“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there—buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.”
~Deepak Chopra (DEEPAK CHOPRA™ MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation.)
What comes to your mind when you hear the word meditation?
“Stopping your mind from getting distracted” or “Forcing yourself not to wander in your thoughts”?
Well, meditation is anything but forcing yourself. It is about embracing your thoughts and emotions. Meditation is about learning to quiet the distractions and noise of your daily life.
Sometimes finding peace in the hectic chaos is what our mind needs. And this is what meditation techniques are best for. They help you find inner peace and clarity. It teaches you to embrace your distractions and solve them.
So let’s first understand what meditation means.
What is meditation?
Meditation is cleansing of the mind. It is a combination of mental and physical techniques. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), mediation is “profound and extended contemplation or reflection to o achieve focused attention or an otherwise altered state of consciousness and to gain insight into oneself and the world.”
So meditation is;
- a deep connection with your body and mind,
- to help you cultivate focused attention,
- or spiritual consciousness,
- to gain self-awareness and enlightenment.
Meditation techniques are an ancient practice that has developed into different forms worldwide. It helps you enhance your mental health. The key is consistently practicing the right format to achieve the desired benefits.
So let’s start exploring the different meditation techniques.
What are the different types of meditation?
To acquire a level of mental clarity, peace, and tranquility, meditation entails training the mind. There are many distinct meditation practices, each with a special methodology and advantages. To get the most out of these techniques, it’s critical to pick one that suits your personality and way of life and to practice it constantly.
Here are a few of the most well-liked meditation methods:
This meditation is common in the Buddhist tradition. This is the best type of meditation and is about being fully aware of the present state of mind and body and being overly reactive.
It is based on three components:
- Intention: When you sit and start mindful meditation, your intention should be to cultivate your awareness in the present.
- Attention: You must bring attention to your present thoughts, moments, and sensations in your body and mind. 2.
- Attitude: Mindfulness is about being non-judgemental and letting your thoughts flow in. You should be kind and curious about your thoughts and sensations.
Process: To practice mindfulness meditation:
- Find a comfortable place to sit.
- Comfortably straighten your upper body, don’t stiffen it.
- Lower or close your gaze.
- Focus on your breathing.
- If your attention wanders away, take your time and then return your attention to the breath.
- Pause before making any bodily movements.
- When you are done, slowly open your eyes and feel your environment.
Benefits: It helps in reducing stress, lowering heart rate, improving immunity, and improving sleep quality.
2. Movement Meditation
Meditation techniques are not always about sitting still; sometimes, you can meditate while moving. Movement meditation is the best type of meditation and means focusing on the motion and flow of your muscles. Movement meditation may include;
- Tai chi,
- Qi Gong,
Process: To practice movement meditation:
- Your breath is your guide; channel your breath into your movements.
- Focus on the movement and bring your mind to the present.
- Choose any activity for movement meditation that you are comfortable with.
- Don’t strain your body.
- If your mind wanders away, focus on breathing and return to your body.
Benefits: It helps increase body awareness, decreases anxiety, and helps you stay calm and peaceful.
3. Focused Meditation
Focused Meditation is the best type of meditation and means focusing on any particular object or stimuli while meditating to stay in the present movement. Stimuli can be;
- Any visual items
- Your breathing
Process: To practice Focused Meditation:
- Find a calm environment.
- Choose the target on which you will focus.
- Sit in a comfortable position.
- Slowly relax your body.
- Fix your attention on the target.
- Calm down your thoughts for a while.
- Keep trying till you are entirely focused on the target object.
- Try it for 5 minutes, then increase your time with practice.
Benefits: It helps reduce stress and anxiety and increases attention span. It also helps boost creativity, imagination, patience, and tolerance.
Sometimes, concentrating while meditating can be difficult. So in the initial days of your meditation practice, you can try mantra meditation. In this, you have to choose a mantra to chant while meditating.
You can choose any mantra:
- Syllables or vowel sound like ‘om’,
- Diety Mantras,
- Healing mantras,
- Chakra mantras,
- Positive thoughts like, ‘ I am calm’ and ‘ I love my life. ‘
Process: To practice mantra meditation:
- Find a comfortable position to start your meditation.
- Set a timer before you start your meditation.
- Take deep breaths and try focusing on your breathing.
- Breathing slowly, chant your mantra. You can say it loud or chant it silently.
- Gently redirect your focus to your mantra.
- You can also use a beads mala to chant your mantra.
