Fortunately, meditation is simple in theory and there are numerous practices a beginning meditator can use to get a good feel for what meditation is all about. From focusing on the breath and one’s awareness, to chanting mantras and practicing visualization, meditation is as diverse as the people who practice this holistic healing technique.
If you’re a beginning meditator or a seasoned one looking for a brush up, checkout this recent Yoga Journal post from Frank Jude Boccio. In it, Boccio gives direction on 7 different types of meditation practices. According to Boccio, vital to any meditation practice is commitment. Choose a practice that not only matches your temperament and individual needs, but also one that you can practice on a regular basis.
CONSCIOUS BREATHING is a basic yet profound concentration practice. Simply bring your attention to the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils. Keep your awareness on the duration of each breath, and when the mind wanders from the breath, just notice that and bring your attention back to the sensations of the breath. If the mind seems very distracted, you may find it helpful to label each breath “in” or “out” and each thought “thinking.” Try not to control your breath or visualize it; simply note the sensation just as you feel it.
MANTRA RECITATION, another effective way to cultivate concentration, has been used by many spiritual traditions. Mantras can be one word or syllable or a phrase. Christians often use the mantra “Christ have mercy,” while the Hebrew Shma (hear) is used by many meditating Jews. Other common mantras include Om, Amen, and Om mani padme hum (meaning “The jewel is in the lotus”). If these feel too “spiritual” for you, choose a simple word like peace and see how that works. With mantra practice, you can just keep repeating the mantra silently, or you can synchronize it with your breath.
VISUALIZATION requires you to develop your inner vision by first gazing at a simple geometric shape (such as a circle or a triangle) and then closing your eyes, attempting to hold the image in your mind’s eye. Eventually, you can work with yantras and mandalas (intricate geometric figures that have been used since ancient times as meditation tools) or you can visualize a spiritual guide or being that has meaning for you. You can also just imagine a peaceful space that you can rest in while meditating.
Boccio’s instructions on how to practice several other meditation techniques can be found here.