Did you know that there are as many meditation techniques as there are sports? And the only way to find out the best types of meditation practice that is right for you is to try them.
When we sit to meditate, we are looking after ourselves in ways that might not at first seem obvious. The benefits of meditation are numerous and varied and supported by science. Many people start meditating to manage stress, reduce anxiety, and to cultivate peace of mind. But there are thousands of other less-known mindfulness meditation benefits, which can have a positive impact on mental, physical, and emotional health. Meditation has dozens of values, and it is overall good for you.
There are many different types of meditation techniques that have various benefits. Some of them will work better for you than others—just like different sports or diets work better for some people than for others.
“The purpose of this article is to help you experiment with different meditation techniques and find the ones that work best for you.”
My meditation practiced started 12 years ago when it was less accessible; I have witnessed the benefits and improvement in my body, mind, and health in the past five years.
These days, with the greater need to reduce stress during the pandemic, our busy schedules, and demanding lives, meditation is increasing in popularity. Although there isn’t a right or wrong way to meditate, it’s essential to find a practice that meets your needs and complements your personality.
Not all meditation styles are right for everyone. These practices require different skills and mindsets. How do you know which method is proper for you? It’s what feels comfortable and what you feel encouraged to practice. Follow your mind and see how your body feels after trying a meditation practice.
There are many types of meditation practice. Here I will share a few that are great starters:
Mindfulness meditation originates from Buddhist teachings and is the most popular meditation technique in the West.
In mindfulness meditation, you pay attention to your thoughts as they pass through your mind. You don’t judge the thoughts or become involved with them. You simply observe and take note of any patterns. This practice combines concentration with awareness. You may find it helpful to focus on an object or your breath while you observe any bodily sensations, thoughts, or feelings. You can also visualize negative thoughts passing by like clouds in the sky.
This type of meditation is suitable for people who don’t have a teacher to guide them, as it can be practiced alone.
Spiritual meditation is used in Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Daoism, and Christian faith. It’s similar to prayer in that you reflect on the silence around you and seek a deeper connection with your God or Universe.
Essential oils are commonly used to heighten the spiritual experience. Popular options include:
- palo santo
Spiritual meditation can be practiced at home or in a place of worship. This practice is beneficial for those who thrive in silence and seek spiritual growth.
Focused meditation involves concentration using any of the five senses. For example, you can focus on something internal, like your breath, or you can bring in external influences to help focus your attention. Try counting mala beads, listening to a gong, or staring at a candle flame.
This practice may be simple in theory, but it can be difficult for beginners to hold their focus for longer than a few minutes at first. If your mind does wander, it’s essential to come back to the practice and refocus.
As the name suggests, this practice is ideal for anyone who requires additional focus in their life.
Although most people think of yoga when they hear movement meditation, this practice may include walking through the woods, gardening, qigong, and other gentle forms of motion. It’s an active form of meditation where the movement guides you.
Movement meditation is suitable for people who find peace in action and prefer to let their minds wander.
I practice movement meditation as I am wandering through my neighborhood, at the beach or in the woods. I enjoy walking and being aware of my surroundings.
Transcendental meditation is the most popular type of meditation around the world, and it’s the most scientifically studied. This practice is more customizable than mantra meditation, using a mantra or series of words that are specific to each practitioner.
This practice is for those who like structure and are serious about maintaining a meditation practice.
Guided or Unguided Meditation
Choosing between guided and unguided meditation is often the first step in starting a meditation practice. In guided meditation, a teacher guides you through the necessary steps of the practice, either in person or via a meditation app like Calm or Headspace. This type of meditation is particularly useful for beginners because the teacher is experienced and trusted, and their guidance can be vital in helping those who are new to the practice get the most out of the experience. Most guided meditations follow a similar format: the teacher explains how the mind behaves during meditation, leads you through a particular meditation technique, and then suggests how to integrate this technique into your everyday life.
In unguided meditation — also called silent meditation — you meditate alone, without someone else explaining the process. For some people, unguided meditation merely involves sitting in quiet and paying attention to the body and thoughts for a set period.
Body Scan Meditation
Often, our body is doing one thing while our mind is elsewhere. This technique is designed to sync the body and mind by performing a mental scan, from the top of the head to the end of your toes. Imagine a photocopier light slowly moving over your body, bringing attention to any discomfort, sensations, tensions, or aches that exist. Body scan meditation is an excellent way to release the pressure you might not even realize you’re experiencing. Body scanning involves paying attention to parts of the body and bodily sensations in a continuous sequence from feet to head.
During loving-kindness meditation, you focus on benevolent and loving energy toward yourself and others. It doesn’t matter if we know them or not; if we like them or not — it is integral to this technique. We direct positive energy and goodwill first to ourselves, and then, as a ripple effect, to others, which helps us let go of unhappy feelings we may be experiencing.
Those who regularly practice loving-kindness meditation can increase their capacity for forgiveness, connection to others, self-acceptance, and more. This technique is not easy as you are asking yourself to send kindness your way or to others. It often takes practice to allow yourself to receive your love or to address it.
This technique invites you to ask yourself questions. Self-reflection meditation gives us the tools we need to discover the talents that have remained buried deep within. Reflection Meditation provides us with the ability to pursue these gifts and see where they lead. (Note that asking yourself a question using the second person — you — will discourage the intellectual mind from trying to answer it rationally.) Be aware of the feelings, not the thoughts, that arise when you focus on the question. Self-reflection meditation gives us insight into our thoughts and aspirations. The more thorough the process of self-reflection, the better we recognize our thoughts, feelings, values, and beliefs for what they are. When we reflect, we are deliberately setting aside some time to think about our past actions, current priorities, and future goals. If we want to accomplish this reflection with purpose and clarity, the mental quietude acquired thanks to our regular mindfulness practice is invaluable. Mindfulness teaches us that the thoughts, emotions, and sensations that arise in the mindstream come and go, and we are under no obligation to react to them.
Focuses on expressing gratitude for the things in your life that can have a profound and lasting impact on our wellbeing. With regular practice, gratitude can become a daily habit that permeates your life. It is the acknowledgment and appreciation for the things, people, and circumstances of your life. When we focus on gratitude, we encourage many other positive habits to blossom within. And these habits help us cultivate health and happiness not only for ourselves but for those around us. When we carry ourselves with positive energy, those around us can conduct that energy and radiate it onward and outward to the next person and the world.
There is much evidence supporting the numerous benefits of meditation.
Meditation can help:
- lower blood pressure
- reduce anxiety
- decrease pain
- ease symptoms of depression
- improve sleep
- increases fulfillment
- reduces selfishness
- improves physical and emotional wellbeing
- increases empathy
- strengthens self-esteem
- encourages humility
Whether the benefits are anecdotal or scientifically proven, those who follow a daily meditation practice are convinced of the benefits in their lives. Whether you’re looking to reduce stress or find spiritual enlightenment, find stillness or flow through movement, there’s a meditation practice for you. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try different types. It often takes a little trial and error until you find the one that fits.
Meditation isn’t meant to be a force. If we’re pushing it, then it becomes a chore. Gentle, the regular practice eventually becomes sustaining, supportive, and enjoyable. Open yourself up to the possibilities. There are so many different forms of meditation that if one isn’t working or isn’t comfortable, just try a new one.
I began using meditation during a stressful and challenging time in my life 12 years ago. I didn’t wake up one day and say, “Oh, wow, I’m not stressed anymore!” But, I notice how my reactions to stress changed and how much calmer I was in the midst of chaos. Isn’t that level of peace what we are all searching for in life? Experience the great benefits of meditation.