There is no one way to meditate. It can take many forms, including dance, gentle motions, staring at an object and more.
Meditation looks different for everyone, but nearly all forms have the same core objective: releasing stress that is blocking you from achieving your goals.
Whether your goal is spiritual enlightenment, focusing at work or just getting through the day without punching a cat-caller in the face or crying uncontrollably, meditation can vastly improve your life without costing a dime.
More than just sitting cross-legged in silence, meditation can take the form of dance, gentle motions, staring at an object and many other things. There’s no one way to meditate and there are a ton of practices out there, both new and old. You do not have to subscribe to any dogma in order to meditate.
However, if you do choose to adopt any practice, make sure that you do not appropriate in the process. You can participate, but be aware of the culture surrounding the practice. Do not just strip the identity and take what is convenient.
Here are eight forms of meditation to get you started on your journey to finding a more relaxed you.
1. Walking Meditation
In Kinhin, a zen practice, one moves slowly with full mindfulness. Choose a park or a yard so that you have a full range of movement and do not have to stop. When you lift your leg, be mindful of the way it feels to move through the air, how your joints connect and how your foot is placed back on the ground. Mindfully place the ball of your foot down first, roll your foot back to the heel and walk with proper posture to get the full effect.
2. Listen to Music
Listening to music can be an act of meditation. Instead of just having it on in the background, put on your headphones and focus on the music.
Take in the sounds, the lyrics (if there are any) and really allow your mind and your body to get caught up in the beat and the path of the song.
A great way to do it is to really soak up an album from beginning to end, one that you have been waiting to listen to. For genuine meditative purposes, be mindful of the beat per minute (BPM) in the song; ideally, a meditative song runs at about 60 BPM.
3. Tai Chi
According to traditional Chinese folk medicine, chi is the energy in the body. To give a rudimentary idea of how it works, when an illness occurs, it is because the energy is not aligned and there has been a disruption in your chi. Tai Chi is the meditative act of realigning your energy with slow, intentional movements.
To get an idea of how it works, watch Tiffany Chen as she walks us through an introduction to Tai Chi. If it’s something that you are interested in, check out local classes. You can often find groups practicing near you.
Qigong is another tool to channel your chi and heal it. A hybrid of mellow exercise and meditation, Qigong is part physical and part mental, making it a great tool for quitting smoking (or other substances), lowering blood pressure and increasing energy. Like Tai Chi, it is also an excellent practice for mindfulness.
5. Ecstatic Dance
In its basic form, dance is about movement and being 100 percent present. While curated forms of dance are absolutely beautiful, sometimes one is drawn out of the moment by thinking about their next movement and what they look like.
Ecstatic Dance is the antithesis of curated dance forms. Finding joy and peace within free-form movement allows you to center yourself and be in the now.
If you are normally an introvert, this provides a space to interact with others (if you wish) — or simply walk away if you are not into dancing with anyone and need to have your own moment.
You can dance at home in your own space as well, but try ecstatic dance if you want to be part of a shared kinetic experience.
6. Breathing Meditation
Yogic breathing is excellent because it can be done anywhere and has science to back up its benefits. It helps control your heart rate and get more oxygen into your body — how could that be anything but good?
On top of that, it’s totally free. There are many different breathing techniques within Pranayama, so a bit of research is a great way to find out what works best for your body and your situation. Check out this how-to guide.
7. Gazing Meditation
Trataka, or fixed-gazing meditation, encourages participants to look within themselves by gazing outward. By staring at a fixed object, you slow your heartbeat and breathing, allowing your body to catch a break.
Sitting or standing, you can do this anywhere, but a park is a great place to start. If you are in a natural space, try staring at a rock formation or a stone. Or, if it is night time, go outside and stare at the moon or stay indoors and look at a candle’s flame. Build up from 30 seconds at a time to 10 to 15 minutes.
You can turn your daily life practices into meditative exercises. Slow your movements down to half-speed as you do simple tasks like washing dishes, baking, cleaning and just about anything else you can think of.
If you are doing the dishes, take in the warmth of the water, the slickness of the soap, the smoothness of the plate. Count the strokes of the sponge or scrubber or how many seconds you are rinsing the plate.
Take simple life tasks from mundane to meditative with mindfulness.