Branch Out

Start on Level 2 when you have already established a meditation "home base".  In other words, you should feel very comfortable with the routine of focusing on your breath and re-focusing each time your mind wanders.  If you have achieved that, give some of these other meditations a try.  "Home base" is always a great place to start, especially if you only have time for a quick meditation.  If you are ready to expand your practice, here are 6 other meditations that you can try. 

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RAIN Meditation - 5 to 15 minutes

From Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics

 

RAIN meditation is a way to explore an emotion or thought, especially difficult ones.  It allows you to define complicated emotions by getting curious about what is happening in your body when you experience that emotion.  RAIN can help you notice where you hold tension, learn how to catch emotional reactions early, and have fewer negative reactions in the first place.  

 

  1. Close your eyes and find home base.  

  2. R - Recognize.  Ask yourself: are you feeling any emotions?  Note them: anxiety, sadness, euphoria, joy.  If you can’t exactly stick a name on what you’re feeling, note it as feel. 

  3. A - Accept.  Open yourself to the feeling and let the sensation do exactly what it wants to do.  Can you find a quality of friendliness or care in this emotion that is trying to express itself?

  4. I - Investigate.  Get curious about that emotion.  Where is it happening?  What is it doing to your body?  Is the feeling staying the same or changing?  If the feeling starts to get intense, you can try to focus on one part of it and only notice that.  This can make things more manageable.  Or you can return to home base and silently note home to reset.  

  5. N - Non-identification.  Try to let the feeling do what it wants to do without taking it personally.  Try to see the emotion like you see the weather.  Note "anxiety is happening" the same way you might note "a thunderstorm is happening."  

  6. Finish back at home base.  

 

How do you know if you’ve accepted something?  The emotions tend to get less intense or you have a less dramatic response.  I think of it like releasing a knot in your shoulders or back.  Sometimes it happens all at once, sometimes it is a gradual reduction of pain.  Either way, by applying direct pressure (or by opening yourself to the feeling) for a period of time, the sensation gets less intense.  

 

Visualization Meditation - 10 to 30 minutes

From Headspace

  1. Start at home base.

  2. Scan the body from head to toe.  How does your body feel?  What is your underlying mood?  

  3. Remember a time you did or said something to another person that was really appreciated.  Visualize the image of that moment.  Remember how that person looked, what they said, and how you felt.  Let that feeling slowly expand within you.  Continue to visualize the image, and when you get distracted, come back to it.  Let that feeling expand until it fills your body completely.  As the feeling fills your body, let it create a feeling of ease, dissolving any tension.  When it has reached every part of you, let go of the image and allow your mind to rest in that space.  

  4. Gently bring the attention back to the physical space around you and pause to appreciate the feeling.  Be aware of how you feel right now and appreciate what it feels like to take time for yourself.

My favorite visualization meditation variation:  Replace step 3 above with the following instructions.

3. Imagine yourself as a kid.  This might be accompanied by a specific memory, or something imagined.  Connect with the reasonable feeling of wanting that kid—you—to be happy.  Let that feeling slowly expand within you as you replay the same memory or move on to a new one.  Continue to visualize that image, and when you get distracted, come back to it.  As that feeling expands, let it create a feeling of ease and dissolve any tension.  When it has reached every part of you, let the image go and allow your mind to rest in that space.

Walking Meditation

From Very Well Mind

This is my favorite meditation to do “out in the world”.  Although I’ve become more comfortable performing a quick seated meditation on the subway or in a park, this was a great meditation when I wasn’t yet comfortable meditating in public.  It just looks like you’re walking through the park or shopping at T.J. Maxx.  How would anyone know that you’re meditating?

 

  1. Set aside some uninterrupted free time.  Ideally, practice this meditation outside on a nice day.

  2. Begin walking at a comfortable pace.  Really focus on the sensations that you feel in your body as you walk.  Feel the weight of your body on the bottom of your feet.  Feel your arms swinging with each step.  Feel the wind or the sun on your face.

  3. Focus on your breathing as you walk.  For example, breathe in for two steps and out for two steps.

  4. As thoughts come into your mind, gently let them go and redirect your focus on your breathing and the sensations you are feeling.  

 

Taking Back Lazy Meditation - 2 minutes to 2 hours

From Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics

 

The more rested and healthy you are, the more energy you have to give to others.  It’s okay to recharge your batteries sometimes.  This meditation can help you do that while still doing your THING.  Don’t be fooled into thinking of this as an easy practice.  We may think we know what rest is, but often we’re unconsciously thinking about the next thing we have to do, clenching our jaws, and holding our breath.  In this mediation, you get to sigh and let that all go.  Then you do it again and again, each time shedding a layer of tension and gripping.  It takes practice, just like any other meditation.

