Tips to meditate is the final part of a three-part series on meditation. Parts one and two focused on the performance benefits of meditation. As you know, I am all about focusing on holistic health to improve performance both at work and life in general. That is why the last two articles focused specifically on the empirical evidence supporting how meditation improves performance improvements at work, home, the gym and in life in general. You can read ” Can Meditation Improve Performance?” here and “How Meditation Affects the Brain” here.
This article will give you some tips to meditate, including, what to aim for, as well as some surprising hacks to help you achieve the most out of your meditation practice.
Types of Meditation
Below are some different types of meditation and what they mean. The list is by no means exhaustive but it does give you an idea of different types of meditation, as well as links to learn more should you wish to:
- Mindfulness meditation – a generic umbrella term to describe meditation. Mindfulness means to focus your attention on what you are doing.
- Body-scan – starting at one end of the body and finishing at the other end, each area is scanned for tension and the goal is whole-body relaxation and may assist with pain
- Breath awareness – breathing slowly and steadily the goal is to focus only on the breath and may assist with relaxation, as does diaphragmatic breathing. Read the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing, here
- Loving-kindness meditation – also called Metta meditation, the goal and focus are on love and compassion. Learn more here
- Transcendental Meditation – a spiritual form of meditation. It is typically taught in a formal class (from what I gather, paid courses). It involves using a personal mantra and is normally practised for 20 minutes, twice a day. Learn more here
- Vipassana meditation is a spiritual Buddhist discipline. Vipassana means insight, to see things as they really are and focuses attention on what is happening. The goal is termed liberation and takes years to master. Classes are normally free (by donation if you wish). Learn more here.
- Samatha meditation is also a Buddhist discipline and focuses on mind-calming and concentration
How to sit when meditating
Many training methods prescribe a seated position when meditating. However, I believe wherever you are comfortable is the best. Typically it is best not to be laying down if you have a tendency to fall asleep. However, if you have trouble falling asleep and wish to use meditation as a relaxation technique to fall asleep, then absolutely, do lay down. Some suggested positions are:
- Sit on a chair with feet flat on the floor, or
- Sit on the floor with feet crossed or
- Kneeling on the floor
Choose whichever is most comfortable for you
- Make sure your back is straight with your head well positioned on top of your body, if you are seated
- Either close your eyes or leave them partially opened without actually looking at anything but having a soft gaze
How to breathe when you are meditating
Try diaphragmatic breathing, sometimes called belly breathing. To practice this technique, breathe into your abdomen and when you breathe out, constrict your abdomen. Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Check out this article on diaphragmatic breathing. Once you have mastered diaphragmatic breathing, sit comfortably, and start meditating using breathing as follows:
- Take a deep slow breath in, breathing through the nose (expand your stomach) and out through the mouth (contract your stomach). Do this three times
- Breathe normally (diaphragmatically but not no longer deep)
There are many meditation apps. Here are just a few that can help you get into the meditation mindset:
|App||Description||Cost||Google Play link||Apple Store link|
|Insight timer||Highest usage app 30,000 guided and music meditations or just use the timer||Free or US$9.99/month or US$59.99/year||Google Play||Apple Store|
|Smiling mind||Originally developed for children. It has three options, wellbeing, education, workplace as well as sessions of between 1 and 3 minutes||Free||Google Play||Apple Store|
|Headspace||Guided courses and quick meditations||$US12.99/month or US$69.99 yearly 2 weeks free trial||Google Play||Apple Store|
|Calm||Daily Calm, calming exercises, breathing techniques, walking meditations, body scans, masterclasses, and Sleep Stories||$13 monthly with a one-week free trial, or $70 annually with two-week free trial||Google Play||Apple Store|
|Petit BamBou||Includes 8 free sessions in the Discovery program||US$8.49 monthly or US$71.99 yearly or one-off US$280||Google Play||Apple Store|
|Sattva||Vedic meditations, chants, and mantras delivered by Sanskrit scholars meditations, chants, mantras from Sanskrit scholars as well as heart rate monitor and a mood tracker||US$21 monthly or US$210 yearly||Google Play||Apple Store|
What to aim for when meditating
Meditation can be hard since the brain has been trained to be active, not sit in stillness. The brain is designed to think of ways to avoid negative situations. When the brain is not thinking, the default mode network kicks into play. The default mode network (DMN), discussed in the previous article, is when the mind wanders and has stressful or worrisome thoughts.
Different brain waves were discussed in the previous article “How Meditation Affects the Brain”. Ideally, when you meditate, you will drop your brain waves from beta to alpha. Dawson Church defines meditating as sustaining alpha state (alpha brain waves) for 15 seconds or more.
Dawson Church says that his tips to meditate will enable you to get into a deep meditative state. He uses tapping to relax you then guided meditation to slow down your brain waves. I’m not sure if it works since I wasn’t hooked up to an EEG, but it felt good, so give it a try. He calls this video “Guided Meditation Guaranteed to Help You Meditate Like a Monk” and you can find it here.
Deepak Chopra’s Meditation Tips
Here are some of Deepak Chopra’s recommendations. He believes:
- The best time to meditate is morning. If you have had restful night’s sleep, meditation will energise you. If you are tired, it will put you to sleep. He recommends before your evening meal or meditate at night, it will help you go to sleep.
- Ideally, 15-20 minutes, twice a day
- You can meditate anywhere
- He suggests sitting, in case you sleep when lying down. However, he also says the most important position is a comfortable one
- He recommends a mantra if you don’t have a mantra use so-hum. This represents the breath. Say “so” on the in-breath, “hum” on the out-breath, mentally
- You can be anywhere
- Don’t try too hard to silence thoughts, just try to let it go and be aware of the thought
- If you want to visualise your dreams, do so before the meditation, not during
Some extra tips to meditate
- start small – start with a 5-minute meditation, then work your way up when you are comfortable
- set a timer so you don’t won’t be wondering how long you have left
- start with a guided meditation that you can find on one of the apps recommended
- meditate first thing in the morning or last thing before bed.
- find a quiet place that you won’t be interrupted
As with the meditation types, these tips are by no means exhaustive. There are many ideas, practices and tips to meditate. This article represents only some. The best meditation is the one you practice. So, rather than focusing on rules, just do it and see what works for you.