Despite popular belief, the goal of meditation is not to clear the mind. Surprised? I can't tell you how many times I've been asked about meditation and people say, "I could never do it, because I could never erase my mind." Obviously! I don't think it's humanly possible to clear your mind, which is good news, because meditation then, may just be for you.
Instead, of clearing the mind, meditation is about training the mind in order to help reduce stress and anxiety, become more mindful and walk through life with a grounding tool that can be used anywhere, anytime. Meditation lessens our natural, "fight or flight," response by reducing the production of stress hormones. And yes, it's science backed.
While there are many different ways to meditate, it's important to try a few in order to find the one that works for you. For example, here's a list of the types I tried before I decided to become trained in transcendental meditation (see post here), which plays off of sound through using a repeated mantra.
Simply closing the eyes and paying attention to your surroundings through the sounds of the environment and the way the wind feels on your skin. I love this and often partake in this type of meditation during the opening of yoga classes or in Savasana.
Closing your eyes and taking yourself on a visual journey, often times, to your happy place. Whether it be a beach scene or a walk through a park, paying attention to the details of your journey is important. When practicing visual meditation, I like picturing the ocean and syncing my breath to the ebb and flow of the waves.
In this version, your eyes remain open and you fixate them onto one object like a candle flame. Each time your mind ventures off, your attention comes back to the flame.
Whether through the use of sound bowls during a sound bath, light music or using a mantra, this is the one that seemed to click for me.
Also another one of my favorite, I like to look at my slow vinyasa flow classes as meditation in movement where I'm focusing more on connecting the movements to the breath and not so much on perfect alignment.
There are many other types of meditation, but these are the ones I've tried and that I understand how to lead in my yoga classes. No matter which one you choose, the goal throughout all of them remains the same, your mind will wander (it's supposed to), and as soon as you recognize that it went off track the goal is to bring it back to the meditation. Over and over and over again and consistency is key. Literally, make it part of your morning routine and then use it as needed in stressful situations. I recommend playing with all different forms before settling on one to use daily. Try starting with five minutes, sitting up straight in a comfortable seat (not laying in bed or resting your head on a wall), and gradually increase the time.
Personally, I have adapted my transcendental meditation practice to meet my lifestyle. Here's another blog post where I talk about it's positive effects. Traditionally, it's supposed to be done for 20 minutes at a time, twice per day, but I start my mornings with it and then often do my second round commuting on the subway for however long my trip takes in the afternoon. I can honestly say, that the practice has changed my life.