yogafire

Meditation Techniques For A New, Individual Practice?

28 posts in this topic

I haven't been able to start a regular practice.  The longest I've meditated consistently was for 21 days, using a guided meditation "challenge". I've heard a bunch of different techniques and was wondering if some are rooted more in zen buddhism, yoga origins, or random new age trends. I also remember reading somewhere that meditation shouldn't be a "separate practice" but be part of the yoga practice.

 

In summary, I don't know what to believe, except that I do believe it is beneficial with regularity.  I figure I should just do whatever works for me, but, I wanted to ask others to share how they meditate.  My questions:

  1. Do you use any aids or techniques in your meditation practice, and if so, can you share them?
  2. Are these techniques I've learned just to help someone new in the beginning to help ground them with a focus to stop the mind from wandering, and a seasoned practitioner just sits silently without these aids? 
  3. Is it better to try to stick to one technique and do it for a week, and then switch to another if it's not working instead of rotating through a bunch, sometimes even in the same meditation? In practice, I get tired of doing one technique, and I switch it in the middle of the meditation, and I'm afraid that might be counterproductive.

 

These are the techniques I've learned, some have my experience in sub-bullets:

  1. Repeat a single mantra, silently, in your head.
    • I can only remember short phrases before I start butchering the sanskrit in my head.  The only one I remember (hence my "favorite") is "So hum", which I was told meant "I am".
  2. Guided: Focus your attention on individual muscles and points on your body, starting from the crown of the head down to the tip of the toes with the goal of relaxation.
  3. Repeat a two word phrase internally on inhale and exhale, such as "breathe" on inhale "and relax" on exhale.
  4. Follow your breath
    • I think I need a better reminder on this.  I think "following" meant focusing on just the breath instead of thoughts.
  5. Count your breaths
    • Very simple, but it helped me focus when I went to a one day yoga retreat, and we did a 20 minute meditation with the guidance being "Just sit with yourself and your thoughts, and observe. If it gets too hard, try counting your breaths". I've only done 10 minute meditations before, so once I hit that mark, I got really antsy and then started counting my breaths to calm my mind.
  6. Visualize "letting go of your thoughts" as they pop up. Examples: thoughts are leaves that float by on a stream. Thoughts are on balloons that you mentally release that float up in the air. Thoughts are on clouds that pass by while you are lying down on the grass and looking up in the sky.
  7. Think about "receiving" enlightenment and "allowing" it to come to you instead of something you are trying to "get".
    • So abstract, but, I think this best describes how the mind can feel different after sitting silently for awhile. Once I felt more "receptive", but it might have been because I felt was feeling warmth from the sunlight in the room. Ha!

 

Wow, I've learned more tips than I realized.  #3-7 I learned from a free 2-hour workshop from a man who studied with Zen Buddhists.  #4 and #5 are ones I heard repeated in yoga classes.

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yogafire, I'm so glad you started this topic. I'm want to know the answers to your questions too. And thanks for sharing the techniques that you've learned! =)

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A couple of things work for me:

1. While focusing on the breathing, focus on a very specific part of the breath. Sometimes I focus on the rising and falling of my belly (usually do this one before a yoga class), or something like the sensations at the nostrils. 

2. Pretend the only thing you can know about or think about is the sensations right now. I like this during savasana, just feeling my body against the floor, and twinges in my muscles, subtle sounds in the room. It helps me realize there's actually a lot to think about in just my present experience.

laceyd, yogafire, keldc and 2 others like this

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I am not an expert by any means but I think meditation is like anything else you do for your health - there is no right or wrong. You have to do what works for you. If it stresses you out, don't do it. Meditation is meant to help you in being mindful and staying in the moment when done as a daily practice so if it calms your mind that is the right way for you. If you are trying a new technique doing it a few times should show you if it is right for you or not. One thing mentioned in the original post was changing techniques during a meditation and that I don't think would be very effective. You can do different types throughout your day or week. I quite often will do 4 or 5 meditations in a day and each one will be different depending on what I want or need from it.

