Ultimately, meditation is a simple practice. However, when you’re starting out, it can be overwhelming to choose from the multitude of teachings and techniques out there. Different practices may suit us at different periods throughout our lives.
Keeping the eyes closed during meditation practice helps us turn our attention inward and block out visual distractions. In some traditions, meditation is done with the eyes gently open, gazing forward or down. Try practicing for a few minutes with closed eyes, then another few minutes with the eyes open, to see which works best for you.
Most basic techniques of meditation involve bringing our attention to the present moment through noticing physical sensations. Visualization and mantra are also methods that help with the development of concentration.
All meditation actually requires is awareness. No special clothing, equipment or accessories are required. The most powerful “gear” is the discipline that comes from within the devoted practitioner. Nevertheless, there are helpful tools for meditators of all styles and experience levels that can support and encourage a regular practice.
Let’s delve into some of them now.
1. Meditation cushion, bench or floor chair
Modern life is often quite sedentary, leading to chronic stiffness and overall inflexibility. Meditation cushions, bolsters or bench help us minimize the distractions caused by the physical body’s discomforts and limitations. By employing a well-aligned posture, our meditation sessions can become more fluid, pleasant and effective. To find the ideal cushion for your body and practice, match it to the meditation posture you typically employ. For example, zafu cushions are great to use in cross-legged positions like lotus, half-lotus or easy pose. In lieu of a cushion, you could use a thick, folded blanket as a foundation.
Does sitting down directly on the floor or on a small cushion or bolster cause discomfort or pain in your knees, hips or back? If so, a meditation bench can help. They are typically used in the kneeling position, enabling the pelvis to be elevated, which decreases pressure on the knees and ankles and helps straighten and lengthen the spinal column. Finally, a meditation floor chair is a supportive seat that can prove beneficial for intermediate or advanced practitioners who meditate for longer periods of time.
2. Meditation apps for your phone
Carry a meditation tool in your pocket: use your phone to bolster daily practice! The following apps are just a few of the many free or low-cost meditation apps available for iPhone and Android.
The Mindfulness App offers a five-day guided practice and introduction to mindfulness for beginners. It also provides timed guided or silent meditations from 3 to 30 minutes, as well as customized meditation options, mindfulness reminders and more.
Headspace provides guided meditations and mindfulness instruction, in addition to 10 music tracks to help you fall asleep and 16 nature soundscapes.
For just a few dollars, download the Buddhify app to access over 200 meditations that offer instructions on reducing anxiety and stress, promoting deep sleep and managing intense emotions. Sessions range from 3 to 40 minutes, so this app is suitable for everyone from beginners to experienced practitioners.
Last but not least, the most popular meditation app of all is called Insight Timer. Several free guided meditations are added daily to a database of thousands. The app also features discussion groups, music tracks and ambient sounds to calm the mind and body.
Guided meditation videos on YouTube
Guided meditation videos on YouTube
YouTube is chock full of videos on every subject under the sun, and meditation is no exception. Here are a few quality guided meditations to check out!
- Morning Meditation with Louise Hay: This 25-minute guided meditation narrated by author of You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay, is intended to be done in bed before rising or as early in the day as possible.
- Meditation Relax Club: This 21-minute track uses delta waves in the background music and focuses on releasing stress and alleviating anxiety.
- Breathing Guided Imagery Meditation: This 17-minute meditation teaches the diaphragmatic breathing technique and guides listeners to stillness through peaceful imagery from nature. The last 10 minutes of the video has no voice, just the sound of a river flowing, allowing for inner silence.
- Short Calming Mindfulness Meditation: If you’re pressed for time, try this 7-minute video to tune into the breath, release muscular tension and declutter the mind by focusing on present moment awareness.
- Guided Meditation by the Non-Dual Mooji: In this guided meditation titled “Remain As You Are” the non-dual spiritual master Mooji points to your inherent and unconditioned state of being which is made of peace and love!
- Yoga Nidra Guided Meditation for Sleep: If you wish to combine mindfulness with a good night sleep, some ancient techniques found in the Yogic tradition can be very helpful.
3. Hi-tech meditation assisted by the Muse headband
The Muse brain sensing headband works by monitoring brainwave activity while you are meditating and rewards successful states of calm with peaceful sounds from nature. As your mind begins to wonder, the sounds become more dissonant as a way of guiding you back to a place of greater stillness and tranquility.
Muse headbands have 7 sensors, including 2 on the forehead, 2 behind the ears and 3 additional reference sensors. The headband employs EEG (electroencephalogram) technology to measure increased electrical activity in the brain. Slower brain waves suggest a state of calm mindfulness while faster brain waves indicate more activity which may indicate heightened stress levels. In addition to offering guidance during meditation, Muse provides detailed information at the end of each session. Muse’s companion app enables visualization of your brain data.
According to aromatherapy experts, lavender calms the mind and body, sage features cleansing and clearing abilities and peppermint assists with mental focus and clarity. Of course, you can use any scents, as desired.
Get into a comfortable meditation position and light a stick of incense. As the smoke wafts upwards, focus on observing. Let yourself become immersed in the paths, curls and “design” of the smoke. When other thoughts or distractions arise, gently return your attention to the trail of smoke. Stay in the present moment as much as possible.
Alternatively, if incense smoke bothers you, try an essential oil diffuser instead. Focus on the smell of the essential oil as opposed to the smoke visual.
Light the candle and place it 1-2 feet in front of your meditation seat. Gaze at the candle flame for about two minutes, trying to keep your eyes as steady as possible. Then, cover your eyes lightly with the palms of your hands. You’ll see the image of the flame still in your mind. Notice the shape, color and size of the inner flame. Watch it as it changes, moves or fades.
By practicing meditation, we realize the nature of impermanence and the way our thoughts and feelings change from moment to moment. We learn how to relax into the present and are then more able to relax—and think more clearly and creatively.
Start small and slowly, gradually build endurance. Using the tools detailed in this article can help bolster a regular practice. After a little consistent practice the habit will become stronger and you’ll start to feel the wondrous benefits of meditation.
Daniel Seeker is a lifelong student of the past, present and future. He realized deep relaxations of the psyche when meditating in his hermit cave on the island of Gotland. His writings are mostly a reflection of that realization. Daniel has meditated & done yogic exercises daily for more than 10 years and is studying history and philosophy at Uppsala Universitet. He is currently finishing writing his B.A. thesis in history which explores how Buddhist, Yogic and Hindu texts were first properly translated and introduced to the western world in the late 18th and 19th century.