 

  1. Get yourself in position.  In other words, flop down on your bed, couch, or anywhere you’re really comfortable.  

  2. Close your eyes, or don’t.  Find whatever is comfortable.  Take a big breath and exhale, letting go of any tension.  Sink deeper into wherever you are relaxing.  Lift your arms and let them flop back down.  Your attitude for this meditation is “Yeah, nothing to do.”

  3. If you fall asleep, that’s fine.  If you have any thoughts, let them inhabit the background of your mind like music at a coffee shop.  Just enjoy relaxing in your space like you did when you were a kid.

  4. Continue to take big breaths and let go of layer after layer of tension throughout this meditation.  

  5. Get up whenever you’re ready and slouch-walk-groove your way back into your day like a young John Travolta.

 

Loving Kindness Meditation -  5 to 15 minutes

From Harvard Business Review

This meditation technique used to feel a little too warm and fuzzy for my taste, but I’m not one to roll my eyes at scientific evidence.  A 2011 study found that Loving Kindness Meditation (LMK) may enhance brain activity in areas used for emotional processing and empathy.  The study suggested that LMK may be a useful strategy for treating depression, social anxiety, and anger.  Using the 2011 study as a foundation, a 2014 Brown University study found that LKM decreases brain activity in the same regions that fire up when people are anxious.

 

Anything that can decrease anxiousness and increase empathy sounds pretty good to me.  So despite my initial apprehension, I’ve actually tried LMK a few times and plan to continue practicing it here and there in the future.

 

  1. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, relax your muscles, and find your “home base” by focusing on your breath.  

  2. Bring to mind a dear family member, a pet, or a close friend.  Ground yourself in the feeling that arises when you picture that image.  

  3. Silently repeat one of the following phrases of kindness towards that person or animal.  You can also offer a silent phrase of well-wishing that feels authentic to you.

    1. “May you be happy”

    2. “May you be safe”

    3. “May you be peaceful”

    4. “May you be healthy”

  4. Keep the image in your mind and repeat the phrase silently at your own pace.

  5. If your mind wanders (it will), bring the image back to mind and begin repeating the phrase again.

  6. After you finish the meditation, take a minute or two to sit with your eyes closed and “lock in” the benefits of your practice by being still.

 

Do Nothing Meditation - 5 minutes or longer

From Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics

 

This is the most difficult meditation I’ve tried, but it’s also my favorite.  The few times I’ve actually achieved success at step 3, I felt a type of mental and physical rest that was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  To me it feels like an out of body experience.  This meditation lets me observe the way my brain works without interfering in the process.  It’s almost like dreaming while being awake.

 

  1. Start with home base.

  2. See how deliberately concentrated on the breath you can get.  We’re going to contrast this with a blank mind in a little bit, so really try to get curious about your breath when you start this meditation.  When your mind wanders, bring it back to the breath.

  3. Time for the big shift.  For the rest of the meditation, drop all noting, drop all attempts to deliberately focus on anything, and just do nothing.  Let your mind get pulled where it gets pulled, and let it settle where it settles.  Try to completely back off and let your brain off the leash.  If you get all spaced out or helplessly replay the most embarrassing conversation you’ve ever had, so be it.  We’re trying to unclench the part of your brain that constantly makes a thousand adjustments per minute and endlessly negotiates with reality.  Each time you notice that you’re getting distracted, don’t get mad at yourself.  Realize you’re not breaking any rules and let your brain settle where it wants to.  This is the end of effort.  No more striving, no more work.  You can find rest here.

  4. When you’re ready, open your eyes.  

 

Guided Meditations

 

I have tried guided meditations and I’ll be honest, they’re not for me. Guided meditations are often pitched as a way to keep your mind focused during your practice, but in my opinion the whole point of meditation is to notice when your mind has wandered and refocus it. That’s the game. Don’t let me get in the way of trying them for yourself, though.  Many people say guided meditations are a great place to work from as you get started with your practice, so I’ve included some resources to find guided meditations that work for you.

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Tara Brach - free

Recommended meditation: Light RAIN in difficult times

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Insight Timer - free

4.9/5 star review with 238,000 reviews on the Apple App Store at the time of writing.

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Ten Percent Happier - $99.99/year (free trial available)

4.8/5 star review with 67,000 reviews on the Apple App Store at the time of writing.

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Headspace - $12.99/month (free trial available)

4.8/5 star review with 241,000 reviews on the Apple App Store at the time of writing.

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Calm - $70/year (free trial available)

4.8/5 star review with 953,000 reviews on the Apple App Store at the time of writing.

If you work your way through these meditations and want to try something new, dive into the inspiration page.  You'll find hundreds of other meditations between the books, apps, podcasts, and websites provided there.