3 types of meditation

Contents

What is the best type of meditation?

The following seven examples are some of the best-known ways to meditate:

1. Loving-kindness meditation

Share on PinterestWith the many types of meditation to try, there should be one to suit most individuals.

Loving-kindness meditation is also known as Metta meditation. Its goal is to cultivate an attitude of love and kindness toward everything, even a person’s enemies and sources of stress.

While breathing deeply, practitioners open their minds to receiving loving kindness. They then send messages of loving kindness to the world, to specific people, or to their loved ones.

In most forms of this meditation, the key is to repeat the message many times, until the practitioner feels an attitude of loving kindness.

Loving-kindness meditation is designed to promote feelings of compassion and love, both for others and oneself.

It can help those affected by:

  • anger
  • frustration
  • resentment
  • interpersonal conflict

This type of meditation may increase positive emotions and has been linked to reduced depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress or PTSD.

2. Body scan or progressive relaxation

Progressive relaxation, sometimes called body scan meditation, is meditation that encourages people to scan their bodies for areas of tension. The goal is to notice tension and to allow it to release.

During a progressive relaxation session, practitioners start at one end of their body, usually their feet, and work through the whole.

Some forms of progressive relaxation require people to tense and then relax muscles. Others encourage a person to visualize a wave, drifting over their body to release tension.

Progressive relaxation can help to promote generalized feelings of calmness and relaxation. It may also help with chronic pain. Because it slowly and steadily relaxes the body, some people use this form of meditation to help them sleep.

3. Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness is a form of meditation that urges practitioners to remain aware and present in the moment.

Rather than dwelling on the past or dreading the future, mindfulness encourages awareness of a person’s existing surroundings. Crucial to this is a lack of judgment. So, rather than reflecting on the annoyance of a long wait, a practitioner will simply note the wait without judgment.

Mindfulness meditation is something people can do almost anywhere. While waiting in line at the grocery store, for example, a person might calmly notice their surroundings, including the sights, sounds, and smells they experience.

A form of mindfulness is involved in most kinds of meditation. Breath awareness encourages practitioners to be aware of their breathing, while progressive relaxation draws attention to areas of tension in the body.

Because mindfulness is a theme common to many forms of meditation, it has been extensively studied.

Research has found that mindfulness can:

  • reduce fixation on negative emotions
  • improve focus
  • improve memory
  • lessen impulsive, emotional reactions
  • improve relationship satisfaction

Some evidence suggests mindfulness may improve health. For example, a study of African-American men with chronic kidney disease found that mindfulness meditation could lower blood pressure.

4. Breath awareness meditation

Breath awareness is a type of mindful meditation that encourages mindful breathing.

Practitioners breathe slowly and deeply, counting their breaths or otherwise focusing on their breaths. The goal is to focus only on breathing and to ignore other thoughts that enter the mind.

As a form of mindfulness meditation, breath awareness offers many of the same benefits as mindfulness. Those include reduced anxiety, improved concentration, and greater emotional flexibility.

5. Kundalini yoga

Kundalini yoga is a physically active form of meditation that blends movements with deep breathing and mantras. People usually learn from a teacher or do a class. However, someone can learn the poses and mantras at home.

Similarly to other forms of yoga, kundalini yoga can improve physical strength and reduce pain. It may also improve mental health by reducing anxiety and depression.

A 2008 study of veterans with chronic low-back pain, for instance, found that yoga reduced pain, increased energy, and improved overall mental health.

6. Zen meditation

Zen meditation, sometimes called Zazen is a form of meditation that can be part of Buddhist practice. Many Zen practitioners study under a teacher because this kind of meditation involves specific steps and postures.

The goal is to find a comfortable position, focus on breathing, and mindfully observe one’s thoughts without judgment.

Again, this form of meditation is similar to mindfulness meditation but requires more discipline and practice. People may prefer it if they are seeking both relaxation and a new spiritual path.

7. Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation is a spiritual form of meditation where practitioners remain seated and breathe slowly. The goal is to transcend or rise above the person’s current state of being.

During a meditation session, practitioners focus on a mantra or a repeated word or series of words. A teacher determines the mantra based on a complex set of factors, sometimes including the year the practitioner was born, and the year the teacher was trained.

An alternative allows people to choose their mantra. This more contemporary version is not technically Transcendental Meditation, though it may look substantially similar. A practitioner might decide to repeat “I am not afraid of public speaking” while meditating.

People who practice Transcendental Meditation report both spiritual experiences and heightened mindfulness.

Nowadays, practicing yoga is extremely trendy, and almost everyone who does so knows the 28 types of physical yoga exercises. However, almost no one knows about yoga meditation techniques like bhakti or trataka yoga.

People who perform these meditation techniques swear that it has heightened their awareness and has resulted in more than temporary stress relief.

But where exactly did the practice of meditation come from?

History of Meditation

No one really knows who practiced meditation the first time around. Historians and anthropologists believe that the practice of meditation arose thousands of years ago. Hieroglyphs and ancient texts suggest hunter-gatherers and early shamans practiced some form of meditation. The earliest records of the practice, dates back to 1,500 BCE.

In around 2,600 BCE, Buddha founded an experiential path that focused on mind awareness and breathing techniques that lead to ever lasting peace. According to the teachings of Buddha, meditative techniques, along with proper ethical conduct and the wisdom to see things in their true state, are the three disciplines that when practiced together, result in achieving enlightenment.

The disciples of Buddha taught these practices to others and knowledge seekers from lands far and wide who journeyed to learn from these great teachers. Buddhist meditation spread out to what are now territories of modern-day Afghanistan, Mongolia, Japan and Indonesia.

Knowledge of this art spread to the western society in the 19th century but it was only in the mid-1900s that yoga meditation became more mainstream. Yogi masters from the East were invited to spread their knowledge in the West and many students traveled to India, Japan, China, Burma, Thailand and other Asian countries to understand these mindfulness practices.

Types of Yoga Meditation

Spiritualists and yogis have developed dozens of types of meditation. Most people can explore the different methods of mindfulness but not all styles are suited to everyone.

With so many varieties of yoga meditation, it can become pretty confusing sorting through the various styles. Even in India, there is no single name for the practice. The best way for people to understand which meditation practice suits them the best is to try them all out and then figure out which one resonates with them.

Below are some of the most popular kinds of yoga meditation techniques.

Basic Meditation

If you are new to yoga meditation, it is best to start out with a basic technique to acclimatize yourself. This is not a “proper” yoga technique but a good way to initiate yourself, before you engage in the more difficult forms of meditation.

Beginners should focus on their breathing, learn to be hyper-aware of their senses and to empty their minds of judgment. You should sit down, close your eyes and breathe naturally. Then, focus on the ins and outs of your breath, be aware of the rise and fall of your chest and abdomen and the rush of air coming in and going out of the nostrils. If your thoughts start to go astray, return your mind gently back to your breath. Start by doing this for three minutes every day and then gradually increasing the time.

Nada Yoga Meditation

The first traditional meditation form in the list is nada yoga meditation. This is a type of sound meditation and can fit in well with modern-day music therapy.

This technique starts by the person assuming a comfortable meditative position. They should then close their eyes and focus their attention on the external sound. This could be the sound of a rushing stream, ambient music or any other type of gentle, soothing sound. They need to close their mind to all other external sounds.

This practice will have a calming effect on your mind and you will feel like you exist in a cosmic bubble, far removed from material things. If you continue on this path, practitioners say that you will hear the sound of “Om”, the universal sound with no vibration which is the perfect representation of the union of the mind, body and soul.

Mantra Yoga Meditation

Like nada, mantras are a form of sound meditation. Mantra is a sacred word that yogis believe produce physical, psychological and spiritual benefits to the person who says them. Mantras have no literal meanings but repeating them over and over can create vibrations that can put your brain in tune with the waves of the universe, e.g. sound waves, ocean waves, etc.

Mantras are commonly used in Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism. The most basic single-syllable mantra is “Om” but there are in total 108 Buddhist primordial sounds that can be used while meditating. All experts are in agreement that mantras have a rhythm, meter and melody that can create the echoes of nature in one’s body.

Those who chant mantras find the sound cultivates inner peace, yet an alert state of mind. It also fosters positive human qualities like forgiveness, compassion and acceptance.

Here’s how you can start practicing mantra meditation.

First choose a mantra that you would chant. Some seekers research in depth about what the word is used for, which deity it represents, how to properly pronounce it and what rhythm to use when reciting it. Then, do a basic meditation technique (explained above) to ready your mind for mantra meditation.

Then, you can start by reciting the mantra, either in your mind or in whispered chants. Repeat the mantra 108 times, as the number has spiritual significance in Hinduism and yoga. Your mind will eventually get rid of all thoughts except for the sound of the mantra.

After you have done this practice, sit still and relax for five to ten minutes. You can also do bhakti meditation with your mantra.

