In this post I want to share with you my favorite meditation techniques. The list has been compiled after reading several books on the topic, most notably: Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm and Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child, both by Thich Nhat Hanh.
I would like to say what meditation brings: nothing. But it consumes fear, sadness, anger, jealousy and so on. So by meditation one gains peace of mind by consuming negative emotions. The trick is not to avoid this emotions but rather to face them directly, recognize how you are feeling when you think at them and just let them do their work, the negative emotions cannot last in the light of meditation.
So, as always, I will jump right into the meditation techniques. The list is:
1. Talk with your inner child (15 minutes):
First talk with your fear: “Dear one, I am very helpless. I cannot do anything. It’s very dangerous. I’m going to die; nobody is taking care of me.”
Allow some time to pass for the fear to open up and manifest itself. After that just say in your mind: “Listen to me. I am your adult self. You are no longer a helpless child; we have grown up into an adult already. We have enough intelligence to protect ourselves, to survive by ourselves. We don’t need someone to take care of us anymore.”
Now talk with your ignorance: “In the past, I left you alone. I went away from you. Now, I am very sorry. I am going to embrace you. Darling, I am here for you. I will take good care of you. I know that you suffer so much. I have been so busy. I have neglected you, and now I have learned a way to come back to you.”
2. Mindfulness of the body and breath (8 min):
Start by getting comfortable. Whether you want to lie down or sit up in a chair, the most important thing is that it’s a relaxing position. Now start paying attention to your sensations. Move slowly from your toes all the way up to your head, pausing to register what your body is telling you.
Once you’ve done that, turn your attention to your breath. Take note of the way the air enters and exits your body. It’s natural for your mind to wander at this point, but try to gently refocus it on your breathing.
3. Body scan (14 min):
Follow the same procedure as the previous meditation, but now imagine that each breath inflates the body part you’re focusing on as you inhale and deflates it as you exhale. Pay close attention to the sensations you experience as you do this – the tingling in your feet or butterflies in your stomach, for example.
And remember, there’s no winning or failing. If your mind strays, try to bring it back to the exercise and carry on.
4. Sounds and thoughts (8 min):
You simply spend eight minutes doing nothing but paying attention to the sounds around you.
5. Exploring difficulties (10 min):
Make yourself comfortable. When you feel ready, turn your thoughts to a difficult or unpleasant topic. It could be anything, from a loved one’s illness to your child’s poor grades at school. Try to locate where in your body you feel that thought.
Once you’ve found the spot, let those sensations sink in while taking deep breaths. When you exhale, focus on opening yourself up to those feelings. This is the moment of acceptance and compassion that prepares you to let go.
6. Love thoughts meditation (10 minutes):
The basic idea is to connect to feelings of love with yourself. The best way to do that is to focus your thoughts on someone you love deeply. Once you’ve fixed that person in your mind’s eye, take a moment to dwell on the feelings you associate with them. Now, let that love and kindness radiate outward and try to direct it toward yourself.
If that doesn’t seem to work, you might find it effective to picture yourself not as you are today but as a child. The reason that works is that we’re all a lot less critical of children and much more likely to extend our compassion to them.
Loving kindness doesn’t just help you reconnect with your sense of self worth, however. It can also help you rediscover your positive feelings about the world around you. Return once more to a mental image of someone you love, but this time try to direct that love toward other people you love, like your friends.
7. Walking meditation (15 minutes):
One of the best ways to practice mindfulness is to take a walk. You don’t even need to go far. Find yourself a quiet room with enough space to walk 10 or 15 paces in a straight line, and you’re set. Here’s how it works.
Start by walking back and forth along your “path” a couple of times. As you get into the rhythm of it, try to focus your attention on your body’s sensations. Notice the weight of your feet as you lift them off the ground, and the firmness of the floor beneath as you bring them down. Experiment with these feelings by shifting your weight onto your left foot and then onto your right.
Continue walking. Vary the pace. Try walking quickly, slowly and at your average pace. Which speed helps you concentrate on the moment and your movements? Like mindful breathing, this is an exercise that takes practice. At first, you’ll probably find your thoughts wandering. The key is to bring them back in the present.
8. The silence between thoughts (10 minutes):
This is a meditation to be best done only when there are no sounds around to distract you. Between thoughts there are empty spaces, moments of absolute silence. All you have to do is to focus on those moments, with practice they will become longer. So when a thought disturbs that silence say hello and good bye, just let it go and refocus on the silence between thoughts until another thought disturbs you.
9. Meditate on the five remembrances (10 minutes):
Relax and focus on your breath. After you hear nothing except your breath, start telling yourself the next five statements:
I am of the nature to grow old. I cannot escape old age.
I am of the nature to have ill health. I cannot escape ill health.
I am of the nature to die. I cannot escape dying.
All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them. I cannot keep anything. I come here empty handed and I go empty handed.
My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.
10. Happiness meditation (10 minutes):
Relax and focus on your breath. Each time you breathe in, stay in your mind: I feel happy. And each time you breathe out say: I know happiness is there.
11. Empathy meditation (10 minutes):
Find a comfortable position and relax. Focus on your breath: in, out, in, out. Now fix in your mind a person you know that has bigger issues than yourself. Put yourself in his shoes by describing all of his problems and imagining how he is feeling having them. You will feel unpleasant sensations for a while but you will also feel more connected with the human you are thinking about.