Which meditation should I choose?
I have stopped to count the many times that people have told me that meditation is not for them. Because they can’t sit still or because they’re afraid it might be too difficult and they might „not make it”. Because they believe they have more important things to do … The things: these same people also say that they really would love to meditate because they somehow know that it would do them good. To these people, I would like to say: „Maybe you just haven’t found the right meditation for you yet.” If we assume that there is a „real meditation” … Then the next question is: „Which meditation should I choose?” And: „How do I find it and how do I decide?”
Listen to your needs and preferences
There are so many different meditations and only you can decide which one is right for you. In the end, it’s all about listening to yourself and looking inside yourself to see what you need. And that can be different from time to time. It’s a little bit like yoga: If you’re not a hardcore Ashtangi who practices the same series every day, but use an online yoga platform where you can choose from hundreds of videos at any time and, depending on your needs and energy level, choose between hip openers, a nice energising morning flow or a yin yoga class in the evening. So I say: listen to yourself and notice what is. Is your mind restless? Are you looking for a meditation which will bring you more inner peace? Or are you carrying a heavy burden from which you want to free yourself through meditation? Are you looking for silence or relief? Do you want to connect with yourself or do you want to bring certain energies to flow again? Do you want to awaken your inner child and activate the lightness inside you? Or do you want to relax your body and nervous system so that you can sleep better? There are as many reasons for meditating, as there are methods. What I can do for you is to point out and illuminate some methods and their differences. The choice then is entirely up to you.
Not all meditations are the same
One thing is certain: Not all meditation is the same. There are countless different techniques and methods. While a technique is not the meditation. (You can read more about this here: „What is meditation?”) The technique, the method is only a tool to help us to reach the meditative state we are after. One fine day, however, the goal is to leave the method behind and go beyond it. Meditation is also not necessarily always silent sitting in stillness, even though most meditations are of this kind. There are active meditations where you dance and shake your whole body. There are mindfulness meditations (check out my article on MBSR), visualisations, dream journeys, sound healing, mantra meditations … And there is: no hierarchy. No meditation is better than another!
„All meditations lead to the same goal, so no meditation is better than another. The only question is which one feels good to you – that is good.” – Osho
But let’s get back to the question:
Which meditation should I choose?
As mentioned above: whatever works for you. Choose what feels good for you at that moment.
„Lie down or sit or stand – as feels good to you – and wait for it.” – Osho
Follow your intuition, follow the pleasure principle! Why force yourself to do something or press yourself into a form that does not suit you? In meditation, as in life … Following the pleasure principle when choosing your meditation is already mentioned in Patanjali’s „Yoga Sutras”. One of the most important texts of the yogic tradition, which is the basis for many meditation schools. There Patanjali writes:
„Concentrate wherever the mind finds satisfaction.” – Patanjali
You will not practice a method which you don’t enjoy with all your heart anyway. You will be careless with your practice and it will be unnecessarily hard for you to establish a true and effective routine. On the other hand, if you choose a meditation that feels right for you, you will devote yourself to it with joy. You will happily stick with it and give it a special place in your daily routine and in your life. Regularity is the key: It’s through regular practice that the meditation’s effects can really unfold so that you can go really deep. The „right method” is fun and gives you pleasure. You can relax into it. It gives you a feeling of deep peace. As soon as you are familiar with the method, it feels completely natural. If you find it too difficult to use, this could already be a sign that it is not right for you. At least for now. It may always happen, that at some point in your life you will love this method and return to it.
The trial and error method
In order to know what feels good and works for you, you will have to experiment around. Some people are more visual. They tend to love guided meditations with visualisations, where you walk along a path leading to the house of your dreams and stuff like that. Others are more kinesthetic and feel energies rather than seeing images. Still others respond more to sounds, others to emotions … If you know how you function, you can adapt the meditations accordingly: If you’re a visual person, you might get bored with mantra chanting meditations because you don’t respond to the sounds. You could then instead try to imagine the letters or words of the mantra and feel their power this way. I, for example, am not very visual, at least not when it comes to meditation. This first surprised me, since I memorise things through visual memory and also in meditations, I often see bright colours behind my closed eyes. Those guided journeys, however, don’t work for me. They irritate and distract me more than anything else. Before, I used to get frustrated. Now that I know this, I try to listen only to the sound of the guiding voice and let my body get carried by its sound. This way, I can let go and embark on my very own journey.
