By Deborah Goldstein
You’ve decided that 2012 is the year that financial worries, cranky kids, your boss—whatever or whoever is causing you grief—will not get the best of you. But how? Try meditation. It doesn’t require much time and once learned, doesn’t have to cost anything. It offers a respite from stress so effective it’s even shown to relieve chronic pain. Shed any new-agey stereotypes you may have and check out this guide to the most popular forms of meditation.
You might not think of it as meditative, but it is. In fact, it’s likely the most traditional and widely practiced form of meditation, so if you’re religiously inclined, prayer might feel most comfortable to you. Your pastor, priest, rabbi or spiritual leader can offer ideas on prayers to do at home, but you can pray with your own words, as well.
“TM” requires little effort, making it a good fit for those who find concentrating difficult. It’s even been used as therapy for children with ADHD. You repeat a word, sound or phrase silently to help you achieve tranquility and focus, though to do it properly, it’s been said it should be demonstrated by a qualified teacher. Celebrities like Russell Simmons, Paul McCartney, and Jerry Seinfeld have endorsed TM.
A practice that’s both Taoist and Buddhist, you pace back and forth over the same path (so you don’t have to think about where to go next). The key is to relax and pay attention to how your body feels as you walk, how your feet connect with the ground. Steve Jobs once studied walking meditation under the guidance of a Zen Buddhist priest.
In this simple practice, you sit upright (no slouching), gaze downward, focus on your breathing, and accept whatever thoughts or emotions happen to enter your mind, without judging yourself. This practice of focused awareness is often used as a psychotherapy technique.
Now a tremendously popular form of exercise, yoga helps you shut out the stress of your day by requiring that you focus on your breath while performing a series of physical poses. Yoga promotes a stronger, more flexible body and a calm mind.
Body Scan Meditation
While lying down, you take a mental tour of your body. Usually starting with one of your feet, you concentrate on how it feels and any sensations derived from it, then let it fade from your thoughts. You move onward and upward through your entire body. Once you’ve finished with your head, you move back down, noting how each body part connects to another. This practice is meant to be extremely relaxing.
Popular with seniors, Tai chi is a gentle form of Chinese martial arts. You perform a series of movements, slowly and thoughtfully, while focusing on your breath. Rock star Lou Reed is among its devotees, its benefits are gaining a whole new demographic.
There are many more meditation practices you can enjoy. These resources can help you get started:
—The Secret of Healing by Deepak Chopra M.D
—The Sivananda Companion to Meditation by Sivanda Yoga Center
—Meditation as Medicine by Cameron Stauth and Dharma Singh Khalsa M.D.
—YOU: Breathing Easy by Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet Oz
—The Path to Tranquility (Reissue) by His Holiness the Dalai Lama