Meditation is a practice that has been proven to be helpful in living a peaceful and harmonious life in this fast paced world. With its numerous benefits, it is slowly becoming a practice for many for remaining in proper balance and improving the overall quality of life.
Through the years, sages, spiritual leaders and mental health experts have created and made known different forms of meditation with the intention of seeing everyone get a type that suits them well and blends in with who they are and what they believe.
We look at the different types of meditation techniques that are most commonly practiced.
The 13 Most Common Types of Meditation
1. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation is a type of meditation that aims at helping the practitioner remain in the present moment. This practice is based on the teachings of the Buddha, and was introduced and made popular in the West by huge figures including Jon Kabat-Zinn, through his Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, among others.
With mindfulness, you cease to worry about the past or get anxious about the future and simply find peace in the “now” moment. What this practice encourages the meditator to do is to observe their thoughts, feelings and sensations without forming judgments or opinions, or even labeling what is happening.
You let these occurrences rise and fall without taking part in them, you just observe them. By doing this, you get to learn how the body works and this helps you understand the source of most of your sufferings and have a much better chance of changing them.
Mindfulness blends in awareness with concentration and this meditation style is known to provide a good deal of benefits including memory improvement, stress reduction, improving focus and mastery of emotions (1).
When meditating, the meditator first focuses on their breath and then later on their mind and body. There are many forms of meditation that make use of mindfulness in the beginning phase.
However, mindfulness can be applied just about anywhere in life. You can be mindful when working, walking, cooking, taking a shower, studying and even watching TV. It enhances the experience of the activity you are involved in and gets you to enjoy every minute.
2. Vipassana Meditation
Vipassana meditation is commonly known as “insight” meditation. It helps the practitioner use awareness and experiential observation to understand and transform their lives.
It was introduced to the western countries by S. N. Goenka, who believes that this meditation is a way that makes it possible to know how the mind is influencing the body and in turn how the body is influencing the mind.
The root level of the mind is known to be interconnected with emotions and physical sensations. And by getting to this deep level of the mind, we are able to create the mind and body connection that helps us have a well-balanced, peaceful and happy life.
It is known to start with mindful breathing and then self inquiry. With this meditation, you look into the nature of reality and the self and get to understand yourself and your surroundings better.
3. Loving Kindness Meditation
Loving kindness meditation, also known as Metta meditation is aimed at cultivating thoughts, feelings, actions and an attitude of love and kindness to oneself and to others.
It is based on sending good wishes to the meditator first and then spreading it to other people, including family and friends as well as those people we don’t get along with.
Metta meditation has the benefit of reducing resentment, dislike and hatred towards other people who have caused them harm and suffering in the past.
The idea behind the practice is to repeat the phrases of good wishes until the attitude of love, affection and kindness takes over and replaces the negative thoughts and feelings you have been having through the years.
This results to loving acceptance, peacefulness, understanding others, forgiveness and happiness.
4. Chakra Meditation
Chakra meditation is a form of meditation that is based on keeping our energies balanced, fluid and open. The word “chakra” means center or wheel.
There are energy centers in different areas of our bodies through which energy passes. These centers should remain open and balanced for proper energy flow.
Although there are lots of energy centers throughout the body, there are 7 main chakras that this meditation focuses on. They start from the sacrum, around the hipbone, to the crown on the top part of the head.
Each chakra is associated with a unique color, mantra and element and these 3 aspects help to focus on every chakra better and get it to a good balance.
When these chakras are blocked, we tend to have various physical, emotional and spiritual problems that is why it is important to keep them at optimal performance, to ensure we are healthy and vibrant.
5. Zen Meditation
Zen meditation, which is commonly associated with Zazen meditation (a sitting form of zen meditation) is a practice that is fairly demanding and has a set of rules and regulations for practicing and is mostly taught by a qualified and experienced instructor.
It aims at directing your attention to your breathing and taking note of your thoughts and feelings without getting involved in them. You just simply remain aware of them.
Zen meditation has some striking similarities with mindfulness meditation except that it is very keen on the kind of postures and steps that are recommended when doing it as well the discipline needed.
