DISCOVER YOUR ZEN
An Introduction To The Different Types of Meditation:
The type of meditation you use is a very important factor in determining the outcome. Likewise, you will likely find that some forms of meditation are more accessible and enjoyable than others, depending on your own goals, your experience and your interests.
The question then becomes: where to start? Read on and we’ll look at some different types of meditation and some different terms. Bear in mind that you don’t have to stick rigidly to any one of these and actually you can create your own “kind” of meditation by just setting your own goals. Nevertheless, any of these will provide you with a good starting point to do more of your own research and to start practicing the art of meditation.
Mindfulness: Mindfulness, also called “Vipassana,” is a type of meditation that comes from Buddhism. It’s also the form of meditation that’s perhaps most widely used in the Western world today; a good example is its use within CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).
Essentially, the goal in Mindfulness is to be “aware” and to be “present” of your own thoughts and to reflect on them. This form of meditation doesn’t encourage you to try and empty your mind then, but rather the objective is simply to let your thoughts “drift by” like clouds in the sky.
What this then allows you to do, is to become more aware of what thoughts you actually tend to have, thereby being better able to spot negative thought patterns etc. that might be causing problems. This type of meditation has also been shown to reduce anxiety almost as effectively as anxiety-reducing drugs. Perhaps the biggest advantage of mindfulness, though, is that it’s not as challenging as trying to completely empty your mind of thoughts and thus provides a great starting point for those interested in learning meditation.
Zazen: Zazen is a term that essentially means “seated meditation” and is sometimes referred to by the modern Zen tradition as “just sitting.” This is an incredibly minimalist sort of meditation, which, once again, makes it ideal for those interested in getting started but are a little anxious to give it a go. (That’s why I suggested it as our first step in getting started with a meditation routine during the Discover Your Zen program.) The only instruction here is to sit with the correct posture, meaning that there’s no pressure to get anything “right.” The simple act of sitting completely still is almost sure to result in a calming effect and to gradually clear your mind, thus there is no need for complex instruction beyond “just sitting.”
While this is the core principle behind Zazen, it will sometimes be more complex than that. Often practitioners are given a paradoxical sentence, a story, a question or an element of Buddhist scripture to “muse on.” This method of meditation has also been adopted by a number of other religions – whereby believers are asked to think about lines from their respective religious scripts, or to think over scenes from their literature.
For some, the lack of guidance is going to make this an approachable and enjoyable form of meditation; for others it can be frustrating and might leave you lost.
Spiritual Meditation: Another way in which meditation has been adopted by religions is through spiritual meditation. This is essentially a form of meditative prayer – and prayer has been shown to have many similar benefits to other forms of meditation.
Transcendental Meditation: Transcendental meditation comes from Vedanta, which is the meditative tradition from Hinduism. TM is once again seated (ideally in lotus or half-lotus position) and this time uses a mantra. A mantra is any word or sound of your choice, which is simply repeated over and over again. The idea behind this form of meditation is simply to “rise above” (i.e. transcend) any distractions or thoughts, effectively clearing your mind of all thoughts and living entirely in the moment. Alternatively, you can try focusing on your breathing in order to calm your thoughts.
The ultimate objective of transcendental meditation is transcendence. This is the meditation that is used as a path to “enlightenment” which is reportedly a feeling of “oneness” with the universe and perfect contentment. In reality, it’s likely that enlightenment is merely a brain state, achieved by relaxing areas of the brain and thus getting them to shut down. This is something that takes years to master, though, and is highly elusive. If you use transcendental meditation with the sole objective of reaching this kind of state, you are likely to be disappointed.
That said, if you can reach this state, the effect is something similar to being on drugs or having a stroke. It’s completely mind-bending, but not damaging in the same way those other examples are. You lose the ability to distinguish time and to distinguish your own body in physical space as those areas of your brain close down. If you want to have an “end goal,” then this is certainly something interesting to aim for.
When done correctly, transcendental meditation is ideal as a way to relax and to move your thoughts away from stress. It can be used to calm the heart rate and is a fantastic “coping mechanism” if you suffer from anxiety. It’s also quite difficult, though, and many people give up after becoming frustrated at the inability to quiet their inner voice. The secret to success is to go easy on yourself and not to force it.
