There are many meditation methods out there. My favorite methods of meditation are visualization, body scan, breath work, mantra meditations, and loving kindness.
Perhaps you’ve read up on mindfulness or tried meditation and felt it just wasn’t a good fit for you. You know what? That’s okay. There’s more than one way to meditate. Some methods of meditation I can find boring. My mind wanders, and it doesn’t always help me relieve stress the way other methods do. Breathing, focusing, being aware of your thoughts, labeling them, and such is one way of meditating, but there are others.
Keep meditation simple & easy to start
Sometimes my meditation consists of nothing more than me breathing and counting. I stopped trying to follow all the rules of meditation and this helped me a lot. I try to set 10 minutes aside a day to do some type of meditation. Sometimes I do more than this, but I only make a goal for 10 minutes. Sometimes I do my own thing. Sometimes I use my favorite meditation apps.
Okay, here’s the thing. People overcomplicate everything.
I’ll review the methods that I like and how I interpret them. I’ll provide some links to experts who can tell you the basics as well. You can pick and choose and do what works for you. This is your life, your meditation, and your choices. Remember that. You are free to meditate however the heck you want to!
Visualization meditation uses images that you create in your head to help you focus. Visualization by itself can be a great tool, but adding in imagery into your meditation practice can enhance your meditation time.
How I use visualization
When I use unguided meditation, this is my usual go-to. I love visualization. I was using this long before I started officially meditating. I just didn’t know it was a meditation method. Often, I visualize things like my breath blowing out negative thoughts. Or my hands sending out positive energy. I visualize my feet growing into the ground to calm me or a mountain that I melt into to feel solid.
Body Scan Meditation
The body scan method is a method of meditation where you scan your entire body from the top of your head to your little bitty toes. Although, you don’t have to go in that order. You are supposed to scan and be aware of all the sensations as you scan without judgment. Label sensations and feelings you notice during your scan. If your mind wanders, redirect your thoughts back to the body scan. (Don’t worry, your mind wanders. Minds do this and that’s okay.)
Mindfulness.org has a guided body scan method and loving kindness meditation you can try by following this link.
I try to use the body scan meditation method when I’m feeling particularly tense. It helps me to be more aware of where I’m holding tension. I usually start at the top of my head and work my way down and then go back up from my feet to my head. I focus on anything that is tense and try to be aware of my posture and relax that area. My biggest areas of tension are in my jaw and shoulders. I was never aware of this until I started using body scans regularly. This I think has helped with my migraines. (See my article on meditation and migraines.)
The breathwork meditation method uses patterned breathing. Either breathing through your nose or your mouth and holding your breath for a specific count. There are many different breathing techniques that fall under this category of meditation. Some common patterns of breathing are 4-4-4-4, 4-7-8, diaphragmatic breathing, and alternate nostril breathing.
Mind Body Green provides a more detailed explanation and beginner guide to breathwork meditation method.
How I use breathwork
This method I’d like to get better at. I tend to only use diaphragmatic breathing and breathe in and out and count my breaths and that’s it, but there’s actually a lot more you can do with this. I hope to write a follow-up article on breathwork and incorporate this method into my meditation more frequently.
Like visualization, with the meditation method using mantras, you use a word or phrase for your object of focus.
How I use mantras
I use mantras outside of meditation. I usually use mantras as self-affirmations. I use it similarly to loving kindness, but this is a little more directed. I like to use “I am” statements. I am beautiful. I am strong. I am determined. I am patient. I am kind. I am loving. I am sexy. I am smart. I am surrounded by love. I tend to pick three or four things and repeat them as I count breaths. I also repeat mantras like “in calm, out peace”. Some people have more complicated mantras, but I am kind of a keep-it-simple stupid kind of girl.
There are also daily intentions that kind of fall in line with mantras, but I’m not so good at intentions yet. This is also an area I am working on strengthening.
Loving Kindness Meditation
Loving Kindness method of meditation uses repetition of phrases of kindness to yourself and others. I’ve used many guided meditations throughout the past couple of years. Simple phrases like May you be peaceful. May you be calm. May you be happy. May you feel truly loved. Or May I be happy. May I feel loved. May I be joyful. May I feel satisfied and content.
Here’s a guided loving kindness meditation you can try courtesy of Berkley.edu.
The loving kindness method of meditation is probably my favorite. I actually love to do a loving kindness meditation when I run, especially when I’m running loops on a track. Each lap I’ll send out thoughts of loving kindness to someone in my life. First I’ll say one for myself, then my husband, then my children, and then I’ll start going through other people. One day I was frustrated with the air conditioning at work so I said a loving kindness phrase for every single one of the guys in the maintenance department. I use it outside of running too.