Over the years, I have attempted to build the habit of meditation. I say attempted because mine is a practice in progress. It is far from perfect.
My practice hasn’t always been continuous or committed. Yet, even my fragmented practice has reaped numerous benefits – it has enhanced my focus, improved my memory, decreased my stress, brought me greater awareness and sparked creativity.
This year, I am choosing to live a healthy lifestyle and focusing on beginning my meditation practice anew. I am utilizing unusual ways to meditate that suit my temperament more than conventional meditation methods.
Now, whenever I want to meditate, I reach for one of these techniques. I share them with you in the hope that one of these methods will help your further your own practice.
The word Mantra originates from Sanskrit. It denotes an instrument of thought, a word or sound repeated to aid concentration. Hindu hymns often involve chanting of mantras in cadence.
Chanting is a powerful practice that can further your meditation practice. The melding of sound, breath and rhythm is soothing. It creates mental space, liberating you from excessive preoccupation with your thoughts.
Chanting is also proven to have positive health benefits – increasing the flow of energy through mind and body by regulating the nervous and endocrine system.
Chanting is an easy practice to follow on your own or in a group. There are many syllables that one can chant. Here are a few powerful ones I have tried.Om is believed to be the basic sound of the world and to contain all other sounds. It is made up of three Sanskrit letters, aa, au and ma which, when combined together, make the sound Aum or Om. There is harmony, peace and bliss in this simple but deeply philosophical sound. If repeated with the correct intonation, it can resonate throughout the body so that the sound penetrates to the centre of one’s being, the atman or soul.”Om” is the simplest and most powerful syllable to chant. “Om” is also conducive to pranayama, a breathing technique used in Bikram Yoga.
Om Namaḥ Śhivaya is a powerful five syllable mantra that is chanted by devotees of Lord Shiva.
Om Namaḥ Śhivaya has such power that the mere intonation of these syllables reaps its own reward in salvaging the soul from bondage of the treacherous instinctive mind and the steel bands of a perfected externalized intellect. Namaḥ Śivāya quells the instinct, cuts through the steel bands and turns this intellect within and on itself, to face itself and see its ignorance. Sages declare that mantra is life, that mantra is action, that mantra is love and that the repetition of mantra, japa, bursts forth wisdom from within. —Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami
Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is a buddhist chant. The famous monk Nichiren Daishonin taught devotion to this mantra which means, “I devote myself to the Lotus Sutra”. He said that, “in the same way that one can bring to mind any concept simply by uttering its name, all the benefits of the wisdom contained in the Lotus Sutra can be harnessed simply by chanting its title – (Nam) Myoho Renge Kyo.” By chanting this mantra one recognizes that there exists a profound connection between all of humankind thereby promoting enlightenment. Ultimately it helps us become more happy and fulfilled as human beings.
If none of these mantras resonate with you, feel free to browse the many articles that guide you in finding your own mantra.
One of the challenges of sitting meditation is the necessity for physical stillness. The need to hold your body still, in addition to having to quiet your thoughts can be daunting. Which is partly why, walking meditation is my favorite form of meditation.
This meditation more than any other allows you be fully present in your body and in the moment. The simple process of taking steps alternating the left and the right foot helps create a meditative state.
Walking anywhere works, but I prefer to stroll through my neighborhood, park or local gardens. Water elements such as a lake, river or waterfall are especially conducive to meditation and add to the richness of experience.
The key is to become aware of your surroundings. Appreciating the fluidity of your movements and natural surroundings, helps you control runaway thoughts. It unplugs your “monkey mind”.
The best time for walking meditation is at dawn or dusk when there are fewer distractions. I particularly cherish walks during the change of the seasons – crisp autumn nights punctuated by the leaves rustling underfoot and cool spring mornings when the fresh green grass is still moist from the dew – these are special times to take your meditation practice outdoors.
Music adds a joyful cadence to my walks. I enjoy a soothing nature sounds playlist such as “Nature Radio” on Pandora or turn to a Nature sounds album to enhance my experience.
Meditative Art – Zentangle
Last Fall, I decided to enroll in a Zentangle class offered by one of our local yoga studios. The timing of this class was serendipitous. It led me back to my love of creating art (as evidenced by the recent artwork).
Zentangle is a doodling technique where varying and repetitive patterns result in a structured yet unique work of art. It is a meditative practice in that the act of doodling feels “timeless, free and engenders a sense of deep well-being”.
For those who struggle with sitting meditation, the process of doodling offers the freedom of movement with the mindfulness of art.
I have come to enjoy this beautiful and evocative technique over the last several months. Here are a few of my Zentangle creations.
