When it comes to meditation, there are so many styles and approaches to it, especially in the 21st century. All of them have unique concepts and beliefs, and also bring about different benefits
Each meditation style is also known to have different effects on our brains and bodies in terms of our cognitive abilities, social effects, and even our behaviors.
Here we will be looking at how diverse meditation actually is and how each type of meditative practice causes different effects on us, and how to use that knowledge in our favor as we meditate.
Meditation Styles And The Unique Effects of Each Style
Meditation practices and their variations have been created and designed by people from different backgrounds including spiritual leaders, self-improvement enthusiasts, religious leaders, and mental health fanatics with different beliefs about life, the universe, and the human brain and body.
They used this knowledge and understanding to create a series of steps that can be exercised to target different areas of our brains, bodies, and souls. And each practice has specific benefits that are different from others.
Let’s take a look at the most common types of meditation and what they have been designed for.
1. Mindfulness meditation – Mindfulness meditation is a form of meditation that seeks to help the meditator be aware of and remain rooted in the present moment. It seeks to help us let go of regret-causing thoughts of the past and worrying thoughts of the future and simply be in the moment and have a full experience of it.
Its benefits include promoting peace and calmness, improving attention and focus, improving quality of sleep, managing pain and fatigue, and reducing stress anxiety, and depression just to name a few.
We encourage you to learn all you need to know about mindfulness meditation in our complete beginner’s guide to mindfulness meditation.
2. Zazen meditation – This is a form of sitting meditation that is meant for helping us gain insight into our true nature of being.
Through this exercise, we get to let go of all the opinions, judgments as well as goals we tend to set for ourselves when meditating.
Its benefits include improved cognitive performance, increasing psychomotor response, and better handling of pain.
3. Vipassana meditation – This is a form of meditation that guides us through the self-transformation that is rooted in self-observation and observing our personal experiences. It is also referred to as insight meditation.
It allows us to be first aware of our thoughts, feelings, actions, and behaviors and then use that awareness to make changes in different areas of our lives that are lacking.
Some of its benefits include overcoming bad habits, deepening our insight and perception, cultivating love, compassion. goodwill, and finding the path to truth.
To get a deeper understanding of this meditation technique, here is a thorough beginner’s guide to vipassana meditation.
4. Compassion meditation – This is a form of meditation that helps us cultivate deep thoughts of compassion and direct our minds towards living compassionately with ourselves and with others.
It makes it possible for us to marry the suffering of others and aim to treat them with compassion and love amidst their suffering as well as our own.
The benefits that this practice drags along with it include encouraging better control of emotions, strengthening our relationships with others, building the virtue of compassion, and reducing mind wandering, to name a few.
5. Loving-kindness meditation – This is a meditation form that allows us to build the virtues of genuine love, concern, and generosity towards other people.
It gets rid of the hatred within us and helps us become grounded in love and kindness.
The benefits that come with this practice include increasing our emotional intelligence, improving our level of positivity, reducing self-criticism, increasing inner contentment and joy, and reducing the tendency to be partial towards others, among others.
6. Walking meditation – This form of meditation is pretty much meditation in motion. It’s where we exercise awareness as we walk.
We become mindful of our thoughts, feelings, and sensations as we move, step by step.
The benefits of walking meditation are strengthening our bond with the environment, improving our mind-body connection, improving our concentration, and many more.
Here’s a comprehensive guide on walking meditation that goes through all the benefits and other aspects of it you should know if you’re looking to get into it.
How Different Forms of The Same Meditation Style Also Have Different Effects
It is also possible to have the same meditation style being executed slightly differently by a group of people and have it cause different effects compared to another group of meditators doing the same meditation style.
For instance, when it comes to walking meditation, there are many variations that are based on meditating while walking but which are known to cause varying effects.
One type of walking meditation is the Thich Nhat Hanh walking meditation which was taught by the Buddhist monk from Vietnam, who is also the founder of the Plum village. This style emphasizes being absorbed in the activity of walking without having a goal or destination in mind. Our goal in this kind of meditation, if any, should be the experience of walking and with each step we take, we smile and open ourselves up to soak in peace and happiness.
The second type of walking meditation is the zen walking meditation, which is also referred to as the Kinhin practice. This practice has laid-out instructions on how to walk, the pace to work with and the posture to maintain. Ideally, we are to walk in a clockwise direction as we meditate. It is normally done a couple of times together with seated (Zen) meditation.
The third type of walking meditation is Theravada walking meditation which heavily focuses on our sensations as we walk. Here, we walk back and forth in an open space as we aim to keep our focus on the practice. It is hard to do that and demands a lot of effort.
These are just 3 examples of the many types of walking meditation, which are approached diversely.
Another example of the same meditation-based style with different approaches is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is generally the quality of being aware of the present moment.
There are quite some mindfulness practices that help us improve our level of mindfulness but which use different approaches, and which also target different areas of our lives.
Mindful breathing is a mindfulness technique that helps us be aware of our breath and the breathing process, which allows us to remain in the present moment. The activity of breathing is always happening in the present moment and when we focus on it, we get grounded in the present moment as well. And it also helps us regulate our breath, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Mindful listening and speaking is also another mindfulness technique that encourages us to apply mindfulness into our daily lives by being aware of ourselves when we are communicating with others. When we speak and listen mindfully, we are more present in our discussions which helps us be better listeners and communicators.
There are many other forms of mindfulness practices including mindful walking and mindful eating, which all help us be more mindful and also help improve the specific areas which we choose to use as our point of grounding our awareness.
The Common Benefits Across All Meditation Styles
It is also worth noting that, while varying meditation styles generate their unique benefits where the effects of one style are not the same as the other, there are also some similar benefits we get to reap from all meditation practices.
Meditation in general is known to help us calm down, reduce anxiety and stress, and get us to relax. And this means that almost all forms of meditation have these calming and relaxing effects. And not only that, meditation can generally help you improve your mental performance.
So if you are looking for a meditation style that can provide relaxation, peacefulness, and cognitive boost, you don’t have to look so hard to get one as most of the meditation techniques out there can help with that.
Getting Started With Meditation And Making The Most of it
Now keeping in mind that each meditation style out there has a specific set of benefits it is known for and that practices can employ the same concept of meditation but have different approaches and result in different benefits, it is now time for you to make a choice on which meditation style and approach you to want, based upon the kind of benefits you’re looking to enjoy from meditation.
After picking the style you feel is your right fit, we encourage you to consider establishing a specific meditation routine where you have a specific time of the day when you meditate each day.
And as you begin, aim to meditate for 2 to 5 minutes only per day until you feel “at home” with the practice, and then you can increase the duration of your meditation sessions.
Reading books, watching meditation videos and lectures about the meditation style you have chosen to work with also helps to deepen your knowledge and understanding of the practice and optimize your overall performance and experience of it.
Ideally, meditation is all about finding a practice that offers the kind of benefits you seek and which also matches your belief system, perspectives about life, and traditions.
And finding a meditative practice like that, for an individual, might take quite some time for most of us as it involves us testing different practices and figuring out how well they work for us until we find the right one.
However, if you are clear about the benefits you desire to enjoy from meditation, and you are determined to test out different practices, you will eventually find your perfect match. We wish you all the luck with your meditation journey. 🙂