Choosing a technique is dependent on your current state of stress and on what you want to get from your meditation.
The word 'meditation' has become like the word ‘food' - bananas, burgers, quinoa salads, crisps - they’re all food, but they do wildly different things to and for your body.
Similarly, there are hundreds of different styles of meditation, but we’ve piled all these techniques under one umbrella term, even though they do vastly different things to your brain and body.
Different styles of meditation light up different parts of the brain and require different degrees of effort and time. They can also have varying degrees of effectiveness on your performance outside of meditation.
Choosing a meditation technique is a very personal decision and one you ultimately have to answer for yourself. I hope the below guide gives you a starting point.
3 styles of meditation - 3 different outcomes
We meditate to get good at life, not to get good at meditation.
Most meditation techniques can be categorised into 3 groups - mindfulness, meditation or manifesting.
Mindfulness - bringing your awareness into the present moment
A beautiful tool to stop you reviewing the past and rehearsing the future and for changing your mental state in the right now.
Versions of mindfulness:
Counting or focussing on your breath
Imagining a waterfall
Listening to a guided audio - most meditation apps or YouTube videos are mindfulness techniques
Mindfulness is a derivative of the techniques used by monks, whose whole life is a meditation. So they can afford to do a gentler practice.
The rest of us in India are known as ‘householders’ - people with jobs, kids and bills to pay - we have less time to meditate so we need a technique designed for us. We want to get in, get out and get on with life, while life gets better and so need a stronger, faster working technique than Mindfulness alone provides.
Meditation - getting rid of stress from the past
Your body is the perfect accountant - every all-nighter, argument, bite of fast food, annoyance or shot of Jack Daniels you’ve done - it’s all stored in your cellular memory as stress.
And over time this builds up until there is no room left to take on any more stress. This is when we start to feel constantly stressed, anxious, depressed or are having problems with sleep or your health. And so to feel better in the now, we need to clear out stress from the past.
This style of meditation requires no effort, no focussed concentration and no struggling to clear the mind. You allow your body to innocently and spontaneously access a deeply restful state, that is actually deeper than sleep, and the tool that enables this is the mantra. This is chosen specifically for you when you learn to meditate with a trained teacher.
Mantra = mind vehicle. It’s a meaningless sound used to de-excite the nervous system, access more subtle states of consciousness and induce deep, healing rest. When you de-excite, you create order in your cells. This allows the stress to come up and out in a way that allows your brain to use more of its computing power for the task at hand, instead of wasting that energy managing old stress. This is one of the reasons that meditators tend to get more done in less time.
Manifesting - letting nature know what you’d like to create for your future
Manifestation tools help you get clear on your desires so you start to act as if they are on their way.
Give thanks for what you have
Clarify your goals
Take time to imagine one goal as if it is happening right now
Detach from any outcome
This process has the effect of closing the gap between your desires and those desires becoming reality.
The challenge most people have today is in defining what their desires actually are. Ask most people to describe their perfect job, and they often either can’t or end up justifying their current job. Ask what your perfect relationship looks like and most will mention vague ideas about respect and laughter. To fully enable manifesting to work, you need to get very specific about what it is you want.
Think of it as placing your order with the great cosmic waitress at the great cosmic restaurant. Just asking for ‘food’ isn’t enough, you need to be specific.
So which technique is right for you?
Well, clearly I’m biased towards meditation, specifically Vedic Meditation, but this is due to how this technique enables you to master the other 2 styles.
Mindfulness is very hard to master if you have a ‘monkey brain’ or are in a very stressed or anxious state when you try it. And we all hate to fail. So most will try 2 or 3 times to count your breaths or focus on how your right big toe is feeling, and if the outcome you desired isn’t achieved, you will likely give up.
Most of us don’t really go for what we want in life because of the fear of failure. Most of us gravitate towards what we know we’re good at and stay there. While this can feel comforting, it doesn’t lead to a life of growth.
Mindfulness is an outcome of practicing meditation - you naturally become more present in the moment and less caught up with past / future thoughts.
So a mindfulness technique could be good for you if on the whole you don’t have regular experience with stress, anxiety, sadness or problems with sleep or your health, and are just looking for a tool to help you cope in key moments.
Meditation is perfect for you if you feel the need to relax and de-excite mostly every day, or maybe Mindfulness techniques haven’t worked for you.
Perhaps you’re unable to maintain the required Mindfulness thought pattern, or you haven’t experienced benefits quick enough to warrant the time investment in these gentler monastic techniques.
Or maybe you’re struggling to break free of patterns of thinking or behaviour as a result of your past experiences. Talk therapy may help you to understand intellectually the reason this experience occurred, but sometimes there is no justifiable reason, or understanding doesn’t change how you feel. This is where Meditation can really help. By removing the stored stresses of these experiences from your nervous system, you remove the emotional connection you have to them and this enables you to break those patterns.
Manifesting could be good for you if, like with Mindfulness, you don’t have any major stress symptoms, and are looking for a technique to help you make a change in your future life.
It has long been known that visualising your ideal life as you fall asleep is a great way to fast-track your dreams. Neville Goddard wrote about this in 1944 in his book ‘Feeling is the Secret’.
Why just before sleep? As we move from waking to sleeping states, we pass through the 4th state of consciousness, which is a verifiably different state from waking, sleeping and dreaming. In this 4th state, the left and right sides of the brain are functioning in unison and so your thoughts are very powerful.
However, if your body and mind are riddled with stress you may not believe you deserve your dream. The trick here is that you don’t get what you want in life, you get what you believe you deserve.
Meditation helps you to remove stored stress and this enables you to become very clear about what it is you’re asking for. During Vedic Meditation you also access this 4th state of consciousness and so combining these 2 practices gives you triple the opportunities to plant these seeds for your future.
Whichever technique you choose, it is impossible to lose at meditation.
Every act of going inside yourself and being a human being, rather than a human doing, for a period of time is going to benefit you. So every inspired decision you make as a result of your practice, every moment that you realise you are enough, is a victory. In other words, every time you sit down to meditate, you’re winning.
Vedic Meditation upgrades ALL areas of your life!
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