Typically, zentangles are created on small cardboard squares. You don’t need any fancy tools, just a flat surface, a piece of cardboard, a simple pen and pencil (for shading).
Zentangles are miniature works of art that evolve over time. At first glance a finished Zentangle looks complex, until you learn the practice of tangling.
Each Zentangle begins with a string. The string could be a shape, a letter or an abstract shape. The cardboard is then sectioned off and built upon one section at a time. Each section can have a “seed” — the beginning of a pattern. But, the progression of the pattern itself is unplanned, it grows organically through each mindful stroke. Each Zentangle is unique and created with focus and love.
Zentangle is a completely portable practice. I carry a Zentangle card, and a pen in my purse. Whether I am waiting for an appointment or have a few minutes of quiet, I can pull out my pattern and continue to work on it.
Zentangle is not only a meditative practice, it serves many uses from motivation training to unlocking creativity. They also make great gifts!
Crumbs on the floor, marker stains on the table, reams of paper that showcase my kids creativity, unidentifiable fuzzy objects (UFOs) on the furniture, these are just a few things that surface as unwanted thoughts when I settle down to meditate.
I know that a clean space brings peace of mind and improves productivity. But, the process of getting there is anything but peaceful.
I don’t really despise cleaning, I just dread it, because it is a never ending process. Three children and their accompanying stuff create significant levels of clutter even in a decent sized suburban house. Since I work from home, its hard to escape the clutter. By the end of a cleaning session, I am left with a clean room that I can scarcely appreciate let alone enjoy because of my agitated mind.
For those like me that detest menial work, meditative cleaning offers a peaceful solution.
By embracing repetitiveness and bringing mindfulness into even a trivial chore such as doing laundry, I have found that it is possible to turn it into a spiritual practice.
I don’t promise that your outlook will change in a day, but bringing elements of meditation into cleaning does make the task more bearable.
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Most of all, by finding value in these simple tasks, I am able to find value in what I do for my family. The drudgery of housekeeping does not diminish me, in fact it highlights my capacity for attention. This attention speaks volumes of my love for my family. Acknowledging that the task is done out of love, washes away any traces of resentment and fills me with joy.
You can even make up a cleaning mantra or song to remind you of your intentions for cleaning.”I clean for my jelly beans!” “Cleaning is good for the soul, by meditative cleaning I become whole!”
Chant your mantra or enjoy upbeat music as you tackle those messes in a mindful way!
In my last post I shared the story of my introduction to meditation through Trataka.
This gazing meditation, as its otherwise known, can be performed by focusing on an object that is internal or external. Internal Trataka follows a typical sitting meditation.
For external Trataka, there are any number of objects that you can choose as your focal point. I find focusing on a candle flame, an object from nature such a leaf or flower or water to be an uplifting Trataka practice.
Gazing meditation is said to have many benefits. It is often utilized for curing eye diseases and spiritual healing. In fact, I attended a program for improving my vision based on the principles of Trataka. It is said that advanced yogis develop intuition and clairvoyance through the dedicated practice of this form of meditation.
Our eyes are powerful reservoirs and transmitters of emotion. That is reason enough for me to continue to pursue gazing meditation.
Did You Like Any Of These Unusual Ways To Meditate?
So, which of these unusual ways to meditate are you intrigued enough to explore?
In reality all these methods are simple and quite effective. They have influenced my practice profoundly. If you have ever struggled with developing the habit of meditation, one of these methods is sure to help you.
An average human can harbor upto 50,000 thoughts during their waking hours. That’s 16 hours of incessant mental chatter!
Many of these thoughts are meaningless. We dwell in the past obsessing about mistakes with remorse. We worry about the uncertainties in our future. Our thoughts are in constant chaos, alternating between past and future; fact, fantasy and negativity.
Consequently, only a fraction of our thoughts pertain to what is important and real: the present. Everything else is elusive, especially where our emotions and feelings are concerned.
Meditation helps calm the monkey mind and tap into the unconscious. It subdues the chatter long enough for us to focus on the present. Even practising meditation for just 5 minutes a day, will yield many benefits. It will ward off stress, improve your memory, help you concentrate, and ignite your creativity.
Meditate daily. Bring mindfulness to your breath, to a mantra, let its cadence steer you to peace. Tune into the gracefulness of your body, feel calmness and joy wash over you. Feel your connection to this planet and every soul that dwells here. Harness your creativity. Let your hands craft a beautiful pattern. Wash away the clutter and dirt in your life with love and attention.
Carry the love and attention; peace and focus to every cell of your being; to every person you touch. You will be surprised how much joy you will experience.