Which Type of Meditation Style is Best For You?
While some may think that meditation requires nothing more than sitting silently, it isn’t necessarily as easy as it seems. The commitment needed to practice every day coupled with the challenge to empty your mind of everyday stressors can be discouraging. However, it doesn’t necessarily need to be.
Meditation has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety, improve health, and increase happiness. However, the most essential aspect of meditation is appealing to your spirit. It is an entirely subjective practice and there is no right or wrong way to meditate. By practicing every day and finding a style that compliments your soul – you’ll not only experience the joy in meditation, but you might just find you’re better at it then you thought!
The following is a list of the most common types of meditation. Discover which one speaks to you!
Types of Meditation
The following are the most common types of meditation styles. Before you begin, ask yourself a few questions:
- Do you find increased focus through movement?
- Does darkness help you to relax?
- Do you find sounds calming or distracting?
- Are you trying to focus your mind or empty it?
Answering these simple questions can help you to narrow down which type of meditation is most suited for you. If by the end of this article you still can’t decide – Why not try them all?
Who should try it: Excellent for true beginners or anyone who needs a little extra help focusing.
Focused meditation is a general label for any kind of meditation that concentrates on any of the five senses. While visualizations are the most popular, other aspects may include focusing on sounds or touch. In focused meditation, you’ll also commonly be asked to concentrate on the flow of your breath – as it moves in and out of your body and pulses energy throughout your body.
Who should try it: People who thrive in silence and are looking for spiritual growth.
Spiritual meditation, while similar to prayer, includes various elements to help practitioners reach a more reflective and contemplative state. In spiritual meditation, you embrace the silence around you – whether at home or a place of worship – and slowly begin to let your mind wander to an internal prayer or question. Some people find that the answer to their deepest question comes from outside themselves through the Divine, God, or Universe. Others find that simply allowing themselves to be comfortable within the silence brings the answer from within.
Who should try it: People who dislike silence and find peace in repetition.
Despite popular belief, silence isn’t the only way to meditate. Mantra meditation uses a repetitive sound or set of sounds to clear the mind, as seen in the body mantra method. By reciting or chanting a mantra, your mind is able to focus on the rhythmic song and release the stressors of the day. With a long tradition in meditation, mantras can be sung loudly or whispered quietly. You can use an inspirational phrase or even a simple onomatopoeia like “Om” or “Aum.” Meditation is subjective and there’s no one right technique – it all depends on what the experience means to you personally.
Who should try it: People looking for a more structured meditation practice or those new to meditation but serious about maintaining the practice.
Founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Transcendental meditation is the most studied type by scientists. Made popular by celebrity followers like the Beatles, transcendental meditation is by far the most popular type with nearly 5 million practitioners worldwide. It uses a mantra or series of Sanskrit words to help the practitioner focus during meditation in lieu of just following breath. While some believe transcendental meditation and mantra meditation to be the same – transcendental meditation is slightly more organized and structured, with each student receiving a specific mantra based on a number of different factors such as birth year and sometimes gender. The official website for transcendental meditation states this form of meditation is “… a simple, natural, effortless procedure practiced 20 minutes twice each day while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. It’s not a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle.”
Who should try it: Anyone who finds sitting still to be a distraction, finds peace through action, or is tired of sitting at a desk all day.
A fairly broad category, movement meditation is the active branch of meditation and incorporates some form of motion. Rather than getting your heart rate going, movement meditation utilizes walks through the woods, yoga, gardening, or even basic housecleaning to clear the mind. By allowing the gentle movements to guide you, your mind is free to wander and explore within itself.
Who should try it: Anyone without access to a regular teacher.
Mindfulness meditation is an ongoing life practice and is the umbrella category for all techniques used to accept all that arises without judgement. Less of a separate activity and more a type of lifestyle, mindfulness meditation originates from Buddhist teachings and teaches the practitioner to address and release stress in the moment it is happening. It promotes a focused attention and observation of the world immediately around you and nurtures a tone of surrender to that which you cannot change. This daily meditation practice is generally best for those who don’t have access to a regular teacher as it can be practiced alone and further information and community support groups are easily found across the internet.
7 Ways to Ease Into Meditation
Meditation is for everyone: monks in Tibet, yogis, corporate lawyers, gardeners, the rich, poor, young, and old. We may all approach life differently but in meditation, we are all doing the same thing: quieting the mind and looking within. In a society where information is so readily available, we often look to other sources for opinions and advice. It’s more important than ever to make meditation a priority. Our bodies and minds are our greatest compasses in life. They will always tell us if something we are doing is good for us or not; we just have to stop for a moment to look, feel, and listen from within.
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Here are 7 Ways to Ease Into a Meditation Practice:
1. Give yourself some “soft time” before meditation
Often, the moment you try to quiet the mind it will wander in a thousand different directions. “I forgot to do this today… the kids have a big test tomorrow…my husband forgot to take out the trash…there is a sale at the grocery store…I don’t have time to sit here doing nothing…” Give yourself a few minutes to let the mind do this and then ask it to quiet down. Truly ask it; it’s usually responsive.
2. Compose a to-do list
If after letting your mind wander and asking it to quiet down, you are still unable to reach a place of stillness, write those pesky things down, and acknowledge them. Sometimes that’s all thoughts need— acknowledgment.
3. Start a ritual
Meditation can be done anywhere at any time. It can be done in the middle of the subway during rush hour or in the middle of a meeting with your boss (I don’t recommend the latter). I’ve found, though, that training the mind to quiet down in a specific setting prepares it to settle down with less effort. Light candles have chamomile tea, take a bubble bath. Signal to your mind that it’s time to relax.
4. Learn to observe
We are not our thoughts. We have our thoughts. Try to detach yourself and simply watch them go by. View them in a cloud or a bubble and allow them to float away.
5. Focus on the breath
I know, you have heard this a million times. But it works! The best lesson I received in meditation is to focus on the pause between inhales and exhales. The four stages of breath give the mind something to focus on and connect us to our life force. You can focus on the breath and reduce your stress in just 15 minutes with Seize the Day! prior to even leaving the house. It’s lovely.
6. Do yoga
Yoga flows can become a moving meditation. Yin yoga can bring your mind and body into stillness. Kundalini can prepare the breath. Any type of yoga can open the mind and body to meditation. You can’t lose.
7. Think Positive Thoughts
Finally, if you’re having a crazy day and can’t get your mind to settle down, it’s OK. Think positive thoughts. There are days when meditation is easy, days when it takes a little longer to become still, and days when it just doesn’t want to happen. I used to become annoyed with myself if I couldn’t stop the endlessness of my thoughts, but that defeats the purpose. On those days, I ask my mind to come up with as many positive words as it can. Joy, peace, serenity, gratitude, etc. After even just a few minutes of doing this, I guarantee you will be in a calm, peaceful place.