Lesson 20: Intro to Meditation
By: Admin Bridge
EDIT: You should absolutely never take medication for the purpose of meditation. It can be very unhealthy and you should never take medication for any reason other than the purpose it was created unless told differently by a doctor.
Let’s get the elephant out of the room - Meditation is hard. Unless you were blessed with the ability to clear your mind at will, you aren’t going to get it on the first try. So if you’re one of the people who can do it without issue, good on you! But if you’re not, you are one of many people, so don’t feel bad about it. It can depend largely on your technique, and your understanding of the word ‘meditation’.
Many people portray meditation as sitting in nature, completely silent, controlling every breath, levitating off the ground…
Well, maybe not that last one, but the first three for sure. But, by definition, that’s not what meditation is. Meditation is just “deep thinking”, which can be used for more than just calming the mind, and performed in more than one way. Sometimes I use it for grounding, and getting myself pumped up, rather than winding down. I also use it for just listening to my thoughts, because I tend to ignore them in my daily life, even the really important ones, so it’s a lot of self discovery. But regardless of what you’re using it for, it still requires thinking, as much as the Meditation Guru on youtube tries to tell you otherwise.
If you’ve ever tried a guided meditation on Youtube, you’ll probably notice that most get you to visualize a peaceful scene, like a beach or a forest. Or whatever specific thing you’re doing the meditation for, whether it’s grounding, cleansing your chakras, or healing your light body. Whatever it is, it highly relies on visualization. A lot of people find this a lot easier to do, but then after they use them, they still can’t figure out how to meditate on their own, without a video to help them. That’s perfectly fine! You don’t need to be able to meditate on your own, but if you’re like me, and would prefer to be able to do it whenever, keep on reading.
I can’t speak for everyone, but while I enjoy the help in figuring out what to visualize, I find it’s not the right pacing for me. I want to go-go-go, and the guided meditations often speak very slowly, and take hours to complete. Even the “short” ones, which are around thirty minutes lose my interest, which is another reason why I prefer doing it on my own. Why guided meditations don’t work for you could be for any number of small reasons - the pacing, you don’t find a certain voice relaxing, you don’t connect with the imagery, you don’t like the background noises… whichever it is, it will take a lot of experimentation to find the perfect one. But I definitely recognize them for those starting out in meditation, it will at least give you a base to build off of, so you can personalize it.
There are several different ways to meditate, in terms of what you focus on, but I’m going to focus on six
The first few ways are pretty well known, so I won’t spend too much time on them, you can find information on them anywhere.
- Perhaps the most well known is through feeling. Focusing on your breath - feeling how your chest rises and falls as you breathe, feeling the tingling in your hands and feet, feeling how your eyes feel, heavy or light, etc. Breathwork is a good way to follow this path, but requires a lot of concentration.
- So what I do, when I can’t focus on my breath, is do little things - pinch the tip of my finger, rub my thumb over my knuckles, things like that. I focus on what exactly it feels like, which I never do just in general when I do the same actions. The only thing I notice about it is whether it hurts or not, which isn’t very descriptive. I try to think of enough words to describe it, to explain it to someone who has never done it before, before moving on to the next thing. I repeat until I realize I’m in a trance state.
- But you could customize this in a bunch of ways - I’ve even put a clothespin on my finger and focused on that, and it worked well for me. Not quite pain, but enough of a distraction to keep my focus on one thing.
- The second most common is visual. Like I mentioned above, visualizing that you’re on a beach, wading in the water - the negativity is washing off of you, and is swept far away, never to be seen again. This is also a good way of meditating, and the one I use mostly.
- My only recommendation for this, is to personalize it. I love beaches and forests as much as the next guy, but I find it far more rewarding to visualize myself dancing, as I am a dancer. Or sometimes swimming, or flying in space, whatever. But I choose something that interests me, that’s unique and memorable, or just something I enjoy. I often imagine things I’ve written coming to life, like a TV show.
- The third I will mention is auditory, because while it isn’t exactly uncommon, it doesn’t get a lot of love compared to the first two. The most common ways of doing this is chants and mantras, ‘ohm’, ‘lam’, ‘vam’, etc. But you can find uncountable amounts of “meditation music” on youtube. I usually opt more towards normal music, trap, dubstep, cool jazz, but that’s what interests me, personally. Whatever resonates with you is going to be the one that works. And you don’t have to just listen to it, you can hum to yourself, or flat out sing if you want, or any other auditory filler that you want. Hell, it can be the sound of your dishwasher if that’s what relaxes you, monotone things often help.
- The fourth is through smell! This is one I’m especially fond of, but can’t do much. I don’t like many scents, but there are some I just adore. Nothing too perfumy, but the smell of grass, rain, pine trees, etc, I love all of them. And smell often triggers memories, which is a whole other kind of meditation. But if there’s a nice scent around, I’m much more likely to slip into a trance state, but if it’s unpleasant, it will kill the mood instantly. So if you’re in a place where you can, experiment with that! Candles, incense, herbs (I love the smell of dried mint), perfume, flowers, whatever works. Just don’t burn your house down, please.
- Then there’s disciplinary, which arguably, Meditation itself is. But yoga is another prominent one. I’m sure you could even do it while working out, if that’s your thing! As a dancer, I use meditation to help me with my stretches - if I breathe deeply and focus on something else, it doesn’t hurt as much when doing intense stretches. It’s just kind of a numb tingly feeling, that’s actually pretty pleasant. And the longer I can hold it, the better I feel. I’m sure there are other ways to customize this, so let me know what works for you!
- And finally, ingestion of certain things. I’m not going to touch on the obvious, but you do you so long as it’s legal and perfectly safe.
- For other things, all sorts of different foods and drinks could trigger it for different people.Water is an obvious one, that is recommended for almost everything in existence. And many agree that certain diets, especially organic and whole foods, can help.
- Another common one would be caffeine, in things like coffee, or pops with caffeine in it. Coke, pepsi, etc, often either cause people to be very focused and very awake, or make them sleepy and unable to focus.
- Certain medications can do the same, Tylenol, Gravol, and other types of headache and cold medicine that makes you drowsy, among other symptoms. And some vitamins and neuroenhancers can too, but as with everything else, be careful with this, don’t hurt yourself, and follow the instructions for ingestion closely. Don’t start popping acetaminophen because it helps you get into a trance state. And never, never, ever start taking something without consulting your doctor about it.
For people with racing thoughts - follow them. Seriously! A lot of meditations will tell you to clear your mind, and I know I just told you to focus on one thing, but daydreaming is literally a trance state, as much as any other type of meditation. Proven by science too, here and here. So if you can’t manage to focus your thoughts in… I’d give it around five to ten minutes, that’s usually between when most people start to calm down - then just try following where those thoughts lead. Thinking about what you need to get for groceries? Great. About how you need to do the laundry? Fantastic. Wondering if you left your stove on? Let’s hope not, maybe you should check before you keep meditating. But you get the point. It’s a trance, congratulations, you’re meditating! From here, you can start trying to do the above technique, which is hopefully much more successful now that you’re already in the right frame of mind.
And that’s the end for an introduction of meditation and clearing up misconceptions, and in the next one I’ll be detailing a generic meditation that works for most people. See you then!