In these abnormal times, we are all individually and collectively adapting to a new environment and new forms of stress. On top of that, social media messages push us toward productivity. It’s important to get things done, but we also need to care for our minds in order to do so. Having a calmer mind can help us achieve our own ideal level of productivity and reach our goals. Meditation can aid us on this path.
Even if you have no desire to be productive right now, meditation can improve your mental health. This includes reducing stress, anxiety, and maintaining better emotional health. Considering a meditation practice as a new form of self-care can lead you down a path of relaxation, insight and positivity. (These benefits to the mind and self are very rewarding but may not be a substitute for counseling. If you need someone to talk to, you can access the Counseling Center to gain additional support.)
Meditation comes much easier when you have an understanding of its purpose and methods. The types of meditations below are common techniques that are used by a variety of religions, cultures, and communities. Here are a handful of popular practices and their methods that you may already be familiar with:
Zen Meditation practitioners stay in the present moment and observe everything that passes through their mind and the space around them without dwelling on anything in particular.
Vipassana Meditation practitioners develop an insight into their body and mind and the inner workings of reality.
Mindfulness Meditation practitioners adopt similar methods as the first two types mentioned above, since this is a Western adaptation of the first two.
Loving Kindness Meditation practitioners cultivate positive emotions and attitudes through compassion toward oneself and others.
Mantra Meditation practitioners repeat a syllable or word to focus their mind.
Yogic Meditation practitioners combine yoga with various forms of concentration, visualization, mantras, and focused meditation.
One of the easiest ways to start a meditation practice is through guided meditation. Since you’re already familiar with some common practices, it will make finding the perfect YouTube video or other resource easy. A free meditation app that includes a rich variety of meditations is Insight Timer. I recommend starting off small; sometimes it can be difficult to start big—especially if you have a restless mind like I do. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, however, there are guided meditations online that last for hours!
After you’ve found your meditation resource, find a comfortable space where you won’t be interrupted. You can do it at any time of the day—whatever works for you is best. Outside sounds can be distracting when you’re trying to concentrate. So, I like to put headphones on whenever I meditate. The goal is to filter out as many distractions as possible, so your guided meditation can lead you into a relaxed and enhanced state of being. Don’t worry if your thoughts stray — just focus on your breath and listen. You don’t need any prior knowledge to listen and be present. Sometimes you really have to search for the practice that fits you best; it all depends on what speaks to you and what you find enjoyable. Patience is another tool that will help you stick with it until you experience results.
Once you’re ready, sit in a comfortable position and remember to listen and breathe. (Here’s a helpful overview if you’d like to learn more about types of meditation.)
M. H. Walters, 3rd Year (English Major, Creative Writing Minor)
Counseling Center Student Advisory Board (SAB), Student Suicide Prevention Team (SSPT)