EVERY DAY A HUGE VOLUME OF INFORMATION NOISE COMES TO US , and the Internet, social networks and new technologies do not contribute to calmness and concentration. If we add to this the psychological overload that the average city dweller undergoes, it becomes clear why, according to WHO forecasts, by 2020, mental disorders will be among the five main diseases of the world’s population. Many people are concerned about stress management, but it is not very clear where to start.
Although meditation in the mass consciousness is still surrounded by something esoteric, this method of relaxation has been introduced into their schedules by some corporations (for example, Google). Meditation is used by structures like the largest prison in India, and even within closed monotheistic religions, mindfulness practices are recognized as a good way to maintain mental health. Meditation techniques are used in conjunction with psychotherapy, including for the prevention of alcohol abuse or as a tool to combat burnout.
We have already talked about the benefits of meditation and how people use it in everyday life. There are many meditation techniques, and if some require an instructor, group or special course, others can be learned on their own. We have prepared a guide on different types of meditation, which will help you choose the best option and painlessly introduce the practice into your life.
The first and simplest thing recommended for beginners is the numerous applications for the practice of meditation and mindfulness. Usually they are simple and understandable, and only discipline is required from the user: you turn on and follow the instructions. There are programs designed for a certain period (for example, ten days or three weeks), after which you can measure your progress and understand how far you have come.
At the same time, there is no need to go somewhere or contact other people – you can practice at any convenient time, and the applications are inexpensive (or even free). All sorts of tutorials on YouTube belong to the same category – however, you have to search thoughtfully, filtering out dubious options. We talked about the most popular applications ( ZENIFY and Aware should be added to them ), and a good overview of video channels in English can be found on the Mashable website .
WHO WILL SUIT: FOR those who want to start independently and gradually practice meditation, without complicating their schedule.
WHO WILL NOT SUIT: those who are annoyed by any sounds, or those who find it easier to receive instructions once, rather than listen to it every day (in which case, as an option, you can refer to books on meditation, mindfulness and the principles of the brain and emotions).
Breathing, on the one hand, occurs unconsciously and is controlled by the autonomic nervous system; on the other hand, within certain limits, a person is able to consciously regulate it by changing the frequency or depth of the process. Breathing deeply and calmly for a few minutes can help you calm down and concentrate, and observing it helps you regain your ability to reason and assess the situation calmly.
Breathing practices have different modifications: counting, concentrating only on inhalation or exhalation, and tracking how the breath is felt in different parts of the body. Another option, as in the case of Anapana meditation , is to simply observe the breath without trying to change it. In this case, observation itself is meditation, you do not change the breathing pattern, but only watch it dispassionately, without reacting in any way. The breathing techniques of yoga, including different types of pranayama, can be attributed to the same category.
WHO WILL SUIT: THOSE who want silence, who are annoyed by voice instructions, and mantras and visualization are more likely to distract, rather than help to focus.
WHO SHOULD NOT SUIT: THOSE with chronic upper airway problems (such as sinusitis) that cause difficulty breathing, and those whose focus is too shallow and quickly strays from observing inhalation and exhalation to internal dialogue.
An extremely simple “independent” technique that brings quick results is a body scan, during which you need to focus your inner attention throughout the body and try to relax even the smallest areas of tension and ease unpleasant, painful sensations. You can do it at any time and in any place – for example, before going to bed or immediately after waking up. This exercise is included in the psychotherapeutic method MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction), which is now used for various chronic diseases to improve well-being.
WHO IS SUITABLE: FOR beginners and those who find it easier to maintain attention in constant movement around parts of the body, and not on the breath or a point in front of the eyes.
WHO DOES NOT FIT: THOSE who find it difficult to relax completely or to relax any part of the body. In such cases, it may be helpful to work directly with the body first — using massage or body-oriented techniques to “anchor” the feeling of relaxation.
Mindfulness meditation (mindfulness)
This technique is an adapted version of traditional Buddhist practices, especially Vipassana and Vietnamese Zen Buddhism. The essence of the technique is total presence in the present moment, “here and now”. Pose or surroundings do not play a special role, the main task is to notice the phenomena and processes in and around oneself. Awareness and presence is about focusing all your attention on what is happening, not following the usual automatic scenarios.
To begin with, it may make sense to take a specific posture and focus on breathing and diaphragm movement – but after some experience, this meditation can be practiced almost anywhere and at any time. According to practitioners of mindfulness, you can consciously do absolutely everything, from meditative walking to a thoughtful meal, listening to sounds, smells, sensations.
WHO WILL SUIT: first of all, those who treat meditation exclusively in a utilitarian way and do not seek spiritual aspects in it.
WHO DOES NOT FIT: THOSE with discipline problems, as this technique requires effort and concentration. It’s like learning languages: some can do it themselves, others need a strict schedule, homework and tests.
