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Finding the Right Meditation For You

Finding a technique that works with your lifestyle and personality is the key to sustaining a meditation practice

By Tammy Mastroberte

Whether you are looking to manifest the perfect mate, decrease your anxiety or connect with your divine source, there are seemingly endless benefits to meditating on a regular basis. Decreasing heart rate, normalizing blood pressure, reducing stress hormones, strengthening immunity and, according to recent studies, increasing your compassion, are just a few of the physical and mental effects meditation produces. Studies have even shown a meditation practice can help a smoker quit the harmful habit and assist in conquering drug, alcohol and other addictions.

Maybe you meditate regularly and have experienced some or all of these benefits. Or maybe you have tried to meditate, but it just didn’t seem to work for you. Perhaps you are too overwhelmed by the options and don’t know where to start. With all the techniques available today, deciding on a meditation practice can be more daunting than negotiating a deal on a used car.

Transcendental, Vipassana, Japa, Insight and Primordial Sound are just a few options available. Some people use a mantra, some follow their breath and still others use visualization. So where should you start? And if you have already tried to meditate, but didn’t succeed in sticking with it, where do you go from here?

You want meditation to feel like wearing your old jeans, Lorin Roche, meditation expert, teacher and co-founder of Instinctive Meditation in Los Angeles, (http://www.lorinroche.com/) tells Elevated Existence.Usually our senses—sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch—are focused on the outer world. Meditation is using the senses to get in touch with our inner world—the deep place within where our feelings come from. The basic menu of meditation is the senses—seeing or lookingat things or colors; listening to sounds or an internal mantra; and touch or movement meditation. Any meditation technique is a way of using the senses to go beyond the senses.

Just as people have an instinct as to what music they like when they hear it, Roche explains people will also know what type of meditation they like when they try it. However, he cautions, it’s not always apparent during the first session. Maybe the first time you hear a piece of music, you don’t like it, but then the third time you hear it, you do, Roche says.

While visualization meditations are often used to manifest things into your life, there are also chakra meditations to activate energy or information in the body; movement meditations such as Tai Chi and Qigong; and walking meditations to enliven the awareness that underlies everything in your activity,says Sarah McLean, director of the Sedona Meditation Training Co. (www.meditateinsedona.com) based in Sedona, Ariz.

There are meditations for times of day, and there are even sleeping meditations, she explains. But truly anything can be added onto the cornerstone of a silent meditation. You can set some intentions and then go into a meditation, but the cornerstone is to go into the silence. It empowers everything else you do.

According to Mark Thornton, executive meditation coach and author of Meditation in a New York Minute, Super Calm for the Super Busy, (http://www.yescalm.org/), the overall benefits of meditation can be explained in three levels. First, there are benefits you gain from a health perspective. The second stage is increased creativity, spontaneity and mental focus, and the third tier is higher compassion and higher consciousness, he says.

While some people can learn from a book or CD, others need feedback from someone to be assured they are on the right path and doing a technique correctly. That is why most experts recommend learning from a friend or a qualified teacher.

It’s fine to try something out of a book, but more often than not, people don’t stick to it because many are not sure they are doing it right, McLean notes. I think having a teacher, and someone in front of you who has been doing it for a while, to answer your questions and assure you are doing it right is helpful.

For the majority of people around the world juggling careers, family, friends and more, some techniques including certain types of Zen meditation or Vipassana, which involve sitting silently for hours at a time, are often not possible, McLean says.

Between 20 and 30 minutes twice a day is ideal, because you want to establish the silence in your awareness. But if all you have time for is five minutes a day, then start with five minutes, McLean recommends. Meditation is a personal thing. Some people want prayer-based or a visualization so they can accomplish specific goals, and then there is the silent mantra and awareness meditation, which tends to settle the mind down more quickly because it gives you something to focus on to transcend the world outside of you.

Primordial Sound Meditation is the technique McLean teaches, which uses a mantra. It is a popular, ancient technique derived from the yoga tradition of India that has been revitalized by Dr. Deepak Chopra, co-founder of The Chopra Center for Well Being in California, New York and soon to be in Colorado, as well as best-selling author of mind/body books, including Perfect Health and most recently, The Third Jesus.

