Meditation 101: Benefits, Types, and Beginner's How-to
If you engage in just one mind, body, spirit related practice, meditation should be it. Meditation is the suspending or limiting of thoughts through focused concentration for mental calmness. It allows us to quiet the voice in our head, detach from the external, shift our perceptions, view a wider perspective, and integrate our experiences. More can be achieved in a quality meditation for cleansing and clearing the chakras and stabilizing the energetic frequency of our aura, than can be achieved with days worth of exterior methods in affecting these subtle energy forces.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation significantly alters heart and brain activity, particularly in deep meditation. In Vibrational Medicine, Dr. Gerber discusses research showing that meditation causes the heart to stimulate vibrations within the brain, which creates mechanical and electrical responses in nervous tissues and stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers. Research also shows that it activates more on the right side of the brain, starts on the lower left side of the body, and rises upwards in an alternating pattern. The deeper the meditation, the longer the cycle repeats and the stronger the responses measure. This is exactly what we hear about with the rising of kundalini and the clearing of chakras. Through meditation we are able to have attention control, emotional regulation like responding rather than reacting, reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety, living more presently, and an overall increase in our health, wellbeing and vitality. One of the best parts of meditation as a tool is that it can be practiced anywhere, even in the noisiest and busiest of places (it gets easier and easier with practice).
Types of Meditation
There are different types of meditations performed for different reasons and through various methods, I have chosen to simplify this often unnecessarily overly complex topic and focus on how they are performed.
Silent - performed in silence where the breath is often used as the focal point, referred to as an anchor.
Sound - performed with mantras, singing bowls, chimes, tuning forks, and other specific sounds and frequencies known to induce specific brain activity.
Guided - Performed by following the verbal instructions of a teacher, often included instructions on how to relax the body bit by bit followed by creation of a visualization as the anchor.
Active - performed while physically actively engaged in motion; often through walking, dancing, yoga, and creating through the hands (drawing, painting, coloring, sculpting, etc).
Anchors, attention focal points, are used to both prevent your mind wandering, and to bring your attention back when focus has been disrupted. Because of its importance regulating the mind and body, and the difficulty in maintaining this equilibrium, breathwork, the breath specifically, is the most common, and one could easily argue the most important, anchors available to anyone. Additional anchors commonly used in meditation include crystals, mala beads, bracelets (particularly beaded), mandalas, labyrinths, and visualizations. When you are first starting out with breathwork, I recommend having a secondary anchor readily available. For guided meditations, the speaker's voice and instructions often serve as the anchor though there may be times of silence.
Choosing the Best Meditation Anchor
When you choose an anchor, it needs to be something that you will be able to actually maintain your focus on. Ideally, your breath is where you want to start, but that isn’t always the easiest anchor for people, especially those that are new to breathwork and meditation. The same applies to the use of visualizations, if you are new to or working on visualizations, it probably isn’t going to be the best anchor for you right now.
Crystals - provide us something to focus our attention on while performing a meditation, as well as the added benefit of shifting our energy according to that stones unique energetic properties.
Mala Beads - allow us to better control our breathing through bead counting while serving as an anchor during meditation.
Beaded Bracelets - similar to mala beads, beaded bracelets are another great option for aiding in breathwork control and keeping focus.
Mandalas - with their intricate weaving and patterns, mandalas induce a trance like state that aids in clearing the mind of noise and maintaining this nothingness. These are great for those that are using active mediation or are unable to either close their eyes or maintain their eyes being closed.
Labyrinths and crystal grids - similar to mandalas, labyrinth and crystal grids allow the mind to clear and maintain focus; the more intricate the patterns, the more of a trance like state is induced.
Using a Timer
It is easy to get lost in meditation and to even fall asleep which at times can be a good thing. However, I recommend you use a timer to prevent your mind from wandering or trying to estimate time. It is much better to set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and really get into a consistent meditative state rather than just going with the flow for 20 minutes having your focus all over the place. Meditation takes practice, and the more you practice, the longer your ability to maintain focus will be.
4 Steps to Meditation
Get comfortable either sitting up straight or lying down and relax all of the muscles in your body starting with your scalp, eye brows, ears, loosening your jaw and shoulders. Let this state of release and relaxation wash over your body all the way down to your toes.