This meditation is also a mantra based and is the best type of meditation. You will focus on meditating through a small mantra that you’ll chant slowly. But to practice this meditation, you must take a training program, where you will be assigned a mantra based on your characteristics.
The object of transcendental meditation is transcendental consciousness. There are seven levels of consciousness:
- Deep sleep
- Transcendental consciousness
- Cosmic consciousness
- God Consciousness
- Unity consciousness
Process: To practice transcendental meditation:
- You must enroll in a seven-step course under a certified instructor.
- Through a 60-minute introductory session, the instructor will give you knowledge about transcendental meditation.
- Next 45 minutes lecture with some specific information.
- Then, a 10 to 15-minute interview of the people interested in meditating.
- And then 1 to 2 hours of personal instruction.
- In the end, a ceremony will be held, where you’ll be given your mantra, which needs to be kept confidential.
- Following three days, your instructor will help you improve with the meditation technique. And for the next six months, the instructor will check on you and your meditation journey.
- You can practice transcendental meditation twice daily for 15 to 20 minutes.
Benefits: It is the best type of meditation as it helps reduce blood pressure, stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. It improves productivity, creativity, and imagination. It improves cognitive performance and skills. It helps increase self-esteem, self-compassion, and self-confidence.
6. Love-kindness Meditation
This meditation is an ancient Buddhist practice that helps improve compassion towards oneself and others. It is also known as ‘Metta Bhavana. ‘It is about cultivating universal friendliness to increase affection without any desire or expectation of return.
Buddha says this meditation technique transforms emotions:
- Loving kindness overcomes hatred.
- Compassion overcomes cruelty.
- Appreciative joy overcomes envy.
Process: To practice Love-kindness Meditation:
- Posture is essential in this meditation. Sit in a comfortable position before starting.
- Breathe slowly and focus on your breathing pattern.
- Choose phrases that are positive and kind.
- Keep repeating the phrases slowly in your mind.
- Divert your thoughts to your friends and family and repeat the positive phrases for them.
- Be patient. Let the negativity out and the positivity in.
Benefits: It is the best type of meditation as it helps improve self-compassion, decreases stress and anxiety, helps reduce physical pain, improves relationships, and improves longevity.
7. Visualization Meditation
This type of meditation includes focusing on visual images or scenes in your mind that will help you calm down and is the best type of meditation. You can imagine any calming scene or picture in your mind and focus on it to redirect your negative thoughts to positive ones. If you cannot think of an image or scene, there are specific examples of visualization that you can try:
- Try and imagine slow water flowing,
- Try and imagine a flower opening and closing in you,
- Try and imagine golden rays coming out of your hands or legs,
- Try and visualize the area of your body where you feel tension.
Process: To practice visualization meditation:
- Sit comfortably with your eyes closed.
- Try to clear your head and thoughts as much as possible.
- Think about the image or scene that you want to visualize.
- Slowly inhale and exhale.
- Try redirecting your mind to the image or scene when you find it wandering away.
Benefits: Help cope with symptoms of stress and anxiety. It helps in reducing physical pain or chronic conditions. Help lower blood pressure and increase positivity.
8. Spiritual Meditation
Refers to practicing meditation techniques to reach a higher power. This meditation technique focuses on understanding the spiritual meaning and the higher power. It helps you know who you are.
There are many reportings of spiritual meaning experiences, which include;
- Loss of sense of separateness,
- Hear voices of seeing visions,
- A sense of spiritual presence,
- A sense of transcendence,
- A sense of awe.
Process: To practice spiritual meditation:
- Find a comfortable position to practice your meditation. Away from noise but not something that can put you to sleep.
- You have to experience the process, importantly.
- Understand all the thoughts you are having and accept them.
- Utter a prayer, it can be religious or a positive affirmation, a phrase, or a sound.
- Focus on your breathing pattern.
- Reflect on yourself and bring your attention to your body and mind.
Benefits: It is the best type of meditation as it releases negative emotions, calms your nervous system, increases self-awareness, and helps enhance your mental well-being.
9. Sound bath meditation
In this type of meditation, the sound is used as a focus object and is the best type of meditation. The sound will help you redirect your thoughts and keep your mind in the present. It is also known as sound healing, a meditative state that allows nurturing inspiration.
The instruments that can be used in sound bath meditation are:
- Singing bowls,
- Crystal bowls
- Voice, either singing or chanting
Process: To practice sound bath meditation:
Though sound bath meditation is more effective in group meditation or a guided one-to-one session, you can also try it at home;
- Sit comfortably, relaxing all your muscles.
