In this article we look at 10 types of meditation, the aims and activities involved for each. And how to choose the right one for you.
Meditation may seem like a new fad, but in reality, it's been around forever.
Life is busy, and I found myself becoming more stressed at work. Then, a friend suggested that I try meditation to help me find calm to manage my day to day pressure a lot easier.
If I'm honest, I initially dismissed the idea as a bit woo that had religious undertones. After all, the world's religions use meditation to develop spiritual understanding, awareness, and direct experience of ultimate reality.
The Benefits of Meditating
But then I read up on the benefits. Thanks to work undertaken by scientists in the 1960s, they discovered the physiological effects on people.
The scientists discovered that meditation led to:
- Increased calm
- Enhanced relaxation
- Improved psychological balance
- Enhanced overall health
- Positively impacted well-being.
I didn't need further convincing.
To find out more about the benefits that I experienced read the article 5 Amazing Benefits of Meditating
10 Different Types of Meditation
The types of meditation we'll look at are:
- Transcendental Meditation
- Body Scanning
- Resting Awareness
- Yoga Meditation
- Zen Meditation
- Loving Kindness
Different Types With Common Threads
I've only highlighted 10 different types of meditation, but there are many more. However, there are common threads between them. They're all seen as a mind and body practice that focuses on the interaction between the:
Most types of meditation also have the following aspects in common:
- A quiet spot with limited distractions
- Comfortable posture (i.e. sitting, lying down, etc.);
- Focus of attention and awareness (i.e. sensations of breathing, a set of words, etc.); and
- An open mind that allows distractions to come and go without judgment (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 2016).
A Very Personal Experience
As a newbie to meditation, it's hard to decide which is best, so I experimented with a few different techniques.
Experimentation is a good idea as meditation is a personal experience, and it's important to find one that works for you.
Below you'll find more information relating to the 10 different types of meditation I highlight which will help you to choose the right meditation practice for you.
Which One To Choose?
Here's a quick summary for each of the different types
Types Of Meditation
Explore past feelings/events objectively and gain acceptance and inner peace
Active minds that like structure and want to find calm
Boost mood and feelings with positive images
Identify causes of discomfort in the body
Uncomfortable with silence, use repetitive words or phrases. Also good if you struggle to focus solely on your breath.
Allows thoughts to come and go, good if you struggle to focus on breathing or visualisation
Struggle to keep still? Use gentle movement to focus on how the body feels
Identify the distractions that affect you in daily life by letting thoughts come and go
Focus on the breath from the belly, allowing thoughts to come and go
Promotes compassion for yourself and others. Good if you hold onto resentment, anger or grudges
10 Types of Meditation: Aims And Activity
Reflection involves asking yourself questions as a means of developing greater awareness of feelings.
Questions should be asked in the second person (you). Because when faced with a question, our minds automatically look to find an answer.
The goal is to become more aware of how the question makes you feel rather than the thoughts that arise when the question is focused on.
This meditation practice is taught by instructors who are trained and licensed by the Maharishi Foundation. Transcendental meditation involves sitting with eyes closed for 20 minutes twice daily and participating in the practice as instructed.
These twice-daily sessions are generally practised as morning meditation and a mid-afternoon or early evening session.
Visualisation involves picturing a person or a thing in your mind. The focus on the particular object or person replaces the traditional focus in meditation on breathing or elements of breath.
Through visualisation, you can observe the mind and focus on physical sensations simultaneously.
Imagine going for a scan. The machine will work its way down your body as it searches for issues.
Instead of a machine, you use your mind. Gently go from the top of your head to your toes.
As you work your way down your body, attention is brought to any tension, discomfort, or aches/pains that may be present. Again, the aim is to sync the mind and the body.
Somewhat similar to focused attention meditation, mantra meditation involves focusing on a mantra (a word, phrase, or syllable) instead of focusing on the breath as a means to quiet the mind.
The objective is that repeating a mantra can influence positive change via the subtle vibrations connected to repeating the mantra.
This is the practice of letting the mind rest instead of focusing on breath or visualisation. When practising resting awareness, thoughts can enter the mind but are also able to drift freely away without causing a distraction.
Yoga meditation tends to blend Kundalini yoga with Savasana.
Kundalini yoga aims to strengthen the nervous system as a means of better coping with daily stress and problems. Shavasana, known as the corpse or relaxation pose, is used to help the body achieve relaxation and tension release.
Through different poses and intense focus on those poses, you can connect the mind and body better.
The technique of noting involves paying close attention to what is causing a distraction to the mind.
It's about "noting" particular thoughts or emotions that we are so caught up in that we've lost awareness of the object we are supposed to be focusing on.
Noting the distraction helps us restore awareness, create space from the distraction, release the distraction, and gain insight into our thought patterns, tendencies, and conditioning.
I mentioned earlier the religious origins of meditation. Zen meditation is an ancient Buddhist tradition that involves sitting upright and tracking breath.
Special attention is given to how that breath moves in and out of the belly, as well as allowing the mind to simply be. The aim of Zen meditation is to develop a sense of presence and alertness.
With loving-kindness meditation, you direct positive energy and goodwill to yourself. And, this then extends to others as a sort of ripple effect.
The aim is to release the unhappy feelings we might be holding onto.
Practising meditation in any of its various forms can be beneficial to our mind and body. Meditating well is about finding the practice that works best for you and helps you accomplish your particular goals.
There is no wrong or right way, just different types of meditation.
Apps such as Headspace (my own personal favourite) combine a number of the techniques:
- Body scanning
- Resting Awareness
Explore and find the one that works for you.