Kinds of Meditation
Introduction to meditation
Most experienced meditators will acknowledge that regular meditation practice can have considerable benefits for both our mental and physical wellbeing. But one subject they possibly won’t settle on is What are the most powerful types of meditation? That’s purely because there is no best method, like music preferences or food preferences, meditation and its various forms and characteristics are enjoyed in different ways by different people. Meditation and its practice are specific for each individual who practices. There are literally hundreds of meditation techniques encompassing practices from many diverse cultures, ways of life, spiritual developments, and religions. There are even more modern amalgamations of these variations. There is no globally accepted best or most valid style in relation to meditation; rather, it is our individuality and our research which will help us to single out the one (or ones) that functions best for us. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most prevalent types of meditation practice in today’s stacked meditation world.
Guided vs. unguided meditation
Firstly, before we get into the different types, traditions, and established meditation routes. Most of the following meditations will fit into Guided or Unguided meditations.
Guided can be anything from using music or audio with prompts, attending a class with a leader, following along with a youtube video, or an app or EEG neurofeedback machine. Guided meditations lead the meditator through a tried and tested style to achieve mental clarity, relaxation, destress, focus or whatever the goal may be. These are great for beginners and masters alike.
In unguided meditation sometimes referred to as silent meditation, practitioners meditate alone, without any external explanation of the process. This can involve sitting in the quiet and paying attention to the body, the breath and particular thoughts for a set period of time. It can also involve using techniques previously learned from guided practice.
Mindful meditation can be practised anywhere and everywhere. Some prefer to sit in a quiet place, close their eyes, and focus on their breathing. But you can apply your mindfulness practice to any part of your day, including while you’re travelling, or doing chores, walking the dog.
Mindfulness meditation practices originate from Buddhist and Daoist teachings and are amongst the most popular meditation techniques in the West.
In mindfulness meditation, the key is to pay attention to your thoughts as they pass through your mind. You are an observer, you don’t judge the thoughts or become involved with them. You simply observe. This practice combines concentration with awareness. Most practitioners find it helpful to focus on their breath while they meditate to help them stay focused and less distracted whilst they observe any bodily sensations, thoughts, or feelings.
This type of meditation is good for people who don’t have a teacher to guide them, as it can be easily practised alone.
Spiritual meditation is used in many eastern religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Daoism. These meditation practices are similar to prayer, in that you can use it to reflect on the silence around you and seek a deeper connection with your God or Universe.
Spirituality is a one on one practice that develops your personal connection to god through workship, or meditation like practices.
Focused meditation involves focusing and concentrating on one of the five senses. For example, you can focus on something internal, like your breath, or a colour inside your mind or you can bring in an external tool to help focus your attention. This could be a guided meditation, counting beads, listening to music, or staring at a candle flame.
This practice may be simple in theory, but it is one of the hardest practices to master. And can be extremely difficult for beginners to hold their focus for longer than a few minutes. If your mind does wander, it’s important to come back to the practice and refocus. There are no medals in meditation, you are only cheating yourself if you take short cuts.
This practice is ideal for anyone who is looking to build focus in their life.
Transcendental meditation is a simple technique in which a mantra, or a repeated word or series of words. The mantra is usually chosen for you by the teacher. It’s practised for around 20 minutes at a time and most often repeated twice a day. This practice is often down whilst sitting comfortably with the eyes closed.
Transcendental Meditation is a spiritual (one on one connection to god) form of meditation where practitioners remain seated and breathe slowly. The goal is to transcend or rise beyond the person’s current state of being.
An alternative allows people to choose their mantra. A practitioner might decide to repeat I am not afraid of public speaking while meditating.
Guided Visual Meditation
Guided visual 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 is a very popular form of meditation and is used a lot in business and creative endeavours, however not everyone’s primary internal sense is vision and some struggle with visual meditation practices. Always adopt the primary sense of your own inner world. If you hear the world or smell the world inside your mind use this as your main form of visualisation.
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 you breathe in, hear the breath, feel the breath, follow the breath deep into your abdomen and repeat again on the way out. Take it to the glandular level.
As a form of mindfulness meditation, breath awareness offers many of the same benefits as mindfulness and focused meditation. Those include reduced anxiety, improved concentration, and greater emotional flexibility.
