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There are many different forms of meditation. In recent years, mindfulness meditation has become popular. It’s a great place for beginners to start.
So what is mindfulness meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is a way of being aware of or bringing our attention to, the present moment.
This is donedeliberately and without judgement.
Mindfulness is now recommended by health professionals as an effective way of addressing stress and mental health-related issues.
One of my all-time favourites and another great one for beginners. I’ve found this helpful to reduce pain as well as being very relaxing.
Here’s how to do it.
Get comfortable, ideally lie down for this one but you can also do it in a seated position on a chair or on a cushion.
Cover yourself with a blanket to keep warm and close your eyes.
Focus on your breath to begin with, becoming aware of where you feel the breath the most.
When you are ready, bring your attention to the points where your body is in contact with the floor, chair or bed. Each time you breathe out try to sink a little further downwards.
Now bring your focus to your left foot. Focus on each of the toes of the left foot, then the sole of your foot and then the top of your foot.
Continue to move your awareness up your left leg. Focus in turn on the ankle, the calf, the shin, the knee and the thigh.
When you are ready, feel the breath entering the nostrils, down into the lungs and abdomen. Then as you exhale, try to imagine the breath travelling down the leg and out of the sole of your left foot. (Sounds a bit weird I know, but I have found this to be a pleasant and calming experience!)
Continue this practice with your right foot and leg and then move up your body slowly. Focus on each area in turn. If you become aware of tension or discomfort, try to ‘breathe into it’ as you did with your left leg.
Once you have finished scanning each part of the body, shift your attention to the body as a whole. Be aware of the breath flowing in and out of your lungs.
Take a few final deep breaths and slowly open your eyes. Stretch and ease back into your day.
3. Sounds and thoughts
Another favourite form of meditation for me and again great for beginners. I covered this one in my recent post on how to stop overthinking. The guided meditation in the video below is a super way to have a go at this one.
A development of this, which is a little bit more advanced, is to shift your focus from sounds and thoughts to any emotions which arise.
Concentrate on where you feel the emotion physically. Is it a tightness in your belly? Tension in your jaw or shoulders?
Try to soften the area where you feel the sensation and ‘breathe into it’ as you did in the body scan.
If the emotion or sensations become too intense, shift your focus back to your breathing.
With any of these meditation practices, you will find that your mind wanders. This is normal, it doesn’t mean you are ‘doing it wrong’. Simply acknowledge gently that your mind has wandered and bring your attention back to the part of the body you were focussing on. You may need to do this many times, don’t worry!
I love this form of meditation!
Visualisations are a little bit more advanced so I would advise trying out the breathing meditation or the body scan for a while first.
When you are ready I would definitely recommend a visualisation meditation.
My absolute favourite is called ‘leaves on a stream’. In this mediation, you visualise placing your worries and concerns onto leaves. You then watch them float off into the distance down the stream.
There is a similar one with clouds, placing your worry on a cloud and watching it drift away.
The point to this is that thoughts, concerns and worries are all transient.
They exist for a period of time and then they drift past until another thought comes along. The visualisation can help to identify those thoughts and worries and to watch them pass without engaging with or judging them.
Try out the leaves on a stream mediation with the video below.
5. Loving Kindness Meditation
I covered the importance of self-compassion in this recent post.
This particular type of mediation can help us to cultivate compassion towards ourselves and others.
Again this one is a bit more advanced and if I’m honest, isn’t one that I have used a lot. I thinkmainly because I carry a lot of physical tension and stress. I find the other forms of meditation to be better for me at releasing this.
Another comprehensive book based on the concept of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). MBCT has been clinically proven to be at least as effective as drugs for depression. It is also excellent for managing symptoms of stress and anxiety.
(If you are now wondering what the difference between Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is, then check out this helpful article which explains).
I found this pocket-sized book to be very easy to read. It is set out in small digestible bite-size chunks.
The book has lots of different exercises to try including some of the ones I have covered. Also yoga-based stretches and physical exercises. All the exercises in the book are short and can be completed in 5 to 10 minutes.
Have you tried any of these different forms of mediation? What are your favourites? Is there anything you find difficult in practising meditation? I would love to hear from you.