Personal and individual, meditation is a practice that, contrary to what many imagine, will not transform you into a different person. Meditation is like developing any other skill. Here, we learn to train our consciousness and to observe thoughts and feelings, without judgment, and thus begin to understand who we really are.
Living with our own mind, like this, in silence, can seem daunting at times. But with time and practice we become comfortable in its presence – and who knows, we may even become best friends with it. Have you taken a few minutes to meditate today?
Of uncertain origin, meditation dates back to ancient Eastern traditions – especially yoga – as a step toward liberation. Its definition, too, can vary according to the context in which it is found. Generally, meditation can be defined as a practice, technique, or state of consciousness, and can be divided, from a more generalist plane, into two types of approach: focused attention and open monitoring.
Meditation as focused attention comprises the voluntary concentration on an image, object, breath, or words (such as mantras); and meditation as open monitoring involves the observation of an occurring experience of a particular moment. Other definitions also usually apply to meditation, such as:
Before starting to practice meditation, it is important that a whole preparation be considered. When you find your purpose, your strand, a posture must be adopted. The most commonly used method is to sit in the lotus position, which consists of crossed legs.
There are also practitioners who choose to meditate on their knees or even walking, as is the case in the Buddhist tradition.
Next is the duration, which does not pre-establish a minimum. Beginners can start the practice by dedicating periods of a few minutes, and as you perfect it, you can increase this time to even a few hours. If you are just starting out, know that the frequency of meditation also greatly influences the results.
The practice takes place with closed or half-closed eyes in a quiet, still environment where you will not be disturbed for the next few minutes. As you go deeper into meditation, you will also find the most effective method for entering a state of deep relaxation and learning.
Some people focus on breathing, others chant mantras, or even imagine themselves in a peaceful setting surrounded by nature. Make yourself comfortable, free yourself from external noises, and focus your attention only on the present moment.
In reality, meditation works more like a lifestyle, a philosophical position that understands the individual as the union between mind and body. And working on these two elements is fundamental to achieve self-knowledge and increase self-esteem.
In the spiritual spectrum, meditation is very much associated with self-discovery. However, since the 1970s, both psychology and psychiatry have developed their own meditation techniques in order to treat a variety of psychological disorders.
Using open monitoring practices, psychology brings meditation to reduce mental and physical symptoms, including chemical dependency. There is also evidence of its benefits for improving mood, attention, sleep, and even issues such as eating and weight.
There are many benefits attributed to meditation, some of the main ones being the achievement of a state of physical and mental relaxation. Not surprisingly, the practice is recommended by many experts for reducing stress and anxiety.
Nowadays, enumerating meditation techniques is an impossible task. In constant creation, transformation, tradition, and improvement, it is evident that meditation is an extremely personal process, and that each person seeks to find the method that has the most to do with his or her daily needs or afflictions.
Here are some of the main meditation techniques, and what they are based on to bring inner peace, full consciousness, and serenity to their followers.
Also known as mindfulness meditation or TM, the transcendental meditation technique was introduced in 1958 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and is certainly the most practiced worldwide.
Here, we seek to reach in a natural and pleasant way, the fourth state of consciousness, where we are not awake, sleeping, or dreaming; we are relaxed, while the mind remains active in a deep silence – usually only with the help of mantras, so that the mind calms down effortlessly.
Contrary to popular belief, TM is not related to religious beliefs, nor does it require changes in our lifestyle. The recommendation is to practice it twice a day for 20 minutes, which is enough to restore the calm and tranquility needed to move on.
You have probably heard of mindfulness and know that it is a secular technique, independent of any religious belief. Here the main goal is to train your mind to be focused on the present moment – never distressed by the past or anxious about the future.
In this technique, it is not necessary to recite mantras or concentrate on divine presences. All you need to do is self-manage your consciousness, emotions, and thoughts, carefully noticing each one, and avoiding reacting in an automatic or habitual way.
Also known as “mindfulness,” mindfulness is a practice that doesn’t ask you to empty your mind and think about anything. It is about paying attention to the actions of the present and being aware of everything that is going on around you.
This is a technique that can be exercised during a walk, a meal, petting your pet, or at work, for example. While you are performing a task or participating in a mental process, be there, present, body and soul.
Shinsokan is the main practice of the Seicho-No-Ie philosophy, and has an emphasis on silent meditation based on the sacred writings and teachings. Through this meditative prayer, the individual becomes capable of eliminating negative feelings and thoughts, whether they are related to hate, hurt, trauma, sadness, among many others.
During the process, the goal is to connect with “Jisso,” that is, the perfect reality created by God; the perfect aspect of the human being. Basically, Shinsokan meditation seeks to reach the stage of seeing and thinking about God, leading the practitioner to transcend the level of matter and illusion.
The basis of Zen Buddhist practice, the Zazen method consists in sitting, keeping the mind awake and active, however, without clinging to daydreams, anxieties, worries, or any other interference.
Zazen is to think and not to think, to be and not to be at the same time. It is to investigate existence and understand that we are causes, conditions, and effects in this web called life. During the practice, thoughts come and go; just let them go their way and play the role of observer, choosing not to get caught up in them.
The Zazen method is also practiced in the Kinhin modality where, instead of sitting, the practitioner continues meditating while walking. This practice usually lasts 10 minutes, and serves as a circulatory stimulus between sitting practices in Zazen.
Of Hawaiian origin, Ho’oponopono meditation can be translated as “righting a wrong” or “putting things in order”. So the practice consists of following an order, which begins with responsibility and forgiveness, and then joy and gratitude.
Basically, this meditation is based on a healing process, able to repair the mistakes, enhancing reconciliation and forgiveness through mantras repeated during the practice: “I am sorry”, “Forgive me”, “I love you”, and “I am grateful” are them.
If you feel trapped in the bonds of the past, of negative memories that continue to resonate in your mind and heart, perhaps Ho’oponopono is the solution for freeing your soul, attracting good energy and inner peace.
Vipassana is one of India’s oldest meditation techniques. Rediscovered and taught by Gotama Buddha over 2500 years ago, it is a way of seeing things as they really are – a true lesson in self-observation, leading to self-transformation.
Focusing on a deep connection between mind and body, Vipassana is a journey of observation, capable of dissolving mental impurities, judgments, and suffering. In the technique, we are guided to adopt a realistic view of everything that surrounds us, from objects to feelings to relationships and thoughts.
Very recommended for beginners, guided meditation consists of a process where the technique (which can involve any of the aforementioned types of meditation) is conducted by others, generally with the help of verbal instructions or sounds. In other words, if you have trouble staying silent or directing your focus, this practice is an extra help in disciplining your attention.
Guided meditation is also of enormous support to people who suffer from severe disorders, and who often feel a kind of uneasiness when they find themselves meditating alone. With a direction, an instruction, the individual’s attention migrates to a more controlled state, preventing the mind from wandering off into distressing, persecutory feelings.
In guided meditation, our thoughts and sensations follow a kind of script. Perhaps the audio will suggest you imagine a beautiful place, a positive memory, or even ask you to stay focused on your breathing and the physical sensations your body produces.
Also among the positive aspects of guided meditation is the vast amount of content you can find for free on the internet, be it videos, streaming platforms, or apps.
While some people prefer to meditate with more focus on religiosity, others may prefer more specific orientations, exercising self-knowledge, creativity development, and relaxation, for example.
Remember that you don’t need to have a religion or follow a philosophy of life to meditate. Meditation is a free practice, with scientifically proven benefits, and should be seen as a “gym” for the brain, as it needs constancy to show its effects.