I am a Dru Yoga teacher and thus teach meditation from the perspective of a yoga teacher. As I wrote in a previous blog post the eight limbs, or facets, of yoga include asanas (postures and sequences) and works towards dhyana (meditation). My view is that there is no separation of yoga and meditation, as it is all yoga. That said I will soon qualify as a Dru Meditation teacher and be eligible to join as a member of the Meditation Association of Australia separate to my membership to Yoga Australia. I also facilitate Mindfulness Works Australia 4 week “Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation” courses which approach meditation from a different and non-yogic way.
So there are lots of different kinds of meditation. There is observing your thoughts, breath awareness and movement meditation, which could be classified as open monitoring meditation, which means paying attention to the present moment. There are then also meditations on gratitude, compassion, such as loving kindness or Metta meditations in the Buddhist tradition. There are focused awareness or concentration practices such as candle gazing (tratak) or meditating on a mantra. Japa literally means “muttering a mantra” which could be as simple as Om or the longer Gayatri mantra. You might even come up with your own mantra or power statement in your language rather than Sanskrit. Japa can be done while holding mala beads to count the mantras which gives the mind something to focus on.
Researchers have studied different styles of meditation and found that different practices, light up different regions of the brain. So it could be a good idea to try different styles of meditation and consider the aim or intention of your practice. So why would you join a meditation class or course when there are so many apps on your mobile phone that offer mindfulness meditation for free or for a small subscription? There is the popular app Calm, headspace app, Smiling Mind app and the Muse app which pairs with a headband to monitor you brain, heart rate, stillness and breath. I utilise the Mindfulness app on my Apple Watch to remind me to pause, reflect and take some breaths throughout the day. There is also Insight Timer which I have recently joined and uploaded some of my meditation audio recordings for no cost or for a donation (take a listen and feel free to buy me a coffee if you like the practices). Recent data showed that there are similar benefits gained from meditation apps but that they are less pronounced than what researchers observed for in-person or live classes. Some of these benefits may include more focus, less reaction to stress, sleep better, feel calmer, lower blood pressure and better emotional regulation.
When I started out meditating I used apps but as I have journeyed deeper into my meditation practice I have found them more of a distraction and that I became too focused on the gamification aspects. It is ironic that phones and screens in general detract from mindfulness yet all these apps have come along that suggest using your phone to destress. On the upside apps and platforms like Zoom have meant that your meditation guide can be sitting right there in the room with you in the comfort of your home or as you take a break in the office. Apps do tend to quantify mindfulness meditations giving you badges, milestones and streaks and reminding you if you have not practiced. A a good meditation practice is to reflect on your “why” or intention for meditating and establish a regular practice rather than just adding it to the ‘to do’ list and making it a chore. Come to your practice with an intention to pay attention in a curious, kind and open-hearted way, not a judgemental and frustrated way.
The beauty of an in-person meditation class is you can ask questions, gain feedback and share your journey with others in a human and connecting way. My recommendation would be that if you are starting, or refreshing, a meditation journey, an live or in-person class can support you to get more from your practice. You are sharing with others on a similar journey and there is an energy about practicing in real time with others, whether that is in-person or on Zoom. If you start with a good foundation mindfulness meditation practice then an app can be used as additional scaffolding to support your practice.
There is no one or right way to meditate but the general idea is to use external silence and stillness to cultivate internal silence and stillness. It is a lot harder than it sounds and it is also challenging to establish a regular meditation practice. The key is to keep practicing until it becomes a habit like brushing your teeth twice a day. My day does not feel right unless I start with some mindful movement and meditation for 15 to 20 minutes. To establish this I had to carve out some time in my day by getting out of bed a bit earlier or watching less Netflix in the evening! When you join a meditation class with me I offer you a meditation contract that you might wish to fill out and sign, maybe even get it witnessed to gain some support to establish or reestablish a regular practice.
If you would like to start or refresh your meditation journey join me on Zoom Wednesday evenings 6.00pm to 7.00pm or Thursday mornings 6.00am to 7.00am for some mindful movement and meditation. You will also get a free downloadable meditation journal to record your journey and access to a closed Facebook group to view recordings of classes, other resources and sharing with other like minded meditators, all from the comfort of your own home. If you feel you need some more information, background and an in-person session to get started with your practice consider attending the next Mindfulness Works “Introduction to Mindfulness and Meditation” commencing Thursday 5 May 6.30pm to 7.30pm at Milligan community centre.