Ah, meditation. It’s something we know we should be doing more often, and we usually feel so much better when we actually do sit down and get quiet. But sometimes, the mind just won’t cooperate and follow the suggestion to get still.
Sometimes, we are so filled with the worries about our world that we can’t find a way to get quiet. Here are a few meditation techniques that I’ve used when my general routine fails me.
The mind has a tendency to vibrate in a rhythm that is conditioned through ancestry, culture, health, and one’s personal interests. This vibration leads to thought patterns that may not be beneficial for us. Sometimes the effort of telling ourselves that we are fabulous just can’t get through the thick vibration of negativity that can be so persuasive.
Mantra helps us positively change our vibration first on a subtle level, and with consistent repetition it can ripple to the way we talk and into our actions.
A powerful and accessible mantra is So Hum. It is said that the ancient Rishis (seers who “saw” the yoga wisdom that became our ancient scriptures and traditions), realized that our breath makes the “so” sound on the inhale and the “hum” sound on the exhale.
They also “saw” that all living forms reverberate to this rhythm. So if we connect our breath to So Hum, we are actually aligning ourselves with Nature, which can bring more harmony into our own rhythm.
This mantra is translated as “I am That,” meaning, I am part of the Divine, or the Divine dwells within me. It helps us remember a piece within us that is sacred and helps us connect to that piece, instead of the rumble of voices in our mind.
How to Do It
On your inhale, silently and mentally repeat the sound “So.” On your natural exhale, silently repeat the sound, “Hum.” Continue repeating these sounds as your breath continues at its natural rhythm. When the mind wanders off into another thought, bring it back to the mantra and your breath.
Try to stay with this linking of sound to breath throughout. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity, this mantra is very potent and safe.
2. Prana Shuddhi
This is a visualization technique that is helpful when the mind is busy balancing a million things yet you know it needs a break. In a way, it’s Alternate Nostril Breathing, without using your hands. As you keep your mind focused on the direction of your breath and trying to regulate it through a specific nostril, it helps you forget everything else that may be consuming you.
How to Do It
Establish your seated position and begin to relax your breath. With your hands on your lap, imagine that your inhale is moving through your Left nostril only. And then imagine that your exhale moves through your Right nostril, out your body.
Then inhale through the Right and exhale through the Left. As you keep going, let the breath get really soft and subtle.
Then, move the breath through the Left nostril and up to your Third Eye Chakra (in between the eyebrows and into the middle of the mind), and then out through the Right nostril. Inhale through the Right nostril up to the Third Eye and out through the Left.
Keep it going, seeing an inverted V shape, peaking at the Third Eye. Then, just dwell in the Third Eye, allowing light to bathe the mind and soothe its business.
3. Welcoming Everything
This is a very powerful Tantric and Buddhist technique that I use when I am feeling annoying aches in my body that won’t go away, or when I’m holding on to something that I am afraid to let go.
When we resist, we actually strengthen the thing we don’t desire. That is one of the secrets to weight training; we use resistance to strengthen muscles. Here, if we resist the awful, we just end up strengthening it. As we embrace that which is undesired, we dismantle it, and its power over us weakens.
How to Do It
Simply sit, and after establishing your breath, just allow whatever arises to arise. If your body is uncomfortable yet not in “pain,” let the discomfort arise. (If you are in pain, change your position or circumstance. Meditation is not supposed to actually hurt.)
If you are afraid to think about something, allow those thoughts to arise, sitting next to you. Welcome everything. Soften, and allow everything to arise, with a welcome, “Hello” to what is present. “Hello” to the noise outside, to the fear about your job, etc.
Just keep welcoming, allowing everything to be with you, accepting it. Watch how the irritation or discomfort begins to change, often leading to new discoveries.
4. Wishing Love
This is a shorter version of a Buddhist practice called, Tonglen. Tonglen is a powerful practice that strengthens the meditator’s heart and develops fearlessness. You first begin by attending to your own heart, filling it with love, gratitude and healing any misunderstandings.
Sometimes, when I’m having some tough days, I stay here for the duration of the practice to heal any weakness. Once we’ve developed strength in our own heart, then we can move on to sending that strength to others.
How to Do It
After sitting and establishing your breath, go into your heart region with your attention and fill yourself with positivity. Begin with gratitude for the large things, moving towards the smaller, little things I take for granted. Inhale into your heart, and exhale even deeper into your heart.
Now you can visualize someone you know who needs help or you simply have a lot of appreciation for. With your eyes closed, inhale into your abundant heart and as you exhale, send your goodness to that person. Wish love and happiness for that person. Wish peace for them.
You can stay with this one person for the length of your sit, or you can move to other people in your life. When you are done, then return back to yourself and refill your own heart so that you don’t feel empty afterwards.
It has been said that the Divine dwells in the spaces. This is found in the spaces between the breath, and it can also be explored in the spaces between objects, people, and anything else. (Maybe the spaces between our bank deposits are filled with divinity? It’s a nice perspective for sure!)
How to Do It
After sitting and establishing your breath, bring awareness to the spaces between objects in the room around you. Bring your awareness to these spaces, even resting in that awareness.
Then bring awareness to the sounds around you, inside and outside the room, and the space that exists between the sounds. Allow yourself to dwell in those spaces of momentary silence.
Then bring awareness to the space between breaths, between the inhale and exhale, between the exhale and inhale. There is a natural moment of absolute nothingness. Without trying to make it happen, see if you can just soften so that the non-breathing moment arises. Try to allow yourself to drop into that awareness. (The still moments won’t last, another breath will arise. Just try to sit in the sliver of stillness over and over again.)
Then, bring your awareness to the thoughts in your mind and its activity. Simply watching the mind do its thing, search for a space between the thoughts, the sky behind the clouds of activity in the mind. Try to dwell in that space of no mental activity. Simply dwell. From here you could weave in the mantra, So Hum, or simply enjoy the space of the unknown. Allow yourself to rest in this sacred space.
No matter which technique you choose, the main trick is to keep returning to the technique during your meditation. Your mind is going to want to convince you that everything is wrong, plotting revenge on your boss is more enticing, and guilt you into solving your financial problem. In yoga we practice many postures to become physically stronger. In meditation, the mind’ muscles are worked when we pull its attention back to our focus, away from the tempting story.
The fact that the mind went off of focus is not the problem. The mind is designed to think. What makes someone a more effective meditator is the consistent choice to return to the focus and leave the seductive drama. The reward is a mind that is much steadier, even when life gets crazy, and a wisdom that arises to help us see through the storm of chaos. Just remember that meditation is a practice, which means that it is never perfect, and we return to it regularly to refine our practice. See if you can fall in love with the process of practice, and in love with your Higher Self!
Image Credit: Cetin Cetintas
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