to take care of the body. This practice may mean less weight gain over time.
Enhances Love Life – Reduced stress and anxiety leads to better overall health and focus. This is beneficial for improving a couple’s private life.
Improves the Immune System – There are about 111 genes in the human body that regulate immune system cells. Meditation turns “on” these genes.
Decreases Frequency of Migraines – Stress and anxiety are two factors that may lead to migraine headaches. Practicing meditation helps alleviate feelings of anxiousness and depression which may reduce frequency and duration of such headaches.
Reduces Anxiety Disorders – Meditation is an effective stress reducer and may mitigate the occurrence of anxiety disorders such as panic attacks and agoraphobia. Studies have shown that meditation raises the level of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric), an amino acid that calms nervous activity.
Emotional Stability Improves – When you are less stressed, your emotional state improves and stabilizes. You become more aware of your inner attitude that affects your happiness. Benefits occur on a neurophysiological level, not just on the surface. Meditation modifies how you respond to your environment.
Creativity Increases – Meditation brings about clear thinking. Clearer thinking allows fresh ideas and new perspectives on the world around us to flow. Mindfulness has a long-lasting effect on imagination and observation.
Intuition Develops – Meditation affects brainwave patterns. Initially in meditation, you experience an Alpha state which promotes healing. The mind is rejuvenated, bringing about keener senses and higher awareness.
Better Relationships – A person who is calm and peaceful tends to have deeper and lasting relationships. Meditation takes your mind to this state, and therefore gives you better tools for doing just that. People are energy. Meditation increases your radiation of energy through brainwave activity that is emitted into the environment (you may have heard this called someone’s “vibe” or “aura”). In this way, you may truly affect those around you in a loving and positive way.