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I am no expert either, but I use various mindfulness techniques, that I teach to others as part of my job. One thing, I emphasize to them and to myself when I get frustrated is this: Meditation is like any other exercise in that 1. you have to keep doing it to get good at it and 2. the more you do it, the better your body will know what it is and get there faster. It is like creating paths in the brain: the first times you do it, they´re just small paths through dense wood, it´s hard to move forward and it doesn´t feel rewarding. The more times you travel the same path, the easier it will get. The path will widen, you will travel with more ease. Meditation is a hard path to travel in the beginning, the hardship of moving forward is SO far from the experiece, we are looking for, but it will get better, it will get easier, if you keep doing it. 

I think there are a lot of good ideas in the tips, you list, yogafire.

I think the trick (that sounds easy but really is hard) is to find the balance between sticking with a strategy to allow for the body and mind to adjust to it so that you can tell if it actually works for you, and trying out another, if it doesn´t work for you, so that you can find your own practice. I´m not there yet  ^_^

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I use mala beads. I find them especially helpful when I'm really stressed out and my brain is all over the place. Having something to physically touch and knowing that there's an "end" just somehow calms my thoughts and lets me totally focus. 

 

 

i find meditation difficult because i can't clear my mind

 

do any of you listen to music during meditation? but im going to try repeating a mantra

 

At some retreats I've done, if I know the group is comprised of beginners, I'll do the first few meditation classes with music because I've received feedback that it's "easier" to meditate with music. Then later in the week I'll play OM chanting and then I'll introduce silent meditation. It's a nice way, too, over the course of the week, to build up a couple techniques to call upon after. 

laceyd, Mana, Kelly and 5 others like this

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If it stresses you out, don't do it. One thing mentioned in the original post was changing techniques during a meditation and that I don't think would be very effective. You can do different types throughout your day or week. I quite often will do 4 or 5 meditations in a day and each one will be different depending on what I want or need from it.

Thanks for this advice and confirming that it's ok to change techniques between different meditations but not in the same one.  I think I need to schedule it in the middle of the day so I look forward to it instead of trying to squeeze it in right before I go to bed so that I at least did it.  That mentality stressed me a little since it would make feel rushed doing my bedtime routine.

 

I think the trick (that sounds easy but really is hard) is to find the balance between sticking with a strategy to allow for the body and mind to adjust to it so that you can tell if it actually works for you, and trying out another, if it doesn´t work for you, so that you can find your own practice. I´m not there yet  ^_^

Well said!

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I haven't been able to start a regular practice.  The longest I've meditated consistently was for 21 days, using a guided meditation "challenge". I've heard a bunch of different techniques and was wondering if some are rooted more in zen buddhism, yoga origins, or random new age trends. I also remember reading somewhere that meditation shouldn't be a "separate practice" but be part of the yoga practice.

 

In summary, I don't know what to believe, except that I do believe it is beneficial with regularity.  I figure I should just do whatever works for me, but, I wanted to ask others to share how they meditate.  My questions:

  1. Do you use any aids or techniques in your meditation practice, and if so, can you share them?
  2. Are these techniques I've learned just to help someone new in the beginning to help ground them with a focus to stop the mind from wandering, and a seasoned practitioner just sits silently without these aids? 
  3. Is it better to try to stick to one technique and do it for a week, and then switch to another if it's not working instead of rotating through a bunch, sometimes even in the same meditation? In practice, I get tired of doing one technique, and I switch it in the middle of the meditation, and I'm afraid that might be counterproductive.

