Why are there so many different methods? How to choose the right one and to know it’s working? Is it true that any activity can be a form of meditation?
Sometimes we use the term ‘meditation’ when we really mean ‘a meditative method.’ For example, we might say, ‘I’m going to meditate.’ It’s not possible to ‘do meditation’ because meditation is a state, not an activity. It’s a state in which we are not doing anything but simply being.
The various meditation techniques offer assorted ways to move beyond whatever obstructs us – stress, fear, anxiety, impatience, lack of self-love and trust, etc – into simply being. That is, conscious, open, free of identification with our physical self, our thoughts or feelings. In other words: meditation methods remind us of who we are at our most essential.
There is nothing sacrosanct about meditation techniques. They are simply scientifically devised ‘tools’ with which to experiment. It’s helpful to know of at least some of the many hundreds of different methods available because we are all so different. What suits you might not suit your friend or partner; or, what suits you now may not be needed after three months of practicing it.
Some methods need time set aside; others can be directly incorporated into your everyday life. Many techniques are passive; others include some movement or making sounds.
How to choose a method?
Consider these 3 pointers…
1) When do you have time to set aside for meditation (if you’ve chosen a method that needs time set apart from your routine) and how much time can you give to it – 10 minutes, 40 or perhaps 60 minutes?
2) When is your energy level highest? For some of us that’s first thing in the morning; for others that’s when our energy is the lowest!
If you are ill, if you are confined to bed, of course choose a method that is compatible with your energy level and degree of mobility. There are many forms of meditation that can be practised even if you have very little energy, for example, Gibberish or Breath Watching.
3) What is your motivation?
Why you want to meditate may influence what method you choose or which will be more effective for you. Perhaps you feel chronically stressed or you are in a time of upheaval and crisis. Perhaps you are dealing with some strong emotions – such as anxiety, depression or anger. There may be a vague sense of something missing in your life, or you are looking for meaning in life. Perhaps you are driven by a desire to find out who you are beyond all the various roles you play – for example of parent, friend, child, spouse, sibling, patient or carer. Maybe a friend has recommended meditation or you have read that it is helpful.
… But wait!
If you meditate with a goal – such as relaxation or to boost your immune system functioning – the very expectation of getting something will sabotage your practice.
It’s a paradox: Though we meditate for a reason, we have to put aside any desire for a result. Instead, learn to enjoy meditating simply for its own sake. You shower to clean yourself; that’s the aim. But isn’t the pleasure of having piping hot water in winter or deliciously cool water in summer raining over your body – the fragrance of the soap, the sensation of its slipperiness on your skin – just as important in motivating you to shower regularly?
And it’s helpful to know that the state of meditation is a guest, and a shy one at that. We cannot demand that we experience meditation. It only happens when we are willing to wait; when we are open, receptive, and are both relaxed and aware.
*How to know if this is the method for me? When you find a method that you like the sound of try it out for a minimum of seven days. By then you will either feel a certain inner ‘click’ with it or not.
Once you have found your method, commit to doing it regularly for a minimum of 3 months. (It’s said to take that long for the method to affect the unconscious.) As with any daily routine, your mind may be more cooperative if you set aside a regular time for meditation and stick with that. See Getting Started.
*How to know if the method is working? You’ll feel the effect, not only when you are immersed in the technique but also in how you are in your everyday life. Once it has impacted your consciousness there will be a change that you – and others – can notice. Those who meditate regularly report feeling more relaxed; more present to the moment; patient and sensitive to the small joys of everyday life; more understanding; more loving towards themselves and to others; more gratitude and a sense of connection with the world around them.
*When to stop the method I’ve chosen? Give it the recommended three months; then, when the effect has become integrated in who and how you are in your relation to yourself and to others and in dealing with everyday situations, it has done its work and you can drop it. It’s fine of course to continue it beyond that time; or, instead, you might like to take another method on board.
“Meditation is good, it is medicinal. A medicine is needed when you are ill. When you are healthy, the medicine has to be transcended.” (Osho)
*Is it true that any activity be a form of meditation?
Any activity can become a meditation if you add three ingredients:
* A non-judgemental attitude
So, for example, you like to go walking every morning. To change that from just a physical exercise into a meditative experience, walk in a relaxed way, staying alert at the same time. Be present to the moment rather than absorbed in your thoughts. Finally, don’t indulge the mind’s tendency to compare and criticize – either some aspect of yourself or yourself in relation to anyone else. Whatever is, is!
Even eating your meal, lying in your bed in hospital, surrounded by the noise and activity, showering – or being showered by others – can become meditative. Adding those three ingredients will bring a different quality to the seemingly most ordinary action.
If you want to be spontaneous, why not try the Meditation of the Day on our Homepage?
If you need help in choosing a method or have questions about your meditative practice please contact us!