Daily meditation can bring huge benefits. It helps cultivate focus, eases stress, and calms the spirit. Unfortunately, an upbringing in the ultra-fast paced post-industrial world has left many of us at a disadvantage when it comes to the discipline required to even begin to practice meditation. The average North American attention span has decreased in recent decades, and now that it is necessary to stare at screens for a good chunk of our day in order to participate in society, our ability to allow our minds to settle is only getting weaker. But with some time and training, it is possible to reverse these effects and experience a more focused, present life. The basis of most practice is the same. Meditation is a stilling of the mind, the achievement of having no thoughts. The constant stimulation we now experience makes achieving even a few seconds of meditation without getting bored and thinking about what we are going to make for dinner a challenge, but there are ways to ease yourself into it. You can start by practising with these four less intense cousins of meditation. These aren’t full-fledged meditation techniques but they can get you started on the right track. Practice with them and soon you will feel ready to move on to the real thing.
5) Musical Meditation
With normal meditation you sit in silence and focus on your breathing or your own mantra until your mind is still. With musical meditation, you sit in music and focus on it. Choose a piece of music that you find pleasant, sit in a comfortable position, breathe deeply, and listen carefully. Since music is a little more involved than simple breathing, it gives an overstimulated brain a little bit more to chew on while learning to be still. Classical music is a good choice because of its many intricacies. Focus on the sound of each individual violin string, feel the air vibrating under the boom of the timpani, listen very closely and you may even hear the breath of the musicians. With so much to pay attention to, you’ll find your brain will soon forget to think about your favourite Netflix show or that work deadline that’s coming up.
Adult colouring books are all the rage right now, and with good reason. Accomplishing a task that is simple and easy yet beautiful at the same time can zero your focus and push other thoughts out of your mind. Again, the trick here is to apply your full attention to the task. Move your stylus purposefully. Choose a technique and follow it. You can trace the perimeter of a section, spiralling inward until it is filled up, use dots of ink to fill in the picture, or whatever technique suits you best. Just be purposeful and think only of the work. When you are done, continue to look at the finished picture for a while, still thinking only on it. This is your stepping stone to meditation without colouring.
Streaming is a warm up technique used by dancers and actors, but it makes a great pseudo-meditation as well. Wear comfortable clothes and find an open spot with no distractions. Start in a neutral stance with your feet shoulder width apart, your arms at your sides, and your knees slightly bent. Take a deep breath and put your awareness on your body. Take as much time as you need to “scan” yourself. Breathe deeply and when you feel an instinct to move, move. Stream through the space around you in whatever way feels natural, focusing all the time on how your body feels. Avoid thinking of what your next move will be. Allow your instincts to take over and think only of each moment as it is happening. Continue to move until you feel your dance come to a natural, comfortable end, then rest in your final position for as long as your mind will stay quiet.
2) Guided Meditation
If your own mind is too busy to help you focus, try using someone else’s! Listening to a guided meditation is like having a coach to help you along every step of the way. Your chosen guide might ask you to focus on one specific thought or object, or they may talk you through the process, explaining exactly what is happening in your mind. With a guided meditation you can put aside any worry that you’re “doing it wrong” and put your full trust in the recording. Once you get a feel for the process, you can try going solo.
Meditation is easy once you understand it. With a little help from these beginner tools you’ll be reaping the benefits in no time. Peace.