Everyone who is interested in meditation asks himself this question at the beginning when it comes to the 5 best meditation exercises. What is meditation really? One knows pictures of meditating monks and has heard that meditation can have one or the other positive effect on our life. But what is really behind it? What is the core of it all?
That’s exactly what I want to describe to you in this post. And I will explain to you the 5 best meditation exercises you can learn and practice on your own. But let’s talk about meditation in general first. When people ask me how meditation feels for me, I answer them “Like the taste of a fruit”. You can describe the taste of an apple or a strawberry, but at the end, it’s the experience that makes the difference.
The same is with meditation. Some people use it to get to sleep and others remain in a meditative state for years. So, meditation is not just a practice, it is a very personal experience.
It is all in you
And like any other experiences, you have to do it yourself. So first, what is this experience you will get? It is a higher level of self-awareness and the ability to pay attention to what ever you decide to, without being influenced by the outside world. Yes, there is also something about enlightenment and nirvana, but that’s more in the religious corner. For the 5 best meditation exercises you don’t need a certain belief.
Although we understand meditation as something Asian, Christian monks also practice meditation, and so do many other cultures. Sometimes only priest and members of higher casts were allowed to meditate. Just think about shamans in the Native Americans culture. I compared all those meditation techniques in different cultures and compelled a list of the 10 most common practices.
The 10 most popular meditation exercises are:
- Travel within your body with attention”
- “Pay attention to the raising and lowering of the abdominal wall while breathing”
- “Observe what thoughts arise in the mind without clinging to them”
- “Pay attention to the flow of breath throughout the body”
- “Go through the body, noticing and releasing emotions and tensions”
- “Cultivate compassion, compassionate joy, equanimity, loving-kindness (for oneself, friends, neutral persons, enemies, the whole world)”
- “Observing what bodily sensations arise without clinging to them”
- “Chanting sutras/mantras”
- “Entering a state of deep relaxation with full awareness while lying down”
- “Paying attention to sensations that arise in the nose during inhalation and exhalation”
Here are 52 or even more different approaches to a meditative state, some using legal or illegal drugs, Personally, I don’t think that any kind of drugs will help you with meditation, so lets focus on those 5 best meditation exercises you can do at home.
Chanting for meditation
There is the famous “Om mane patme um” from the Hindu religion, which translate to born from the lotus flower, and is an easy to remember chant. The purpose on chanting is to focus on the singing and then get into a meditative state. While there are recording available, best is to chant yourself.
Travel through your body
Have you ever tried to feel your toe without bumping into something. Or tried to feel you arm from the elbow all the way to your hand? You can do this exercise everywhere, best is a silent place, but you can sit or stand. For 5 to 10 minutes travel through your body. If you get better, you will be able to even feel your organs. The purpose of this exercise is not to pass a medical exam, but to focus on something so much that external distractions wont reach you.
Most common meditation exercises: Breath in, breath out
This is popular advice for people with panic attacks or those you get a bit too much excited and need to calm down. But in meditation you take the breathing to another level. You will conscious breath, focusing on the air flowing into your nose, get heated up from your blood vessels and then reaches airways and finally the lungs. Once you breathe out, you release the air, wave good-bye and feel it flowing out of the body. It is much more intense experience than just slowing your breathing down.
When I started meditation, my mind was the biggest obstacle. I focus 10 seconds on the breathing and then again on the presentation I have to finish by tomorrow. Clinging on thoughts is very normal for beginners in meditation. What you can do is take an observers position: start watching those thoughts, where they come from and where they go. I t mind sounds a bit weird, but it works. This meditation exercise is really good for busy people who need to remove themself from their professional me and the stress around it.
Love yourself and others with meditation
This is a much higher level of meditation, but I just want to show you what you can actually reach. In this state you are able to feel pure joy and love for yourself, for the other and the world in total. The reason you can do it is that you are in balance with the surroundings. There is the You and there is the It. Both exists, and both can interact or be on their own. Meditation means to disconnect you from any influence and distraction for a period of time. This is the last level of the 5 best meditation practices we recommend here.
What do you need for meditation?
Meditation is not a sport, so you don’t need tools or even a teacher. While a yoga mat might make it more comfortable and a meditation instruction can be helpful, I recommend to start on your own first. We sometimes tend to blame tools and people for failure, so better start without any. If you stop doing the exercises, it’s totally on you. The only thing I recommend is a quiet environment. Noise-cancelling earphones can help as well.
What meditation is not?
Meditation is not a healing process, and it doesn’t prepare you for an exam. It is also not a form of therapy, although it can support some. It is not really a measure to relax or sleep better, even if some people use it for this. You are not sleeping during meditation, you are awake, actually much more awake than usual. And: Meditation is not about concentrating. It sounds a bit like this, but focussing is a more broader experience than working on a certain task. And finally, meditation is not a state of total happiness, where you smlie all day and sniff on flowers. That is a very wrong picture may movies created. You don’t even have to sit in the yoga position, just make it comfortable for you.