Different Types of Meditation and How to Overcome Practice Challenges
Did you even know there were different types of meditation? Maybe you tried meditation in the past and didn’t like it. Don’t give up! The benefits of meditation can be worth the time that you put in, but you’re not going to follow any kind of practice if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing.
When you think of meditation, this is generally what you think of. This is they type of meditation that is generally done sitting upright with your hands on your knees. You focus on your breath and try to clear your mind from thoughts. You aren’t trying to change your breath, thoughts or sensations, but instead you’re trying to observe them.
Personally, I like performing mindfulness meditation, but for some people they just don’t get it. It can be a challenge to get comfortable for some people. Some people just aren’t very good at sitting still for long periods of time either. People may struggle to quiet their thoughts. Other people simply state that they find this practice to be boring. You may have a laundry list of reasons why you just don’t think mindful meditation is for you.
However, there are ways to make mindful meditation more appealing.
- Start with shorter sessions. While around 30 minutes is recommended for the benefits seen in many studies, that may not be where you are in your practice. And that ‘s ok. Start with a quick 5 or 10 minutes. When you’re new this can seem like a long time to sit in stillness. Until you become more comfortable just do a short session that you can build upon as your comfort level grows.
- Change your expectations. People bring many ideas about meditation with them to their practice. Some have a preconceived notion that if they aren’t busy, then they aren’t accomplishing anything. Other people don’t think they can meditate before they even start their session. Mindful meditation is about clearing the mind. Some of us will have an easier time than others . For some of us we may have to begin clearing our mind of negative thoughts toward meditation before we can begin. Instead of expecting something negative to happen, just follow the steps and allow what will happen to happen (without judgement).
- Use props to help you sit up taller without using more effort. Using props to make yourself as comfortable as possible before you begin is a must. They don’t have to be anything fancy. Generally people sit cross-legged. You can fold a blanket a few times and set it under your sit bones. If you need more height you can try a yoga block. It you’re knees falling to the side cause discomfort, try adding a few stiff pillows or yoga blocks on either side to prop them up. To open your chest and help you to sit more upright you should make sure that your palms face upward. If none of that helps you can always lay down as well. The danger here is in falling asleep so you may want to practice with your eyes open in a gentle gaze to help yourself stay alert.
Technically, body scan meditation (and all others) are mindful meditations. You have to stay present and in this moment to perform any kind of meditation. The difference here is that you will be concentrating on various parts of your body and feeling for sensations. You should feel for any sensations and try not to judge them or change them. The sensation was already there before your awareness was brought to it, so during the meditation you are simply to feel and accept without loosing focus on the present moment.
Generally this is done lying down. You should lie on your back with your feet slightly wider than hip distance and your palms face up, like savasana in yoga. I like to put a bolster behind my knees, but you may want to lay on the floor, bend your knees at a 90 degree angle, and place your shins on a chair. A neck pillow, a blanket and/or an eye mask can be useful props during this meditation.
Body Scan Meditation can be very relaxing. A common complaint can be that people don’t actually get to finish meditating during body scans because they fall asleep. Also, some people may become aware of uncomfortable or painful feelings in the body and have a hard time focusing on anything else. Other people may have a hard time lying on their back.
Some ways to make body scan meditation easier if you have a hard time performing them are as follows:
- Get more sleep. Perhaps the reason that your falling asleep is simply that you need it. If you’re constantly sleep deprived then of course when you lay down and close your eyes you’re going to fall asleep.
- Stretch before you begin your meditation. If you find that you have several tight spots or that you have tense areas when you perform a body scan, you may need to stretch. A few simple postures before hand can loosen up the areas that are tight in your body so that you can be comfortable enough to perform your meditation. If you’re someone who lives with chronic pain this may not help with that condition, however it may help you to release areas where you’re storing stress within the body.
- Find the right position for your body. While lying on you back in “corpse pose” is the standard position, it may not be the right position for your body. Don’t let that stop you. Find a position that is comfortable for you and where you can feel the sensations in your body without having to switch positions during your meditation. However, if you absolutely must switch positions, that’s ok too. No one can concentrate if they are completely uncomfortable and everyone’s body is different. Don’t judge yourself for accommodating your body.
For those that don’t like to sit still inside or prefer to go out into nature, you can try a walking meditation. In a safe area where you can walk slowly and around in a way that you’ll be able to retrace your steps, you should take 10 to 15 steps and then pause to breathe. Your arms may hang loosely or you may clasp your hands. As you walk you’ll choose a sensation to focus on. You’ll try not to switch sensations as you move. You may focus on the way that you’re stepping, or you may focus on something like the feel of the sun on your skin. You’ll still have thoughts and distractions, but in the same way that you focus on the breath or different sensations in the body while allowing the thoughts to pass, you’ll do the same with distractions while performing your walking meditation.
Some people are afraid of how they’ll look doing a walking meditation. Others may not be able to walk and therefore think that they can’t do a walking meditation. The weather is another factor that people may be concerned about during a walking meditation.
- Find a private area. You’ll want some privacy so that you aren’t being watched, but also so that you aren’t disturbed by other people. You can look a little strange while performing a walking meditation and sometimes that can make people curious. It’s really up to you. If you don’t mind people watching you or the fact that they may stop you to talk, then this isn’t a concern. If it is though, just find a safe, private area for your walking meditation.
- Don’t take walking literally. If you can’t walk, that doesn’t mean that you can’t use movement to meditate. You can still focus on the sensations on your skin or the sounds of nature that surround you. Move in a way that you can and a work toward increasing your practice in a way that fits you.
- Embrace the seasons. I don’t advise going out in dangerous weather, but I do advise not letting variances in weather stop you from getting outdoors. In colder weather you can bundle up and focus on the warming sensations that your clothing and movement make. On a rainy day you can put on rain boots and use a rain coat or umbrella and focus on the sounds of the rain. Heat can present challenges, but a shaded area or a cooling cloth around your neck can ease the heat. The point is to get outside and experience the world and its sensations when you might not otherwise.
So I advise that you try a few things before you give up on your practice. The benefits to your mental and physical health can be amazing. And when you find the right practice for you, meditation can add enjoyment to your life as well as all of the other benefits. It can be a much-needed time of rest in our very busy lives.
Please share any tips you have for meditating in the comments. As always, we’d love to hear from you. We can learn so much from each other.