Focused Meditation: As with transcendental/mantra meditation, focused meditation involves the practice of trying to completely clear your thoughts by focusing on something else. Mantra meditation is one form of focused meditation, but you could alternatively try focusing on external stimuli (like the sound of a river, or a piece of meditative music), or even on something like a candle flame.
Guided Visualization: Guided visualization is a form of meditation wherein the practitioner visualizes a scenario or environment. The “guided” part of this process involves listening to a recording, which often will describe the scene you are in. This kind of meditation is great for relaxing and for moving your thoughts away from the hustle and bustle of daily life before you achieve the ability to block out your surroundings through other forms of meditation. If you’re feeling stressed and you want to immediately calm down, then guided visualization is a useful tool. However, it doesn’t require the same discipline as other forms of meditation and so is not likely to help develop your ability to focus or to calm yourself in the same way.
Movement Meditation: In movement meditation, you relax your mind while focusing on your body and moving through a range of gentle movements. A great example of this is Tai Chi Chuan, which is a martial art practiced incredibly slowly involving a set of gentle movements. While it takes time to learn something like a Tai Chi set, you can practice movement meditation by using a simple dance routine or even by just swaying gently from side-to-side.
Vipassana: Vipassana is “insight meditation” (Vipassana is Theravada meditation, Theravada being a branch of Buddhism). This is meditation that involves “close attention to sensation” with the goal being to discover “the nature of existence.” This form of meditation comes from Buddhism and was believed to be the type practiced by “Buddha himself.”
To practice this form of meditation, you sit down and then focus on your abdomen and feel the way that the breathing moves your stomach. Likewise, be aware of the other sensations throughout your body, trying to remain focused and calm simultaneously. When interruptions come – such as sounds, other thoughts, or temperatures, you should “note” those sensations and give them labels such as “warmth” or “thinking.” Vipassana is often practiced on retreats, where participants alternate between seated and walking meditation.
Vajrayana: Vajrayana is another branch of Buddhism. Vajrayana meditation is a complicated and advanced form of meditation, which involves the goal of becoming “buddha-like.” There are various types of meditation within Vajrayana, such as Mahamudra. This form of meditation involves attempts to empty the mind once again, this time by simply “doing nothing” to the extent where you aren’t even focused on trying to meditate.
Both the Theravada and Vajrayana forms of meditation are advanced methods and require years of practice to perfect and an understanding of the surrounding beliefs and cultures. They are also only two examples of the many complex and varied forms of meditation that exist.
Continuing To Introduce Meditation Into Your Life
For last couple of weeks, I’ve asked you to try Zazen — sit quietly each day for 5 minutes with no other goal than to relax with your eyes closed for that amount of time. Now, you may want to progress to actually having a goal. You can aim to make this goal a better awareness of yourself (by using mindfulness) or you can aim to quiet your mind and learn to block out stressful thoughts (by using transcendental meditation).
I recommend aiming for both. Perhaps try increasing your time to 10 minutes and spending 5 minutes on mindfulness and 5 minutes on transcendental. I personally find looking at a candle flame to be incredibly helpful when practicing transcendental meditation. However, it is entirely up to you how you do it.
Just know that even when you’re aiming to quiet your mind, you should never be ‘punitive’ and you should never punish yourself for not managing to achieve your goals. If you find that your thoughts are wondering or you’re being distracted, just notice that it has happened and let yourself be calm again. The reason it is so important not to have a strict aim or to reprimand yourself for getting it wrong is that this introduces stress to what should be an innately calming activity.
At this point, you’re now starting to enjoy meditation as part of your everyday life and that means you should have formed the positive habit (remember, it takes 30 days to form or break a habit). Now you can see what works for you and start learning more/experimenting.
And there you have it – with that you now know the most powerful and important tools available to you to take back control of your mind.
To recap what we’ve learned about managing stress:
- Practice meditation to learn to calm your mind and shut out concerns
- Learn to meditate on the move and to escape your stresses at will
- Try guided meditation if you struggle
- Make your environment and routine more interesting
- Take up sports and start entering flow
- Stop letting things distract you – have a morning routine
- Spend some time away from the phone
- Learn to use mindfulness to make notes of your thoughts
- Use CBT and cognitive restructuring to develop healthier responses to situations
- Practice gratitude
- Overcome your fears
- Enter flow and focus at will
Now you don’t need to change your environment, because you can change the way you want to feel about it. Do you want to be stressed and angry? Or happy and inspired? It’s a choice! And once you can do that, you can stop reacting to life and start controlling it. Now you can make life the way you want it to be.