For many, the first association with the word “meditation” is a Buddhist monk sitting in a lotus position. Meditation is indeed an integral part of Buddhism, and Zen meditation (or zazen ) is a foundational practice that seeks to calm the body and mind and understand the phenomena of existence in their Buddhist interpretation.
Typically, zazen is practiced while sitting on a floor or pillow in a lotus or half lotus position, often facing a wall. Important requirements are an absolutely straight back from the base of the spine to the neck, immobility and correct breathing. There are two tools for balancing the mind in Zen meditation. The first is focusing on the breath (it is recommended to count the breath to yourself). The second option is to “just sit” without focusing on any object, and observe what happens to consciousness, inside and around you. It makes sense to start practicing zazen with a teacher who will explain the nuances and give you the basics.
WHO WILL SUIT: for those who are interested in the philosophy of Buddhism and are ready to bring some religious aspect into their meditation – in centers of zazen they often practice along with other components of monastic service to Buddhism: singing, reading ancient texts, rituals, and so on.
WHO DOES NOT FIT: beginners and those who want to avoid any references to philosophy and religion, as well as those who find it difficult to tolerate physical discomfort and immobility.
This method also came from Buddhism, but compliance with the rules (except for the obvious ones, from the category of not harming living beings and oneself) requires minimal. True, most teachers are unanimous in their recommendation not to consume alcohol or any other intoxicating substances. The technique is again based on the observation of breathing, sensations in the body and one’s own reactions to these sensations.
True, Vipassana has an obvious difficulty: it needs to be taken in courses of ten days in special centers that are in different countries and cities. As part of the course, students learn three different techniques: the first three days are devoted to the practice of Anapana, then you receive the technique of Vipassana proper, and on the tenth day, a short instruction on Metta Meditation is given.
WHO WILL SUIT: Vipassana implies silence and complete informational deprivation, which means it is suitable for people with burnout and stress overload and those who want to “reboot” and change, for example, their eating habits or start getting up early.
WHO WILL NOT FIT: those who cannot allocate ten days for isolation from the whole world; those who cannot come to terms with strict rules (getting up at four in the morning, vegetarianism, a vow of silence). With great caution, you need to treat the course for those who are in the acute phase of depression or anxiety disorder.
Strictly speaking, with proper concentration, any activity can be turned into meditation. Drawing, handicrafts, sports – whether it’s a five-kilometer run or lifting weights; if during practice you are focused on the present moment and your stay in it – you are definitely meditating. Qigong is a particularly meditative type of sports activity. Qigong is work with the “vital energy of qi”, which includes complexes of traditional breathing and physical exercises.
Qigong is an interweaving of Taoist philosophy and Buddhist psycho-practitioners. There are thousands of different qigong practices, within which more than eighty different types of breathing and techniques can be found. You can find recommendations to practice qigong for the prevention and treatment of diseases, and in the Chinese martial arts communities, qigong is perceived as an instrument of concentration and an important element of martial skills.
WHO WILL SUIT: those who prefer to integrate the practice of meditation into active work with the body and cannot stand the idea of static and immobility.
WHO WILL NOT FIT: those who find it difficult to slow down (it is easier either not to move or move quickly), and those who cannot be in a group without being distracted by strangers or the environment.
If neither breathing, nor observation of sensations, nor dynamic techniques work for you, mantras may work. The term itself is promising: “man” means “mind” and “tra” means “liberate.” Chanting of mantras is supposed to help calm the mind, relieve nervous tension and improve concentration.
The technique of mantra meditation is simple: take any comfortable posture, close your eyes and repeat the chosen mantra silently or aloud. Sometimes the practice is complemented by fingering beads. You can meditate for a certain amount of time or until a certain number of repetitions (traditionally 108 or 1008).
WHO WILL SUIT: those who are interested in the culture of India and derive additional meaning for themselves from the very content of the mantras; those for whom monotonous pronunciation helps to drown out internal dialogue.
WHO WILL NOT SUIT: those who see in the chanting of mantras a contradiction to their own religious or philosophical beliefs; group mantra meditation is not suitable for people who are shy and feel ridiculous while chanting and cannot focus on meditation.
In the minds of most, yoga and meditation are closely related, and this is justified: there are many meditative techniques and directions in yoga, including chakra meditation, trataka meditation, kundalini, kriya yoga, tantric practices, and so on. They should be practiced under the guidance of an experienced teacher, preferably within a center with a good reputation. There is no need to describe each practice in detail, but nidra deserves a separate mention.
Nidra, or “yoga of sleep”, is a technique thanks to which even a completely unprepared person who is not familiar with yoga can get tangible results after the first attempt. Nidra yoga trainers recommend this technique for deep relaxation, improving sleep quality, fighting insomnia and nervous exhaustion.
WHO WILL FIT: those who are very tired and can only “lie in the direction of productivity”; those who have a limited resource of time and energy and need a quick result.
WHO WILL NOT FIT: those who are FREEZING all the time; those who cannot lie still.