Humans today live with more information, more stimulus, and more clutter than ever before.
We have also created higher and higher expectations for ourselves and the lives we ought to be living.
According to our own standards, we should be living in a flaw-free, technology-aided society while fulfilling our highest potential in relationships and artistic outlets.
Basically, we should be living the existence of George Clooney in the household of George Jetson.
And yet, we’re not.
(At least, I’m not. Do you have a robot dog and a brilliant humanitarian wife?!)
We think we should be happier and healthier than ever before, and yet, we’re not.
We toil for hours, weeks, and years on end to build the life we envision for ourselves, only to find that we are incapable of enjoying it.
We claim that we “don’t have time” to stop and smell the roses, yet, the average person will spend five years of their life plugged into social media.
Over centuries and across continents, people have used meditation to deepen and enhance their lives, and now, it may be time to return to basics.
Here is a carefully-crafted list of the most popular types of meditation out there, including where they come from and how to practice them right now!
Give it a read, and then dive in. Actually try the meditative practices that appeal to you. It’s the only way you’ll discover if it’s right for you. Maybe it will inspire you to go on a yoga and meditation retreat!
My meditation teacher used to say: “I can sit here and spend years explaining to you what a mango is. I can describe how a mango looks and smells. But until you actually take a bite and taste the mango, you will have no idea what a mango is.”
Benefits of Meditation
Maybe you’ve heard that starting a meditation practice can make you smarter, happier, healthier, more loving, and able to fly.
It’s true, the benefits of meditation are profound. It can help you
- reduce anxiety
- decrease depression
- boost the immune system
- make better decisions
- think faster
- increase compassion
- practice more patience
- reduce chronic pain
- lose weight
- kill ADHD
- preserve the brain long after your practice
From regulating blood pressure to helping you find inner peace and deeper satisfaction in your life, meditation can transform the way you experience life.
Whether you choose to pursue a transcendental meditation program, take a class on OM meditation, or add a walking meditation to your daily routine, you can be certain to reap some positive reward.
Buddhist meditation takes many forms, as the Buddha inspired thousands of people over the centuries to seek Truth.
Here you will find descriptions of four of the most common meditative practices stemming from Buddhism.
1. Vipassana Meditation
Vipassana, (which means to see things as they really are) is a very specific style of silent meditation that has its roots in Buddhism. Vipassana boasts an unbroken lineage, which means that the practice has been handed down from teacher to student since the time of Buddha.
Because of this clear succession, Vipassana meditation is very regulated in comparison to other forms of meditation.
Unlike other styles of meditation, which you can learn from a book or a quick YouTube video, you will need to attend a 10-day residential course to learn this technique in its original form.
Sure, this means you aren’t able to start meditating in this style instantly, but you will benefit from the quality and authenticity of the teachings of this course.
Another benefit: in order to preserve the traditions of how this course is taught, Vipassana meditation courses are not taught commercially. All payment for the residential course is donation-based.
During the course, you can expect to follow a Code of Discipline and work diligently to learn the basics of the method, while gaining enough practice to experience beneficial results.
2. Zen Meditation (Zazen Meditation)
Zen meditation (also called zazen meditation) was taught by Siddhārtha Gautama, (also called the Buddha) under the Sanskrit term “dhyan,” which was carried to China and called “chan,” and then brought to Southeast Asia where it became Zen.
The word “dhyan” basically describes a meditative state. Zen meditation is a very minimalist style of meditation. There are no fancy mantras, prayer beads, or step-by-step instructions.
Rather than focusing your attention on a particular thing, like a sound vibration or the breath, Zen tradition states that once you get in the proper posture and allow your breathing to settle down, the mind will naturally become calm and meditative.
So. What is the proper posture? You can sit either in lotus position, or in a chair with a straight spine. Use a cushion (also called a zafu) if you like.
Arrange your hands into what is called the cosmic mudra (left hand on top of right, both palm-up, thumbs touching, just in front of your navel) and take a deep, controlled breath.
Try not to concentrate on anything in particular, and when you notice thoughts starting to pop up in your head, don’t struggle with them or try to escape from them. Just leave your thoughts alone, allowing them to arrive and go away freely.
Many people feel daunted by such a cut-and-dry, bare-bones practice. They prefer to have an anchor for the mind, something to return to for support. Just remember that there is no “winning” at meditation.
Even if you sit on your meditation cushion for a half hour and feel distracted the whole time, you still practiced.
3. Loving-Kindness Meditation
This meditation technique is also known as “metta bhavana” in the Pali language and uses words, images, and feeling to soften your heart and mind.