You also have to do it continuously for a long time if you want to master how it’s done and get the money benefits it comes with.
6. Compassion Meditation
Compassion meditation is also referred to as Karuna meditation. It is a style of meditation that seeks to help the meditator grow in compassion, kindness and love.
By regularly doing the practice, we grow in compassion, concern and genuine love for ourselves and for others. In the grand scheme of things, it makes our lives more fulfilled.
It also eliminates the selfishness, self centeredness and self-absorption that comes from the suffering we have gone through in life and makes it possible to open up to others and become compassionate and caring.
We get to be aware of the suffering and pain and also realize that we are not the only people who are having problems, but everyone out there too.
Through this deep revelation, we are able to be peaceful and concerned about others and make lives easy for many people as we can.
Compassion meditation is often compared to loving kindness meditation although there are fundamental differences between them.
7. Mantra Meditation
Mantra meditation is a type of meditation that is about repeating a mantra. A mantra is a word or phrase that has no specific meaning which by saying it repeatedly helps you to stimulate certain areas of our lives.
This meditation is often used in Buddhist traditions, Hindu traditions, Daoism, Jainism and Sikhism.
There are certain meditation experts on this practice that really stress on the importance of carefully selecting a mantra and pronouncing it well as the vibration that the mantra brings goes a long way for the meditator.
A good example of a mantra is the word or sound “om”.
When you say the mantra for a long time, you bring about certain vibrations within you that raise your level of awareness and focus and also deepen your meditative state.
For some, it helps trigger positive changes in aspects like confidence, love or even compassion.
There are people who find mantra meditation far better and engaging compared to focusing on breath, especially those who like repetition and a less quiet experience.
8. Guided Meditation
Guided meditation, to a certain extent, can be termed as a modern way of meditating as it involves use of modern devices to make it work.
It is a type of meditation where the practitioner is guided through the meditation session by a guide. The guided could be a meditation app, video, audio, or even a physically present meditation teacher.
This exercise is about giving guidance to people who are meditating, especially the beginners.
The good thing about it is that you don’t have to struggle with getting the meditation right so that you can fully benefit from it. You only need to get into the actual meditation session, close your eyes and listen to the instructions from the guide as you follow through in your mind.
The guide explains the experiences you are going to have as you meditate, how you are supposed to meditate and handle the experiences, not to mention the various ways you can integrate the technique in your daily life.
9. Christian Meditation
Christian meditation, also called Biblical meditation is a style of meditation that gives the meditator the opportunity to reflect quietly on the different areas of the Bible so as to have a better understanding of them as a way of strengthening their relationship with God.
Here, the meditating Christian, together with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, gets into a moment of deep thought and reflection about a certain book, chapter or verse of the Bible in order to know what the Lord is saying in it and how to apply the teaching in their daily lives which leads to a better relationship with God and joy and peace.
Since Christians believe the Bible to be their source of light in the world and a book of teachings on how to live in this world the right way, they meditate on various texts of it to get a clearer understanding of them and how to make them work in their lives so as to please God.
10. Walking Meditation
Walking meditation is another style that allows the meditator time meditate while moving. It not only helps to raise awareness but also to keep the body active and provides a better opportunity to be aware of the high sensations, emotions and thoughts that come up as you walk.
While waking meditation is almost similar to regular walking, focus and pace are what set the two activities apart.
When doing this meditation, your pace is normally slower than the normal walking pace and it is recommended that your focus remains on the activity of walking.
There are different techniques of doing walking meditation as we have explained in our walking meditation guide.
However, being relaxed, focused and aware are some key elements that make the practice successful, refreshing and enjoyable.
11. Yoga Meditation
Yoga, just like meditation, comes in a variety of styles. And among the 8 limbs of yoga is meditation (Dhyana) that is used to help unify the individual with the universe.
There are different types of yoga meditations that exist, some of which include kriya yoga meditation, third eye meditation, nada yoga (sound meditation), kundalini meditation and tantra meditation.
There are other styles in this category and they all help improve the individual in various ways.
