10 years ago, there were relatively few people in the western world that actively took part in meditation or mindfulness exercises on a regular basis. Now, mindfulness is top of mind (pun intended), and individuals and organizations are starting to see the real benefits associated with teaching and training methods used to focus one’s thoughts and momentarily reconnect with a deeper sense of self.
Studies have shown that people who practice mindful meditation on a regular basis are happier and exhibit lower levels of anxiety than others from the same group that do not practice mindfulness. Interviews with top performers and leaders around the world have also uncovered that a vast majority of them attribute their success to the benefits derived from regular mindfulness activities.
But finding the right mindfulness regimen or meditation practice isn’t as simple as picking what to watch next on Netflix. I have practiced one form or another of meditation for over 15 years, and I have yet to find one system or mindfulness regimen that suits my needs perfectly. Ultimately, meditation is a personal journey towards the better understanding of oneself and one’s purpose.
Consider these five approaches to mindful meditation below to see which appeals to you most:
1. Concentrate on one thing or on nothing in particular
The intent of this approach is for you to focus your mind on one object, sound or image through intense concentration so that all other thoughts evaporate and you are left with a clear mind. This type of practice is often partnered with some kind of mantra or chant, although it does not have to be.
Next time you are feeling anxious, angry or frustrated at work or school, take 2-3 minutes to sit somewhere quiet, close your eyes, and allow yourself to direct all of your energy and emotion towards one object, sound or image until everything else floats away.
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama
2. Pay attention to those things in your sphere of influence
This approach is what most practitioners would refer to as true “mindful meditation”, and it is widely recognized as being able to alleviate stress and even treat depression. The emphasis of mindful meditation is in cultivating highly receptive attention toward any action or objects within your sphere of influence.
Described in a different way, mindfulness is a human’s capacity to be fully present in the moment while not getting overwhelmed or overreacting to the world around them. Anyone can practice mindful meditation in any particular moment, in as little as 10 seconds. Mindful.org has a great description of what mindfulness meditation actually is, and how to integrate it into your life on a regular basis.
3. Reflect openly on one question or problem
Often described as “thinking meditation”, focused reflection requires the person to come up with a specific question, theme or topic and then conduct a thorough analysis of the question over the course of meditation.
The more you practice this type of disciplined thinking, the less frequently your mind will wander, and the more clearly you will be able to develop arguments and perspectives based on your observations. This type of meditation is particularly useful for business people or entrepreneurs looking to work through work challenges or come up with new ideas.
4. Focus on strengthening one personal quality or targeting one goal
Visualization is a powerful tool that can help to set far off goals or strengthen existing personal attributes or qualities (i.e. kindness, compassion, focus, etc.). There are many ways to practice visualization, but for me the easiest way to start is in one of two ways.
The first way is by imagining “My Perfect Day”. Take the time to imagine, in great detail, your ideal day from start to end. Where do you wake up? Who are you with? What do you do for work? How do you spend your day? Do this in your head or on paper. You’ll be surprised what you come up with.
The second way is to consider one personal trait that you feel could be improved upon. Now, visualize the pieces that make up that attribute, and imagine that you are the human embodiment of that trait. Again, think about this in your head, or write down your visualization on paper. The choice is yours. What you have to remember is that, just by visualizing yourself as having this trait or imagining yourself in this perfect day, you are subconsciously training your brain to want and seek out that end goal.
“You must see your goals clearly and specifically before you can set out for them. Hold them in your mind until they become second nature.” – Les Brown
5. Express gratitude and compassion
Perhaps the most powerful of the five, meditating on gratitude and compassion is one of the best ways to reduce stress and gain a deeper understanding of the world around you. By focusing on others and by sharing yourself with those around you, you will find that the worries and cares you once thought were important simply slip away. In the grand scheme of things, this type of realization will take you in all sorts of new directions.
I’m curious to know what you’re doing. What ways are you practicing mindfulness/meditation? Please leave your thoughts below!
Image courtesy of Twenty20.com