There are an abundance of meditative techniques out there, ranging from ancient Buddhist practices to the latest theories of mindfulness. At heart, they share the aim of preventing the meditator from becoming locked in compulsive thinking patterns, in large part by encouraging them to fully focus on ONE particular thing at a time. This could entail simply concentrating on the present moment, or contemplating a sacred Mandala, listening to mantras, or even (as was the case with me) having a kiteboarding lesson. You can use traditional authentic techniques or create your own way to meditate – whichever best works for you. There are no rules, and everything is possible and permissible.
Our minds constantly oscillate between the past and future, and we are rarely fully present at any given moment. Even when trying to do yoga, or to meditate, we often slip into involuntary thinking patterns. Meditation is about achieving a mental stillness, about calming the mind for a period of time and creating a specific mental space. We need that quiet space to unwind, heal and recover, and to be able to create or perceive new things.
You can meditate whenever you feel you need it – sometimes just 10-15 minutes is sufficient. It’s widely believed, however, that the optimal time (the ‘sacred period’) to meditate is when you wake up or go to bed. Morning meditation is a perfect way to start your day in the right mode, but do not confuse it with planning your day. Try to completely avoid thinking during the meditation time, clearing your mind of distracting or unnecessary thoughts. Evening meditation is a great way to unwind after a hard day before you sleep. You can also practice short “time-in” whenever you feel you need it. I meditate like this while I’m on public transport, or even during my morning run. Evening workout in the gym could also be a good time.
How to start
The idea of spending between ten to thirty minutes without thinking may sound easy, but it takes practice to truly master. How, then, can this be achieved? You can start by focusing your attention on your body. Try to feel each part of your body separately: your legs, arms and other extremities. Then switch your attention to your breathing, or try to feel the energy which flows through your body. Try to go beyond the physical, following your stream of inner energy: Don’t be afraid, just trust the journey and go with the flow. At the end of the meditation think about those ‘greater’ goals in your life, such as being kind, loving, grateful, compassionate and so on. Everyone has his or her own set of personal goals.
Practicing giving-receiving and gratitude
My current goal, for example, is to learn how to receive love, help and goodwill, and to generally be grateful for everything that comes into – and leaves – my life.
Since I am naturally a giving person, I know how to love and how to help. However I have always struggled with receiving. Psychologists believe that those who have difficulty with receiving may have deep-rooted trust, acceptance and/or self-acceptance issues. When you only give and are not open to receiving, you initially become rapidly drained, and then start to appreciate other people less. Such an imbalance could be harmful to your relationships. People around you invariably feel that they are underappreciated, and it’s painful for them and for you. That’s why it’s important to be able to give and receive at the same time.
Take a moment to think about your life goals. Perhaps your past brings back painful memories and prevents you from truly opening your heart to show your true self and feelings. Or perhaps, conversely, you actually give too much, and don’t leave space for your relationships to grow and develop naturally. It’s a very personal journey and all of us have certain things to work on.
a very personal journey and all of us have certain things to work on.
Touch your soul
Try to feel, see and talk to your soul. This probably sounds weird, but try it anyway. Eckhart Tolle, the author of the bestseller The Power of Now, describes this meditation technique perfectly. Try to see, feel and fully focus on your ‘inner body’ (i.e. your soul). It can take time to become comfortable practicing this technique. When I tried it, I found it to be a very relaxing and mind-clearing experience. Advanced yoga and meditation practitioners can further extend this technique by switching the focus of their attention from observing the soul to watching how it’s connected to the Universe. Some practitioners are able to get incredible insights during such deep meditations. Try and share what you think.
Music as a key to the door
Some people believe that ‘authentic’ meditation should only be performed in silence. It is completely up to you. I practice both ways: Listening to sounds of nature may be the best way to replenish your stocks of energy. However, hectic urban life often doesn’t afford us the opportunity to escape to a remote beach or a rural forest for an hour or two. In this case music can act as a key to open the ‘sacred door’ to the soul. Try various things, and choose what works for you the best: authentic mantras, classical music or your favourite jazz band.
Breath of life
If you haven’t decided how to start yet – try breathing. It is the easiest technique. Just breathe deeply. Inhale – exhale – and then feel the natural pause before you inhale again. Try to concentrate on your breathing, feeling how your body rises and falls. Sense the smell and taste of the air. Next, try to feel how every inhaled breath fills your body with crystal-clear Universal energy and how, when you exhale, all your worries, anxieties and fears exit your body. Repeat this breathing cycle exercise until you start feeling relaxed and reenergized.
4 elements meditation
Another way to meditate is to connect with the four elements: water, fire, air, and earth…. Interact with them one after another, fully concentrating on all the bodily feelings you will have. Start off by meditating for 5-10 minutes and then gradually extend this time. Remember, all four elements have their own energy, which you can absorb if you are open enough.
The ancient Greeks believed that Air/Wind gives us mental strength and the ability to think clearly and lucidly; that’s why it’s highly recommended to spend some time outside daily. It is precisely because of this elemental quality that, when we’re planning to take a walk, we say things like: “I have to refresh my mind”.
Water gives us flexibility, the ability to transform, and teaches us how to be more compassionate, understanding and loving. It also removes those negative energies we accumulate on an average day. To connect with water is the easiest task: just drink some (possibly while repeating positive affirmations) or take a bath.
Fire is materialized energy itself. It is warming, protective and in the same time tempering. Just put your palm next to a candle and try to absorb its energy, letting it flow through your body.
Finally, earth grounds us and imparts a feeling of stability and wellbeing. If you have the chance to walk barefoot on the ground – feeling the earth beneath your feet – fantastic. Obviously it’s pretty difficult to do so in a town or city, so just walk barefoot at home and try to imagine how the energy of the earth flows through your body, filling it with a sense of stability.
Plants are the creatures of earth. Bring flowers into your household and they will keep you connected to the fourth element. It is sometimes enough to simply smell, touch or observe them from time to time.