Bhakti Yoga Meditation

Bhakti yoga aims to make the meditator’s mind one with their god or deity. It is one of the most spiritual forms of yoga meditation which shows the person’s devotion to its object of worship. This is an advanced meditative technique and not ideal for beginners.

Many Buddhists focus on Buddha while performing bhakti to create oneness with the universe and foster inner peace.

You can start bhakti meditation by first relaxing your mind and body. Then choose a subject that contains traits that you would like in yourself. Some people meditate on Buddha while others can meditate on non-human objects like the sky, a tree or even a flower. Your goal is to become one with the object of your choosing

You can also start by creating a meditation space and having things that help you relax and connect to the deity, like therapy candles, incense or sculptures. Then proceed to sit down comfortably. Close your eyes and focus on the space between your eyebrows, also called the “third eye.” Keep focusing on your deity and invite it to become one with you by imagining there is no distance between your consciousness and the subject’s. Do this for 108 breaths. You will feel a buildup of energy between your eyebrows and sense a contact with your deity.

Chakra Yoga Meditation

Anybody who has seen “Naruto” (Japanese anime) may be familiar with the concept of chakra. The chakra is an ancient Sanskrit word which literally means “wheel”. These “wheels” are the center points of your spiritual energy. There are seven basic chakras located at seven different parts of the body:

  • The root chakra, located in your tail bone directed by the principles of survival and grounding
  • The sacral chakra, located in the navel, directed by sexuality and passion
  • The manipura chakra, located in the solar plexus, directing confidence and intuition
  • The heart/ anahata chakra, located in the chest, directing compassion and love
  • The throat/ vishuddha chakra, located in the throat, directing communication and expression;
  • The third eye/ ajna chakra, located in the forehead, directing psychic ability
  • The crown chakra, situated above the head, directing wisdom and connection.

These chakras are the energy centers through which the life force (prana) flows. If these chakras become blocked, they can result in psychological as well as physical problems. However, if that happens, we can meditate to open up our chakras.

Chakra meditation seeks to bring balance, alignment and harmony in these chakras. Some people choose to burn incense, use crystals or visualize the corresponding colors of each chakra during meditation.

Here’s how you can do chakra meditation.

Breathe evenly and close your eyes. Concentrate on your root chakra by visualizing a red (the chakra’s corresponding color) wheel of energy. Concentrate on your tail bone as well, where the chakra is centered. Keep this up until you can see red energy flowing in a wheel shape. Then go to your sacral chakra and visualize a wheel of orange energy. Work your way up to the crown chakra.

Once you have sufficient chakra, you can realize which one of your chakra points are blocked and can spend individual time on them.

Third Eye Meditation

In the chakra meditation section, we mentioned the third eye chakra. This meditation technique is the very same but it is so much importance attributed to it that it has its own place in the various yoga meditation technique.

This eye meditation helps to awaken your ajna chakra, which gives you heightened levels of clairvoyance and insight from the universe. Hence, the third eye represents enlightenment. It is also located on your pineal gland, which is responsible for extrasensory perceptions or our “sixth sense.” When our mind is relaxed and at peace, we awaken the true powers of our mind, get higher consciousness and the ability to master yourself.

However, like all chakras, the third eye can also get blocked. One of the most prominent reasons is the work overload at our jobs. Fortunately, you can meditate to open your eye.Go to a peaceful and quite place. Close your eyes and start by relaxing your face. Hold your breath and release it slowly through the nostrils. Then let your entire body relax. Focus your attention to your third eye and feel it opening up. Let go of negative thoughts and emotions and imagine light flowing out of your forehead in 360 degrees. As you do, you will sense your body becoming lighter.

You can also request divine intervention from your deity and ask it to guide you to a message about opening your third eye. You will feel thoughts and visions arising in your mind. Focus on that and slowly bring yourself back to the present time. Take a deep breath and relax yourself. You will find your mind feels lighter and you see things in a much clearer perspective.

Trataka/ Gazing Meditation

They say eyes are the windows to the soul and trataka meditation helps you gain access to your spirit through these organs. This meditation technique focuses on gazing on a single object to bring stillness and tranquility to your soul. This object can be anything that can help your mind achieve a state of awareness, like a candle, waterfall or a spiritual symbol.

Here is how you can practice the trataka meditation technique:

Place a candle or any other object on level with your eyes, about a meter or so in front of you. Sit in front of it and try to gaze at it without blinking for as long as you can. Keep your entire body relaxed and remove all thought from your mind.

Hold your gaze for the time it takes you to complete 25 breaths or until you begin to feel uncomfortable , or your eyes start to water. Then close your eyes but keep the afterimage of the object inside your mind. Meditate on this image for 25 seconds, then open your eyes and start focusing at the object again.

Once you are able to actually do this, you will feel a stillness in your mind.

Kundalini Yoga Meditation

Again, this meditation technique is not for beginners. Kundalini yoga is a big deal these days, what with everyone throwing out the word like it was the newest iPhone model. However, not many people know how to do kundalini meditation properly.

Kundalini meditation is part of kundalini yoga and it seeks to awaken the energy coiled at the base of your spine. This extremely primal and potent power is said to be coiled like a snake in the triangular sacrum at the base of your spine. When it is summoned, it travels from the lowest planes of your body, through all seven chakra points and is then unleashed at the top of your head, where the Sahasrara or crown chakra is.

Awakening this power will purify your mind and body, leading to gaining ultimate consciousness and getting rid of any mental or physical diseases in your body. This is accomplished by changing your brain waves and energy levels. It is also said to reduce pain, anxiety and depression while also leading to a healthier mind and body.

Tantra Meditation

The Sanskrit word, tantra, literally translates to “expansion and liberation.” Contrary to popular beliefs, the practice of tantra is not all about sex. In fact, it is an extremely deep form of meditation and the text Vijnanabhairava Tantra prescribes 108 things that practitioners can meditate on. A lot of them are advanced meditations, so you need to be aware of the basic and intermediate meditative practices before you move on to these.

Tantra meditation is different from most yoga meditation practiced in Western culture, which focuses on relaxation. It stems from the belief that the body is made of divine light. Here’s how you can perform tantra meditation.

Get in a comfortable pose and pay attention to your breathing. Focus on your right foot and imagine it as a golden light. Then focus on your other foot and do the same. Work your way up your entire body, to your ankles, calves, thighs, pelvis, hip, lower abdomen and lower spine until you reach the crown of your head. Imagine your entire body as a golden light and then finally believe that you are entirely made up of this golden light.

Practicing this meditation regularly results in physical, emotional and psychological benefits. It reduces blood pressure, increases immunity, reactivates our chakra energy centers, creates emotional balance, helps in mastering your thoughts, improves memory, increases focus and concentration and result in realization of the inner atman (soul), higher consciousness and enlightenment.

Kriya Yoga Meditation

Kriya yoga meditation is part of a collection of meditation techniques that focuses on energy and breath control (pranayama). It also involves other meditation practices and living the right way.

This technique was shrouded in secrecy for centuries. Then in 1861, master yogi Mahavatar Babaji unveiled the technique to his disciple Lahiri Mahasaya. The technique was then passed down to generations of disciples and brought to Indian and western society.

It is one of the most effective techniques to achieve union with divine powers by drawing spiritual energy up and down one’s spine. According to experts, 30 seconds of Kriya is equal to one year of spiritual growth. This meditative practice eliminates negative karma and brings joy and serenity in to your life.

These are some of the most popular yoga techniques used today. However, there are dozens more. Whichever meditation technique you choose, they will move you closer to mindfulness, higher consciousness, enlightenment and transcendence.

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Types of meditation

The above list of meditation styles is far from exhaustive. Here are some other forms of this ancient practice that you may want to explore. (Note: Many of the following techniques should be learned with an experienced — and in some cases certified — teacher to be most effective.)

  • Zen meditation. This ancient Buddhist tradition involves sitting upright and following the breath, particularly the way it moves in and out of the belly, and letting the mind “just be.” Its aim is to foster a sense of presence and alertness.

  • Mantra meditation. This technique is similar to focused attention meditation, although instead of focusing on the breath to quiet the mind, you focus on a mantra (which could be a syllable, word, or phrase). The idea here is that the subtle vibrations associated with the repeated mantra can encourage positive change — maybe a boost in self-confidence or increased compassion for others — and help you enter an even deeper state of meditation.

  • Transcendental meditation. The meditation techniques and exercises in the Headspace app are not the Transcendental Meditation® (TM®) program, nor is the Headspace app endorsed by Maharishi Foundation USA, Inc., which teaches the Transcendental Meditation program. If you are interested in the Transcendental Meditation® (TM®) program you can visit the Maharishi Foundation’s website. The Transcendental Meditation® program is taught one-on-one by instructors trained and licensed by Maharishi Foundation in a personalized and individual manner. The practice involves sitting comfortably with one’s eyes closed for 20 minutes twice per day and engaging in the effortless practice as instructed. Students are encouraged to practice twice a day, which often includes morning meditation, and the a second session is in the mid-afternoon or early evening.

