Have you heard the term, “monkey mind”? It refers to the constant, untamed mental chatter that goes on practically every waking moment.
The only times our minds are silent (and happy!) is when we’re completely immersed in something, like a hobby or an activity that requires intense concentration.
It would be no problem if our mental chatter were happy and constructive… but it’s often exactly the opposite! It’s worried, anxious, sad, afraid… and it keeps us focused on the past (what we would love to fix, or re-live) and in the future (what we fear and what we look forward to). In the process, we miss out on so much that’s going on in the moment!
Meditation is a way to calm the monkey mind and offers relief from the constant mental chatter. It is actually not a way to make the mind “go” quiet – rather it’s a way to access the quiet that is already there, buried under the 50,000 or so thoughts that the average person has every day.
Here are the top 5 meditation techniques I encourage you to explore as part of your everyday routine:
1. Brainwave Entrainment: using your brain’s natural tendency to entrain (sync its activity) to a rhythmic stimulus, this is the easiest method for entering and staying in a meditative state. All you need to do is listen to the audio track, and the brain will relax into an alpha, theta or delta state of meditation.
2. Guided Meditation: guided meditation is a rich visual and ‘sensory’ experience where the guide gently encourages you to imagine certain scenes and feelings, in order to engage the mind and enter an altered state of consciousness. Listening to the guide’s voice while simultaneously working the imagination, will help keep you focused on the present moment.
3. Mantra Meditation: this is a simple method you can do anytime. A mantra is a word or phrase, usually with some spiritual significance, that is repeated over and over to elicit an altered state of consciousness. You don’t have to chant a mantra aloud (silently is fine) and your mantras don’t have to be in Sanskrit or other language you aren’t familiar with. A mantra can be a word, such as “Love” or a simple phrase such as “I love myself.” The key when creating your own mantras is to keep them very simple, and positive and use words and even a language that you are comfortable with.
4. Mindfulness Meditation: mindfulness is the art of being fully present and engaged in the moment. You can use everyday chores as a mindfulness meditation: sweeping the floor, doing dishes, washing the car, folding clothes, eating, sorting laundry, petting the dog, gardening, brushing your teeth, taking a shower… anything that does not require a lot of conscious thought, can become a beautiful mindfulness practice.
Simply put your full attention on what you’re doing – explore the moment as though you were “new” to your body – what does this activity feel like? What movements am I performing?
You can also do mindfulness meditation while seated and doing nothing; in this case, you are fully aware of your physical sensations, any input from your environment (sounds, smells, temperature, etc.) as well as your thoughts. Practicing awareness is challenging because it’s tempting to want to get involved in thoughts and sidetracked by them – so it’s recommended that you start by practicing mindful living as you go about your daily activities.
5. Moving Meditation: walking, swimming, martial arts, yoga, running, cycling and any other repetitive or structured activity can become a wonderful way to meditate! Meditation does not require sitting still – that’s just one form. You can engage your body as well as your mind, when you are in motion!
You can try all of these to find out which one suits you best – or mix them up, listening to your intuitive guidance as to which is best for you at the time.
For example, if you are particularly stressed, it may be good to release some physical energy through a walking meditation; and for days when you really need it, you can even combine several methods, for example listening to LifeFlow while doing yoga, or chanting a mantra while walking.