 

These are the techniques I've learned, some have my experience in sub-bullets:

  1. Repeat a single mantra, silently, in your head.
    • I can only remember short phrases before I start butchering the sanskrit in my head.  The only one I remember (hence my "favorite") is "So hum", which I was told meant "I am".
  2. Guided: Focus your attention on individual muscles and points on your body, starting from the crown of the head down to the tip of the toes with the goal of relaxation.
  3. Repeat a two word phrase internally on inhale and exhale, such as "breathe" on inhale "and relax" on exhale.
  4. Follow your breath
    • I think I need a better reminder on this.  I think "following" meant focusing on just the breath instead of thoughts.
  5. Count your breaths
    • Very simple, but it helped me focus when I went to a one day yoga retreat, and we did a 20 minute meditation with the guidance being "Just sit with yourself and your thoughts, and observe. If it gets too hard, try counting your breaths". I've only done 10 minute meditations before, so once I hit that mark, I got really antsy and then started counting my breaths to calm my mind.
  6. Visualize "letting go of your thoughts" as they pop up. Examples: thoughts are leaves that float by on a stream. Thoughts are on balloons that you mentally release that float up in the air. Thoughts are on clouds that pass by while you are lying down on the grass and looking up in the sky.
  7. Think about "receiving" enlightenment and "allowing" it to come to you instead of something you are trying to "get".
    • So abstract, but, I think this best describes how the mind can feel different after sitting silently for awhile. Once I felt more "receptive", but it might have been because I felt was feeling warmth from the sunlight in the room. Ha!

 

Wow, I've learned more tips than I realized.  #3-7 I learned from a free 2-hour workshop from a man who studied with Zen Buddhists.  #4 and #5 are ones I heard repeated in yoga classes.

 

These are all really good tips. 

I think what has helped me in my practice is to remember not to judge it too harshly. I used to worry too much that I didn't "do it right" or "meditate for real" on a given day.  As long as you are making time for it that day, you are doing something good for your heart, body and mind.

beth, yogafire, Yogalove and 1 other like this

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I have to admit, I am very much lacking in the meditation department. I feel so much better when I do meditate but can't seem to make it a regular thing. I'm going to try to give it more of an effort!

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Hey everyone, 

 

I'm really not an expert, I just started this summer to meditate and It's really hard 'cause (probably like every of us) I think to much! But, I discover that if I meditate on the morning before doing anything it's easier because my mind is already calm (or sort of!). I just sit on my yoga mat with a blanket on my shoulders! ; ) It really works ! I think about all the things I'm grateful to have in my life and just focus on my breath ! I noticed that my day is completly different when I'm doing that !

 

If I'm too excited before a meditation session I'll do some yoga routine ! :)

 

Hope to share more with you guys ! : )

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A couple of things work for me:

1. While focusing on the breathing, focus on a very specific part of the breath. Sometimes I focus on the rising and falling of my belly (usually do this one before a yoga class), or something like the sensations at the nostrils. 

2. Pretend the only thing you can know about or think about is the sensations right now. I like this during savasana, just feeling my body against the floor, and twinges in my muscles, subtle sounds in the room. It helps me realize there's actually a lot to think about in just my present experience.

Thanks for sharing these practices. I too enjoy meditation in savasana.

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I've been really trying to have a regular meditation practice and the last few days I've been pretty successful. I've started setting a 5 minute goal but not setting any type of alarm or anything. I've actually gone over the time by 2-3 minutes. Next week I'm upping the goal time to 10 minutes and setting an chime alarm on my phone or do a guided meditation and sticking with that until it comes easy, then possibly adding time on to that. I'm really enjoying it this time around! Hopefully It'll stick!

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I use mala beads. I find them especially helpful when I'm really stressed out and my brain is all over the place. Having something to physically touch and knowing that there's an "end" just somehow calms my thoughts and lets me totally focus. 

 

 

 

At some retreats I've done, if I know the group is comprised of beginners, I'll do the first few meditation classes with music because I've received feedback that it's "easier" to meditate with music. Then later in the week I'll play OM chanting and then I'll introduce silent meditation. It's a nice way, too, over the course of the week, to build up a couple techniques to call upon after. 

 

Ditto! I got a simple wrist mala from Dharma Shop and it has been really helpful in quieting my very very busy mind. I also find alternate nostril breathing really helpful. 

