Meditation: Am I doing it right?
From a meditation app, to sitting quietly, to going to vortexes, I have tried it all to achieve the perfect meditation method, only to find there is no right way.
I'm sure you've heard about all the benefits of meditation such as lowering stress, blood pressure, increasing focus, etc. (Do I hear an "Ommmm" in the background?). But do you ever feel like you're just sitting there waiting for something to happen, all the while thinking about the things you need to do? I have been on a meditation roller coaster for the past year where I was a daily diehard twice-a-day meditator to not meditating at all and now back to daily meditation.
When I first started, I expected that I would sit quietly and some magic would occur where I would immediately gain the insight of the universe. That did not happen. Not even close. I was focused on how uncomfortable it was to sit cross-legged, how my form was off, my itch that I am not allowing myself to scratch out of self-discipline and what is that weird noise coming from outside? It became a free-for-all for my brain to go wild with thoughts. With all the noise and busy-ness going on in my head, I felt exhausted after my first few self-guided sessions. I thought maybe meditation was meant for yogis and cave dwellers.
I didn't give up though and decided to trudge on because the image of the yogi and cave dweller seemed so peaceful and that was the kind of peace I was seeking. I read books about meditation to find its secrets but in the end, I think it really came down to my own experience with it. I eventually did find my connection to the universe and got some answers I needed but this was after months of trial and error. So, in my quest to find the secret behind meditation, I tried the methods below.
Headspaceis an app that I still like to use. It has guided meditations for different issues you may be dealing with. For example, it has 30 sessions for Depression, Stress or Sleep. It also has little mini single meditations which they call "Singles" for things like Frustration, Burned Out, Falling Back to Sleep, End of Day and so on. It even has meditations for children. They have packs for children under the age of 5, for those who are 6-8 and also for ages 9-12. My 4-year-old son likes the meditations, although he likes the animation that they have more so than the audio meditation. This app doesn't get old because they constantly update it with new topics and has almost every life emotion you can think of to address. It's a great meditation tool for those who need some assistance in quieting the mind and addressing those life issues on a day-to-day basis. It does come with a price. Currently, it is set at a monthly subscription price of $9.99/month or $5.99/month if you pay annually.
Guided Meditation – YouTube and Tara Brach
YouTube is also a good way to find guided meditations if you are new the scene. It usually comes with peaceful spa music and calming scenery. The only downside is that you don’t know what you will get unless you try each one. If you get tired of searching for a reliable meditation, you sometimes end up playing the same ones over and over.
There is also Tarabrach.com. Tara Brach is a psychologist and proponent of Buddhist meditation. Her topics include Compassion, Loving Kindness, Undoing Myths that Imprison Us, and many others. Her talk and meditations are very inspiring and insightful. She safely guides you through a reflection and consideration of your struggles without reliving it in a traumatic manner. Her meditations run about 20 minutes. It was through her guided meditations that I learned to enjoy meditation and where I first experienced my meditation “breakthrough.” Also, from her pre-recorded meditations and talks, I felt I could confront my then-bully-of-a-boss in my mind and control my anxiety when I had to interact with him the following day. I wish I could have gone to one of her events or retreats but never got around to doing so. She usually has a waiting list. Her talks and meditations are free online although she does ask for a donation.
Use of Background Sounds
I began to use background sounds such as wave sounds, rainforest sounds, and such when I felt brave enough to venture into unguided meditation territory. I used a bird-in-the-woods sound during meditation for visualization. (I was imagining myself on the porch of a spacious log cabin with a cup of coffee and reading a book and appreciating that I am finally in such a peaceful place.) It’s helpful for those exercises but if you want free thought meditation, it gets distracting.
Sound Bath Meditation
This is different from the use of background sounds. In a sound bath meditation, you’re literally bathing in sound and its vibrations. I went to one where Native-American singing bowls were used, which you can hear the sounds of here. There are also ones with Tibetan bowls but I have yet to experience that. At a sound meditation, you lay on your back with eyes closed, while you are surrounded by these large cylinder bowls of different sizes and height. As you relax and close your eyes, the person performing the meditation will use a handheld stick or spoon-type device and run it along the inside of the bowl which creates a deep vibration sound. The depth of the sound depends on the size of the bowl. What you experience is the vibrations from the sounds and feels as though it is going through your body. I felt my insides and heart vibrating along with the sound. It was not painful but comforting. At the meditation, people reported seeing visions from their experience. For myself, I saw images of a boy and his father but they were people I did not know. I don't know what that meant or if I was asleep and that was my dream. Usually, the sessions last for an hour and there is a charge for the session. The experience was rejuvenating and I would do it again.
I went to one psychic session for a reading. During the session, she gave me some tips on meditating. She held my hands while we chanted “Om” about 20 times. I did not chant before but I noticed the difference immediately. She explained that chanting will ground me in my chakra in the spine. I felt more focused after the chants. To this day, I start with the “Om” chant before I dig into my meditation.
These are energy centers that are located in nature. I’ve been going annually to Sedona, Arizona where there are several vortexeswith different energy types like male and female energy. It is beautiful there so the vortexes are really just the topping on a calorie-free cupcake. For me, the Boynton Canyon vortex was the strongest energy center. It also has some pretty awesome views. After a brief hike up the rock, I felt some energy pulling at me. (My inner skeptic says it was probably the muscles getting sore from the uphill climb). Whatever it was, I felt it and its healing energy.
I went when I was pregnant with my first child and sat to meditate at the base of one of the tall rocks and felt, and almost heard, something reassure me that my pregnancy and child would be ok. This probably sounds a little hippy-dippy and I get the “ok….” look from my friends but, hey, whatever works. It was harmless to go climb some rocks and look at beautiful scenery.
This has been the most challenging of all the methods. (And yes, hiking while pregnant was easier). But now, this is the type of mediation I prefer. Because I have gone through all the above, I find that sitting in silence has been the best way for me to reflect on my concerns and connect with the universe. Sometimes, I meditate for 30 minutes and think I was there for 10. The only way I can describe it is that I feel like I go “inside” of myself. My mind is in complete silence (sans chattering monkey) and all I hear is my inhale and exhale and feel the space and room around me. It freaked me out a little at first because my sensations were not the same as my daily awareness. I become fully aware of being present. By that, I mean, I feel I am here in this moment of time and in this space in the universe. It’s a sensation that is difficult to describe except to say it is a fulfilling experience.
Here is my method:
Sit upright with eyes closed.
Deep “Om” chant about 10-20 times.
Deep breath in and imagine that it is a cleansing breath and breathing in peace (of mind).
Exhale thoughts, worries, to-do lists, and tension with each breath.
Relax the eyebrows. I find that I knit my brows when concentrating and I hold on to those thoughts and worries when the brows are not relaxed.
Breathe at a normal pace but focus on the breath and start feeling your surroundings.
The meditation experience is different for everyone and there is no “right” way of doing it. Each time I meditate, I do not necessarily connect to myself or the universe. There are days when my tension and worries are beyond my control and I accept that as it is and move on. If I stop my meditation early because I am too distracted, it’s no big deal. Tomorrow might be the connection day. Each meditation session is different and will give you different answers and experiences. That isthe meditation process.
What are your experiences with meditation? Do you have other methods that work for you? I’d love to hear about it!