  • Yoga meditation. Just as there are many different types of meditation, so too exist many styles of yoga — particularly Kundalini yoga — that are aimed at strengthening the nervous system, so we are better able to cope with everyday stress and problems. However, in order to integrate the neuromuscular changes that happen during yoga and gain the greatest benefit from the practice, we must take time for savasana or Shavasana, known as corpse or relaxation pose, to relax the body and relieve tension.

  • Vipassana meditation. Another ancient tradition, this one invites you to use your concentration to intensely examine certain aspects of your existence with the intention of eventual transformation. Vipassana pushes us to find “insight into the true nature of reality,” via contemplation of several key areas of human existence: “suffering, unsatisfactoriness,” “impermanence,” “non-self,” and “emptiness.”

  • Chakra meditation. This meditation technique is aimed at keeping the body’s core chakras — centers of energy — open, aligned, and fluid. Blocked or imbalanced chakras can result in uncomfortable physical and mental symptoms, but chakra meditation can help to bring all of them back into balance.

  • Qigong meditation. This is an ancient and powerful Chinese practice that involves harnessing energy in the body by allowing energy pathways — called “meridians” — to be open and fluid. Sending this energy inward during meditation is thought to help the body heal and function; sending the energy outward can help to heal another person.

  • Sound bath meditation. This form uses bowls, gongs, and other instruments to create sound vibrations that help focus the mind and bring it into a more relaxed state.

Did one or more of these meditation techniques speak to you? Remember, ultimately it doesn’t matter which technique you choose. What does matter, however, is that you choose a style that allows you to integrate the qualities you experience during meditation practice — calm, empathy, mindfulness — into the rest of your day.

If you’re looking for an introduction to different types of meditation, check out the 10-day beginner’s course on the essentials of meditation — available for free in the Headspace app. From there, once you gain more experience and confidence, you can explore the whole library of content, covering everything from sleep, compassion, and sports to anger, stress, focus, and more. Get started today!

Sign up for free today, and start reaping the benefits of guided meditation!

READ NEXT: What are the benefits of daily meditation?

A Guide to 7 Different Types of Meditation

1. Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the process of being fully present with your thoughts. Being mindful means being aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not being overly reactive to what’s going on around us.

Mindful meditation can be done anywhere. Some people prefer to sit in a quiet place, close their eyes, and focus on their breathing. But you can choose to be mindful at any point of the day, including while you’re commuting to work or doing chores.

When practicing mindfulness meditation, you observe your thoughts and emotions but let them pass without judgement. (1)

2. Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental meditation is a simple technique in which a personally assigned mantra, such as a word, sound, or small phrase, is repeated in a specific way. It’s practiced 20 minutes twice each day while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed.

The idea is that this technique will allow you to settle inward to a profound state of relaxation and rest, with the goal of achieving inner peace without concentration or effort. (2,3)

3. Guided Meditation

Guided meditation, which is sometimes also called guided imagery or visualization, is a method of meditation in which you form mental pictures or situations that you find relaxing.

This process is typically led by a guide or teacher, hence “guided.” It’s often suggested to use as many senses as possible, such as smell, sounds, and textures, to evoke calmness in your relaxing space. (3)

4. Vipassana Meditation (Sayagyi U Ba Khin Tradition)

Vipassana meditation is an ancient Indian form of meditation that means to see things as they really are. It was taught in India more than 2,500 years ago. The mindfulness meditation movement in the United States has roots in this tradition.

The goal of vipassana meditation is self-transformation through self-observation. This is accomplished through disciplined attention to physical sensations in the body, to establish a deep connection between the mind and body. The continuous interconnectedness results in a balanced mind full of love and compassion, teachers of the practice claim.

Vipassana, in this tradition, is typically taught during a 10-day course, and students are expected to follow a set of rules throughout the entirety of the time, including abstaining from all intoxicants, telling lies, stealing, sexual activity, and killing any species. (2)

5. Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta Meditation)

Metta meditation, also called Loving Kindness Meditation, is the practice of directing well wishes toward others. Those who practice recite specific words and phrases meant to evoke warm-hearted feelings. This is also commonly found in mindfulness and vipassana meditation.

It’s typically practiced while sitting in a comfortable, relaxed position. After a few deep breaths, you repeat the following words slowly and steadily. “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.”

After a period of directing this loving kindness toward yourself, you may begin to picture a family member or friend who has helped you and repeat the mantra again, this time replacing “I” with “you.”

As you continue the meditation, you can bring other members of your family, friends, neighbors, or people in your life to mind. Practitioners are also encouraged to visualize people they have difficulty with.

Finally, you end the meditation with the universal mantra: “May all being everywhere be happy.” (4,5)

6. Chakra Meditation

Chakra is an ancient Sanskrit word that translates to “wheel,” and can be traced back to India. Chakras refer to the centers of energy and spiritual power in the body. There are thought to be seven chakras. Each chakra is located at a different part of the body and each has a corresponding color.

Chakra meditation is made up of relaxation techniques focused on bringing balance and well-being to the chakras. Some of these techniques include visually picturing each chakra in the body and its corresponding color. Some people may choose to light incense or use crystals, color coded for each chakra to help them concentrate during the meditation. (6)

7. Yoga Meditation

The practice of yoga dates back to ancient India. There are a wide variety of classes and styles of yoga, but they all involve performing a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises meant to promote flexibility and calm the mind.

The poses require balance and concentration and practitioners are encouraged to focus less on distractions and stay more in the moment. (2)

Which style of meditation you decide to try depends on a number of factors. If you have a health condition and are new to yoga, speak to your doctor about which style may be right for you. (7)

17 Types of Meditation (Techniques and Basics) to Practice Mindfulness

Amit Ray, an Indian author who is a master of vipassana meditation techniques said this,

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”

Ray is talking about one of the main reasons you may be seeking to meditate: anxiety.

About 40 million Americans1 — or 18 percent of the population — suffer from anxiety but very few seek assistance. If you do seek assistance, there’s only one mental health professional for every 1,000 people and there are many societal barriers to help.

Meditation is a proven method of self care to help you with your anxiety. Even if you don’t suffer from anxiety, meditation can help you maintain a healthy mind-state, which is essential for quality relationships, bodily health and a productive life.

Meditation techniques to boost mindfulness

Here, you’ll find detailed information on meditation techniques, including the basics of each technique so you can start right away.

The purpose of this guide is to help you choose a meditation method. Through whichever meditative path you choose, your ultimate destination is a state of liberation and mindfulness.

1. Basic beginner’s meditation

This is a way to initiate yourself to the practice of meditation without engaging in any of the more difficult techniques. This will acquaint you with the emphasis on breathing, the noting of sensations and the lack of judgement.

How to do basic beginner’s meditation:

  1. Sit or lie down.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Breathe but don’t try to regulate your breathing.
  4. Let breaths come and go.
  5. Pay attention to the sensations of breathing, attend to the rise and fall of the abdomen, the chest, the shoulders and the in-and-out of air through your nostrils.
  6. When thoughts go stray, return gently to your breath.
  7. Do this for 3 minutes per day at the outset and gradually increase your time.

2. Zazen

Zazen is the Zen Buddhist practice of seated meditation. Some Zen Buddhists contend that Zazen isn’t meditation, yet other Zen practitioners believe Zazen is the meditative practice at the core of Zen.

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Zazen involves three intertwined elements that to the Zen Buddhist are a single thing: your posture while seated, your breathing and the state of mind arising from the act of sitting and breathing.

How to do Zazen:

  1. Sit on a small pillow or folded blanket so that your rear end is slightly raised above the floor. Sit with your rear end on the front third of the pillow.
  2. Assume the posture of Zazen. Depending on your flexibility, you can do any of the following:
    – Sit in the Burmese position with your legs crossed so that the backs of both feet rest flat on the floor and both knees touch the floor.
    – Sit in the half lotus position with left foot resting flat atop the right thigh. Tuck your right leg beneath left leg.
    – Sit in the full lotus position with both of your feet resting atop the opposite thigh.
    – Hold your hands just above your feet with palms towards the sky so that the backs of one hand’s fingers rest on the front of the other hands fingers, while thumb-tips touch.
    – Push your head towards sky. Release tension in shoulders and open shoulder blades.
  3. Close your mouth with teeth together and tongue touching roof of mouth
  4. Breathing through your nose, focus entirely on the rhythm of your breathing. If it helps, count each inhalation. Start at 10 and work your way down to 1, then start over (inhalation 10, inhalation 9, etc.).
  5. Remain in the posture, concentrating on posture and breathing and your state of mind will be one with your body in the moment.

3. Qigong

Qigong is “life energy cultivation.” Qigong is a Chinese Taoist practice that broadly speaking, combines exercises with breathing techniques. For the meditation practice, you’re going to focus your qi, which is your vital energy.