The aim of yoga practice is to improve the knowledge of the self and help with self purification. By being actively involved in yoga, you are able to reduce body tension, stress and improve focus and memory, just to name a few.
12. Qigong Meditation
Qigong meditation is a type of meditation that involves keeping the pathways of energy called meridians open and fluid.
Qigong (whose pronunciation is Chi gung or Chi kung) is a word in Chinese that means cultivation of life energy. In Chinese traditions, life energy was used in training in martial arts, meditation and ancient medication.
This meditation involves controlled breathing, focusing inwards and very slow body movements. When you send this energy inwards, you are able to get your body to heal and function in a much better way.
When you direct it outwards, you can bring healing to another person.
13. Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental meditation (TM) is a practice that is done with the intention of transcending to the very source of thought in an easy and effortless way.
It works with a mantra to help achieve this purpose.
When you decide to do transcendental meditation, you should go to a TM center where you will be taught how to do it by a trained and certified TM trainer.
This is among the most popular meditation practices and is only taught one on one as there are a lot of customizations to it. One of them includes choosing a personal mantra that you can relate with, to help you achieve deeper levels of awareness and get into a state of restful alertness.
It is done twice a day for 20 minutes. The first session is usually in the morning and the other in the mid-afternoon or early evening.
Main Categories of Meditation
We have looked at the different types of meditation that are popular. We can put these types and others out there in various categories going by the similarities in the way they are practiced and their background, to have these 5 categories:
* Movement meditation – Movement meditation is simply meditation in motion. It involves getting into a meditative state and maintaining the state while you are actively moving. It helps build awareness, concentration and focus that can be applied to all activities that we are involved in on a daily basis. It works well for people who have an easy time concentrating only when they are in motion. Some examples of moving meditation include walking meditation and Qigong meditation.
* Focused meditation – As the name hints, focused meditation is all about directing and maintaining your focus on a chosen object. This could be your breathing, thoughts, sensations and feelings. Sometimes, it could be focus on a candle flame, listening to the sound of a gong or any other activity that requires your prolonged focus. This category of meditation is demanding as we can’t maintain focus for a long time without drifting away to other things. Some examples in this category are gong meditation and candle meditation.
* Spiritual meditation – Spiritual meditation, for the most part, is based on spirituality and religion. This category includes the meditative practices done by various spiritual and religious groups including Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Daoism. For those that believe in divine power. The exercise is done to create a strong connection with the divine. For those other groups, they seek to improve themselves as human beings to the highest possible state. They focus on self actualization, self awareness and building admirable qualities within themselves. Some examples of spiritual meditation are loving kindness meditation, compassion meditation, Christian meditation and mindfulness meditation.
* Guided meditation – Guided meditation includes all types of meditation that work with guidance for the meditator during the session. As earlier said, this kind of meditation aims at guiding the meditator through the session in a simple and easy way to help them understand what is happening within them, how to handle the experiences, what to expect and what to do throughout the session. In the past, a guide used to present to guide the students. But with the help of technology, audio recordings, are made to help with that. At the moment, there are recordings for almost all known meditations except for those that require a custom approach like transcendental meditation.
* Chanting and mantra meditation – In this category, the traditions of mantra meditation insist on using certain words, phrases or sounds as a way to reduce distraction and allow the mind to calm and focus. Chanting meditation encourages chanting some words or phrases as the focus of the meditator is on the sound of the words being chanted, the meaning and the music being played. This helps raises the levels of focus and awareness of the meditator as well as making their state of relaxation and alertness profound. Examples of meditation styles in this category are transcendental meditation and mantra meditation.
It is important to note that this list is not exhaustive of all the meditation styles available today, it only highlights the most popular ones.
There are many other countless types out there that keep increasing as time goes by.
The only way to know which one works for you is by first identifying the set of benefits you are looking for in the practice, your beliefs and personal inclinations and then looking for a type that matches all these.
Most importantly, you need to give the practice a try. That is the best way to know how well it works for you individually. But you need to remember that meditation takes time, effort and consistency.
It is a rare gem that has thorns which only the patient and persistent get to own.