Choosing the right meditation technique for you and your clients
Meditation can benefit anyone who makes it a priority and practises regularly. Over the past few years of teaching people from all backgrounds, I haven’t met a single person who hasn’t ended up benefiting from adopting a meditation routine.
Stepping back from the rigmarole of daily duties, taking a break from overthinking about the rights and wrongs of life, and scheduling in regular time-outs to close your eyes to enjoy some stillness is a marvellous gift you can give yourself. Time after time, meditators experience less stress, better health, inner calm, clarity and creativity, more connected relationships and even increased productivity. Yes, that’s right, you can end up getting more done by stopping and doing nothing more often!
The Purpose of Meditation
When choosing between all the different meditations ‘out there’, it is very helpful to know what the ultimate purpose of meditation actually is. Yes, you may want to initially learn to meditate to stress less and keep calm, but knowing the ultimate purpose of meditation makes it much easier to choose the meditation technique that will give you and your clients the maximum immediate and long-term benefits.
The purpose of meditation is simply to be your Self. Despite this being a simple enough purpose, not all meditations help you to rediscover, reconnect with and rest into your real Self, with some doing quite the opposite.
It is all too common for people to assume that they are their thoughts, emotions, body, relationships, career, or their political and religious beliefs, for example. And even though these traits make up your personality and preferences, they are not who you ultimately are. Why? All these things are temporary, come and go and change. Who you are is beyond learned behaviours, habits and beliefs, or anything else relating to what you ‘do’. Who you really are is a permanent and natural ‘being’.
After thousands of hours of meditation, I have concluded that I am the conscious awareness that is aware of all of the above listed traits. Consciousness is always perfectly well, calm and content; it is the most permanent and unchanging aspect of your Self. It is the underlying still silent spacious foundational context in which all physical, emotional and life movement happens. Consciousness is the being in which all doing occurs. Make sense? Now that we are clear on the ultimate purpose of meditation, it makes choosing the right meditation much easier.
Choosing a Meditation Technique
Here are four questions to ask when selecting the right meditation technique for you, so that you get the greatest benefits:
1. Does the meditation engage the thinking mind or the present moment?
We’ve already established that you are not your thoughts. This means that you are not what you think about yourself. If you are to get to know your Self, then you need to be present, rather than spend your days thinking about the past or future. There is no such thing as a ‘present moment thinking’ - all thoughts are about the past or future. Even thoughts about now aren’t really about now, because the moment has to have happened for the mind to know what to think about. Meaning, when you are thinking you are missing the moment; one step removed from reality and the direct living experience of your real Self. Many meditations do not move you beyond your thinking mind, but instead, only move you to ‘prettier’ parts of the mind.
Meditations that use your imagination and visualisations may be pleasant, and provide temporary relief, but they do not offer the long-term benefits that come from going beyond the unhealthy habit of thinking. You want to learn to rest into the present moment and the presence of your Real Self. If the meditation only operates within the realms of the mind and imagination, you may want to keep looking for one that will help you to cultivate present moment awareness.
2. Does the meditation require strict sitting positions or physical postures?
Many meditation techniques require you to sit fully upright, often with no back support, while holding fixed postures like ‘lotus position’. Although people can look very spiritual when sitting with their legs folded for long periods, how a person sits does not necessarily have any relationship with being your Self. I believe positions and postures stem from the belief that we need to ‘do’ something in order to ‘become’ something. It is born out of the belief system that we need to fix, change or improve something in order to be deserving of peace or enlightenment.
Sitting with your legs folded doesn’t bring you closer to ‘the divine within’ or make you more spiritual. Meditation is about being your Self. ‘Being’ requires no effort or trying or doing. Being is already being; it is your natural state. You don’t need to ‘do’ anything in order to ‘be’. You actually need to learn how to stop doing anything. Choose a meditation technique that helps you to transcend the ‘doing dogma’ so you can engage life fully by resting inwardly into the beautiful being within.
3. Does the meditation require you to ‘empty your mind’?
It is human and normal to have thoughts when meditating. If there is stress in your body, then your mind will move when you meditate, in the form of thoughts. Don’t buy into the common myth that you should have no thoughts when meditating. This will only make you frustrated and forever put your peace on hold.
Instead, use a meditation technique that is focused on cultivating ‘peace with mind’, by having a healthier relationship with your thoughts. The quality or quantity of your thoughts need have no impact on your levels of peace, as long as you have a healthy relationship with them. Fighting the mind by trying to stop your thoughts only strengthens an unhealthy relationship with your mind and is missing the point.
4. Is a primary purpose of the meditation to cultivate inner stillness or silence?
The being, which you are, is inherently still, silent and spacious. So until you know inner stillness and silence, you will be missing a huge aspect of your Self. You won’t have an alternative to your mind and all the temporary things you ‘think’ you are. You will continue to think most of your day, and in the process, only have fleeting moments of peace and may never get to know your real Self.
Due to the universal law that you ‘feel what you focus on’, if you rediscover the inner presence of still silence, and put your attention upon it, you will automatically and immediately experience peace. So it is vitally important that you close your eyes in order to wake up to the presence of still silence within.
In summary, when choosing the right meditation technique for you, and one that you may potentially share with others professionally, you want to choose a meditation technique that is primary focused on helping you to be present, cultivate a healthier relationship with your mind, and help you to rediscover and rest into the inner presence of still silent being.
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Article by Sandy C. Newbigging
Sandy is the founder of the Calm Academy and creator of Mind Calm, Body Calm, Calm Cure and Mind Detox techniques - collectively known as Calmology. He’s a meditation teacher, monk and multi-bestselling author.