How to do Qigong meditation:

  1. Sit comfortably and balance yourself with your spine straight and centered.
  2. Relax every part of your body.
  3. Clear your mind by concentrating on long deep breaths that expand your lower abdomen.
  4. Bring deep focus to your center, which is the approximately two inches below your belly button. Your qi is the energy that concentrates there.
  5. Even as you continue your focus, feel the force of your qi as it courses through your entire body. As your concentration remains on your center, you will feel this force throughout your body without trying to feel it.

4. Mindfulness

Mindfulness has become enormously popular in the West because you can practice it in any setting and it is a stress-reduction technique. Like all meditation practices, mindfulness focuses on mind-state and body simultaneously.

How to do mindfulness meditation:

  1. Begin by sitting comfortably and close your eyes.
  2. Focus on breathing. Inhale through your nose slowly and exhale slowly.
  3. As distracting thoughts enter your consciousness, don’t judge them and don’t hang onto them. Let each thought go but don’t focus on thought cessation; rather, focus on breathing.
  4. Treat all physical sensations and feelings in the same way you do thoughts: register them, then let them go, returning to breathing.
  5. Extend this practice to everyday activity, remaining “in the moment” of the body’s activity with each new breath.

5. Loving-Kindness

Also called Metta meditation, Loving-Kindness stems from Theravada Buddhism. Metta is about directing specific feelings and thoughts. It’s great for anyone who suffers from depression, anger outbursts and negative thoughts.

How to do Loving-Kindness meditation:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
  2. Direct thoughts and feelings of complete well-being and unconditional love to yourself.
  3. After you’ve directed loving-kindness to yourself during enough sessions to begin feeling joy, choose a close friend or relative and direct loving-kindness to them.
  4. Direct loving-kindness to a neutral acquaintance.
  5. Direct loving-kindness to someone you don’t like.
  6. Move outward until you’re sending loving-kindness to the universe. You’ll experience joy and will be devoid of anger.

6. Chakra meditation

In Sanskrit, chakra means “wheel” or “disk”. A chakra is a wheel of energy. There are seven of them and they start at the base of the spine and move up to the crown of the head. Each chakra corresponds with bundles of nerves and major organs.

Chakra meditation is about aligning and opening the chakras. Each chakra has a sound (mantra) and a color associated with it.

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Begin by learning the basics of each chakra:

How to do chakra meditation:

  1. Sit comfortably cross-legged on a pillow.
  2. Breathe evenly and steadily.
  3. Close your eyes and concentrate on your root chakra by envisioning a red wheel of energy. Concentrate on the bodily location of the chakra. Repeat the corresponding mantra. Picture energy flowing. Continue until you have a clear picture of the red chakra energy flowing in a wheel shape.
  4. Work your way up to the crown chakra. Give ample time to each chakra.
  5. Spend time learning more about each chakra and continue meditation and self-awareness until you can tell when an individual chakra is blocked. Then, you can meditate on individual chakras.

7. Gazing meditation

This yogic meditation is a externally focused.

How to do gazing meditation:

  1. Sit comfortably with your gaze focused on a single object, such as a candle, waterfall or symbol. For as long as you’re able, don’t blink; maintain relaxation.
  2. Maintain focus until your eyes begin to feel uncomfortable and then close your eyes.
  3. Keep the afterimage of the object in your mind’s eye for several minutes, then open your eyes and start again.

8. Third Eye meditation

With this practice, you’ll focus exclusively on the ajna chakra, which is the third eye on your forehead between your eyebrows.

How to do Third Eye meditation:

  1. Sitting cross-legged, direct your focus to the spot between your eyebrows.
  2. Continue redirecting focus to your third eye each time any other thought arises.
  3. After some time, your mind will experience stillness and the space between thoughts will lengthen.
  4. You can also try it with eyes closed, repeated the SHAM ajna mantra, directing your concentration to the spot between your eyebrows, and picturing the indigo wheel.

9. Kundalini meditation

Kundalini yoga will release the snake-like energy coiled up at the base of the spine. That energy will rise up through the spine and to the crown. This practice adheres to dieting practices, breathing exercises and specific movements.

How to do Kundalini meditation:

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  1. Block your left nostril and inhale long and deep. On your next inhalation, block your right nostril. Repeat and let your mind clear as you concentrate on breathing.
  2. Know that Kundalini is a yoga system that takes studying and regular adherence. There’s a lot to it but proponents claim that Kundalini changes your physiology, brain waves and energy levels.

10. Nada yoga

Nada Yoga is sound meditation, which helps it fit very well with the growing practice of music therapy.

How to do Nada yoga meditation:

  1. Simply assume a comfortable meditative position, close your eyes and concentrate on an external sound. You could choose ambient alpha wave music, the sound of a rushing brook or any other calming, steady sound.
  2. After you’ve mastered listening to an external sound, focus on listening to your body and mind.
  3. Eventually, you’ll hear the sound that has no vibration: the sound of the universe — the OM.

11. Self-inquiry

This meditation questions the “I” or what it is you’re speaking of when you say “I do this.” It originates from the Sanskrit atma vichara, to investigate the self. Self-inquiry is about oneness of the body and mind.

How to do self-inquiry meditation:

  1. Assume a comfortable meditative position.
  2. When a thought or feeling arises, ask “who is feeling that feeling?” or “who is thinking that thought?” The answer is naturally “me.”
  3. Ask yourself “who am I?” without attempting to to answer the question. This way, you direct you focus inward, redirecting to the question of the self each time something else arises.
  4. Through this focus on the self as subject, you achieve pure existence and awareness of the self in space and time.

12. Tantra

Unlike the popular conception, Tantra is not necessarily about sex. Vijnanabhairava Tantra prescribes over 100 dharanas or “things to meditate on.” Most of them are advanced meditations that already require you to be familiar with basic meditative practices.

Here’s a Tantric meditation that stems from the Tantrika belief that the body is made of divine light.

How to do Tantra light meditation:

  1. Assume a comfortable meditative posture. Pay attention to your bodily sensations and breathing in a mindful state.
  2. Focus on your right foot and imagine it is golden light. Think: “My foot is golden light.”
  3. Work your way through the rest of your body, from your left foot, to your ankles, to your calves, thighs, pelvis, hips, buttocks, genitals, lower abdomen, lower spine, stomach, solar plexus, so on and so forth until you’ve reached your brain and the crown of your head. Breathe golden light into each part of your body.
  4. As you go, repeat the assertion that each part of body is golden light. At the end, think: “My whole body is light. I am light.” Breathe in golden light and breathe out golden light to the universe.

13. Taoist Emptiness meditation

The Chinese Taoist tradition of Emptiness Meditation emphasizes letting go of thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they arise.

How to do Taoist Emptiness meditation:

  1. Sit in a cross-legged position, spine erect, eyes partially closed and looking at the tip of the nose.
  2. When any thought, emotion or sensation arises, don’t follow it. Let it go as easily as it came up.
  3. Sit in a place of quietness. Continue focusing on the quietness with no desire to take up thoughts, emotions or feelings.

14. Vipassana

Vipassana is a traditional Buddhist meditation practice from which Western practitioners derived mindfulness. Like mindfulness and other meditations, it starts with the breath.

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How to do Vipassana meditation:

  1. Like Zazen, sit on a cushion, back erect, spine straight and legs crossed.
  2. Concentrate on breathing and the movement of breath through the nostrils; or concentrate on the rise and falling of the abdomen.
  3. As emotions, sensations, thoughts and sounds arise, let them do so without paying attention to them. Continue focusing on breathing and let other things become background noise.
  4. If a perception does capture your attention, note it and label it. For example, a barking dog is “voice.” A car’s honk is “traffic.” A thought about something sad in your life is “thinking.”
  5. After you’ve labeled something, let it go and return to your breath.

15. Mantra Meditation

A mantra has no meaning. It is merely a word or symbol you repeat in order to reach a meditative state. Each mantra is a vibration that puts your brain waves in tune with the rising and falling waves of the universe (light waves, sound waves, radio waves, ocean waves).

How to do Mantra meditation:

  1. Sit in the posture of meditation.
  2. Choose a mantra. Om is the most well-known, and there are other options, such as om namah shivaya, ham, yam, and rama.
  3. In your mind, repeat the mantra. Do this for a set amount for time, say five minutes at the outset.
  4. You can coordinate the mantra with the rhythm of your breathing if you so wish or you can whisper it.
  5. Ultimately, the goal is to release all thoughts except for the internal sound of the mantra.

16. Guided Meditation

Guided meditation appeals to the same need that Transcendental Meditation (TM) appeals to: the need for an instructor. However, TM requires you to spend a great deal of money on a guru while guided meditation can be as simple as downloading an app.

How to do guided meditation:

  1. If you’re a smartphone user, look into meditation apps available for download.
  2. You can also access guided meditations on YouTube. For example, Kundalini Awakening has a Guided Kundalini Meditation
  3. Follow guided meditation instructions to a T, without judgment. Then, once you’ve mastered guided meditation, beginning meditating on your own.

17. Body Scan meditation

In this variation on mindfulness, you’ll note what every part of your body is doing. Berkeley University recommends you try this for 20 to 45 minutes per day, 3 to 6 days per week.