Primordial Sound Meditation is a silent, mantrabased meditation using primordial sounds, or sounds of nature, incorporated into a mantra chosen for you based on the time and location of your birth,she says.

The Chopra Center’s Primordial Sound Meditation Guidelines for New Meditators by Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. David Simon, statesthe word mantra means instrument or vehicle of the mind. The mantras used in Primordial Sound Meditation have no specific meaning and are used only for their sound or vibrational quality. Mantras interrupt the flow of meaningful thoughts, allowing our attention to expand to quieter, more abstract levels of the mind, until we eventually slip beyond thought into silence.

This type of meditation can be learned throughworkshops, and a list of teachers available throughout the United States can be accessed at http://www.chopra.com/.

Meditation is not about forcing our mind to be quiet, McLean stresses. It’s a process to rediscover the quiet that is already there. Mantras get a bad rap, but they are just instruments for the mind. Most don’t have any meaning or specific meaning. When they are used for the vibrational quality and not for meaning, they tend to cut through the conversation of the mind. We all have 60,000 to 90,000 thoughts per day, and a mantra tends to cut through that.

If a person doesn’t have personal mantra yet, he or she can simply start with Home, or some other sound comfortable for them. But a mantra is not necessary to meditate. Roche says people can induce meditation by doing anything simple and repetitive.

You can start by taking anything visual you like to look at or anything auditory you like to hear and stay with it for longer than you ordinarily would, he notes. Sit with it for five minutes and see what happens. You can start with something simple and then later add more sophistication to it.

One of the biggest mistakes people make with meditation is trying too hard. People often feel like they have to try to meditate and concentrate, but they need to just set themselves free, Roche says.

Also, going into your meditation and expecting an amazing experience, such as an out of body experience, can lead people to believe they are not doing it correctly if these types of events don’t happen. But this is simply not true, McLean says.

Don’t look for any particular experience with your meditation, she says. One of the myths of meditation is that people think they have to have these fabulous experiences right away or they are doing it wrong, but the benefits of meditation show up after doing it a while, and they show up in your life, not your meditation.

The process of meditation requires two things, according to McLean. First, being willing to do it. Secondly, being patient and committed until you find what works. And the two things not to do are look for certain experiences and try too hard. That will keep you at the level of thought, and in meditation, the process is about transcending or going beyond thought, she explains.

In our society, we often say ‘no pain, no gain,’ but meditation is about doing less and accomplishing more, she explains. Instantly, you might feel more relaxed and less stress, but the long-term benefits, like better decision making, a calmer manner and a clearer mind—these take time.

And for those who can’t seem to find five minutes in the day to themselves, let alone 20 minutes to sit and meditate, Thornton created a number of techniques based on those he learned from enlightened masters, which he explains in his book. There are many different paths, he says, and some require you to repeat a mantra, but all of them can be done walking on the street or on the subway.

Thornton developed practices that super busy, timecrunched people can use to find depth and openness in the middle of their everyday lives, he says. I invite people to meditate for an hour a day, but cumulatively, not consecutively. Five minutes in the back of a taxi, 15 minutes in the shower, two minutes on line waiting for coffee.

For people who are time-starved and connected to the outside world, Thornton says they can detach at any time. Life is about brakes and accelerators, and you don’t put the brake on just on the weekends, or just on the cushion. You can have them at any time during the day.

Ultimately, the type of meditation a person chooses is up to them and their individual needs, personality and lifestyle. Trial and error may be necessary, as well as the help of a good teacher, but it is possible to find a technique and practice it regularly.

If a technique doesn’t work, try another one, Thornton says. There are many practices, and you need to find one that opens your heart. There is not right or wrong. Everyone is returning home in meditation and there is a practice for everyone. It’s just a matter of finding that practice.

And for those of you who have been discouraged before, know that you are only one meditation away from your practice. It will always be there waiting for you. EE