What is Anchor?
Have you wondered why a simple act of meditation can be so difficult? Meditation is simple but need not be easy, particularly for beginners. Our attention is mostly occupied and trapped in the constant chatter of our minds. Many believe that meditation suspends all thought and empties your mind. That is one big misconception. The mind will keep doing what it is meant to do, i.e., thinking and analyzing. We don't try to stop thoughts during meditation practice, but we build our capacity to be more present by untrapping our attention from thoughts and emotions. We often use an anchor to free our attention from the continuous white noise and become more present and alive.
As Toby Ouvry explains, think of a boat as your attention, water and winds as thoughts that keep swaying the boat away, and your body/breath as the anchor. Whenever you notice your boat (attention) has wandered away in water & winds (thoughts and emotions), you come back to your anchor (body, breath).
What is the Role of An Anchor in Mindfulness and Meditation Practice?
As you move forward in your practice and learn to meditate, an anchor helps to keep your attention oscillating between your thoughts and the present moment. Through this anchor, you become more grounded in the present moment and become more aware of your senses, thoughts, and emotions. So the role of an anchor is not to hold on to the mind in one place but to give your boat a place to come back after hitting the choppy waters. The anchors of many meditation practices vary. If you want to see results from your meditation practice, it's essential to choose an anchor style that works best for you. When we shift our attention to an anchor, we untrap our minds from the constant drone of thoughts to feel and live in the present.
6 Common Anchors Used in Meditation Practices
Breath. They say that the breath acts as a connection between your body and your soul. Breath is very neutral, formless, and always there. It is arguably the most widely used meditation anchor since ages for a wide range of meditation practices across traditions. Just a few conscious breaths with non-judgmental and kind awareness are profoundly relaxing and make us more alive and present. If and whenever you get lost in your thoughts, it is easy and simple to return to your anchor, i.e., breath. Another method with a slight tweak is counting your breath backward. This technique is more helpful and engaging for a restless mind. Besides keeping us grounded in meditation, breath meditation is deeply relaxing and calming in nature. It also slows down our heart rate leading to a more peaceful and tranquil state of mind.
You can try out a 15-min breath meditation to boost your emotional well-being with Raman Mittal here:
Body. Your body is another common anchor that can be used to increase concentration in meditation. Focusing on the sensations that arise wherever your body touches the chair, floor, mat, or cushion is an example of using the body as an anchor of attention. When we are using the body as an anchor, there are 3 ways you can approach. You can choose one specific body part and focus all your attention towards it. You can focus your attention on your head or your chest or your stomach or any limb or organ. For instance, if you're seated in a chair, you might focus your attention on the feeling of your feet touching the floor. Alternatively, you can look and feel your entire body as one single object. Focusing on the full body, rather than a specific part of it, as an anchor in a mindfulness and meditation practice can be very reassuring and healing. Another form of meditation practice that uses the body as a focal point is a body scan or Vipassana. Vipassana literally means “seeing it as it is”. You scan through your entire body with kindness and non-judgmental attention and notice different sensations come and go without engaging with them. Your body is a home to your spirit, energy, emotions, thoughts and senses. It is a natural portal to the deep universe in all of us.
Here’s a meditation technique that helps you release tension and stress from different sections of your body.
Chakra. Chakra meditation stems from the use of your body as an anchor. When you use your chakras as an anchor, it requires a deep understanding of your sacred energy wheels or energy centers. According to Hindu belief system, there are seven energy centers located throughout the body, and there are nine according to the Buddhist scriptures. As these wheels or chakras reside within our body, each energy center is unique and allows certain positive energies into the specific parts of our body and environment. When we use chakras in meditation, we align our energy centers all the way from our base to the top of our head. When you anchor your chakra, you create a spiritual bridge to the energy of the universe. As an alternative to the traditional method of anchoring, energy flows through your feet, and travels up through your crown and out and above your head. Its path travels outside of the auras, constituting the initial segment of the anchoring connection.
Here is a 20-min meditation technique where you can try that focuses on awakening your Chakras to feel more peaceful, powerful and at peace.
Mantra. Besides being an anchor to control and limit a barrage of thoughts, Mantra Meditation technique may serve a deeper spiritual purpose. Certain Hindu, Buddhist, and ancient Christian traditions, for example, use mantras to center the heart and mind and be grounded in mindfulness and awareness. The words often carry deep meanings that work as affirmations to become a part of our subconscious. Mantras can be a useful tool for achieving a deep state of relaxation during meditation. Mantras help you go deeper into any spiritual practice and can be a genuine guide to help you navigate your meditation as it evolves. They may even lead you to discover and develop your spiritual strengths with honesty and integrity. For example; certain Sanskrit mantras like the “Soham” carry profound meaning. The Soham mantra, which resonates “I am that”, indicates an association with that divine intelligence, the oneness of all. The intelligence that is the guiding force for the universe, the one that is the most powerful and ancient is the universal force and I Am That, Sohum. Similarly, there are several ancient sanskrit, tibetan, latin verses that can facilitate deep psychological impact and help reinforce a positive belief system.
This quick AUM chanting can help you experience deeper peace, energy, and silence.
Sound. There is also a form of attention anchor that uses sounds from your surroundings. The steady flow of noise outside your window can be a fantastic anchor. To do so, focus intently on whatever sound grabs your hearing attention. Is it the steady traffic flow or the constant drone of ongoing construction? Once that sound fades to nothing, you can move on to the next one. No home is entirely immune to ambient noise. Even while meditating in a country home, one may experience the sounds of birds chirping, radiators clicking, and the wind. When we shift our attention to sounds around us, these sounds become more pronounced. The other way to use sound in your meditation is Sound healing (also called sound bathing). Sound bath meditation brings about a meditative state that can nurture inspiration through opening up to the many therapeutic tools of sound. Some sound-bath meditations use bells, gongs and chimes to reduce stress and promote relaxation. It can also improve sleep quality and increase feelings of well-being.
Object/Image. When trying a meditation technique with an object or image as an anchor of attention, one should focus softly on the object or image of choice, and when one notices that one's mind has wandered, one should calmly bring one's focus back to the object or image. In this practice concentration and meditation go hand in hand. You can use anything as a focal point, but something beautiful in nature, with significant personal significance, or something that inspires you is ideal. For example, you might use a crystal or a flower. Images and artifacts of spiritual significance or that represent the truth can also be used. These can be physical items, such as a painting or statue, or mental images created by focusing softly on a conceptual depiction of the object of choice.
Finding the Anchor that Works For You
One of anchor meditation's greatest strengths is that there is no single best way to focus your mind. Additionally, there is no hard and fast guideline dictating when and where a given anchor should be used. One day or under specific conditions, you'll find a particular focal point more useful than others as an anchor of attention to steady your thoughts. It's also possible that one particular anchor becomes indispensable to your exercise to establish mental stability. Each meditation session may involve the use of multiple mindfulness anchors of attention. It makes no difference which anchor you leverage. Whatever helps one person ground themselves in the present is the ideal anchor for them. When you meditate, you cultivate your consciousness in the same way a farmer cultivates a field. We all become distracted while meditating, but we take the help of an anchor to return our attention to the present moment. A wandering mind is a normal human experience; recognizing when it occurs is the first step toward cultivating mindfulness.
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