Using kind thoughts and intentional phrases, you practise opening to deeper levels of pure love by breaking down barriers that we feel toward ourselves and others.
It is similar to some forms of mantra meditation and is often found in Buddhist practices and traditions in order to cultivate love for all of humanity.
You may wish to try a guided version of this meditation first, but you will quickly be able to practise it on your own.
After settling into a comfortable posture, start to recite these phrases (usually silently). Express the intention of each phrase by putting your whole heart and mind behind the words.
Here are phrases that are commonly used:
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I be safe from harm.
May I live with peace and ease.
Once you’ve planted that seed of intention within yourself, you can choose someone in your life and repeat the phrases, this time sending the loving wishes to that person.
4. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation can refer to any number of forms of meditation but has been used most recently to describe a secular technique of cultivating deep awareness into the present moment.
This type of meditation has been popularized as a method for combatting the stress of daily life, particularly in the Western world. Adherents describe feeling happier, less distracted, and more satisfied with their lives.
Think of mindfulness meditation as “present moment awareness without judgment.” In other words, you aren’t trying to be different from how you already are.
This means you don’t have to reject your thoughts or force yourself to stop thinking. Rather, you focus your attention on the precise details of your present experience, regardless of whether it is difficult or easy, pleasant or uncomfortable.
You can sit either on a cushion or a chair, with your eyes open. Your gaze can rest gently on whatever is in front of you.
There is no special breathing technique for mindfulness meditation. Your purpose is to notice how everything already is, not to force things to be a certain way. If you notice that you are already manipulating your breath, just allow it to be that way.
It can make your head spin in circles to try to act natural, so don’t worry too much about it. Just let things be however they are.
These days, when I say yoga the first image that comes to mind is probably a spandex-wearing Malibu Barbie doing downward-facing dog. Or maybe an Instagram model doing a handstand.
And yet, this is a far cry from what the term yoga traditionally means. In Sanskrit, yoga comes from the term for yoking, or creating union. In practice, yoga has come to mean “that which brings you to reality,” or “union with the divine.”
Handstands and downward-facing dogs are known as asanas, or postures, which were intended to prepare you for sitting in meditation.
There is some disagreement over the separation of different branches of yoga. For example, in Patanjali’s yoga sutras there are eight limbs of yoga, the third of which is asana. Dhyana, or meditation, doesn’t appear until limb number seven. While each limb is thought to expand upon the limbs before it, they are still viewed as distinct.
Regardless of your own personal interpretation of the boundaries of yogic practices, you can still experiment with meditation techniques which stem from the Vedic tradition of yoga.
5. Mantra Meditation
Mantra is a Sanskrit word stemming from two roots: man means mind, and tra means tool, or instrument. A mantra is therefore a tool for the mind on the path to enlightenment.
These days, we see mantras in the form of positive affirmations (“You is smart, you is kind, you is important.”) and also in their more traditional form as a one-syllable sound vibration that doesn’t necessarily have a literal translation.
On the level of the mind, mantras replace thinking. In any moment, you can only focus on one thing. So in mantra meditation, for every moment you actively concentrating on the sound or phrase, you are not distracted by other thoughts.
In certain religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism, practitioners recite mantras to deepen their mind-heart connection and be present with Divinity.
If you are interested in trying mantra meditation, or japa meditation in Sanskrit, under guidance, you can seek a teacher from a secular or spiritual background.
In each of these cases, mantras are typically given by the teacher to the student, along with instructions on how to practise with it.
Otherwise, you can choose your own mantra or affirmation and repeat it silently in your head, or softly out loud. As with loving-kindness meditation (see above) it is important to recite the words intentionally, with heart and purpose.
Some popular suggestions:
I am patient.
I am content in this moment.
My heart will guide me.
My treasures lie within.
For a morning mantra meditation,
As you inhale, think I am energized.
As you exhale, think I am focused.
Or try the traditional Buddhist mantra: om mani padme hum, which has been used for hundreds of years to help Buddhist practitioners touch their own inner wisdom.
6. Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental meditation is often confused with Vedic meditation, a type of Hindu meditation. They follow similar practices and were both founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, an Indian sage from the 20th century.
Transcendental meditation (TM) technique is another style that is specific and regulated; the technique is taught by a trained professional, in a one-on-one setting over four consecutive days.
You can find over 340 peer-reviewed articles proclaiming the benefits of TM, which range from reducing cardiovascular disease to treating PTSD and creating more satisfying relationships.
