Although it’s an ancient tradition, meditation is practiced in virtually every community throughout the world. Through meditation we can discover an intriguing sense of calmness and inner harmony but also a way to help reduce the stress of everyday life. Meditation cuts across different religions and cultures – it’s less about the faith you subscribe to and more about becoming mindful, more focused and peaceful internally, and more aware of how we think and how we affect others externally. The busy schedules we follow today inevitably lead to a buildup of stress. Meditation is a very grounded and important technique for relieving stress while also working on one’s own self-awareness.
Six different meditation techniques:
1. Spiritual Meditation
Meditation is practiced extensively in Eastern religions which include Buddhism, Daoism and Hinduism, as well as in Western Christian traditions and many others. Depending upon how practiced, it has greater or lesser elements of prayer. It is characterized by self-reflection as one ponders the silence all around in contrast to our internal chatter. Meditation in a religious context helps individuals find a deeper connection either with a Higher Deity or Power. In traditions such as Buddhism and Daoism that are fundamentally non-theistic, meditation is more about self awareness and self actualization. Knowing oneself, one better knows the world around us and can care for others with kindness. In that non-theistic sense spiritual meditation is becoming the best human being you can be.
You can practice spiritual meditation in your preferred place of worship or at home. This practice is best suited for individuals seeking spiritual growth as well as those who appreciate the calming power of silence for self-reflection. A true spiritual meditation should include some elements of loving-kindness and compassion, but we have to work on ourselves first, before we can truly benefit others.
2. Mindfulness Meditation
This meditation technique has become extremely popular in the West. However, it originates from the teachings of Buddhism. Mindfulness meditation is a critical first step to understand how our minds work as a foundation to achieve the insight to overcome one’s own dissatisfaction. There are several steps to follow if you want to master this technique:
- Acknowledging your reality. This starts with being mindful of your body and thoughts.
- Observing your mind as it wanders, and then accepting each thought that pops into your mind
- Coming back to the object of meditation, generally the breath
- Learning to rest in and appreciate the present moment
This technique allows you to combine concentration with awareness. You simply require a good meditation posture, a straight back and a willingness to be honest with yourself. The focus of mindfulness meditation is generally your breathing. Whenever you find your thoughts wandering, just notice them, without judgment, and then return your attention to your breath. It’s a great way to reduce depression, anxiety and get a new perspective on things that distress us.
3. Movement Meditation
Unlike other forms of meditation which require you to be in one position, movement meditation focuses on the body. Practice this meditation technique when you’re doing yoga, tai chi, other martial arts or forms of mindful movement. It is important to have a commitment to some form of physical discipline. Once you are grounded in being present in your body, you can expand your awareness to include just about anything – gardening, walking in the woods, washing and performing other subtle forms of motion. In each case, the movement of your body is the object of this meditation.
This technique can be combined with mindfulness sitting meditation and is great for people who have trouble sitting still as well as those who derive peace from action.
4. Focused Meditation
In this technique, you use one of your five senses to concentrate, or six if you include mind. A chess player for example uses mental focus to look ahead a number of moves. Athletes, business people, just about everyone has learned in some way to focus their minds on what they’re doing – this is critical for success in life. In general, you can either focus on an internal element (such as your breath, feelings or your body) or concentrate on an external object.
Whatever the sense object, you should focus your attention on exactly that – what you’re doing. When you’re eating you just eat, when you’re exercising you’re just being present exercising. Most of us distract ourselves by trying to do many things at once. We’ve led ourselves to believe multi-tasking is necessary to get everything done on our to-do lists, but really we’re only really doing one thing at a time anyway. This jumping around between many things leads to a scattered mind and a lot of dissatisfaction.
What’s most important in focused meditation is to not become frustrated, and gradually you will find over time you return your focus back to what you’re doing once you find your mind wandering. With commitment to the practice, your concentration span improves and even when your mind wanders, you can connect with an ongoing sense of being present.
5. Visualization Meditation
In this meditation technique, an image is evoked in the mind to create a particular feeling or quality. In a simple way, you can close your eyes and visualize a beautiful lake or mountain, open sky or a familiar landscape. On a more formal level visualization on a particular Tibetan mandala or deity can be used to evoke inner qualities of compassion and wisdom. However, for this type of spiritual practice you really need instruction from a skilled teacher.
Many people think visualization is a kind of escape from the world, imagining something that isn’t really there. But if you stop to think about it, most of the thinking we do throughout the day is precisely that – bringing into our consciousness memories about the past or fears of the future – something that isn’t really there! Visualization is a technique that uses this powerful aspect of mind for positive personal transformation.
6. Chanting Meditation
Many teachings and religions emphasize chanting and mantra meditation, including Western religions as well as Buddhist and Hindu traditions. For chanting, the mind should simply be focused on the chant, sounds of the words and melody, while contemplating the meaning. Mantra meditation technique makes use of a repetitive sound, word or phrase to clear the mind. “Om” is the most common sound used in mantra meditation.
Over time, chanting a mantra allows you to be both mindful and extremely alert. As a spiritual practice it helps you to achieve deeper awareness and a stronger connection to your own positive qualities such as compassion. Once again, it is important to find a qualified teacher for any true spiritual practice.
There you have it, six powerful types of meditation. There is scientific proof linking meditation to improved sleep, reduced anxiety, lower blood pressure, decreased pain and a myriad of other health benefits, and in addition all the benefits of increased self awareness. Whatever form of meditation you do, you will enjoy the holistic benefits that come from commitment to a daily meditation practice.
Mindworks: Guided Meditation App is a great resource to learn to meditate, or to deepen your practice. While many meditation apps present a popularized notion of meditation, the Mindworks App draws from the combined experience of an international team of meditation experts. Download the free app today. Also check out another popular blog post, “How Does Meditation Reduce Stress?“