My Favourite Meditation Practices
Meditation is not a practice that came easily to me. Busy and analytical monkey mind is not the best prerequisite for peaceful practice of sitting still, and I had so much resistance to it when I was first exposed to meditation through my first teacher!
So, I just stuck with yoga as a physical workout for the first few years, until one morning I found myself standing on my head in a yoga room on the top floor of a yoga ashram in the Himalayas, and realised that my head has been completely empty for some minutes and that it felt divine! And this realisation just changed my world. Just like that.
Many years later, I am at a point in my career where I have taught multiple meditation teacher trainings around the world, and I'm still learning. And one thing that I wanted to share with you before I dive into the techniques, is that no matter how experienced, we will probably continue learning about our minds and about meditation as long as we are alive, taking it one practice at a time. There will be times when practice comes easy, and there will be times when it's incredibly hard to find peace inside our minds and hearts, and yet, we don't have to get discouraged. Meditation is a practice: just like training a muscle, we can learn to train our brains and minds to focus, relax and be calm.
And here are my top 6 meditation techniques I use a lot at this point in life.
1. Yoga Nidra. As some of you know, yoga nidra, or yoga sleep is one of the meditation I've been focusing on a lot over the past 10 years. This meditation can be done lying down on a yoga mat and listening to a recording or with expert guidance of a live teacher. The meditation is extremely restful (providing you with benefits equal to 3-4 hours of sleep according to research), extremely relaxing, restorative and usually very pleasant. You are drifting between being asleep and being awake, and come back to your day glowing, refreshed and energised. And did I mention that this meditation also helps your body heal faster?
2. Metta Meditation. Metta is a meditation that focuses on creating a sense of deep compassion and loving kindness inside, directed both towards ourselves and others. This helps us focus less on our perceived faults or imperfections, and accept ourselves as we are with gratitude. And you can use this meditation to make peace with the world as you set the most loving and kind intention in how you relate to it. I love practicing it in the morning and before I fall asleep. It is extremely pacifying, soothing and calming, and you will sleep better and practice a more positive outlook in life. Here is one I have recorded for you.
3. Zen/emptiness. For Westerners, emptiness often has a negative connotation. And yet, there is so much beauty to emptiness and simplicity. There is such an intrinsic sense of ease in it, and I always feel so much more present and focused in minimalistic spaces, free from clutter and heaviness. This applies to the contents of my mind just the same: the more empty, clear, minimalistic and calm is my mind, the more I enjoy being present in the now. This is a meditation practice that is perhaps a better fit for someone who already has a meditation practice in place, and yet, I really wanted to share it with you too as I actually started with it and it has worked wonders. My favourite "way in" is a vigorous yoga practice, for example vinyasa flow, after which I can sit in a meditation pose or lay down in savasana and feel beautifully empty of everything that distracts me.
4. Eka Grata meditation. This technique is a good choice for a really busy mind as it includes staring at a candle (or any other object that you perceive as appealing) to focus. That way mind is less likely to wander as it has a real physical anchor to focus upon, and once it is accomplished, the awareness can be expanded without compromising your meditation practice. I usually begin by focusing on one object (single visual focus or drishti) and then expand it to include awareness of my whole body, then the room. Then I will include the area I am in, the city, the country, eventually making it as big as awareness of the universe. You can start really simple, and then take it one step at a time.
5. Music meditation. I use instrumental pieces that really touch me, to go deeper into my practice. As a composer, I have a special relationship with music, and it can replace verbal guidance completely if I manage to let go. And because the music I use does not contain words, it actually helps me shift into non-verbal, non-thinking mode better than anything else. Depending on the character of the piece, it can also be a catharsis experience when deep powerful emotions are released through meditation, and it feels very cleansing to let go of these feelings and emotions that no longer serve me in this way.
Patterns of Light is a collection of music I initially wrote for myself to meditate and practice yoga to, and I'm happy to share it with you.
6. Dancing meditation. Yes, you read it right - it's been one of my top few for a long time now. I guess it's a very personal thing, but I always loved movement - both in predictable patterns and completely free flowing expression of dance. Over the last few years, I have been gravitating back to my passion for dance and re-discovering the amazing potential of dancing to bring us back into the physicality of a human form, leaving mind beautifully blank, open, receptive and alive with creativity. If you feel self conscious, dance when you are on your own, but do it still to remember the wild and beautiful human body that you are given for this lifetime and to be liberated from constraints that we humans have a tendency to impose upon ourselves when we forget who we are and how we are designed to move.
I hope this has inspired you to get back on your meditation pillow, or even on the dance floor! And I look forward to guiding you in your next retreat - every retreat I lead always includes lots of meditation, so you can just delegate the guidance to me while you are in retreat mode. Or maybe I have inspired you to consider one of the meditation trainings I'll be offering this year - it would be a pleasure to dive into the depths of meditation in your company.