Meditation practice can be profound and life-changing but this will not happen overnight. The practice is subtle and takes time. Journaling or keeping a mediation diary is a great way to reflect on your meditation practice. A great way to keep track of your progress over long periods of time and a fantastic tool to keep you on track and motivated as you master the inner worlds. Grab your meditation journals on Amazon. UK and USA
Kundalini meditation and Kundalini yoga are both physically active forms of meditation that blend movement with deep breathing and mantras. Similarly to other forms of yoga, kundalini meditation can improve physical strength and reduce pain. It may also improve mental health by reducing anxiety and depression.
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.
In some respects, it is a form of focus based meditation. The aim is to focus on breathing, and mindfully observe one’s thoughts without judgment.
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 comes with more cultural background than standard mindfulness and focus based meditation practices.
There are many forms of Buddist meditation, as there are many forms of Buddhism. Samatha (Buddhist meditation), some forms of Zazen, Loving-Kindness Meditation, Chakra Meditation, Kundalini Meditation, Sound Meditation, Mantra Meditation, Pranayama, some forms of Qigong, and many others. Buddhism crosses a wide swath of time and has been taken up by many cultures, there are some spectacular and unique meditation practices to be found within Buddhism.
Like Buddhism, there are some spectacular and unique meditation practices to be found within Daoism. Practices like Qigong (Chi kung) Qigong (also spelt chi kung, or chi gung ) is a Chinese word that means life energy cultivation, or energy work and is a body-mind exercise for health, meditation, and martial arts training. It mainly involves slow body movements, focus based meditation, and regulated breathing. Traditionally it is practised and taught in secrecy in the Chinese Buddhist, Taoist and Confucianist traditions. In the 20th century, Qigong movement has incorporated and popularized Daoist meditation, and mainly employs concentrative exercises but also favours the circulation of energy. Qi Gong is my preferred style of meditation exercise. I find the standing pole exercises to be a great mixture of meditation techniques and physical endurance.
These are just some of the many meditation practices available to us now, in its simplest form meditation is simply mastering the mind. Find the style that best fits your understanding and get to work.
How long does it take to work?
Meditation is not a results-focused undertaking. Indeed, fixating too much on the results can provoke anxiety that undermines the benefits of meditation.
Unlike learning music, maths or a language which are easily graded and progress is easy to track, meditation practice is self-regulated, self-motivated and self-governed. This is why a meditation journal is highly recommended.
However, some research shows that meditation can work quickly. Studies of meditation typically follow practitioners for weeks or months, not years. Many meditation practitioners report an immediate improvement following a meditation session.
Top Tibetan monks have been recorded clocking up over 60,000 hrs of meditation in a lifetime. Most high-level skills only take 10,000 hrs to reach a superior level.
How often should I meditate?
Meditating at the same time every day will help make meditating become a habit.
There is no right answer to this question. Any meditation is better than no meditation.
Start with a few sessions per week, working up to one session per day.
Tools for meditation
Brain Wave Monitors
Devices like the Muse monitor can give real-time neural feedback to your meditation practice. Instantly letting you know if you are in the zone or not.
Bed of nails
Pain has been used for thousands of years to focus the mind. The modern spiked plastic mat can be a great tool for focused meditation sessions.
Music can be used to set the mood, the feel, the rhythm of a session, there are lots of specific music for meditation on the market from whale sounds to shamanic drumming, hours of rain to Tibetan chanting.
Various cultures throughout the centuries have taken everything from hallucinogenic tinctures to stimulants to increase their meditative practices. Today’s nootropic market is full of claims.
Binaural beats, chanting, colours, candles, essential oils, overtone singing, saunas, floatation tanks, pulsed light, weed, mushrooms.
Meditation has proven difficult to define as it covers a wide range of dissimilar practices in different traditions. In popular usage, the word “meditation” and the phrase “meditative practise” are often used imprecisely to designate practices found across many cultures.
These can include almost anything that is claimed to train the attention of mind or to teach calm or compassion.
There remains no definition of necessary and sufficient criteria for meditation that has achieved universal or widespread acceptance within the modern scientific community. In 1971, Claudio Naranjo noted that “The word ‘meditation’ has been used to designate a variety of practices that differ enough from one another so that we may find trouble in defining what meditation is.” :6 A 2009 study noted a “persistent lack of consensus in the literature” and a “seeming intractability of defining meditation”.
It has been proposed that cognitive and affective effects may differ according to the type of meditation performed (Lutz et al., 2008a b ).
About 40 million Americans, 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.