When I was a teenager and into my early twenties, I really thought I couldn’t meditate, and I didn’t like yoga. I fell into the misconceptions of what meditation and yoga were about. I am a neurodivergent human that enjoys dancing and running. My idea of relaxing involved movement and doing active relaxation activities. I just knew, sitting down with no thoughts for a long period of time – nope! Moving slowly for an hour, definitely not. As I got older and trained to become an Expressive Arts Therapist, I discovered what meditation wasn’t. Now, I love to meditate and I am even finishing my yoga teaching training certification!
What is Meditation and How Does It Help?
Let me introduce you to meditation, what it can be, and how it can help you. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines meditation as “the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed.” Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines meditation as “to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.”
Meditation encourages a person to pay attention from a neutral standpoint. The act of meditation can disrupt unhelpful thinking patterns that contribute to mental health issues.
There are several benefits of meditation and it can vary depending on the type of meditation that is done. These articles by positivepsychology.com and Healthline share research and information about many benefits. Some consistent benefits of meditation include the encouragement to pay attention to ourselves without judgment and objectively be aware of others and the environment. According to the Mayo Clinic, other physical benefits such as improves sleep, manages pain, decrease blood pressure, and more.
Popular Misconception #1: “I have to have no thoughts and stay still” Nope. If that was the case I wouldn’t be able to do it either. Many meditations acknowledge the fact that you will have thoughts and the key is to acknowledge them first.
Popular Misconception #2: “Meditation is only a spiritual practice.” Technically, it just depends on your approach or what you intend it to be.
Popular Misconception #3: “ I have to meditate for several minutes.” This isn’t necessarily true either. Meditation is like exercising your brain. Don’t go all out on the first try. Start off short time periods (30 seconds to 5 minutes) and work up from there.
How to Choose the Right Meditation for You:
Consider what you enjoy doing already, what you want to get out of it, as well as your functioning preferences. If a person has a chronic pain problem that prevents them from sitting for long periods of time, then a sitting meditation is probably not going to make the learning process of mediation easier or motivating.
Here are some recommendations or ideas to consider.
These meditations and modalities encourage bodily awareness and awareness of sensations in the body. Yoga was intended to be a movement meditation with breath awareness not an exercise. Many movement meditations are about moving slowly with purpose.
For musically aware/sound inclined people: listen to sound baths, create sound baths, listen to guided meditations, chant, mantra meditations
What’s cool about sound-based meditations is that people can choose to be the observer or the creator. For example, sound baths involve listening to or playing sound healing instruments like singing bowls.
For the singers out there, consider chanting or doing a mantra meditation. This involves either choosing a statement or prayer and singing it or stating it aloud repeatedly. The more a person states/sings it the more likely a person may interpret the statement differently.
For visual based people: guided meditations, draw mandalas from scratch, coloring
If you have a detailed imagination, then guided meditations could be helpful because someone will read a script and your brain can take the wheel from there. You can also draw what you are imagining as you listen to a guided meditation.
For tactile people, “do-ers”, and those who get distracted easily: mindfulness meditation, drum circles, singing bowls, use mala beads or prayer beads, guided meditations
Mindfulness meditation is about being aware of the 5 senses, paying attention to the self and environment without judgment (negative and positive), and limiting multi-tasking. This can be a variety of activities!
Using mala beads (meditation/spiritual beads) involves touching one bead at a time as a person chants or states a mantra.
For writers: Write down a specific mantra in the form of art, mindful journaling
You can write down all of the thoughts that come to mind but regard them from a loving and non-judgmental manner.
You can write down a positive affirmation or mantra several times in the form of a design. This allows someone to focus on the art of making a design while naturally paying attention to the statement.
For not so “creative” people or even analytical people: guided meditations, drawing mandalas, loving kindness meditation, transcendental meditation
Drawing mandalas could actually be accessible because mandalas are just about patterns and symmetry. Mandalas can be very mathematical if you let yourself get to that level. Or just listen to the guided meditation like a story and enjoy the ride.
Experiment with Different Styles
I couldn’t cover every type of meditation, but know there really is a meditation for the movers, writers, drawers, singers, musicians, the not so “creative” person, people with different types of abilities, and everyone in between. Experimentation of different styles is natural and important. Also consider creating a habit, starting off small, and/or having an accountability buddy can help.
I love making meditation accessible and helpful to clients in and out of sessions. To learn more about me, my approach to therapy and wellness, and holistic healing experiences, you can check out my bio page. Find more information about expressive arts therapy here.
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