Many of us have experienced the frustrating effect that when we sit in silence to meditate, it seems like our thoughts only start to speak louder inside our heads and transition faster from one thought to the next. The truth we then often have to face about our thoughts is that most of these thoughts (that we have now become conscious of) are far from relevant, realistic, and beneficial. Although this is a confronting process, it is useful to practice being the conscious witness to our thoughts and inner dialogues. With dedication and patience, we can become less and less identified with our mind and increasingly identified with the observing presence that lives inside all of us.
To find a meditation practice that suits us, we can experiment with practices that fit into our daily reality and responsibilities and that bring us satisfying and beneficial results. The Eastern yogis are able to meditate for hours in the most uncomfortable positions and remain in a meditative state throughout the day. They are literally devoting their life to what they can achieve spiritually through their practice of meditation. Some individuals who grow up in Western countries decided to leave everything behind and live with monks or yogis and reach states of connection to something ‘higher’.
But many of us have a way of life that is rooted in Western society, where we are continuously exposed to the hectic reality of the outside world and the pressure and expectations associated with it. Meditation can assist us in remaining more conscious, more balanced, more grounded, and more connected to ourselves, the planet, and the universe while living our hectic lifestyle. Because of the fast-paced life we live, it helps to start with a practice that includes movement and breathing, like yoga or Qigong, so that we begin with landing into our bodies and releasing stress through breathing methods. After that physically active part of these practices, our minds are more willing to relax and surrender.
A type of meditation that incorporates the need for physical release before relaxing the mind, are the so-called Dynamic meditations that originated in the Osho communities. Osho’s theory was that when people live in a fast-paced society, they need a different approach to achieve a meditative state than those that live a yogic lifestyle. During these meditations, there are several phases of intense movement, like shaking, jumping, dancing, laughing, or shouting, combined with certain breathing styles. These phases aim at releasing excess energy from our system, like emptying a bucket that was filled to the top. After this release, the deeper meditation phase follows, often by simply lying down in silence and observing how the release has affected our bodies and minds.
Another meditation style is the body-scan. Especially after some form of movement and breathing methods, when our muscles have been activated and stretched, it is relatively easy to feel our bodies from the inside. During a body-scan, we focus on every part of the body, one after another, usually starting at the feet and slowly working our way up to the head. For a few seconds per body-part, we try to notice how this part feels, what sensations we can become aware of, how much tension there is, and then we can consciously relax that part of our body. After every part has received our attention and has been invited to relax deeply, the whole body can become quiet.
Another meditation style is guided meditation. There are many guided meditations online and it’s important to find the one that fits, with a voice that relaxes us, and with a theme or method that resonates with us. The voice in guided meditation offers us something to focus on, and then our minds tend to follow more smoothly. When listening to a voice has a distracting effect, a sound bath meditation with sounds from nature, or instruments, could be a better fit. Waterfalls, rain, leaves in the wind, bird sounds, dolphin sounds, or instruments like gongs and flutes could assist our minds in entering a state of peace and silence.
Relatively new meditation sounds are the so-called frequency tools. They can be effective in quieting the mind but also in reaching a desired inner mental-emotional state. Essentially they reprogram our cells. There are sound frequencies that influence the energy and processes in our being and our holistic development. The frequencies are often also imprinted with the energy of what we wish to improve or manifest during our meditations. Several programs are available and our choice depends on the aspects of ourselves or of our lives where we desire improvement. Some powerful frequency programs can be found at Secret Energy.
Some of us love to dive into the deep and immerse ourselves in the practice we wish to master. For those of us, meditation retreats for one or multiple weeks are available. One of the most famous styles of meditation while sitting in silence is called Vipassana. The traditional Vipassana course is 10-day retreat, and there are branches of the Dhamma organization worldwide that offer these retreats for free. Vipassana means ‘to see things as they really are’, and it aims for self-transformation by practicing self-observation. These courses could be challenging, because of the many hours of sitting, the eating regime, and the non-interaction regime. But for attendees who are ready for this immersion, it results in a deep sense of peace and liberation.
There are several other types of meditation retreat forms to consider. Some combine meditation with breath-work. Others are guided by a master with satsangs and sharing circles. Others are done completely in silence, or even in the dark. Often, we feel more drawn to one style, or teacher, then to another. We might also feel a strong resistance against a specific style. It’s important to find the right balance: to move out of our comfort zone without overestimating ourselves. The decision depends on highly personal considerations. An overview of different meditation retreat styles can be found at BookRetreats.