- You can use singing bowls, drums, tuning forks, or any other musical instrument.
- Strike the instrument slowly and gradually move the striking around the instrument to make a deeper sound.
- Focus on the sound and try calming your thoughts.
- Slowly concentrate on your breathing while playing the instrument.
Benefits: Help calm you down and enhance spiritual energy. Reduces negativity and boosts your mood. Decreases heart rate and anxiety levels, making you feel relaxed and stress-free.
10. Zen Meditation
This is a Buddhist-origin meditation where you must meditate and think of nothing. It is also known as open-monitoring meditation and is the best type of meditation. Zen Meditation is about expanding your focus to incorporate various thoughts and emotions.
There are five types of zazen meditation:
- Bompu Zen: Ordinary meditation; suitable for everyone. It helps calm you down and control your mind.
- Gedo Zen: Also referred to as ‘outside away,’ it is about outside the teachings of Buddhism. They are used to learn power skills.
- Shojo Zen: It means a small vehicle that teaches moving from illusion to enlightenment. Teaches you accountability for your thoughts and emotions.
- Daijo Zen: It helps in discovering your true nature. It helps enhance deeper intimacy and compassion.
- Saijojo Zen: Zen of the highest value helps you refrain from wanting something and motivates you to learn about your true self.
Process: To practice Zen Meditation:
- Find a comfortable place to sit in the correct posture. You can also buy a zafu or small pillow used during zen meditation.
- Keep a timer for yourself and slowly increase your session duration.
- Breathe slowly and focus on your breathing pattern.
- Try to get your mind back when wandering in different thoughts.
- Clear your mind and try to calm your thoughts.
Benefits: It is the best type of meditation as it helps improve sleep quality, concentration, focus, and inner peace. It helps reduce substance abuse. It encourages the path toward enlightenment.
11. Yoga Meditation
Unlike other meditation, yoga meditation is done after a yoga sequence. Depending on the type of yoga session, you meditate at the end. It is the final step of yoga practice. It helps you relax and focus on your mind after you have exercised.
You can practice yoga meditation in the following poses:
Corpse pose: In this pose try to lay on your back with your palms facing the sky and your arms and legs comfortably stretched out away from the body. Strive to relax while taking deep breaths. This position could be held for five to fifteen minutes.
Reclining bound angle pose: Leaning first on your hands, exhale and descend your back torso toward the floor. Use your hands and try spreading the back of your pelvis as you lean back on your forearms and release your upper and lower hip. Bring your lower body all the way to the ground, if necessary supporting your head and neck on a bolster or blanket roll.
Process: To practice Yoga Meditation:
- You need to sit down or lie down peacefully.
- Let all the thoughts come to you and accept them without judgment.
- Keep your palm facing upward to the sky.
- Breathe slowly and focus on your breathing pattern.
- A yoga meditation session generally lasts for around 5 minutes.
Benefits: It is the best type of meditation as it helps reduce inflammation, boost your overall mood, and helps in anti-aging.
12. Vipassana Meditation
This Buddhist origin mediation means ‘seeing as they are’ or ‘special saying.’ In this meditation, you observe your thoughts without judging them. In this meditation technique, you observe your inner self without controlling thoughts.
The goal of the mediation is to:
- Calm your mind.
- Enhance mindfulness and be in the present,
- Acknowledge and accept thoughts and emotions as they are,
- Prevent dwelling in the past,
- Prevent worrying about the future,
- Respond to situations mindfully.
Process: To practice Vipassana Meditation:
- Sit for about 10 to 15 minutes. The best time to do this meditation is when you wake up.
- Choose a quiet place with minimal distractions.
- Sit on the ground.
- Cross your legs and sit comfortably. Relax your body.
- Close your eyes and keep your breathing pattern normal.
- Focus on your breath, thoughts, and feelings without judging them.
- When you are distracted, observe the distraction and then come back.
Benefits: It is the best type of meditation as it helps with stress and anxiety. Improves mental well-being. It helps reduce substance abuse. Promotes brain plasticity, increasing your cognitive function.
13. Qigong Meditation
This is an ancient Chinese medicine that is used for ‘healing.’ The goal of meditation is to generate the energy and strength of nature in one’s physical and mental health. It is a combination of; breathing, gentle movements, and meditation and is the best type of meditation.
There are different types of Qigong Meditation:
Active (dynamic) qigong
Dong gong, or active qigong, is a form of breathing exercise and intentional movement that strengthens yang energy.
The primary goals of passive qigong are to embrace yin energy through physical stillness and the mental development of qi energy.
