Think meditation isn’t for you? That’s probably because the type of meditation you tend to see in TV and the movies is only one way to do it.
“We all have this expectation of meditation—that it’s yogic, you put your hands in special positions and say ‘Om’—and that’s scary for some people,” says davidji, lead educator for Deepak Chopra’s Chopra Center of Well-Being and author of Secrets of Meditation: A Practical Guide to Inner Peace and Personal Transformation.
But in fact that’s just one type of meditation, and there are many other, simpler ways to make the practice work for you. That’s a worthwhile pursuit, since meditation can reduce stress, ease pain and even improve your sex life! Read on to find out what type of meditation is right for you.
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Busy and/or stressed. First of all, that’s no excuse—“Oprah finds time to meditate!” davidji says. But if you’re pressed for time, try his technique called “16 Seconds to Bliss”: Breathe in for 4 counts, hold it for 4 counts, breathe out for 4 counts, hold that for 4 counts. Do that 4 times a day—maybe while you’re waiting at a stoplight or in line at the grocery store—and you’ve meditated for 1 minute; 16 times and you’ve meditated for almost 5 minutes. Make a habit of grabbing those 16 seconds whenever you can, and before you know it, you’ve established a type of meditation practice. Breath exercises are especially good for lowering blood pressure.
Easily distracted. You might be interested in a visualization type of meditation, which can help improve your focus and concentration. (It also can be a little challenging for some beginners, so don’t be discouraged—just keep at it!) A popular visualization exercise is to stare at the flame of a candle, and try to pull all your attention inward to focus on that fixed point. You can also do this exercise with a partner by staring into each other’s eyes. “Meditation doesn’t have to be you sitting in silence in the dark,” davidji says.
Depressed. Need a mental pep talk? A type of meditation called mantra meditation could help. “What I like to do is close my eyes about three-quarters of the way, look out at something that’s not moving, and repeat something like, “I am safe. I am strong. I am whole,” davidji says. Choose an affirmation that is meaningful to you, and repeat it gently, without trying to force the thought on yourself, he notes. After about a minute, you should feel a small shift in your mood.
Anxious. If fear or an overwhelming situation (even a positive one, like a big presentation at work) is keeping your thoughts tied up, the right type of meditation for you might be one that’s guided by a professional, either in person or on a recording. A guided meditation takes your mind through an event that causes fear or anxiety beforehand, and helps you practice how to relax and take mental control of the situation. People have used guided meditation to overcome fear of flying, or prepare mentally for an athletic event or other anxiety-inducing situation. You can find guided meditations on many topics free online. (davidji has recorded several for the Chopra Center.)
An emotional eater. Any type of meditation can help you learn to live in the moment, but sensory meditation—an exercise based on one of the five senses—is especially good for developing mindfulness. “One of my favorites is a chocolate tasting meditation,” says davidji. “Take a bite of a really sweet truffle, and allow that to melt in your mouth.” The next time you’re upset and feel the urge to indulge in a treat, go ahead, but take the time to really experience the taste and texture. Practicing this exercise can help you eat more mindfully, which will slow you down and make you less inclined to stress-binge without truly enjoying your food.
Religious. Sometimes people avoid meditation because they associate it with a religious practice different from their own. But it’s easy to choose a type of meditation that has no spiritual connotation—such as any of the exercises already discussed. And consider the possibility that engaging in any type of meditation on a regular basis could actually strengthen your faith. “If prayer is talking to God, then meditation is listening,” says davidji. “It never gets in the way of your transmission with your Creator. What it does is quiet all the noise that is racing around your head.”