Focus on your breath and begin breathwork
Hone in on your anchor and either close your eyes or keep them gently open.
Keep your attention on your anchor as if it were on repeat. If you are interrupted or your mind begins to wander, snap your focus back to your anchor as quickly as possible to avoid your shifting brainwave states. If you are still having trouble maintaining focus, use a secondary anchor.
Quick 5 Minute Meditation
The most often response in asking someone why they do not meditate is that they either don’t know how to or they don’t have time to. Since we’ve already covered how to, let’s address the “I don’t have time to”. Five minutes, all you have to do is be willing to give yourself five minutes a day. A quick five minute meditation in the morning can set the tone for the entire day and help you bounce back better from things that disrupt your energy. I highly recommend doing a 5 minute version of the Tree Root Grounding Meditation every morning before your feet even hit the ground. Super simple to do and it isn’t taking anything away from your time, as a matter of fact, it can actually help you add more time to your day by increasing your efficiency. Now who doesn’t want that?
The five minute meditation is also great for taking a step back from a stressful moment to recollect yourself, at lunch break at the midpoint of the day as a kind of “reset button”, and in the evening before bed to help you cleanse and clear any stagnant energy of the day away.
Enhance Effectiveness of Your Meditations
Get into water - meditate before, during or after a Sacred Bath Ritual (take care not to fall asleep)
Listen to 432 HZ music
Burn incense, herbs or resins known to induce meditative states like Copal, Frankincense, Myrrh, or Palo Santo.
Meditate while using a Crystal Grid Body Layout
Practice hand mudras
Essentially, you are setting the table by creating the ideal environment for the best meal (meditation) atmosphere possible. Take your time, put thought and effort into it, and then take your time enjoying it without having expectations.
Build in length
The more you practice, the more natural and thus, the more easy it becomes to get into a meditative state, and hold the meditative state for longer periods of time. I recommend trying different environments and anchors; some people are much better at meditation in the bath or outside, while others need to be sitting upright in a chair or on the floor with their legs crossed. Work on your breathwork and try diving different tattva breaths to see what works best for you. If you are having a difficult time getting into the meditative state or just finding stillness and silence, start with guided meditations. ALL of us have times where we can’t seem to quiet the chatter and a guided mediation is our golden ticket. Michael Sealey is known for his rather well done and effective guided meditations on YouTube.
Outside of the 5 minute meditation, there are a variety of ways that we can practice meditation that do not require us to find silence and stillness. Active mediation is exactly as it sounds, meditation through focused attention on a particular activity. When we are actively engaged in an activity that we enjoy and relaxes us, our brain and heart are able to perform the same mechanical and electrical activity (though not as intense as deep meditation).
Walking - ever notice that your mind seems to wander off or you get into deep contemplative thoughts when on a walk? Maybe you even pace while talking on the phone or thinking. That's not uncommon and can be quite beneficial when used intentionally. Weather and ability permitting, get out doors and talk a walk. Here you are able to connect with nature, soak in negative ions, and practice the 5 Physical Senses Exercise to be better in-tune with your body and be present in the moment.
Gardening - not only are you reaping the benefit of getting outdoors discussed above, you’re helping to create and sustain life, that is something pretty powerful and does wonders for the spirit.
Coloring & Creating - coloring seems like such a simple task, but the power that it can wield is pretty cool. When we color, we don’t have to focus on anything but staying in the lines, this allows us to clear our thoughts and just hone in on what we are doing. Coloring is known to induce meditative and trance-like states, especially when it involves intricate patterns like mandalas. The creative process allows us to let go of the analytical and just go with the flow; the same applies to other hand crafted art forms like drawing, painting, pottery, and sculpting to name a few.
Dancing and yoga - whether you’re just swaying to the beat of the drum, performing bold interpretive dance moves, or shifting into and holding yoga poses, intentional movement that free flows through the body emphatically affects our brain and heart activity. Many people have lost sight of the fact that yoga is a spiritual and meditative practice of being in the body and present. A quick internet search for beginners yoga can have you lined up with a local studio tomorrow.
Now that you have the keys to the meditation kingdom, what are you waiting for? It’s time to start your 5 minute meditation practice and reap the benefits of being in-tune, present, and energetically aligned.
© Brandy Rachelle
Uncredited images from my personal collection or stock images