My experimentation journey: from Vipassana to Osho
Still I’m very open for experiments and usually like to try out new things. I’ve already tried many different methods on my journey. One of them is Vipassana the Goenka style, which works as follows: you meditate in silence for 10 days up to 11 hours each, doing nothing but scanning your body from head to toe, over and over again. I can really say that it was an interesting experience and I would even do it again. And yet I know that this very ascetic form of meditation doesn’t make my heart sing. Even though I like to sit in silence when I meditate on my own and I also had a real Vipassana phase in which I sat quietly with this method for 45 to 60 minutes almost every day. What immediately got me, however, are some of Osho’s active meditations. His Nadabrahma meditation is my absolute all-time favourite. In this meditation, you hum with closed lips for half an hour (!) to the sound of chimes and bells. In the next stages, you very slowly move your hands to another very spherical music, first taking on the energy of the earth, then giving your own energy back to the cosmos. Sounds spacy? Well, it is! This meditation really transports me to other spheres. Rarely have I seen such crazy beautiful colour spectacles and felt such powerful energy streams moving through me as during the Nadabrama meditation. The Kundalini meditation (shaking and dancing) or the No Dimensions (dancing and whirling) are also exactly to my taste. What’s a bit sad about these meditations is that they are not quite as powerful when done alone as they are in a group. That’s why I rarely practice them alone at home. Sometimes, however, I do, especially the Kundalini meditation. It’s just the perfect and easiest method I know for myself to help me release pressure in a physical way and to feel at home again in my body and mind. Then there is the Soul Sync meditation, a very gentle and only slightly active meditation, which also works very well done alone. In this meditation, you sit in silence, observe your breath while moving your fingers, hum and chant a mantra. I like to offer it as a nice online morning meditation. During my Teacher Training in Bali, we learned several other methods, some of which are so powerful that beginners should only do them under supervision. Many of these methods use special breathing techniques and are specifically designed to address deeply hidden trauma and to bring to the surface emotions which you usually don’t have access to. Then there are very visual meditations which give you visions like you’re on acid … As I said: there are so many possibilities!
Active or passive meditations?
As you probably already noticed, I’m a fan of Osho. And by this, I don’t mean the highly stylized character many of you might know from the Netflix series “Wild, wild country”. I’m talking about the spiritual teacher who said many smart things – amongst others about sex and relationship –, who designed many wonderful meditations and had a quite quirky sense of humour. He was of the opinion that many of the passive meditations – silent sitting, Vipassana, Zazen etc. – are too challenging for modern men. Indeed, most of them were developed thousands of years ago in a very different context. They were mostly developed and practised by monks who lived in remote monasteries far off the hustle and bustle of the world. They could easily sink into meditative silence. We modern people of today need to work a little harder to enter that peaceful state. With this in mind, Osho developed his active meditations in which he uses music, sounds and movements. They help us to pierce through and drop all sorts of layers and masks we carry around with. These are the result of social conditioning and morality, leading us to constantly suppressing our emotions and trying to adapt to civilisation. Once we’re done with this, we can enter stillness. So at the end of each active meditation, there is always a last stage of silent meditation, of witnessing and observation.
„… if people are repressed, are carrying a lot of psychological burden, then they need catharsis. So Dynamic Meditation is just to help them clean the place. And then they can use any method … It will not be difficult. Right now, if they try directly they will fail. I have seen many people trying directly – reaching nowhere because they are so full of garbage that first it has to be emptied out. […] So the first thing is something cathartic, which is absolutely necessary for the contemporary man. And then those silent methods can be used.” – Osho
As I said, only you can decide which meditation you want to do. What I can do, however, is to give you some guidelines which may help you on your way. So in this spirit, I would recommend active meditations to all those who pretend that they cannot sit still. That their minds won’t stop chatting. Who find meditation boring and want more „fun” in their lives. Or to those who are simply curious. Passive meditations, on the other hand, I recommend to all those who are more interested in the classical approach, who seek silence and contemplation, who are not interested in physical activities but rather want to go gently explore their inner worlds and see what they find there. If necessary, one can always add some gentle active elements to spice things up a little. In fact, a combination of both approaches could also be a good idea:
„If you continue both together the results will be deeper. What happens is that when you do the active meditation, you create the possibility to move into an inactive meditation.” – Osho
I have found my method. What now?
Once you have found your method, stay with it for a while. Practise it every day for 21 days in a row, as apparently, it takes three weeks for us to establish a new habit. The more often you do it, the more fun you will have with it. And then, after a while, when you feel that the joy wears off, you can drop it and move on. The good thing is: Once you have known one or a few meditations so deeply, it will become easier with every new method. You have, so to say, mastered it and used it to reach the meditative state. Now you can return to that state without much effort, no matter which method you use. A few more words about experimenting as it is not only about the fun of it. It’s also important to try out new methods from time to time, because it may well be that the current method of your choice doesn’t really get you anywhere. In this case, you may continue to practice meditation with a sense of duty, but since you won’t probably notice much, this might lead to frustration and eventually for you to give up. To avoid this, I recommend a change of method from time to time. Just as you do not wear the same underwear every day.
As I already mentioned: when I practice alone, I usually sit in silence or maybe incorporate some active elements, like in Soul Sync meditation. When I need to shake things off, I include my body into my meditation and usually go for the Kundalini meditation. Firstly because it’s a lot of fun and secondly because its effect never fails me. And so my final recommendation to you is: Meditation is not something rigid. Your practice changes. It requires regular practice and will change depending on the form, mood and time of the day. There are „good days” and „bad days” and you should never force yourself to anything. So experiment, try out, play with the methods and techniques and above all don’t take it all too seriously! Enjoy your meditation!