How to do Body Scan meditation:

  1. Begin by sitting, standing, or lying down and close your eyes if that helps increase calmness.
  2. Whatever surface you’re touching, note the feeling of your weight against it.
  3. Take several deep breaths through your nostrils, noting your relaxation as you exhale.
  4. Now note the sensations present in each part of the body. You can note whatever occurs to you first or begin with your feet and move upward.
  5. If there is any tension in any part of your body, release it with your exhalations.
  6. Note your entire body. Take a breath, experience total relaxation and when you’re ready, open your eyes.

Choose what calms you

Meditation helps release you from your tendency to brood and dwell on negative thoughts. It increases your discipline, improves your focus and observation skills, decreases anxiety and helps increase awareness of your body, thoughts and surroundings.

Whichever meditation technique you choose, repeated practice will move you closer to liberation, mindfulness and enlightenment.

Featured photo credit: Twenty20 via twenty20.com

Reference

^ Regis College: Mental Health Care in the United States
^ Healthline: A Single Session of Meditation May Reduce Anxiety and Help Your Heart
^ White Wind Zen Community: Posture of Zazen
^ Live and Dare: Types of Meditation – an Overview of 23 Meditation Techniques
^ Berkeley University of California: Loving-Kindness Meditation
^ The Chopra Center: What Is a Chakra?
^ The World is All Yours: Beginner Meditation
^ Sri Swami Sivananda: Kundalini Yoga
^ Shiva Shakti: Vijnanabhairava Tantra
^ Berkeley University of California: Body Scan Meditation

17 Types of Meditation – Which One is For You?

(Last Updated On: December 11, 2018)

Whether you’re interested in meditation or just curious about what it is, you may find yourself coming across many different practices. The word “meditation” encompasses practices from many different traditions, religions, and modalities. We’ve made an effort to describe a few of the common types of meditation, focusing mainly on the types of meditation in Buddhism.

There are meditation practices that are not Buddhist in nature, and we will cover those a bit as well. However, our personal knowledge comes mainly from Buddhist traditions. We’ve separated the practices out into Buddhist meditation types, movement practices, and meditation techniques from other sources.

If you want to get started with meditation but aren’t sure where to begin, you can check out our Meditation Guide for Beginners for some recommendations and resources including some of our favorite books about meditation.

Buddhist Meditation

Before diving into the types of Buddhist meditation, it’s important to understand that there are many different types of Buddhism that come from different cultural roots, times, and people. The Buddha himself did lay out meditation practices in his teachings, collected today in the Buddhist suttas. Over time, different techniques have arisen from teachers over the centuries.

Mindfulness meditation is probably what you think about when you think of Buddhist meditation. In mindfulness meditation, we rest in a patient awareness, tuning into our experience with recognition and present-time attention.

The purpose of meditation with mindfulness is to gain insight into the nature of reality. Specifically, we are to notice the Three Marks of Existence: dukkha, non-self, and impermanence. You can read our post What is Mindfulness? to learn more about mindfulness in general, but here are a few specific techniques used to cultivate mindfulness traditionally.

Body Scanning

A body scan meditation is often one of the first methods people find. It’s used in secular settings, Buddhist groups, and yoga classes sometimes. In a body scan you move through the body slowly, paying attention closely to each part of the body and sensations present. It can be done seated or lying down, and you can return to the practice in daily life.

This type of meditation is a useful technique for beginners as it keeps the mind somewhat occupied with changing stimulation. The body scan practice helps you bring mindfulness to what is arising and passing in the body, recognizing your personal present-time experience.

Mindfulness of Breath

Mindfulness of breath is just as it sounds: a type of meditation in which you practice awareness of the breathing. It is often practiced from the guidelines of the Anapanasati Sutta, or discourse on establishing mindfulness of the breath. In this type of mindfulness meditation, you are using the breath in the body as the object of your awareness.

This is another form of meditation that many people come to know pretty early in their meditation path. Focusing on the breath is a common practice used in secular settings and outside Buddhist meditation groups, and it is useful in daily life and any situation. It’s important to understand there is a difference between mindfulness of breath and concentration practice, which we will cover in a bit.

Open Awareness

Open awareness is a form of mindfulness in which you rest in a patient state of waiting for something to arise in your experience. It is a little less structured than a body scan or mindfulness of the breath, and may be more difficult for those new to meditation. However, this is the type of meditation that really helps cultivate the skill of mindfulness and recognition.

You can start a period of open awareness with some mindfulness of breathing or a body scan, but you will open your awareness up to see what else is arising. Notice the thoughts, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings in the body, and sights. You notice the responses and reactions of the mind, the liking and disliking of experiences, and the impermanent nature of experience.

Vipassana

Vipassana is a practice that is believed to have come from the Buddha himself, and has regained popularity in the West in the last century with S.N. Goenka and his vipassana centers. Vipassana practices start with focusing on the breath, most often at the tip of the nose or inside the nostrils. Eventually, you open up to other experiences arising and passing, returning to the sensation of the body breathing.

Where vipassana becomes a unique type of meditation is in the noting. Mental noting is the practice of saying to yourself in your head what is arising or passing. If you notice a sound, you note “hearing.” If you recognize a thought is present, you note “thinking.” It may seem complicated, but I personally use this practice daily. It’s incredibly useful, and you will get the hang of it by actually trying it!

2. Loving-Kindness Meditation

Next, we have metta. Metta is a Pali word that is often translated as loving-kindness or gentle friendliness. It is one of the traditional heart practices in Buddhism, and is the cultivation of a kind, gentle, and caring heart. You can think of metta as the simple quality of wishing well for others (and yourself) in your life.

This is done through a practice called loving-kindness meditation. There are many ways to cultivate loving-kindness, but the most popular is done through the repetition of phrases. A form of samatha meditation, this calms the mind, focuses our intentions, and slowly opens the heart to care for beings.

Enter your email for a loving-kindness script and a couple of additional guided meditations!

3. Compassion Meditation

Compassion is another of the heart practices, and the actual technique is similar to metta. This is a technique I often introduce to newcomers, as it is useful to address our relationship to difficulties and judgement from the beginning. Furthermore, compassion meditation really works, as we discussed in the study we covered in our post Compassion Meditation Works.

In compassion meditation, you use phrases to cultivate a mind and heart that can tend to the moments of pain and difficulty with care. You can think of compassion as what happens when loving-kindness comes into contact with suffering. It’s a form of meditation that can help us in practice when difficult moments arise, and in our daily lives as we face problems and pains.

4. Appreciative Joy

The next type of meditation is another heart technique. Known as mudita, this is what happens when metta comes into contact with joy and happiness. We cultivate the ability to rejoice in the happiness of others and appreciate the joy in life. Rather than falling into envy or judgement, we open the heart to mindfully take in the happiness others experience.

This again is done through the repetition of phrases and focused attention. As with other heart meditations, you may not always feel loving and kind while doing it. However, you continue to practice, cultivating this intention to open the heart. These techniques that use phrases are not a quick-fix (no kind of meditation is), and it takes time.

5. Equanimity Practice

The final heart practice we have is equanimity. Equanimity is the quality of mind and heart which remain stable, especially when presented with emotional or strong experiences. With equanimity, we remain mindful and present, and don’t get knocked off balance. This takes cultivation, but over time we are able to meet experiences with a patient wisdom.

In equanimity meditation, we use phrases to recognize our own power to choose how we meet experiences. Rather than trying to control others or outside circumstances, we recognize that we have limited control.

Collection of Heart Practices
If you’re interested in the Buddhist heart practices, check out our collection of Meditations for the Heart!

6. Concentration Meditation

Moving away from the heart practices, we’re going to cover a few other ways to meditate that come from Buddhist roots. Concentration is a practice rooted deeply in the Buddhist teachings, as the Buddha himself sat in concentration quite often (according to suttas). In case the name doesn’t make it obvious, this is a type of meditation in which we cultivate the ability to focus.

There are many different ways to practice concentration meditation, but the most common is by focusing on the breath in one spot in the body. When the mind wanders, you bring it back. It takes time to build concentration, but each time you meditate you are strengthening the mental muscle. You can also build concentration working with sounds, phrases of metta, or any other object of awareness.

7. Zazen

As mentioned, there are many different types of meditation practice. Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism have unique techniques, and this is one of them. Zazen is of the zen tradition, and is a practice that is dependent upon studying (as all meditation really should be). In zazen meditation, you focus on the breath and allow thoughts to come and go. They will subside naturally.

Although this technique is very similar to concentration practices of other traditions, zazen is a bit more structured. Different traditions have specific postures, mudras of the hands, and ways to practice. You may find instructions to sit with eyes open, to breathe through the mouth, or to count the breaths.

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8. Chanting Practices

There are chanting meditations in many different traditions. In some traditions, such as Pure Land Buddhism, a specific mantra is chanted repeatedly. In others, sacred texts are chanted together by followers. Chanting offers a form of present-time awareness that utilizes hearing, speaking, and feeling in the body. It is another way to cultivate intention and be present.

