Modern life is stressful.
Even if you exercise every morning, eat your Daily 5 and make an effort to balance your work/home/social life, you may still find yourself feeling anxious, distracted and moody.
So what can you do about it? For an increasing number of tightly-wound people, the answer is: meditate. Research has proven that meditation can improve concentration, lessen mood swings and lower your blood pressure. (For more on meditation’s health benefits, check this out.)
While there are literally hundreds of meditation forms around, here is a top-line introduction to five of the most popular techniques. And if one piques your interest, we included some additional resources to learn more about each.
In this traditional Zen Buddhist seated meditation practice, Zazen practitioners sit on a pillow, bench or chair in the lotus or half-lotus position. The aim of shikantaza (or simply sitting) is to allow your thoughts to pass across your mind without fixating upon or obsessing over them.
Read: Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryū Suzuki; Everyday Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck
Unlike Zazen, in which you briefly remove yourself from the day-to-day, mindfulness meditation is practiced throughout the day and can be applied to the most seemingly unremarkable tasks: mindful breathing, mindful walking and mindful eating. The goal is to bring your full attention to the present experience and heighten your personal awareness on a moment-to-moment basis.
Read: The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation by Thich Nhat Hanh
As its name suggests, guided meditation is a relaxation and mindfulness technique supported by a guide: a teacher, an audio recording or even self-taught steps. You will be asked by your guide to find a comfortable position and then led through a series of visualizations that help you relax, release stress and think more clearly.
Read: Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach
Transcendental Meditation® (TM®)
Developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and embraced in the 1960s by English rock bands and Hollywood actors, Transcendental Meditation® is making a comeback. Promising relaxation, stress reduction and self-development, TM® involves setting aside 15-20 minutes a day, sitting in a relaxed position and repeating a short, personal mantra assigned by a TM® teacher.
Read: Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation by Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D.
Kundalini Yoga Meditation
Considered “the yoga of awareness,” Kundalini Yoga combines chanting, gentle movement and dynamic breathing techniques to enhance physical vitality and expand consciousness. Practiced alone or with a group, the concentrated movements and reflective meditation of Kundalini Yoga heightens the communication between your mind and body.
Listen: Yoga music podcasts