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i find meditation difficult because i can't clear my mind

 

do any of you listen to music during meditation? but im going to try repeating a mantra

I have tried music and it was NOT easy. I have a "Yoga" station on Pandora and it's really calming and relaxing. Sometimes I listen to it while I wash dishes or read. I have used it once or twice while meditating but I prefer a guided meditation. Most of the ones I use are on Youtube.

femmefatalekris likes this

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I have yet to stay focused for more than a couple minutes as my mind drifts off to other things I need to do. Outside noises are really a distraction also. Nothing like the sound of a leaf blower to break ones focus.  It it is a good thing that it is fall and going to winter as I'll not hear that for a few months hehe.  

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Find out what your meditation goal is. Why are you doing it, and what do you want out of it? My meditation goal is to ease anxiety and if I can't relax and enjoy it, there's no point in forcing it. I just do some Tai Chi instead.

If I feel rushed or like I'm trying to force a meditation session, I don't do it. When it starts to feel like one more thing I need to cram into my day, I put it down for a couple of days until things calm down and I feel like I can enjoy it again.

Try all kinds of techniques and find something that is comfortable and enjoyable for you. I enjoy guided meditation because it allows me to 'go along for the ride'. I don't have to remember a mantra, or try to focus on anything specific, I just listen and allow my thoughts to follow.

And I use headphones when the neighbor dogs won't stop yapping!

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i think that meditation is a good option for being calm but if its not helpful for u so u can easily replace meditation to any other Excersice

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I just watched a video on YouTube called "how to meditate & why most people fail" by Noah Elkrief. I am hoping after watching that video it will be my lightbulb moment. Meditation can be frustrating for me because I get caught up in stressing about how many thoughts are running through my head and how I am "supposed" to be feeling relaxed, calm, mindful. He explains how we cannot control our thoughts, and there is no point in placing judgement on ourselves for something out of our control. It goes for about 20 minutes and I really got something from it.

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This is a great topic, I would love to hear if any of you have kept trying since you posted. I have started the 30 day meditation thing by doyouyoga on YouTube & I'm totally loving it, but I feel like I will have a really hard time moving to a self-guided practice. I've been eyeing this wrist mala we sell at my work for a few weeks, I'll have to try that.

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Whenever I cannot focus on my breathing I just start counting. My teacher says it´s ´cheating´ but who cares? It works for me and it could work for you. I go breat in 1-2-3 breath out 1-2-3-4 , Breath in 1-2-3, breath out 1-2-3-4-5. So always IN 1-2-3 and OUT from 4 to 10 and back again. It will help you refocus, try it and good luck!

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I use mala beads. I find them especially helpful when I'm really stressed out and my brain is all over the place. Having something to physically touch and knowing that there's an "end" just somehow calms my thoughts and lets me totally focus. 

 

 

 

At some retreats I've done, if I know the group is comprised of beginners, I'll do the first few meditation classes with music because I've received feedback that it's "easier" to meditate with music. Then later in the week I'll play OM chanting and then I'll introduce silent meditation. It's a nice way, too, over the course of the week, to build up a couple techniques to call upon after. 

 

 

Ditto! I got a simple wrist mala from Dharma Shop and it has been really helpful in quieting my very very busy mind. I also find alternate nostril breathing really helpful. 

 

I bought some mala beads last summer (mainly because the jade stones were beautiful!) but I haven't really used them for meditation yet so I'll definitely give this a try. Sounds like it will be helpful for me on my 100 day challenge (eek!). How do you use them?! Do you repeat a mantra with each bead? Or just count them?

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This is a great topic, I would love to hear if any of you have kept trying since you posted. I have started the 30 day meditation thing by doyouyoga on YouTube & I'm totally loving it, but I feel like I will have a really hard time moving to a self-guided practice. I've been eyeing this wrist mala we sell at my work for a few weeks, I'll have to try that.

 

juliewa - thank you for checking in! I think I did see your question back in February, and I was too sheepish to respond and tell the truth!