You can find chanting in Nichiren Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism, some forms of Theravada Buddhism, and some Tibetan practices. This is frankly not a form of meditation I practice, other than my time on retreat and at monasteries.

9. Tonglen

Tonglen meditation comes from the Tibetan tradition of meditation. It’s a type of meditation that helps us see with compassion and let go of our own difficulties. Traditionally, you breathe in the sadness and darkness from the world around you and offer out your wishes of love and kindness. You recognize that others are suffering, perhaps in a similar way as you.

In the West, some teachers also reverse this practice a bit. You can breathe in well-wishes for yourself, then let go of the unwholesome as you exhale. Either way, the practice of tonglen is about giving and receiving. Traditionally, we are cultivating a heart that cares for the pain and suffering in the world, and meeting it with our own compassionate care.

Movement Meditation

All of the ways to meditate we’ve covered have been forms of sitting meditation. Although this is what you probably think of when you think of meditation, there are actually many traditional ways to practice while moving the body. Moving meditation offers a way to meditate in a new posture and in a new way. I strongly recommend incorporating a movement practice into your regular meditation practice.

10. Walking Meditation

Walking meditation is an important practice in Buddhism and many other traditions. Like sitting meditation, you focus the mind on an object and notice when the mind wanders. The only difference is that your body is moving. You may focus on the breath, on phrases of loving-kindness, or on the sensation of the body moving through space.

Walking meditation may seem silly or pointless, but it is an integral practice for many Buddhists across the world. Monks and nuns regularly practice walking meditation at monasteries, and you will find periods of walking meditation on many retreats. Below is a relatively short walking practice you can try to introduce yourself to how it’s done.

11. Kundalini

There are many types of yoga meditation, and yoga may be seen overall as a meditation practice itself. However, we’re going to cover one of the more traditionally meditative practices: kundalini. Kundalini meditation is the practice of awakening the kundalini energy in the base of the spine. This is rooted in Hinduism, and the focus is on bringing the energy up through the seven chakras.

I frankly don’t know a whole lot about this type of meditation, but wanted to offer it in our list because I have tried it before and found it useful. Furthermore, I know when people ask us about types of meditation, kundalini is one that seems to pop up quite a bit. You can check out kundalini meditations on YouTube or Insight Timer for some instruction!

12. Qigong

Qigong is an ancient practice coming from Chinese wisdom and medicine. With the intention of preserving strength and balancing energy, qigong can be a deeply meditative practice. When I stay at Deer Park Monastery, I’m always grateful for the periods of qigong. Like yoga, you have the opportunity to be aware of your body and energies while moving rather than sitting still.

You can take an online qigong course or check out this guide from Conscious Lifestyle to get started.

13. Tai Chi

Tai chi is another Chinese practice, but more of a martial art. Although it was traditionally a form of the martial arts, it has become a popular type of meditation while moving. According to Harvard Health, tai chi has many health benefits both physically and mentally.

As with many of the other meditation types on our list, I don’t know enough to offer suggestions or tips for beginning to practice. However, I have heard from people who do practice that an in-person class is definitely the way to go! You can also find YouTube videos online offering instruction.

Other Meditation Techniques

Finally, we have some other meditation techniques. Some of these are used in various traditions, some are secular, and some are just standalone practices. You can investigate the practices for yourself to see what is useful.

14. Forgiveness Meditation

Forgiveness meditation is often included in Buddhist circles and groups, but is not a traditional heart practice. Like the other heart practices, you can use phrases to cultivate a mind and heart inclined toward forgiving. Teachers like Jack Kornfield and Sharon Salzberg encourage forgiveness practice, and I’ve found it to be deeply useful in working with the judgements and resentments.

Forgiveness takes time, and we may not be ready to forgive in this moment. We continue to cultivate a slow opening, and allow ourselves to journey along the path rather than wishing for immediate forgiveness. You can find some free forgiveness practices in our post 5 Ways to Forgive Yourself and Move Forward.

15. Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation is a relatively new technique, introduced in the 1950’s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In Transcendental Meditation, you practice by repeating a mantra for periods of 20 minutes, twice a day. You receive your mantra and training by attending a course, which is taught in a series of seven steps.

Transcendental Meditation became especially popular in the 1970’s as many celebrities began practicing. Furthermore, a lot of the research on meditation centers on this type of practice. Although it’s different than many Buddhist types of meditation, it may be seen as a form of concentration practice. You can learn more about it at www.TM.org.

16. Visualization Practices

There are too many visualization practices to cover here, or it’s own single post. In visualization practices, you are using the power of the mind to bring forth a situation, scenario, or experience to work with. Many forms of non-religious meditation use visualization practices to help manifest outcomes and desires. Whether you’re visualizing a past experience that was difficult or your dream vacation in Mexico and taking a tour in Playa del Carmen, visualization offers a way to bring up specific experiences.

There are also visualization practices used by psychotherapists and Buddhist meditation teachers. Tara Brach is a wonderful example, using visualization practices with her metta and compassion practices to help stimulate the mind and specific emotions. It’s a technique that works especially well for people who think visually. You can find Tara’s meditations on her website, where some offer visualization in the meditation.

17. Meditating on God

Finally, there are many forms of meditation that focus on a relationship with a god or higher power. This includes spiritual meditations, Christian meditations, Buddhist meditations, and many more. In these practices, you will focus on the presence of a god or deity, ask for help, or practice listening. Although this is something I don’t personally do, I know many members of our greater sangha who benefit greatly from these practices.

Benefits of Different Techniques

Thanks to years and years of research, we are beginning to understand the benefits of meditation. Each type of meditation offers different ways to help you in your life, including the ability to reduce stress, improve mental health, and take care of the physical body. Moving practices are of course healthy for the body, and concentration practices obviously can help build concentration.

However, there are some benefits of different types of meditation which are not so obvious. For example, mindfulness meditation can help depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, and other problems with mental health. Concentration practice may lower heart rate and blood pressure, or even reduce stress overall. A study in 2006 found that meditative prayer and yoga improved symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and menopause.

Each type of meditation offers a different set of benefits. Heart practices open the heart, but also help build concentration. Mindfulness helps build present-time awareness, but can also decrease anger. When you dive into choosing a technique for yourself, you may consider which practice calls out to you to help relieve some suffering.

Finding the Right Technique for Yourself

With all of the options and different methods, it can be difficult to choose just one. The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to! You can try different techniques for a well-rounded and holistic practice, or at least investigate different ones to see what is useful.

Before diving into each and every type on this list, I recommend starting with a method that helps you build some concentration and mixing in some periods of metta or compassion. Starting like this, you can cultivate the ability to focus during meditation and respond with patience when the mind doesn’t behave exactly how you want it to. As you continue to practice, you will find yourself able to sit longer and pay attention with less distraction.

From here, you can move on and begin investigating other types of meditation. Don’t overwhelm yourself too much. If you try each and every kind, you may be left without consistency. Choose a technique, and stick with it for a bit before moving on.

If you’re interested in starting a practice but don’t know where to begin, you can reach out to one of our mindfulness coaches to get some help!

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Different Types Of Meditation: Which One Is Right For You?

When you hear the word meditation, what do you think about? Closing your eyes, focusing your thoughts, taking some deep breaths?

Many of us think about meditation as a mindful activity done using one specific technique. The truth is that there are many different types of meditation, each with its own benefits.

“Talking about ‘meditation’ is like talking about the word ‘sport’. It’s an umbrella term that encompasses many different disciplines. There are hundreds of sports and hundreds of meditation techniques,” explains Francisco Mendizabal, meditation instructor and founder of HackSelf. HackSelf is an organization that helps people find the meditation technique that’s right for them through a quiz and consultation, and it provides coaching sessions for the various techniques.

But why does it matter that there are different types of meditation? Firstly, studies show that different kinds of meditation can have unique effects on those who try them. Secondly, people’s personality types and life experiences determine their responses to different types of meditation. If one type isn’t great for you, you don’t need to write meditation off forever; another type might feel completely different—propelling you into a sustainable meditative practice, or at least something you can stick with long enough to experience the effects

If we believe there’s only one way to meditate, we might become discouraged when we struggle to meditate in whatever way we’ve been exposed to or conjured up. In truth, there are many ‘right’ ways to do meditation, and it’s okay if it takes you a while to find the best meditation style for your practice.

“Many people believe that in order to meditate, you must be sitting up tall with your eyes shut, not moving a muscle, in complete silence, hushing your mind—and for extremely long periods of times,” says Jess Kimborough, a yoga and meditation instructor. “If any part of this long list of dos and don’ts seems difficult to carry out, we throw out the entire idea of starting a meditation practice,” she says.

Instead of trying to stick to a long list of requirements, we should find the meditation techniques that work for us, Kimborough suggests. “Your meditation practice does not need to look one particular way and can very well change from day to day,” she says. “You do not have to be sitting, your eyes can be open, you can add in movement with your breath, you can meditate to music or chanting, and your meditation practice can be a very quick timeout.”

