For those of us who have not experienced the infinite emotional and physical benefits of meditation, it can look like a lackluster practice where the idea is to take sitting down and breathing too seriously. This vision of meditation is of course wrong, but also may not be right for everyone. To open up the paths of enlightenment that may better suit you, here are some lesser-known, alternative meditation techniques you can try:
1. Koan Meditation
Koan meditation is a Buddhist technique from the Zen Tradition, which involves asking questions that simply cannot be answered with reason and facts. Instead, the idea is to see the true nature of the Buddha through the unanswerable questions or Koan. Some examples of beginner Koan are: ‘what is the face you had before your parents were born?’ and ‘you know the sound that two palms make when they meet. What is the sound of one hand?’
2. Crystal Meditation
Crystals are more commonly used when one is attempting to fix a specific problem or find a specific solution. Arguably the most interesting aspect of crystal meditation is the qualities and abilities given to different coloured stones. For instance, blue is a calming colour used to help clear your mind and body, whilst purple and clear stones are used to achieve higher states of consciousness. If you wish to try meditation with a crystal, simply outline your goal, pick the relevant stone and hold or wear it whilst you practice.
3. Journey Meditation
When the pressure and exhaustion of every day life gets you down, you may want to try to get away from it all. Don’t start packing your suitcases just yet though; Journey Meditation is all about transporting your mind.
Ensure you’re sitting comfortably and close your eyes. Visualise yourself in a serene, beautiful place. This can be beside a placid lake, on top of a secluded mountain, in a breezy meadow or anywhere else you can imagine that makes you feel calm. Slow down your mind and take in everything you have created inside yourself, and when you feel calm come back to the world.
4. Gazing Meditation
Trataka, or Gazing Meditation, is the practice of staring at a physical object to focus inwards. The object can be anything, and all you have to do is gaze at it for a dozen seconds when you begin whilst focusing on your thoughts. There are thought to be a few health benefits as well as mental rewards, such as improved eye health and headache relief. You can also try Fire Meditation, where you gaze at the flame of a candle three to six feet in front of you. After a few minutes you can close your eyes and imagine the flame, sending anything that threatens your balance into the imaginary fire.
5. Laughter Meditation
There are numerous studies that support the idea that laughter helps to reduce stress and elevate mood, so why not incorporate into your meditation routine? Even the thought of impending laughter can make you feel better, plus conscious laughter will help to anchor you in the present in a state of happiness. It may seem weird at first, but after you’ve tried it a few times you can hopefully expand your laughter sessions and let go of any embarrassment.
6. Walking Meditation
Also known as kinhin in the Zen Tradition, walking meditation requires you to move slowly and continuously, whilst remaining constantly aware of your bodies motion and your mind. It’s not particularly strenuous either, all you need to do is make sure your posture is good and your breathing is deep. You can also incorporate this method with the less popular technique of ‘Labyrinth Meditation’, that is if you have a maze nearby. When walking through a labyrinth you use both the left and right sides of your brain, which is required for successful navigation. It is thought this combination can aid you in problem solving and even evoke epiphanies.
7. Dance Meditation
Otherwise known as Kundalini Meditation, dance meditation is exactly what it sounds like: you dance! The idea is to abandon your ego and give in to the rhythm and flow of the music, though some classes do encourage shouting and hooting as well. Dance meditation is a relatively easy and enjoyable way to release the tension stored up in your body without having to take meditation too seriously.
8. Qigong Meditation
Similar to Tai Chi in that they are both ‘movement meditations’, Qigong uses recurring actions to center your mind and balance your chi. The combination of meditation and low-impact exercise will improve your mind and body in a number of ways, including improving blood flow, reducing anxiety and increasing your energy. Qigong is also thought to be fantastic therapy for anyone affected by substance abuse, particularly women.
9. Daily Life Practice Meditation
Daily Life Practice Meditation, or Samu Work Meditation in the Zen Tradition, is a lot more about the mind than the body. Simply slow down your daily activities to half your usual speed and attempt to conscious of your thoughts. This can be done whilst walking, shopping, showering, eating or cleaning. Regarding the latter, author of The Miracle of Mindfulness and Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh wrote of “washing the dishes to wash the dishes”, meaning you should transform meaningless chores into exercises in mindfulness by letting go of the need to complete a task and immersing yourself the action of it in the moment.