6 great ways to practice meditation

I may have already written about my experience with meditation in a previous blog post, but here I wish to provide some helpful guides  for anyone who would like to get into practicing meditation but who may not know where the best place is to start.

Meditating with my twin sis' (just in case you hadn't noticed...) at the top of Montagne Sainte Victoire, Aix-en-Provence, on 1st January 2016. A great way to start the year.

Meditating with my twin sis’ (just in case you hadn’t noticed…) at the top of Montagne Sainte Victoire, Aix-en-Provence, on 1st January 2016. A great way to start the year.

It is important to bear in mind that practicing meditation is a very personal experience. This means different practices will benefit different types of people, and if you haven’t yet felt happy with one particular technique then you probably just haven’t found the right one for you. While the most common meditation technique is to focus on breathing, other techniques can range from a body scan as well as focusing on the senses, and although these practices are usually done sitting down, it is also possible to meditate while walking, swimming, or even doing the dishes.

Personally, I like going for a holistic approach by using a range of practices which keep my brain stimulated and challenged. Although here I give a liste of guided meditations, this does not mean that using a guide is the only way to meditate. The way I see it, a guide is a stepping stone that can be used to learn and understand how to meditate. Although I don’t like to admit it, I usually use a guide out of laziness as I find that it takes more effort and is harder to meditate on my own. What I usually do (when I have the time) is to ‘warm up’ following a guided meditation, and continue meditating once it has finished.

Here are a few guided meditations which I use myself on a regular basis:

My dear friend Jimmy, with his lovely Kiwi accent and meditation bell sound, talks you through a well-rounded meditation which focuses on the senses as well as the breath. When I had trouble knowing where to start I asked Jimmy to record a guided meditation as I knew it would help me get me practicing more regularly, and this is exactly what he did! Thank you Jimmy 🙂

  • MiCBT: Mindfulness-integrated Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for wellbeing and personal growth (usually 15-30 min)

This site is geared towards helping people with their wellbeing and personal growth. It is based on a book by Bruno Cayoun, who provides audio tracks intended to accompany what you learn in the book. However, although I have not read the book myself yet, I find the guided meditations helpful. In the introductory recordings he explains how each chapter should be practiced over the course of a week, practicing every morning and every night. I admit that I do not follow the course this closely. Currently I am taking about a week for each chapter chronologically, but I have not been disciplined enough to do it each morning and night.

You may have to get used to his interesting voice and accent, but don’t let that put you off as these are a set of very good and well-thought-out meditations which will help keep your brain healthy!

If you sign up to the Mindfulness Summit’s site, they will give you free access to a few guided meditations which I have found very useful. There are two main ones, one focusing on the breath, and one taking you through a body scan. They are great for any beginner as they last about 15-20 minutes. Gaining access to the site’s content, you will also be able to get free access to two of the video conferences they had during the summit. However, if you wish to access the whole content of the summit, be prepared to donate.

This is a simple body scan guided meditation I discovered on YouTube which I found effective. It’s a good length if you can set aside 40 minutes of your day aside for the practice. I enjoy spending about 40 minutes to 1 hour meditating when I can as I have found from experience that, as someone who has not been meditating for all that long, it takes more than 20 minutes for my brain to attain a certain meditative state. It is only during longer practices that I feel a sort of shift in my experience meditating.

Binaural beats are an interesting creation which have the capacity to induce a meditative state through sound, and more specifically through the brain’s capacity to create an illusory third ‘binaural beat’ sound wave. By listening to two sound waves (pure tone sine waves) which are very close in frequency (and are listened to dichotically, with one through each ear), the brain ‘fills’ the space between both sounds by creating a third one. Different types of binaural beats create different types of brainwaves called alpha, beta, delta, and gamma brainwavesListening to binaural beats is meant to help with sleep, as well as apparently induce lucid dreaming. I have used binaural beats to meditate a couple of times and can say that it definitely helped me reach a meditative state faster than if I were meditating without any help.

Meditating without a guide

Perhaps you don’t like the idea of using a guided meditation practice and prefer to do it the simple way: by yourself. As you can probably tell from the list above, there are a lot of different approaches used, but my personal favourite remains the breathing meditation practice.

Here are a few simple techniques to put it into practice:

Following your breath

(practice length: from as little as a minute, to as long as you wish)

Find a comfortable sitting positing: You can either sit on a cushion on the floor or on a seat, but it is important that you sit up straight supporting your back while also feeling relaxed and not tense. Don’t let yourself rest against the back of the chair or slouch if you’re sitting on a cushion. If you are sitting cross legged on a cushion make sure your knees are below your hips so that the blood flow to your feet isn’t compromised.

Close your eyes, or look down slightly whilst fixating a point (such as a lit candle). Notice your breath as your breath in and breath out, without trying to change your natural breathing rhythm.

Focus on the bodily sensations of the breath. You may notice it at the tip of the nose, the back of the throat or down in your lungs as they inflate. Focus on the area you feel the most as your inhale and exhale.

Dealing with your thoughts: don’t try to chase your thoughts away when you notice you are no longer focusing on the breath, and don’t get angry at yourself for losing attention. It is completely natural and human for your mind to drift. The important thing is, that once you realise you have drifted, gently let go of the thought and resume focusing on the breath. This is the cycle and motion of the meditating: focus on the breath – get lost in thought – realise that you have drifted into thought – resume focusing on the breath. This cycle will happen over and over, although it will happen less often and for less long if you practice regularly.