When I first began meditating a number of years ago, there were choices, but not like today.
Let me give you an example that would explain why it’s so confusing for so many people who want to give meditation a try.
The free meditation app that I use to time my practices and share in A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation provides access to 65,000 (and counting) guided meditations.
65,000 is a huge number!
It provides a smorgasbord of free choices for every problem or desire under the sun.
You want to deal with anxiety- there’s a meditation for that. You want to sleep better- there’s a meditation for that. You want to open your chakras- there’s a meditation for that. You want better boundaries- there’s a meditation for that. You want to forgive someone- there’s a meditation for that. You get the idea!
Quite honestly, it’s overwhelming for many people who want to establish a practice, but don’t know where to begin to “figure it out.” It’s also challenging for those that have been meditating for a while and are feeling like they want to settle into a more structured and intentional approach.
So where do you begin?
I’m going to share my opinion and want to stress that it’s only my opinion and not necessarily the “right” answer.
The short answer to how to pick the best type of meditation is- it depends on your intentions for wanting to meditate in the first place.
From my experience the majority of people want to start a meditation practice for one (or more) of the following reasons:
- To deal with stress and the effect it’s having on their physical and emotional health- people want to be healthier and feel more peaceful.
- To get to know ourselves and answer what I call the “big questions” in life: Who am I? What is my purpose? Is this all there is? What brings a deeper meaning to my life? What do I value?
- To get an edge and be at the top of their game. This is often the motivation for people who want to be more productive, focused and successful in achieving their goals, whether that be in sports or business.
- For spiritual connection and to get in touch with an intelligent universe. This is often associated with the desire to foster qualities like forgiveness, compassion, kindness, intuition, creativity, flow, gratitude, surrender, and interconnectedness.
With those intentions in mind, where should you start?
Before I give my suggestion, I want to stress that just starting with anything is half the battle. You really can’t go wrong with beginning with any one of the 65,000 guided meditations or any number of programs. ( A young man I’m mentoring just completed the free 40 days Mindfulness Daily series led by Tara Brach & Jack Kornfield. He loved it! At the end of it, he asked me- now what? He felt he needed a structured practice but didn’t know how to set one up on his own. Do I do the 40 days again, or what’s next?)
These are really common questions, especially if you’ve been dabbling and experimenting with different approaches.
Establish a core meditation practice.
This is the reason that I believe all of us who want the benefits of meditation, at some point need to stick with some sort of core practice.
The practice may shift over time, but we need to start somewhere.
In terms of the above intentions, I recommend that people start with learning to deal with stress by regulating their nervous system.
Establishing a core practice that helps us calm our minds and be less reactive. Developing the ability to connect with our bodies and begin to notice what we’re feeling and how the external world is impacting us.
The following three ingredients constitute the core meditation practice that I teach:
Relaxation to calm the mind and nervous system in order to get a deep state of rest and become more resilient.
Mindfulness to develop present moment awareness and cultivate inner peace.
Visualization to boost our sense of connection and the feel-good neurochemicals.
Starting here is like building the foundation for a house. You start at the ground level and then move up. Without a solid foundation, the house is unstable.
What I often see, however, are people who want to bypass the foundation and begin on the top floor.
An example of this would be doing meditations to open your higher spiritual chakra when your physiology is in a state of fight-fight and as a result, you’re snapping at your kids or spouse all the time or have stress-related health issues.
The truth is, that starting with regulating our nervous systems isn’t as sexy especially for those of us that consider ourselves to be spiritual seekers.
Some of my most popular blogs deal with spiritual matters like the dark night of the soul and what does it mean if you feel something is missing in your life.
It’s interesting that the sense of something being missing is actually pointing to a spiritual void, and yet answering the question involves learning how to regulate our nervous systems and calm our minds.
If we want to connect with our authentic self in order to find the answers that can only be found within, we need to take it step by step and begin with a solid foundation.
I landed on these three after going through a really stressful period in my personal life. I had been meditating for a number of years and had experimented with all sorts of practices from various traditions. I had drifted away from the basics and my foundation was cracking.
I knew I needed to get back to the basics because I was feeling the effects of stress. I dug into the most recent research about meditation, mindfulness and stress and the findings validated why the 3 ingredients are so powerful for a core practice.
So whether you’re a new meditator or are more experienced, I’m a firm believer that it’s important to have a core meditation practice that keeps us grounded and calm.
Once you’ve established a core practice that helps you maintain resilience in everyday life, then the 65,000 meditations are a great add-on- helping you continue on your personal and spiritual journey.
What has been your experience with picking a meditation practice? Share a comment below to inspire others.