When starting a meditation practice, many people feel intimidated by the thought NOT THINKING. Yes, experienced meditators who have trained themselves to quiet the noise inside and outside of their head can push thoughts aside and Om their way through meditation. This is advanced meditation. Each method below is a step toward that advanced meditation. A progression, if you will. The ultimate goal being to get to advanced mantra meditation to block out all of that noise.
Guided Imagery is a first step in blocking outside noise. Guided Imagery involves listening to someone else guide you through a scene that you recreate in your head. Much like when you read a book you can envision the scene described to you, guided imagery allows you to envision the journey being laid out for you. Your mind is able to relax because the scene is played out for you, yet you maintain a level of control by imagining the scene as you would like to see it. There are many audio programs out there for guided imagery. You can even record your own if you want even more control over your scene, or have a specific “happy place” in mind that you want to go to when you are stressed. This is more a relaxation technique than a classic meditation. It does, however, help to get you ready for a deeper meditation. If you are able to quiet the noise outside and inside for guided imagery, you have the ability to go deeper.
Cogitative Meditation is facing the noise inside your head. We often spend time blocking it out and are unable to find our peace within because of it. Symptoms of inability to face the noise: fear of silence, irrational fear of the dark, inability to sleep in dark/silence, changing channels on the tv or radio even if you enjoy what is on, inability to be still. Cogitative meditation is the act of working through the thoughts you are avoiding (or have not been focusing on) in a relaxed, peaceful state. Oftentimes we find ourselves thinking about important life decisions while doing other things. Driving in rush hour traffic while contemplating ending your relationship, changing your job or how to pay off your debt places more stress on you than if you sit in a quiet space and calmly work through the problem with care and focused thought. The solution may not come right away, if there is one, but you may find that you are able to think more clearly about your troubles and give you more confidence to forge ahead in improving upon them. Cogitative Meditation, however, does not have to be solely about solving problems or facing issues. It can be a focus on future goals such as buying a house, creating a business, etc. Anything that you want to focus serious attention to thinking through can be the subject of cogitative meditation.
One Thought Meditation is focusing on a single thought. This type of meditation is very intensive, as you are wholly and completely dedicated to one thought. It can be very cathartic. It can also be a training meditation. If you find yourself having difficulty calming the mind, it can help you quiet the noise by concentrating on one thing instead of trying NOT to focus on a million things. The goal of the one thought meditation is to focus your mind on a single thing, be it a thought, concept, or image. It can be as simple as the image of a candle flame. Any one thing can be the focus of a one thought meditation. Once a focus becomes more than one thought (for instance, a series of images), it then goes from a one thought meditation to a cogitative meditation.
Mantra Meditation is self-soothing into silence. A mantra should not be difficult or cumbersome. You should be able to pronounce it and it should mean something to you or be comfortable for you. Om is common because the vibrations (even when you only say it in your head) feel good. Don’t ever let anyone tell you there is a mantra you have to use. If you have to think about it too much, it won’t work. Pick something that you will be happy with. If you have a goal of connecting with the divine, then perhaps let your mantra be the name by which you call it (God, Mother, Life Force, Guru, etc). If your goal is peace, let that be your mantra. You don’t need only one, you can have as many as you want. Once you have chosen a mantra, simply sit in a quiet space and repeat it out loud or in your head – whichever is most comfortable for you.