Here’s a question: What’s your meditation style? Are you someone who concentrates best by repeating a mantra? Singing or chanting? Mindfully listening to music, following the vibrations and melodies? Maybe you gaze at a photo or inspirational image? As you try different meditative practices, you’ll find what settles your mind and body best.
If you are just beginning your exploration of meditation, you may find that your mind wanders after just a few minutes of trying to remain still. For most of us, our minds are like an untrained puppy, following an interesting scent or sound and wandering off into trouble.
It is normal to be physically uncomfortable and mentally scattered when you first begin meditating. Your internal dialogue may be something like this, “OK. I’m going to sit still and meditate…is my stomach grumbling? What will I make for dinner? Oops! That’s a thought. OK, let’s try again…My nose itches. Dang! Another thought…” If this sounds familiar, don’t worry or become frustrated. Each time you notice a break in flow of concentration, just guide your attention back to the music you are focusing on, the mantra, your breath, etc.
Here’s a basic meditation exercise of visualization, based on one by Doug Swenson, master yoga teacher. Just follow the instructions below to help release stress and enhance your mental well-being:
- Choose a comfortable seated position. You could lie down, but that often leads to falling asleep. Sit up tall and close your eyes if comfortable.
- Begin to notice your breath, moving air slowly and deeply through your nose. Breathe in to the bottom of the lungs first and fill to the top. Exhale from the top to the bottom. Listen for your breath sounds. Feel the texture and temperature of your breath.
- Begin to withdraw from the external world. Try to bring your entire awareness to your posture, your breathing, and your calming thoughts.
- Visualize different areas of your body (body scan), starting at the bottom and working toward the top. For example, as you exhale name and isolate an area of your body to purposely release and relax.
- Visualize a flower – whatever flower you’d like. Use all of your senses to explore every aspect of this flower: color, texture, scent, weight, etc. Let the vision of your flower fill your mind. If the picture fades or changes, notice that it is happening and then return to the vision of the flower. Just like your earlier body scan, scan your flower from its roots to the top of the petals. Perhaps you follow the blooming of the flower, from see to full blossom.
- Now imagine resting in an entire meadow full of your flower. What does it feel like on your skin? Can you smell the fragrance of all the flowers? Is there a breeze? Notice that you, the flower, the meadow and the whole universe are all sharing the same energy.
- Stay in this meadow as long as you’d like. When you are ready to step out of your mediation, take a few mindful, deep breaths. Slowly open your eyes and stretch.