Both Kimborough and Mendizabal say that practicing meditation consistently is key. It’s easier to be consistent in your practice when you find something that works for you, which is why experimenting with various kinds of meditation is a great idea.

If you haven’t yet found a meditation technique that appeals to you, or if you’re interested in trying different kinds of meditation, read on to understand the most popular techniques.

Different Types of Meditation Techniques

There are two broad categories of meditation: open monitoring meditation and focused attention meditation, Mendizabal says.

“Open monitoring techniques usually involve being open to anything that enters your awareness,” he says. “Examples include feelings, thoughts, or sounds. All experiences, either internal or external, are simply observed—or ‘monitored’—without reaction or judgment,” he explains. Most of us are familiar with the concept of mindfulness meditation, which is a kind of open monitoring technique.

Focused attention techniques, on the other hand, require you to focus on a specific object, sound, or word. “Common meditation objects include focusing on your breath or a mantra,” Mendizabal says. “Transcendence or mantra meditations are the most common examples of this focused attention techniques,” he adds.

Of course, these techniques have different effects on practitioners. For example, a study suggests that focused-attention meditation improves convergent thinking while open-monitoring meditation improves divergent thinking. Mendizabal suggests that focused-attention meditation increases your ability to concentrate, while open-monitoring meditation improves your ability to relax.

Beyond those two categories of meditation, there are further classifications when it comes to the different types of meditation that you can practice.

Many of us are familiar with a kind of meditation that involves relaxing, sitting quietly, and observing our thoughts and surroundings. This is mindfulness meditation, and it’s a form of open-response meditation. This is sometimes called observing-thought meditation.

Learning to be mindful is a useful skill that can help you during any form of meditation, at work, in relationships, and in other situations. “Mindfulness is being completely present in the current moment and aware of yourself within your surroundings,” Kimborough says. “My favorite thing about a mindfulness practice is that it can be completely mobile. Yes, you want to be mindful during any meditation practice, but you can also be mindful by taking a shower, riding a bike, walking down the street, or talking with friends,” she says.

2. Mantra Meditation

Mantra meditation is a kind of focused attention technique that involves thinking about a specific word or phrase. Kimborough suggests you come up with a mantra or affirmation that means a lot to you in that moment. As you meditate, try to match the mantra to your breath.

“Suppose your mantra is ‘I am supported.’ As you breathe in, say to yourself, ‘I am,’ then exhale out as you say to yourself, ‘supported,’” Kimborough says. “Imagine the words in your mind fully—the color, font, size of the words. Whenever you notice your mind starting to wander, gently guide your thoughts back to your breath and your mantra, carrying yourself back into the current moment once again.”

3. Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation is a widely-practiced form of meditation. The technique is instructed exclusively by a non-profit organization and can only be taught by one of their licensed instructors. Because Transcendental Meditation is a formal practice associated with an organization, you’ll have to pay a fee to learn it. That said, the technique itself involves engaging in a kind of mantra meditation for 15 to 20 minutes a day, twice a day.

While research suggests Transcendental Meditation has numerous health benefits including stress reduction and improved cardiovascular health, many people are also critical of the practice and those who follow it.

4. Loving-Kindness Meditation

Also known as compassion meditation, loving-kindness meditation involves focusing on feelings of compassion toward oneself, one’s loved ones, acquaintances, and the universe in general. You start off by wishing well on yourself, and you gradually work toward wishing well on those around you. This could include focusing on mantras like “May I be well, safe, and happy”.

One small study has suggested that loving-kindness meditation may help improve the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, while other studies indicate that it could help improve connectedness and well-being by promoting positive emotions.

5. Sound Meditation

As the name suggests, sound meditation involves focusing on a sound. You might focus on ambient music or the sound of birds or cars in your surroundings, for example. A pilot study has suggested that Tibetan sound meditation could improve the cognitive function and mental health of breast cancer patients. Another pilot study suggests sound meditation improves relaxation among cancer patients.

“Music has the power to move us—literally! It can make us cry, jump up and down, healing us,” Kimborough says. “During a sound meditation—whether set to live music, singing bowls, or your favorite jams—you would allow the sound to fall on you and notice how the vibrations feel,” she says.

6. Movement Meditation

Movement meditation involves focusing on the movements of your body. You might even match your movements to your breath as one does during yoga, Kimborough says. “In yoga, you are uniting your movement and your breath. As you inhale, you move up and as you exhale you move down,” she says. “Matching up the breath and movement in this way encourages you to be in the current moment.”

However, movement meditation isn’t limited to yoga: You can do it while swimming, cycling, stretching, dancing, or even walking. Kimborough suggests you practice movement meditation while walking. “Be mindful with each step, noticing how your feet connect with the earth, how your arms sway in unison. Notice your shoulders, your neck holding up the weight of your head, and so on,” she explains. “You can move mindfully in any action you choose and call that a meditation practice. A fun practice—if you dare!—is to do this walking meditation while barefoot in the grass, and notice what comes up as you connect to mother nature.”

7. Visualization Meditation

Visualization meditation is a great way to hone your imaginitive skills and manifest your goals, says Kimborough. “When we were kids, we would imagine the most grandiose ideas. We’d say, ‘I want to be a firefighter,’ then continue to imagine this story play out fully in our minds to the point where we act out the life of a firefighter with just a water hose,” she explains. As we age, we often lose our ability to imagine ourselves and visualize our goals. “Visualization allows us to tap back into this forgotten skill of ours,” she says.

During visualization meditation, you might imagine yourself accomplishing your dreams and goals. “What would you look like? Where would you be? Who would you be with? What is happening around you? Paint the picture fully and sit with it,” Kimborough suggests.

8. Guided Meditation

If you’re unsure where to start with meditation, guided meditation can be super helpful. You could turn to apps like Headspace or Mindworks, or you could find guided meditations on YouTube or in audiobook format. Kimborough says that guided meditations are great for time-keeping and combating distractions during meditation. “The guide will remind you to remain in the present moment with different cues to draw your attention to breath, movement, mantra, and so on,” she says.

Mendizabal believes guided meditations can be useful, but that it’s a life-changer to learn how to meditate without relying on external guidance. “You stop requiring external tools and start being able to access the benefits by yourself,” he says. “You also gain more profound insights and experiences as the practice develops.”

9. Gazing Meditation

Most of us think we need to close our eyes when we meditate, but this is not necessarily the case. Your sight could help you reach a meditative state. With gazing meditation, you focus your vision on something like a flame, a spot on a wall, or even tea in a teacup.

Want to practice your social skills? Gazing meditation could be a great technique for you. “You treat your sense of vision as another sense. Instead of closing your eyes, you focus your gaze on a meditation object, such as a point on a wall,” Mendizabal says. “Since eyes are key in social interactions, this can be great training to be able to look into people’s eyes, keep your gaze calm and confident, and so on,” he says. “The amount of scientific data is limited on this, but the thousands of hours spent by different schools of meditation are enough to be a source to trust.”

Which type of meditation should I choose?

There are so many types of meditation out there that you might struggle to decide which style to try first.

Mendizabal says that you could choose a type of meditation based on whether you have a type A or a type B personality: type A being particularly goal-oriented and driven, and type B being more relaxed and flexible.

“Type A personalities tend to find focused attention meditation techniques easier to stick to. This makes sense since they are goal-oriented and tend to be always focused on something. So transcendence or mantra meditation is a good approach for if you fall under this category,” says Mendizabal.

Type B personalities benefit from focused attention meditations if they want to be able to concentrate better, although it might not be as easy for them.

“If you don’t have a preference, or looking mainly to increase your ability to relax, go for an open monitoring technique,” says Mendizabal. “Mindfulness meditation is a good approach, and you’ll still be able to improve your ability to focus.”

Kimborough suggests experimenting with different types of meditation and even combining meditation styles until you find what’s right for you. “Get fancy with it and combine a couple and see what jives with you,” she says. “I personally like to combine mantras and visualization. Choose your mantra, pair it to your breath, then imagine that mantra fully realized in your life. How powerful is that?”

No matter the type of meditation, remember that consistently meditating is more important than meditating “perfectly”—however you might perceive a “perfect” meditation to be. Consistency is more important than length, too. Mendizabal points out that meditating for ten minutes every day is way better than doing it for an hour every week.

“Always remember: Every meditation counts, even the ones that don’t feel right,” Mendizabal says. “Each time you sit down and meditate, you strengthen your neural pathways. You are optimizing your brain to live a better life. Every meditation is a good meditation.”

Meditation 101: Techniques, Benefits, and a Beginner’s How-to

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by: Inner IDEA

Meditation is an approach to training the mind, similar to the way that fitness is an approach to training the body. But many meditation techniques exist — so how do you learn how to meditate?

“In Buddhist tradition, the word ‘meditation’ is equivalent to a word like ‘sports’ in the U.S. It’s a family of activities, not a single thing,” University of Wisconsin neuroscience lab director Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D., told The New York Times. And different meditation practices require different mental skills.

