Her Campus Cal Poly's Quick Guide to Meditation

Meditation: a way to rest the mind.

Whether you’re well acquainted with this term or are relatively new to it, know that every moment of meditation brings with it an opening. There are hundreds of ways to open ourselves up and rest our minds. Below are a few popular meditation techniques used worldwide:

Chakra Meditation

Chakra meditations focus on clearing blockages in the seven energy nodes found inside our physical bodies. These nodes—also commonly envisioned as lotuses or disks—are located from the base of the spine all the way up to the crown of the head. Many chakra meditations focus on sending healing light through each of our chakras to cleanse out impurities and stagnant energy so that they spin at their optimal vibrations. This healing light can be external (i.e. entering the body from the sky or earth) or internal (emerging from within). Through this process we slowly open up the chakras, allowing for groundedness, mental clarity or deeper connection to the cosmos, depending on which chakra you focus on.

More info on chakras here: http://www.hercampus.com/school/cal-poly/check-yo-chakra.

Kundalini Meditation

Kundalini energy is said to rest at the base of the spine, coiled up like a serpent. It’s generally considered to be a feminine, creative energy that flows up the spine through the crown of the head. It’s said to be similar to an electric current running up the spine, but can only be experienced in deep meditation and spontaneously when the body is ready. Therefore, kundalini awakening is relatively rare in the Western spiritual community. However, those who’ve experienced such an awakening describe it to be a nectarous, blissful interconnectedness to all things.

Mantras

Mantras are words, syllables or sounds repeated aloud in order for the meditator to get lost in their own noise by focusing on it. The meaning of the word itself is not really important. What is important is focusing all our attention on repeating the mantra. Getting lost in the focus is part of the process. It helps us relax into a deeper state of consciousness. When our minds drift, focusing back on the mantra helps us pinpoint moments between thoughts. This helps fine-tune our attentiveness.

Taoist Meditations

Taoist meditations revolve around quieting the mind, finding inner peace and becoming one with the Tao, or the “way” of the universe. It is comparable to becoming a leaf traveling downstream in a river—no resistance. Examples of Taoist meditations include emptiness meditation, breathing meditation and Neiguan. Emptiness meditations focus on allowing thoughts to come and go like clouds, without attaching to them. After some time, thoughts disperse and we’re left with the inherent peace within us. Breathing meditation helps us focus on our breath until it becomes subtle and soft. This single point of focus unites the mind with the energy of the universe. Neiguan involves visualizing our bodies and everything inside it, including the mind, thoughts and energies. Through inner observation, the true nature of the Tao is eventually unveiled to us because it is said to exist in all things.

Vipassana Meditation

Vipassana means to see clearly. In this practice, focusing on the breath allows us to do just that. Focusing on the singular sensation of an inhale/exhale, rise/fall or contraction/relaxation is the most important piece of Vipassana. We rest our consciousness on this sensation and not on the thoughts, sounds or judgments that flow into the mind. By letting distractions come and go, our once clouded attention is clarified through the breath. Much like its yogic counterpart, this meditation focuses on "one breath, one movement".

Zen (Zazen)

Zen meditation is a seated meditation. We sit (position doesn’t matter), breathe and simply…exist. Zen is arguably the simplest meditation, because the purpose is to live in the present moment. Essentially, it can be practiced in any situation-literally. Traditionally however, we sit cross-legged on a cushion, keep our backs straight, focus on the breath and live in the present moment without attaching to our thoughts.

Hopefully this short guide inspires you to pick up a new meditation practice. Remember, there’s no wrong way to meditate. Everything is what you make it.