Process: To practice Quigong Meditation:
To practice passive Quigong:
There are two types of passive Quigong: Mental focusing and Visualisation.
Here are two types of passive Quigong; mental focusing and visualization,
For mental focus: Sit quietly and straight in a position that you are comfortable in, close your eyes, and take deep breaths in and out to exercise mental focus. Try to sit for at least 10 minutes, if not more, and concentrate on your breathing.
For visualization focus: Similar techniques are used in visualization but with more imagination. Close your eyes and think about happy or relaxing things. This will help your mind relax and feel stress-free.
To practice active qigong:
Active qigong aims to keep your body flowing continuously and is the best type of meditation. Active qigong encourages you to maintain mobility throughout multiple movement sequences, compared to yoga, which typically focuses on static stretches.
Benefits: Increases body balance and self-awareness. Decreases stress and anxiety. Improves concentration and focus.
How often should you meditate?
It is tough to start and set a routine to practice meditation techniques daily. But with your consistency, it is not impossible. In your initial days of meditation techniques, you can try to meditate once every day. This will help you stick to a routine.
Slowly with practice, you can meditate twice every day. The best time to meditate entirely depends on what type of meditation techniques you are trying to practice. It is said that the best time is after you wake up. But if you are comfortable during the evening or night, you fix your schedule around that time.
Don’t demotivate yourself if you forget to meditate once; keep doing it. Appreciate yourself that you have started. And keep going. Within no time, mediation will become a part of your life.
What are some of the tips for effective meditation?
If you have started your meditation journey and want tips for meditating effectively practice different meditation techniques, this method designed by Buddhist teacher and author Lama Willa Miller will be beneficial.
This is known as ‘ The 3 Arrivals’.
Before meditating, set your timer for around 5 minutes and sit comfortably.
Step 1: Arrive with your body
Bring all of the sensations that emerge within your physical body into your awareness. Starting with your feet, progressively work up each leg until you reach your hips. Permit yourself to relax every joint, muscle, and tendon in your lower body. Proceed to the upper body next. Relax your stomach, raise your shoulders away from your ears, and straighten your upper back.
Step 2: Arrive with your breath
Start focusing your attention on the breath’s natural rhythm. Feel your gut and chest rise every time you breathe and then watch the breath leave your body as you exhale. Spend some time directing your attention to the breath alone, noticing its wonder and the mystery of its existence within you.
Step 3: Arrive with your mind
Focus your attention on your thoughts. You might rapidly become aware of how restless your mind is, moving from one idea to another without warning. During practice, if you are lost in thought, return to your body and start over.
What should you avoid while meditating?
Meditation techniques aim to make you calm and composed. It helps you feel better about your body and mind. But if you are feeling that even after meditating, you are not feeling any good and are still restless and stressed, then there’s a chance that you might be making some mistakes while contemplating.
These are some of the mistakes that you should avoid while meditating:
1. Hating your distraction:
If you constantly try to cancel out all the distractions, you might feel irritated when something else comes up. Meditation techniques aim to keep your focus and resist becoming overwhelmed by distractions. The practice includes accepting distractions. When you do, you’ll experience a significant increase in relaxation, and everything else will start to flow.
2. Meditation is your escape:
If you are using meditation to suppress your strong negative emotions, it can be harmful to your mental health. Meditation techniques aim to understand your negative emotions and channel them into positive thoughts. While meditating, you should not avoid negative emotions; instead, try to solve them calmly.
3. You are doing the wrong meditation
There are many meditation techniques, and choosing the right one can be tricky. If you are trying different meditation techniques you are uncomfortable with; it might give you the desired result. So try different mediation techniques and settle for the one that suits you the best.
4. Setting unrealistic goals for yourself:
You can’t concentrate on your practice if your expectations are unrealistic. When you have high expectations, the method is less important than the results. As it eliminates the present-moment awareness that meditation brings, this is counterproductive. Set goals that are achievable to motivate yourself.
As you can see, there are different meditation techniques you can try to enhance your mental and physical well-being. If you are starting to meditate, don’t be hard on yourself. Even if you cannot sit for a long time, keep practicing. Setting your mind for meditation is a significant step. Slowly you’ll learn all the techniques and be able to sit through the sessions effortlessly. Till then, keep practicing.
You can try and explore different meditation techniques and find the right fit for you. Focused meditation is one of the effective meditation techniques to learn when starting your meditation journey.
If you want to learn more focused meditation and how to practice it, click here.
To learn more about mental health and issues, subscribe to Your Mental Health Pal.