It’s extremely difficult for a beginner to sit for hours and think of nothing or have an “empty mind.” We have some tools such as a beginner meditation DVD or a brain-sensing headband to help you through this process when you are starting out. In general, the easiest way to begin meditating is by focusing on the breath — an example of one of the most common approaches to meditation: concentration.

Concentration meditation

Concentration meditation involves focusing on a single point. This could entail following the breath, repeating a single word or mantra, staring at a candle flame, listening to a repetitive gong, or counting beads on a mala. Since focusing the mind is challenging, a beginner might meditate for only a few minutes and then work up to longer durations.

In this form of meditation, you simply refocus your awareness on the chosen object of attention each time you notice your mind wandering. Rather than pursuing random thoughts, you simply let them go. Through this process, your ability to concentrate improves.

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation encourages the practitioner to observe wandering thoughts as they drift through the mind. The intention is not to get involved with the thoughts or to judge them, but simply to be aware of each mental note as it arises.

Through mindfulness meditation, you can see how your thoughts and feelings tend to move in particular patterns. Over time, you can become more aware of the human tendency to quickly judge an experience as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. With practice, an inner balance develops.

In some schools of meditation, students practice a combination of concentration and mindfulness. Many disciplines call for stillness — to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the teacher.

Other meditation techniques

There are various other meditation techniques. For example, a daily meditation practice among Buddhist monks focuses directly on the cultivation of compassion. This involves envisioning negative events and recasting them in a positive light by transforming them through compassion. There are also moving meditation techniques, such as tai chi, qigong, and walking meditation.

Benefits of meditation

If relaxation is not the goal of meditation, it is often a result. In the 1970s, Herbert Benson, MD, a researcher at Harvard University Medical School, coined the term “relaxation response” after conducting research on people who practiced transcendental meditation. The relaxation response, in Benson’s words, is “an opposite, involuntary response that causes a reduction in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.”

Since then, studies on the relaxation response have documented the following short-term benefits to the nervous system:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improved blood circulation
  • Lower heart rate
  • Less perspiration
  • Slower respiratory rate
  • Less anxiety
  • Lower blood cortisol levels
  • More feelings of well-being
  • Less stress
  • Deeper relaxation

Contemporary researchers are now exploring whether a consistent meditation practice yields long-term benefits, and noting positive effects on brain and immune function among meditators. Yet it’s worth repeating that the purpose of meditation is not to achieve benefits. To put it as an Eastern philosopher may say, the goal of meditation is no goal. It’s simply to be present.

In Buddhist philosophy, the ultimate benefit of meditation is liberation of the mind from attachment to things it cannot control, such as external circumstances or strong internal emotions. The liberated or “enlightened” practitioner no longer needlessly follows desires or clings to experiences, but instead maintains a calm mind and sense of inner harmony.

How to meditate: Simple meditation for beginners

This meditation exercise is an excellent introduction to meditation techniques.

  1. Sit or lie comfortably. You may even want to invest in a meditation chair or cushion.
  2. Close your eyes. We recommend using one of our Cooling Eye Masks or Restorative Eye Pillows if lying down.
  3. Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
  4. Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.

Maintain this meditation practice for two to three minutes to start, and then try it for longer periods.

Comparing Meditation Techniques

Many meditation techniques are available today. Contrary to common belief there are distinct differences between techniques, such as the effort involved, their impact on the brain, and whether or not they result in verifiable benefits.

A study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition identified the following three meditation categories, based on measured brain wave differences:

  • Concentration or focus: Zen, Vipassana, etc.
  • Open monitoring: Mindfulness, Kriya Yoga, etc.
  • Self-transcending: Transcendental Meditation

Meditation techniques and their impact on the brain

Form of meditation Transcendental Meditation Mindfulness
(monitoring of thoughts)
Concentration or Focus
Mental effort Effortless Moderate effort Strong effort
EEG image
Brain wave activity Alpha Theta Beta
Brain wave description “Relaxed, happy, focused”— Mayo Clinic “Dream-like”— Mayo Clinic “Logical-thinking,
problem-solving”— Mayo Clinic

Transcendental Meditation

Brain wave activity

Alpha

EEG image

Brain wave description

“Relaxed, happy, focused”— Mayo Clinic

Effort required

Effortless

Mindfulness (monitoring of thoughts)

Brain wave activity

Theta

EEG image

Brain wave description

“Dream-like”— Mayo Clinic

Effort required

Moderate effort

Concentration or Focus

Brain wave activity

Beta

EEG image

Brain wave description

“Logical-thinking, problem-solving”— Mayo Clinic

Effort required

Strong effort

Why do people who have tried other techniques find TM to be completely different?

  1. Absolutely effortless — The TM technique is so easy and enjoyable that anyone can do it, even children with ADHD.
    • No concentrating
    • No control of the mind
    • No monitoring of thoughts (mindfulness)
    • No trying to “empty the mind”
  2. Proven effective — Hundreds of published research studies on the TM technique have documented its effectiveness on stress and anxiety, brain function, cardiovascular health, and more.

“Research on meditation has also shown a wide range of psychological benefits. For example, a 2012 review of 163 studies that was published by the American Psychological Association concluded that Transcendental Meditation had relatively strong effects in reducing anxiety, negative emotions, trait anxiety and neuroticism while aiding learning, memory and self-realization.”

Come sit with us.

This post originally ran on The Standard’s Culture site. As we’ve been hosting sits there, they asked us to explain a bit about the different types of meditation. We broke it down into four basic categories.

Words by Dina Kaplan & Charlie Knoles

I recently spent two and a half years traveling the world studying different types of meditation, and although the techniques I learned were quite varied, the teachers had one thing in common—they all thought their type of meditation was the best. They would all say their style of meditation was the most effective, the easiest to maintain, and the most scientifically proven. I returned to the U.S. wondering who was right.

What is the “best,” or most effective, type of meditation? I asked Charlie Knoles, co-founder of The Path, who also happens to be a great mantra (a.k.a. Vedic) meditation teacher, this very question. He thought about it for a few months. Ultimately, he said that there are thousands of types of meditation taught and practiced around the world, and that almost every one is valid. However, he suggested that you can place all of them into four categories, and then choose the technique that feels best for you. Here are the four categories, from Charlie and myself:

MINDFULNESS
Mindfulness is perhaps the most widely-studied and widespread type of meditation in the West. It includes Zen, MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction), Vipassana, and others. It’s great for increasing focus and releasing stress. In fact, this is what the Pentagon teaches soldiers with PTSD. In most types of mindfulness, you learn to train your mind by focusing your attention on your breath, sensations in your body, thoughts, sounds, or emotions.

MANTRA (a.k.a. VEDIC)
Some people believe this type of meditation feels easier and more natural for them than mindfulness. This ancient meditation technique usually involves a Sanskrit mantra, which you silently repeat to yourself for twenty minutes, twice a day. The intention with this method is to trigger the mind to become completely quiet, expansive, and timeless. Mantra-based meditation includes Transcendental Meditation (TM), Siddha yoga, and other methods from the Vedantic tradition. This type of meditation is great for helping to increase creativity and release stress. Many people who practice mantra meditation say it helps them transcend their present state and lose track of time.

ENERGIZING
This type of meditation brings natural energy into the body, so you don’t need that second or third cappuccino. Some types of Kundalini yoga fit into this category, or “Pranayama” breathing, and many types of martial arts, too. Those who practice this type of meditation recommend doing it first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon when you start feeling a bit sleepy. In these methods the body may be active, in motion, and energized, but there is still a sense of centeredness and calm. These techniques are designed to bring natural energy into the body.

GOAL-ORIENTED
Meditation can also help you accomplish a goal, whether it’s becoming more compassionate, grateful, powerful, or really anything at all. Goal-oriented meditation includes methods of creative visualization, Tonglen, prayer, trance and guided meditation. In these methods, the intention is to be aware of a desired future state or outside point of reference, such as a deity or vision of a higher self. At The Path, we usually teach compassion as our intention-setting meditation. The great teacher Sharon Salzberg says that if you do just six minutes of “loving-kindness” meditation a day, after just eight weeks your brain will process information differently, making you naturally and subconsciously more compassionate—I’d say that’s worth six minutes a day.
TO SUMMARIZE
Everyone should take the opportunity to explore the path that feels best. You may decide to advance along one path for your entire life, or you might choose each morning what feels right for you given your state of mind or what you want to accomplish that day.

Each category of meditation affects the mind in a different way. If I have to work on an excel spreadsheet in the morning, I’ll probably start my day with a mindfulness meditation. If I’m going to be writing something creative in the afternoon, I’ll probably do a mantra meditation after lunch. If I’m heading into a difficult conversation, I’ll take a few moments to practice a compassion meditation.

You might choose to do the same meditation for a decade, a year, or just one day. The beautiful thing is that each of these techniques works, so it’s about what feels best and is easiest for you to maintain, or has the impact you most value in bringing happiness, joy, and success to your life.

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