Meditation is a word that you may hear used often, but may not be clear on what it really means. Is it sitting silently? Being mindful of the way you walk? Shifting your focus to deepening your breath? It is actually all of these things, and different techniques may work better than others for different people. Multiple studies have shown that meditation is beneficial for health, primarily by reducing stress and is simply a technique or techniques to achieve different levels of consciousness. The ultimate goal of meditation is to work toward a consciousness beyond our own thoughts. A meditation practice helps you manage your stress and emotions, increase creativity, focus on the present moment, and increase self awareness. But the technique in which you use affects your success. So what meditation is best for you?
Meditation techniques: Focused Attention Vs. Open Monitoring
Science currently divides meditation techniques into two categories: focused attention and open monitoring. Each technique corresponds with two different ways the brain perceives the world focused and diffused. Humans spend a lot of time thinking about things, but this thinking is often unfocused, wandering from one thought to the next. Studies have shown that a wandering mind can lead to unhappiness. As Matt Killingworth says in his 2010 article, “ The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes as an emotional cost”. A wandering mind is natural-we all have it- but meditation can help you control it.
Focused Attention Meditation
A focused attention (FA) technique pretty much is what it sounds like: focusing your attention on a thought, item, or object. Every sensation you may be feeling during this time- emotions, your environment, noises, etc.- is ignored. Only the point of focus is maintained, and as your mind wanders, guide yourself back to the point of focus. It is similar to an anchor- remain here, and if you float away, come back. Examples of FA meditations include mantras (reciting words or verses repeatedly), sound, such as singing bowl meditation, and chakra focused meditation.
FA meditations enhance focus mode type thinking in the brain and make you feel better by reducing feelings of anxiety and depression while increasing concentration. When you focus your mind, you are suppressing the diffused way of thinking, and thus suppressing thoughts that may cause you emotional distress.
If you are feeling lethargic, sad or anxious, try a focused attention meditation.
Open Monitoring Meditation
An open monitoring (OM) technique encourages you to perceive sensations in and around you, without a definite focus in the mind. This leaves your mind to be flexible and unrestricted- basically to let it wander! OM techniques include the famous Vipassana and mindfulness. These types of meditation rely on a diffused way of thinking, which does not have a particular focus and allows random thoughts to arise. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, this isn’t necessarily a good thing. If your mind is wandering from one thought to the next, it is more likely to fall into worried thoughts, which in turn can bring on depression or make you anxious. This type of meditation is great if you need a boost of creativity or are trying to plan for the future.
The Pomodoro Technique: Meditation Through Work
If you find it hard to get started with any meditation, don’t worry. You can start small and find what works for you. Similarly, you may find certain techniques difficult and avoid them. Luckily, we have the pomodoro technique, a great way to shift your focus, find your flow, and get a reward. Created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, this technique helps you manage your time by suggesting 25-minute uninterrupted work periods followed by a short break (in this case, the reward). Much like a mantra, a gazing point, or movement, this technique shifts your focus to one task, and you will be surprised at how quickly you will find your flow. For the break period, do something completely different than the previous 25-minutes. This will keep you mentally refreshed, productive and meditative through focus on your work. This technique combines the focused attention and open monitoring in an accessible way – start here if you are feeling overwhelmed!
There is no correct way to meditate- just techniques that we can use to find our way there. Life changes, and your meditation technique may need to as well. That is okay- it is all about finding what works for you!
Life changes, and your meditation technique may need to as well.
Interested in delving into different meditative practices? Explore 23 meditation techniques here.
Let us know which techniques work for you!