The benefits of regular meditation have become legendary, improving everythingfrom blood pressure, stress levels, creativity to risk for disease. Consequently, many people try to meditate, but many people also quit.
San Francisco State University Professor Adam Burke’s new research suggests that people quit because they have chosen the wrong method of meditation.
His research shows that new meditators quit because they chose a popular method, not a method that’s comfortable for them. However, if they make the right selection, they are more likely to stick with it, gaining the myriad of personal and medical benefits.
Although meditation is very popular in the U.S., a study like Burke’s is rare, comparing various methods to examine individual preferences and clinical benefits.
Burke compared four popular meditation methods—mantra-based, mindfulness, Zen and Qigong visualization. The two simpler methods, mantra and mindfulness were preferred by 31 percent of the 247 study participants. Zen and Qigong was preferred by 22 percent and 14.8 percent of participants, respectively.
This study shows the value of providing new practitioners with a simple, accessible method of meditation, and emphasizes that no one technique is best for everyone.
“It was interesting that mantra and mindfulness were found to be equally compelling by participants despite the fact that they are fundamentally different techniques,” Burke said.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi famously brought Transcendental Meditation (TM), considered by some to be the preeminent mantra-based technique, to the U.S. in the 70s, having become the spiritual advisor to the Beatles. The Transcendental Meditation Program has conducted the most extensive research to provide evidence of benefits.
Most recently, Oprah visited the heart of TM country: Fairfield, Iowa. TM is criticized for being excessively expensive, but scholarships are available and a lifetime of support and classes are included in tuition.
Jon Kabat-Zinn made mindfulness meditation part of American culture and made his stress-reduction program accessible to the medical community. He has written many books that have helped make mindfulness meditation more mainstream. Pema Chodron is another prominent teacher of mindfulness mediation, who has written several general audience books for Shambhala Publications such as Start Where You Are and The Places that Scare You.
Find your fit
One size does not fit all when it comes to meditation, according to Burke’s research. Trying to do the most popular meditation is like trying to wear the most popular color of the fashion season, whether it looks good on you or not.
To reap the benefits of meditation, you must find the method most comfortable for you. Burke plans additional research to identify ways to predict which method is best suited for a particular individual.
Don’t wait. Dabble, read, do your own research, and try different techniques until you find the one that suits you. The benefits are not to be missed.