What's up, LoDown lovers? I'm Vanessa Scotto, meditation teacher and spiritual coach. If you listen to the Lady Lovin' podcast, you may remember me from episode 21: Mindfulness.
Meditation's kind of my thing. Regular practice helped me shift from an anxious and insecure person to a confident and calm one. Pretty tight, right? That's why I want to share with you some thoughts on how you too can create a mindful meditation practice that you'll actually want to pursue (beyond the first couple of sessions).
[title subtitle="It's probably not your fault"]If at first you don't succeed[/title]
Have you ever tried meditating only to find that your concentration gives out? "I'm just not good at it," you think, "Uptown Funk was on constant repeat in my mind."
Don't worry, you're not alone. As a meditation teacher, many of my clients come to me frustrated and discouraged because they think that the practice is just not working.
My first question to them, of course, is always "How did you first learn to meditate?" Was it a mindbodygreen article that inspired you to "quietly sit and watch your thoughts?" Or was it that Instagram picture of a super bendy yogi who swayed you with her perfect lotus pose. No, I know, you downloaded Headspace because like everyone else, you loved the sound of Andy's plummy English Accent.
[title subtitle="Only applies to harem pants"]"One Size Fits All"[/title]
The truth is, there's no "one size fits all" approach to meditation. Please pass this on to any holier-than-thou teacher or skinny ethereal neighbor who tells you otherwise. There are more styles of meditation than you can count—each with it's own set of physiological and spiritual benefits. In fact, if you had your own mountaintop guru, he or she would tailor a meditation practice to fit your unique capabilities and predispositions. After all, meditation is all about creating the space to fully experience who you really are.
[title subtitle="is picking a style that fits you"]The secret sauce[/title]
Over the last 15 years, I've sat in silence for hours and days at a time practicing everything from chanting to Vipassana, Pranayama, and even Tibetan Yoga. Some practices I've loved. Others made me want to pull my hair out.
That said, when choosing your practice, always begin with what draws your interest the most. There is a time and a place for choosing practices that challenge you, but this is not the way to start. Trust me, the struggle of quiet sitting is inexplicably real.
When group chanting sessions leave you more stressed than, well, blessed, chances are you haven't picked the right meditation practice that fits your style.
[title subtitle=""]Read, Set, Om[/title]
Now, my loves, since you don't have your own guru teaching you how to 'wax on wax off' per se, here's some guidance:
[infobox subtitle="" bg="red" color="white" opacity="off" space="30" link="no link"]The Visionary[/infobox]
You're the kind of dreamer who "sees first and acts later." You've probably had a lucid dream or created a vision board at least once in your life. You have a latent or realized penchant for hallucinogens. Whether or not you'll admit it though, I don't know. If you're a visionary type, check out meditation styles like Kudalini yoga or Qigong practices. Or, find your favorite "guided visual meditation" on YouTube and drive in! Then, get ready to trip in the celestial realms... or see some cool shit.
[infobox subtitle="" bg="pink" color="white" opacity="off" space="30" link="no link"]The Scientist[/infobox]
You have the patience to read full articles in magazines like Scientific America. In fact, you've got enough geek swag to even post about it on Facebook and feel cool. If you're the kind of person who thinks "proof" is sexy and motivational, try downloading the Inner Balance app. It's got loads of juicy scientific evidence with proven concepts like Heart Rate Variability. The app even let's you know when you're getting your breathing down just right.
[infobox subtitle="" bg="orange" color="white" opacity="off" space="30" link="no link"]The Extrovert[/infobox]
You're the person in your squad who's always talking about building the bond. Socializing is simply how you decompress. If you feel like your best self around others, try hitting up local meditation centers like MNDFL or Unplugged. Hell, try even bigger events like The Big Quiet or The Shine. If you're not in an area loaded with cool urban mindfulness centers, try searching for a local Buddhist center. Namaste, party people!
[infobox subtitle="" bg="yellow" color="white" opacity="off" space="30" link="no link"]The Purist[/infobox]
Perhaps you consider yourself a "classic"—someone who gets turned off when modern chefs ruin classic dishes with their nouveau approach. You, purist, you! Try meditation the traditional way with old school Kundalini teachers. Pema Chodron, Joseph Goldstein, and Khandro Rinpoche will be your beacons.
[infobox subtitle="" bg="green" color="white" opacity="off" space="30" link="no link"]The Crusader[/infobox]
If you're a kind, tender soul who can barely resist giving money to those in need at every street corner, consider yourself a crusader. Crusaders find meaning in making a difference in the world. Your selfless nature will jam well with Loving Kindness (also called Metta) meditation. Check these guided ones out by Sharon Salzberg.
[infobox subtitle="" bg="teal" color="white" opacity="off" space="30" link="no link"]The Overthinker[/infobox]
You have the kind of mind that never seems to shut off. It's not uncommon for you to keep a pad on your nightstand for the occasional bedtime epiphany. To calm your thoughts, you might want to try Mantra meditation. Mantras are a great way to give your active brain something to chew on while you work towards that higher level of transcendence. "Vedanta" and "TM" are key words you should be googling. That, or try out Charlie Kowles!
[infobox subtitle="" bg="blue" color="white" opacity="off" space="30" link="no link"]The Competitor[/infobox]
You're the kind of person who gets a minor rush from crossing off the last thing on your to-do list. You're never not "crushing it." You dominated competitive sports in high school and you love nothing more than beating someone at their own game. Try out Muse Meditation. You're rewarded with chirps and bells every time you train your brain into a level of tranquility. Zen, but competition style, ya feel?
[infobox subtitle="" bg="purple" color="white" opacity="off" space="30" link="no link"]The Intellectual[/infobox]
You read books that are at least 200 pages long and you're obsessed with understanding the root of things. Nerdy, schmerdy. If you're not learning, you're plateauing and that's no good. If you're an intellectual who's into growth and philosophy, you're destined to try the Buddhist path. There are more Buddhist approaches on paper and online than you can ever get through in a lifetime. Some of my favorite teachers include Mark Epstein, Jack Kornfeld, and Joe Loizzo, but Robert Thurman is my absolute favorite. Geeks rule, y'all!
I hope you found this guide helpful. Remember, there is more than one meditation style and there are types that I haven't even begin to cover. If you think meditation can be good for you (I really think that it can!), keep experimenting until you find the right practice that fits both your needs and your personality.
Till next time, Lodown readers. Can I get an "om" up in this piece?