Finding a Meditative Practice that Works for You

Zillions of studies have been done on the benefits of mediation, from reducing stress and anxiety, to improving focus and mental performance, as well as decreasing the risk of some diseases and improving physical health. If you need a reason to try meditation, here’s a whopping list of 76 reasons. But… what if you hate meditating? For a lot of people, meditation is frustrating, difficult, or simply boring. If you’ve tried it and given up, or find the whole thing too “hippy dippy,” I have good news for you.

The heart of meditation is mindfulness, defined by as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Often a mindfulness meditation may focus on the breath, for example, creating a deepened awareness of each inhalation and exhalation. But you can be “fully present, aware of where [you] are and what [you’re] doing with just about any activity, whether that activity is sitting and breathing, or running a 10k, or even just washing the dishes.

Do you have an activity where you get so absorbed in the present moment that you forget about everything else? Time, stress, to-do lists and other thoughts melt away? When I was a ballet dancer, the time spent at the ballet barre was a form of meditation to me. For that hour or so, nothing else in the world existed—often not even the other people in the room. There was only my body, my breath, and the steps I was executing, an awareness of every fiber in my body. Mindfulness is all about intention and really noticing rather than going through the motions. I had a postmodern dance teacher at NYU who introduced me to walking meditation, which has become one of my favorite meditative practices. It consists of focusing all your attention deeply on the supposedly simple act of walking. With eyes cast downward, about where the wall meets the floor, feet bare, and hands clasped gently behind your lower back, you walk. You notice how the weight shifts from your heel to the outer edge of your foot, to the ball of your foot with each step. The shift in your hips. Your spine. How you are holding your hands. The same kind of awareness might be achieved while taking a shower; really notice the sensation of warm water running over you, the scents of soap or shampoo.

If you are open to traditional meditation, but in small doses, try 5 minutes a day. Like anything else, you will at get better with practice! Ph.D. Emma M. Seppälä points out, in an article from Psychology Today, that there is a range of types of meditation, and one may work better for you than another. Dr. Seppälä includes in this range: Mindfulness Meditation, Effortless Meditation, Breathing Exercises, and Loving-Kindness Meditation. Mindfulness Meditation is based on “paying attention to sensations, feelings and thoughts in a non-judgmental way.” More “Effortless” forms of meditation might involve repeating mantras or being more unfocused to relax the mind. Breathing Exercises as a form of meditation have a wonderful impact on the nervous system, and Loving-Kindness meditation “focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards others,” according to Seppälä.

Finally, if meditation is daunting or challenging, you may prefer a guided meditation. There are some wonderful apps out there to help guide you through a meditative practice. Experiment with Sattva, Calm, Headspace, The Mindfulness App, and Buddify to make your way toward a calmer, happier, healthier you!

By Sofia Lerner

Sofia Lerner is a Campus Clipper publishing intern who is studying English as a senior at NYU. Passionate about literature, dance, and wellness, Sofia aspires to help the arts thrive and help others pursue healthy lifestyles. For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourage them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing and services. 

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