 

But now I got the chance to reflect on what has happened in the past few months.  I did start this post originally as motivation to maintain a consistent meditation practice. In terms of me setting aside 10 minutes everyday and doing it (my original goal when I did the post), no, I have not achieved that nor have I even tried to do that.  

 

Instead, based on input from everyone, I re-evaluated my thinking about meditation to be more open to interpretation as compared to what I had in mind, and I feel content that I have pursued a "hybrid" method by focusing more inward while doing other tasks.

 

I am not an expert by any means but I think meditation is like anything else you do for your health - there is no right or wrong. You have to do what works for you. If it stresses you out, don't do it. 

When I read Kelly's advice in the last sentence, I realized I was stressing myself out a bit trying to start a new habit so stringently, so, I put less pressure on myself. Being more of a Type-A personality, it didn't feel right to me to be so strict about something that was supposed to relax me. This is also why I have not participated in any of the YBC challenges actively (but I love reading everyone's progress!) because I didn't want to feel that pressure while I work on my work / life balance.

 

Thanks for sharing these practices. I too enjoy meditation in savasana.

 

laceyd's affirmation from what afrinak said worked for her really made me re-evaluate what I considered is meditation.  Now at the end of savasana, I feel I can really let go and my shoulders sink into the ground, which have always been tight, and I just focus on the sensation. A few times I've fallen asleep during savasana, which I've been pleased to notice the contrast because it can take me awhile to fall asleep normally.  I have heard more regular meditation can help with the bedtime sleeping, so, I'll keep that in mind as fuel when I need motivation.

 

After yoga class, I've felt so light and carefree now after a good savasana.  Before I would feel like I would be "wasting time" walking home from the yoga studio and want to bring my phone with me to fill up that dead time. But now, I go to class with no phone, and I just observe the city blocks as I walk home.

 

I bought some mala beads last summer (mainly because the jade stones were beautiful!) but I haven't really used them for meditation yet so I'll definitely give this a try. Sounds like it will be helpful for me on my 100 day challenge (eek!). How do you use them?! Do you repeat a mantra with each bead? Or just count them?

I enjoyed this recommendation, too, and bought some cheap ones off etsy.  I just needed to pick a mantra - from what I read, people recommend repeating the mantra each time your fingers move along each bead, and you stop when you reach the end.  Most of the mantras can be a bit long-winded so I can't remember, so the only one I remember from an Oprak & Deepak meditation challenge is "So Hum", meaning "I am".  It also sounds whimsical to me if read as English, which is why it's easier for me to remember.

 

How have others been doing with meditation?

KristiSmithYoga and afriske like this

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I want to quote so many things in this thread! I struggle with meditiation sometimes - sometimes it's because I hate it when my leg falls asleep around the 11 minute mark every single time I meditate, and other times because I am so immensely time constrained and want to dive into blogging before I have to leave for work (I need to maximize my efficiency because I'm working towards escape my day job).

 

It got to the point where sometimes I would meditate because I knew that I needed to meditate, not because I wanted to meditate. I'd peek at my meditation timer several times to see how close I was to being done. Sort of disrupts the process!

 

So I backed off and stepped away from it all together for a few days. That didn't feel right, either, so I decided to start over with how I approached meditation. Instead of requiring myself to sit for 15 minutes I decided to start off with 5 minutes. It's easier for me to be fully present when I know that my meditation will be of the duration of a typical savasana. When the timer lets me know that my 5 minutes are up, I feel great. Now I'm increasing my sit time because I want to, not because I'm supposed to.

 

In teacher training, we meditated in various ways and with different mudras. I found that one of my favorite mudrasis to simply cup my hands in my lap. Once in a while I will meditate on a topic - sort of like using a mantra - but usually I just observe my thoughts and let them go once I become aware that I'm having them. I've used mala beads once in a while and am leaning towards doing so again...I love the way the smooth wood feels cool to the touch and it provides a sense of security when I'm holding them.

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