I couldn't agree more. I've tried meditation -- off and on -- for years. Mostly "off," since I usually felt I was failing at the "empty-your-mind" goal. But I've finally found a practice that works for me, and I'm convinced it's one of the best things I'm doing for my mental and physical health.
User Satisfaction with Different Meditation Techniques
A new online study published July 7 in The Journal of Science and Healing highlights the importance of picking a method that feels comfortable, especially for new meditators.
The four techniques were:
- Mantra-- Manatras are words or phrases that are chanted out loud or internally to focus the mind.
- Zen -- In Zen meditation, you just sit. You ignore everything except awareness of sitting. This sounds very simple, but it isn't.
- Qigong Visualization -- Typically, qigong involves rhythmic breathing coordinated with slow, stylized repetition of fluid movement, a calm mindful state, and visualization of guiding qi (the life force) through the body.
- Mindfulness -- In this form of meditation, distracting thoughts and feelings are not ignored, but acknowledged and observed non-judgmentally as they come and go, creating a detachment from them and gaining insight and awareness.
My first attempts years ago blended Zen and Mantra. I assumed the goal was to achieve a blank nirvana-like mind, and I never came close. I choose giving up to feeling like a failure.
A year ago I tried this technique again, when I was experimenting with different ways of dealing with Parkinson's and aging. This time, I started using the practice immediately after my middle-of-the-night bathroom visit. It's become a regular, treasured part of my daily routine.
For me, it's a perfect time to meditate. The house is quiet. No distractions. I've come to believe that time spent meditating is at least as good as time spent sleeping. It's fine with me if these sessions last an hour or more. In my past attempts at daytime meditation, I was always thinking about things I thought I should be doing instead of just sitting there. That concern doesn't arise at 4am.
My meditation has changed from the initial mantra-like focus on counting my breaths -- counting one to ten while squeezing my forefinger with each breath, then repeating the count while switching to squeeze the thumb, using that "secret handshake." Now I'm using something more like mindfulness meditation.
Here's my routine::
- I sit in a straight-backed chair that I keep against the wall between my bed and the bathroom.
- I put a pillow on my lap and rest my hands on the pillow in the "secret handshake."
- I start by focusing on my breathing, keeping my mouth slightly open and noticing my belly rise and fall as I inhale and exhale.
- When I feel centered and relaxed, I let my mind go. I become aware of sounds, ideas, and sensations... particularly messages from different parts of my ever-aching body. I observe this process without judging, and without fixating on anything in particular.
- If my mind races or obsesses on something, I focus again on my breathing.
As a bonus, my wandering mind often solves problems or creates new and useful ideas.