It all just takes a little focus…
TODAY’S ACTION STEPS:
1) You should be exercising according to your planned routine. (You can use the workout plan I provided, if it works for you.) If you’re not ready to go FULL OUT with the workout plan yet…that’s OK. If you’ve been trying out my suggestion of creating a habit, then you may want to add on another step if you haven’t done so yet. Read through the Week 4 – Day 2 module if you’re not sure how to create this “habit chain.”
So…every time you wake up, or finish washing your dishes after dinner, or whatever that regular activity is that you choose as the one to trigger your workouts…put on your workout shoes. (That’s the first link in the chain.)
Then do the next step you’ve been practicing. If your chosen workout is taking a walk after dinner each night, maybe you are heading to the front door and grabbing a jacket. If you want to do a home workout from the exercise plan I’m giving you, then maybe you’re putting on some workout clothes – a top and a bottom. (That’s the second link in the chain.)
NOW, do the next step. (That’s the third link in the chain.) If you plan to go for a walk, just step outside your front door and stand on your porch…and celebrate! If you’ll be doing a home workout, then grab your mobile phone (to access the Fitness App) and stand in your home exercise area…then celebrate! Whatever that next step is just do that. Every day. Every time you put on your workout shoes…AFTER every time you do that trigger activity (washing dishes, waking up in the morning, etc). Remember to celebrate every time you get to the end of this “habit chain.”
If you need a little more time to reinforce those first 2 links in the “habit chain” (e.g. putting on your workout shoes, then putting on some workout clothes), that’s fine. Just keep doing that and don’t worry about adding on right now.
2) If you already completed the Week 2 Workout Plan, then you are doing the Week 3 plan this week. Log in to the Fitness App on your COMPUTER – https://doctorvenus.com/app-login/ – to access the Week 3 Workout Plan. (The Week 4 Workout Plan begins tomorrow, and will be downloaded to your Fitness App account by tonight.)
3) If you already received the Week 1 (and 2) meal plan, then the Week 3 (and 4) meal plan has been uploaded to your Fitness App. You should be going through the Week 4 Meal Plan (which is the same as Week 3) now. Log in to the Fitness App so you can review the Week 5 Meal Plan; begin planning, shopping, and preparing for it because it will start on Monday.
4) Now, instead of just doing a simple sitting meditation for 5 minutes each day, you can progress to actually having a goal. As I suggested in today’s module, you can aim to make this goal a better awareness of yourself (by using mindfulness) or you can aim to quiet your mind and learn to block out stressful thoughts (by using transcendental meditation).
5) Mark your calendar for our next coaching call on Thursday, December 7, at 8:15pm ET (5:15pm PT). The call-in number and Zoom link will be posted on our Home Page and in your daily email the day before the call. A replay will be made available for those who can’t make the call.
6) If you have any questions about anything…let me know in the Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/discoveryourzen/
Previous ACTION STEPS:
(Not a complete list, but some important highlights.)
1) Log in to the Fitness App on your COMPUTER – https://doctorvenus.com/app-login/ – and go to the FORMS tab. If you haven’t completed the Client Agreement form and the PAR-Q form from Day 1’s ACTION STEPS, do that today and sign them. Be sure to click SAVE when you’re done. (You can not receive the meal plan and workout plan when they are released until we have those completed forms on file.)
2) If you haven’t done so yet, send an email to team@DoctorVenus.com and state whether you want a vegetarian or non-vegetarian meal plan. It will be sent to your Fitness App by the next day.
3) If you haven’t done so yet, send an email to team@DoctorVenus.com and let me know whether you want an exercise plan for weight loss (focused on burning calories) or for building/maintaining your mass. So you just need to indicate whether you want a BURN or BUILD program. It will be sent to your Fitness App by the next day.
4) Download the Set Your Goals Checklist and complete it. CLICK HERE to download.
5) Download the Program Planner that you can start using, if you wish. CLICK HERE to download.
6) Download the Kitchen Clean Out handout and use it to guide the clean out of your kitchen BEFORE you start your meal plan. CLICK HERE to download.