The purpose of mediation is to quiet the mind to all the chatter and racing thoughts. But sitting cross-legged and going into “the void” where your mind is completely blank is not the easiest practice to begin without guidance. It took a very dedicated practice for me to be able to quiet my “monkey mind.” (The Buddhists call it “monkey mind,” because the mind jumps from thought to thought the way a monkey swings from one tree branch to another. So…your mind is like a giant “Barrel of Monkeys” game…. Hm. Maybe my weirdest analogy to date.)
In my journey to heal myself, I looked for guidance everywhere and adopted anything that resonated. Which I recommend for everyone because what is right for me may not be right for you. Zen Buddhism influenced my understanding and personal meditation practice because it revolves around Zen meditation.
In no way do I claim any expertise in Buddhism but I watched a documentary on Zen Buddhism years ago that changed my understanding of mediation. The monks in the documentary made everything a mindful mediation. Cleaning the dojo was a meditation. The act of cleaning their home became a symbolic ritual for cleansing themselves of their false notions of “self” and to humble the ego through a seemingly subservient task. Walking around the yard was a moving mediation. At the time, these were revolutionary for me. The idea behind this was to do everything mindfully and to be fully present in the moment. I understood that to lose yourself in the present moment is a type of mediation. It is meditation.
This is why certain sports are so addicting like long distance running. Besides the biochemistry that happens in the body with the release of dopamine and endorphins. Any athlete will be able to identify the moment of going into “the zone” where you are almost beyond your body. You’re not counting down to the finish, like some of us do. Ok I have 15 minutes left… that’s 5 minutes, three times. I can do three 5 minutes… No. None of that. The mind is quiet. Surfing is considered a spiritual experience for many and a large part of this is because the act of wave riding makes you entirely present. Your body is responding before your brain can even process what you’re doing. You’re not thinking. You’re entirely in the present moment. This is the goal of meditation.
Despite the common association that mediation equals sitting in silence and going into the void, devoid of thoughts, there are many ways to achieve a quieter mind and be more present or grounded. As mentioned, moving meditations like cleaning, walking, or athletics can achieve this.
Chanting and Mantra
There are also chanting and mantra meditations where you chant a specific phrase or affirmation. Chanting can help quiet a monkey mind by giving you something to focus on. Depending on what you’re chanting, it can help raise your vibration and clear the chakras, the energy centers on the body. Repeating positive affirmations can help with manifestation of those affirmations by sending them out with positive, loving intention.
There are meditations that focus on breath. You can elongate your breaths, breathing though the nose, by counting silently as in you inhale and counting as you exhale. Trying to lengthen the breath to a slow even rhythm reaching a count of 10 when you inhale and when you exhale. To increase the calming effects, when you inhale with mouth closed, place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, and release your tongue to the bottom of your mouth when you exhale. I learned this many years ago and would do it when I had anxiety. It was nice because I could even do it in class and around people. There is also alternate nostril breathing, which was one of the first types of meditation I explored. And I’m sure many other breathing techniques that I don’t even know about. These simple breathing meditations can greatly help bring your awareness back into your body, make you more grounded and present, and quiet the mind easily. These are nice because they can be practiced pretty much anywhere.
Guided Meditations and Journeys
Guided meditations and shaman style journeys are the type of meditation I used the most while healing myself. Because of this, this is the majority of the style I do in my sessions and spiritual coaching. Guided meditations are exactly what they sound like….they are guided! A leader or teacher guides you through a visualization of some sort. Journeys, shaman journeys, and guided meditation are basically synonyms but shaman journey has a more specific style. A shaman journey can be self-guided or led by another individual. Often times these start and end with drumming and these journeys have a specific goal or intention. For example, are you trying to cut cords with and ex? You can do a journey for that! (Which I recommend to everyone actually.) What about removing the blocks about going after your dream job? Yep. Journeys for that too. Both of these I’ve done for myself. How about removing the fears of moving forward into the life you deserve and want? Of course! SO. MANY. JOURNEYS. Journeys for days. For life, really.
This is just a small sample of all the types of meditations that are possible. I’d need a whole modification series to do justification to each practice. I, along with the world, recommend a daily meditation practice to everyone. Even if it’s a simple 5 minutes a day to start. I can’t go through a whole day without doing a quick meditation and I rarely leave the house without it. I don’t need to go into all the benefits of meditation because a million studies, articles, and posts by your distant relatives on Facebook has shown you that the benefits are huge. Now that you have the awareness, it’s time to try it for yourself. There’s plenty of types of styles to explore to find what resonates with you. I’ll be posting small guided meditations as well.
Enjoy the void, my friends. You’ll find yourself there.