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If you think meditation is only for hippies on mountaintops, think again. “I want to break the myth that you have to be sitting in a cave and chanting all day long,” states davidji, lead educator of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing and author of Secrets of Mediation: A Practical Guide to Inner Peace and Personal Transformation. “Meditation is not about taking time out, but taking time in. It can be done anywhere and can take just five minutes. It’s about opening up and connecting to the present moment -- since we spend most of our lives thinking and worrying about the past or the future.”
The following 10 techniques, or “awareness tools,” provide ways to find your inner serenity -- right in the here and now:
Visual meditation to take you off autopilot
This can be a soothing practice for someone who needs to take a time out to “stop and smell the roses.”
“When we’re commuting, running errands or taking a lunch break, we’re not usually paying attention to what is going on around us,” says davidji .
To do: Choose a non-moving object that is in a close proximity, such as a candle or a doorknob. Close your eyes halfway and stare at that object with a gentle gaze. Zone in on that object until everything else around seems to “vanish.” Hold for a few minutes, and then slowly bring back your full awareness, without taking your eyes off the object.
Body mind meditation for stress, emotional distress or if you're feeling under the weather
“Our body never lies,” says davidji. He explains that our bio-signals reveal our true emotions -- no matter what we’re trying to hide from the world. “Then our mind sends these signals to our body, which reacts spontaneously, creating this perfect feedback loop. So if either the mind or the body is in turbulence, the other one will feel it.”
In that sense, you can calm your mind by focusing on parts of your body.
To do: Close your eyes and begin a slow “body scan,” focusing your energy on each body part, starting at the soles of your feet and ending at the top of your head. “When you feel any type of tightness in an area, ‘breathe into’ where the constriction is. Then on the exhale, allow the constriction to release,” says davidji.
Sound meditation for a quick pick-me-up
“All of us are deeply touched by sounds,” says davidji. “When you hear a nurturing sound, the body automatically releases the feel-good chemical called oxytocin,and it doesn’t matter what else may be going on at that moment.”
To do: Take a few minutes to listen to something comforting, like a favorite sound in nature, smooth jazz, or a voice recording of a guided mediation. When in doubt, find a sound with a slower beat. “Keep in mind that we will always find a heartbeat as the most soothing sound because the first vibration we ever heard was our mother’s heartbeat from the womb,” states davidji.
Energy meditation for an all-over tranquility
We have seven energy centers in our body, known as the chakras, and this type of meditation can help alleviate tension in one (or more) of these areas. “It’s called ‘chakra tuning,’” says davidji. “The conversation about the chakras have existed for thousands of years and that’s because we know that pressure points are real,” says davidji. “This explains why acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic and massage are based on the premise that we have energetic pathways running through our body.”
To do: Close your eyes and begin by focusing on The Root Chakra (-- located at the base of the spine, it helps ground us, associated with the color red). Inhale and exhale, thinking about the feelings and color related to this energy center. Spend about one minute here before moving upward to the next chakra.
Try to get through all the chakras in this order:
- The Sex Chakra - located on the lower abdomen, directs creativity and pleasure, assoicated with the color orange
- The Solar Plexus Chakra - located on the upper abdomen, governs empowerment and transformation, associated with the color yellow
- The Heart Chakra - located above the heart, deals with feelings of love and compassion, associated with the color green
- The Throat Chakra - located in the throat, controls communication and self-expression, associated with the color blue
- The Third Eye Chakra - located between the eyes, guides intuition and decision-making, associated with the color purple
- The Crown Chakra - located at the top of the head, offers limitless beliefs, associated with the color white
It's a lot at first but you will get the hang of it the more you practice.
Sensory meditation for a quick time-out
This entails focusing on one of the five senses, which will then “turn off” the other four senses. “And all of your thoughts will melt into this moment while developing a deeper awareness of this particular sense,” ads davidji.
To do: Dab your preferred scent on your hands, (like lavender, vanilla or sandalwood), and cup your hands, close your eyes and breath deeply for about five minutes. “Focus on this aroma and allow it to relax and soothe you.” Or try davidji’s favorite method. The Chocolate Tasting Practice: Place a piece of chocolate in your mouth, close your eyes and allow the chocolate to melt in your mouth. “Your goal is to become aware of all the sensations as the chocolate breaks down.”
Mantra meditation to calm a racing mind
Most mantras consist of an individual sound, syllable or vibration that usually has no meaning. The repetition of this vibration has the ability to slow down your thoughts, heart rate and breathing since your attention will be focused on this one sound.
To do: Close your eyes, take in a deep breath and repeat a sound to yourself either silently or out loud. According to davidji, the “perfect” mantra is the word Om. It contains every vibration that has ever existed and it has no meaning,” he explains. “So if you silently repeat it over and over, it will never start a thought because it’s meaningless!” However, if the “om” is too “out there” for you, try a simple yet positive mantra that has meaning, like “I am strong” or “I am whole.”
Chanting meditation prepare for an important meeting
Similar to the mantra meditation, the repetitiveness of saying or signing the same words for a few minutes will open your throat and your voice. “It will allow your sense of expression to flow and can be a great practice before any important conversation, like a business meeting, a job interview or a serious chat with a partner,” says davidji.
To do: Choose your favorite words -- anything from a religious prayer to your favorite song lyrics. “My only caveat would be that if you’re going to sing, do not sing in a whispered tone -- belt it out!” he adds.
Metta meditation for low on self-esteem or if someone is on your last nerve
An ancient word for loving kindness, this meditation heightens feelings of love and acceptance for yourself, as well as for others and the world around you. “I love starting my day with one of these heart-opening practices,” adds davidji.
To do: Sit with your eyes closed, slowly breath in and think loving thoughts. As you exhale, release these emotions. “So we’re bringing the feelings of love and kindness into our heart, and then shining it out to everyone else,” says davidji. “And when you release your breath, send the love to your friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances, and even someone you’re upset with at the moment.”
Samantha meditation to alleviate your fear
The definition of samatha is tranquility, and this practice is centered on peaceful thoughts. “This is the number one meditation I recommend for control freaks!” adds davidji. “It’s about moving from feelings of fear or control to a feeling of trust.”
To do: Inhale for a count of four, hold the breath to the count of four, release the breath to the count of four and hold that released breath to the count of four -- all while thinking of a calming image. “It’s called four part breathing, and the only intention here is to relax. And each time your exhale, allow yourself to give up control of a situation and surrender.”
Vipassana meditation to help you be more mindful
Also known as insight meditation, vipassana is meant to follow the samatha meditation. “The theory is that once you make your mind calm, then it’s time for you to step into mindfulness,” says davidji. While the other meditations are based on one focal point, insight mediation is about bringing attention to everything going on around you -- and to accept the present moment exactly as it is.
To do: With your eyes closed, take in a long and slow deep breath while allowing any thoughts, sounds, smells or feelings to enter the moment. Then slowly release the breath. “When you take in your thoughts, your physical sensations, the sounds, etcetera., do not react or judge them,” explains davidji. “Just let them be.”