, for instance—as a way to give the body some relief from constant sitting.
If you're constantly thinking about what you'd rather be doing—getting off work, driving a different car, or eating dessert, your mind is starving for mindfulness. So what? Well, if you're reading an instant message and talking on your cell phone while thinking about things you need to get at the store, you're not doing any of these things fully—and essentially, you're missing out on your own life.
The antidote? Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a quality you can cultivate in any situation—whether you're walking down the street or washing the dishes. Although grounded in Buddhism, this practice is accessible to people of any faith. In mindfulness meditation you stop the restlessness of your mind by focusing your undivided attention on whatever you're experiencing in the here and now. The simplest version involves simply focusing on your breath. By enhancing your awareness in this way, you calm your mind, experience life more fully, and bring new clarity of thought to any situation that comes your way.
More on BeliefnetWhat It Means to Be Mindful, by Sharon Salzberg
Jewish spiritual leaders are finding fresh applications for teaching meditations based in Jewish mysticism, called kabbalah. Kabbalah teaches that meditation is a direct way to experience God, or the divine. Kabbalistic meditation techniques include visualizing the Divine Name.
A good meditation to start out with is the Shema meditation described in Aryeh Kaplan's classic 1985 text "Jewish Meditation." Shema, which is Hebrew for “Hear,” is the word that begins Judaism’s holiest prayer, the fundamental affirmation of Jewish faith in one God. Inhale silently, and exhale "shh." Then inhale again silently, and exhale "mmm." Repeat this process, allowing it to draw you deeper and deeper into the "mmm" sound. This practice helps the meditator achieve a meditative state. Another meditation to experiment with involves focusing upon a Shviti, a line from Psalm 16 inscribed on a plaque that Jews traditionally focused on before meditation, to help them reach another state of consciousness.
More on Beliefnet
What Is Kabbalah? by Rabbi Benjamin Blech Pop Kabbalah quiz The Holy Chariot, an audio lesson
Instruction in Kabbalistic Meditation by Alan Brill
Yogis believe that breathing from the diaphragm is a key to good health, and that real happiness comes from the recognition of our innate divinity—so many Hindu meditations combine deep breathing with the chanting of mantras, sacred sounds representing the particular holy names of Hindu deities (the mantra for Ganesha, the elephant god, is "Gam," for instance; the mantra for Krishna is "Klim.")
Hinduism is so linked with meditation in the average American's mind that one might almost believe Hinduism is only about quiet contemplation. Actually, Hindu meditation is one of several forms of expression, "one conveyance of many used on the spiritual journey," says Marcia Z. Nelson in "Come and Sit: A Week Inside Meditation Centers." Not to say it’s not important: As the mantras are chanted and repeated, the deity's qualities are invoked, and a "transcendental" awareness that moves beyond ordinary perception is attained. There’s a nice reciprocity today between Americans practicing Buddhist meditation and Americans using Hindu or older Vedic practices. They seem to all see there is much to learn from listening and trying each other’s methods.
This is a taste of Zazen, the fundamental practice in Zen Buddhism. A Japanese word that literally means "sitting zen" or "sitting concentration," it’s about the experience of emptiness, the depth of nothing.
In Zazen, more than other methods, correct posture is paramount. Back straight. Nose in line with the navel, ears squared with shoulders, chin tucked slightly. Lips are closed, teeth together, and the tip of your tongue is resting peacefully at the roof of your mouth, just behind the front teeth. This is the position the Buddha was in when he received enlightenment. Start by counting your breaths: one, two…; however, if a thought intrudes upon your counting and you say to yourself, "Oh good, now I'm up to three breaths with no thinking," then you have have to go back to one since the aim is not to think about anything (because of this most beginners count "One, one, one..."). Zazen may sound hard to do with all its emphasis on discipline, but it’s the "meditator’s meditation" and will become relaxing in time. You can try it on your own but eventually you'll want to find a good teacher who'll inspire and move you more than you thought possible. Uh-oh, you're thinking again!