What meditation is all about
Meditation may be an ancient tradition, but it’s still practiced in cultures all over the world to create a sense of calm and inner harmony. Although the practice has ties to many different religious teachings, meditation is less about faith and more about altering consciousness, finding awareness, and achieving peace.
These days, with the greater need to reduce stress in the midst of our busy schedules and demanding lives, meditation is increasing in popularity.
Although there isn’t a right or wrong way to meditate, it’s important to find a practice that meets your needs and complements your personality.
There are six popular types of meditation practice:
- mindfulness meditation
- spiritual meditation
- focused meditation
- movement meditation
- mantra meditation
- transcendental meditation
Not all meditation styles are right for everyone. These practices require different skills and mindsets. How do you know which practice is right for you?
“It’s what feels comfortable and what you feel encouraged to practice,” says Mira Dessy, a meditation author and holistic nutritionist.
Keep reading to learn more about the different types of meditation and how to get started.
1. Mindfulness meditation
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.
This type of meditation is good for people who don’t have a teacher to guide them, as it can be easily practiced alone.
2. Spiritual meditation
Spiritual meditation is used in Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Daoism, and in 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.
3. Focused meditation
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 important 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.
4. Movement meditation
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 good for people who find peace in action and prefer to let their minds wander.
5. Mantra meditation
Mantra meditation is prominent in many teachings, including Hindu and Buddhist traditions. This type of meditation uses a repetitive sound to clear the mind. It can be a word, phrase, or sound, such as the popular “Om.”
It doesn’t matter if your mantra is spoken loudly or quietly. After chanting the mantra for some time, you will be more alert and in tune with your environment. This allows you to experience deeper levels of awareness.
Some people enjoy mantra meditation because they find it easier to focus on a word than on their breath. This is also a good practice for people who don’t like silence and enjoy repetition.
6. Transcendental meditation
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.
How to get started
The easiest way to begin is to sit quietly and focus on your breath. An old Zen saying suggests, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you're too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”
All kidding aside, it’s best to start in small moments of time, even five or ten minutes, and grow from there.
“Sit consistently for 20 minutes a day and do this for 100 days straight,” recommends Pedram Shojai, author of “The Urban Monk” and founder of Well.org. “Couple that with an additional 2 to 5 minutes of meditation throughout the day to break up the chaos, and you will soon be feeling the benefits.”
Why meditation is beneficial
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
Whether the benefits are anecdotal or scientifically proven, those who follow a daily meditation practice are convinced of the benefits in their lives.
The bottom line
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 forced thing,” Dessy says. “If we’re forcing it, then it becomes a chore. Gentle, 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.”
From the author
For me personally, I began using meditation during a difficult and stressful time in my life. I didn’t wake up one day and say, “Oh wow, I’m not stressed anymore!” But I did 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?
Holly J. Bertone, CNHP, PMP, is an author of six books, blogger, healthy living advocate, and breast cancer and Hashimoto’s disease survivor. Not only is she the president and CEO of Pink Fortitude, LLC, but she also racks up an impressive resume with accolades as an inspiring public speaker for women everywhere. Follow her on Twitter at @PinkFortitude.