The practice is based on the understanding that while the mind may have disturbances and agitations at the surface level, it is naturally peaceful. Think of the ocean: if you’re on the surface, you may experience huge storms and waves. But in the vastness underneath the surface, the water is calm.
This is also one of the more popular forms of meditation because it appeals to skeptics who don’t want to put their faith in a spiritual system.
Rather, this mindfulness-based stress reduction occurs regardless of the practitioner’s beliefs.
Perform it for 20 minutes, 2 times per day by focusing on a mantra that your teacher assigns you. The mantra does not have a meaning, because meaning will trap you on the surface levels.
7. Vedic Meditation
Vedic meditation is essentially the same thing as Transcendental meditation, without the formal trademark. (If Transcendental meditation is name-brand Kleenex, then vedic meditation is a store-brand tissue.)
Just like TM, vedic meditation is designed for people living busy lives just like you. You don’t have to renounce all your worldly possessions and go become a monk in order to experience it.
It was developed in India 5,000 years ago for regular folks who asked “Why is it that my mind wanders?” People who wanted better concentration, who wanted to reduce their stress levels and quiet their thoughts.
Vedic meditation is practiced for 20 minutes 2 times per day, once in the morning and once in the late afternoon or evening. Sit comfortably with your back supported and your head free.
The mind and body silently experience a mantra and quiet down automatically, without any particular concentration. Your mind will go beyond thought while remaining alert, to a state of total inner contentedness.
8. Yoga Meditation
Yoga meditation can refer to many types of meditation that serve to create “union between the self and the divine.”
One of the most powerful of these meditative practices is Isha Kriya, a simple yet powerful yogic tool as taught by Sadhguru.
A “kriya” is an internal action, and “isha” means that which is the source of creation. The purpose of Isha Kriya is to use yogic science to connect with the source of your own existence.
Isha Kriya takes only 12-18 minutes to practise each day.
If you’ve ever tried meditation before, you will know that three elements are already present: thoughts, breath, and awareness.
Okay, I’m going to sit down and meditate. Okay, I need to stop thinking. Darn it, that’s a thought. Okay, I’m going to focus on my breath. Inhale, exhale. Good…. I’ve got this, I can do this… Wait a minute. Why am I focused on how well this is going for me? That probably means I’m doing it wrong. Grrrr.
Isha Kriya uses the three elements that are already at play in meditation to help you move from untruth to truth, focusing your awareness beyond just the thoughts and body.
9. Chakra Meditation
Oh, the chakras. Perhaps one of the most misunderstood yogic concepts, yet also one we hear about so frequently.
Chakra, in Sanskrit, means “wheel.” In modern yogic contexts, we have come to understand the chakras as a system of interconnected energy centers, or transitioning points of power, located at various positions throughout the body.
(Helpful tip: the “ch” in chakra is pronounced as a ”ch,” [as in chocolate factory] not an “sh” [as in shopping mall].)
This theory about the subtle body, or energetic body, comes from the tradition of Tantric Yoga.
Although we typically only hear of seven fundamental chakras, there are in fact 114 such energy centers in the body. These occur at the major junctions of nadis in the body. (A Nadi is a pathway of prana in the system, and prana is energy.)
If you look online, there are an abundance of guided meditations that claim to “align” your chakras or bring them into balance.
You can try visualizing a color at each chakra, breathing into the corresponding location on the body, or chanting the associated sound vibration to activate each of these centers.
The not-so-good news: If you wish to practice yoga and meditation in accordance with yogic sciences, you won’t find any of these techniques in the original yogic texts.
The good news: there are no chakra police. You can try these methods all day long and perhaps gain an experience. Nobody will come and take you to chakra jail. (On second thought, I would love to go to chakra jail. That sounds delightful.)
The better news: You can still work with the chakras in ways that align with yogic science and ancient texts.
To move your energies upward, there are many spiritual processes and several ways (see Kundalini Meditation and Tantric Meditation). But to move from the sixth to the final chakra above, there is no step-by-step guide.
Instead, you have to “fall upward,” to jump or fall into an endless pit. It is said that unless you are willing to fall upward, you won’t reach the seventh chakra.
10. Kundalini Meditation
If you think of kundalini energy as an electric plug-point in your house, and the electricity available through that plug point as the total unmanifest energy in the world, then yoga is simply the science of getting your appliances properly plugged into the electrical socket, so that you have a constant stream of power.
Yoga is a scientific method of raising the kundalini, which can be a very powerful practice. It is recommended to handle this type of meditation with care, out of deference to its potency.
Many kundalini yoga practitioners today use traditional kundalini yoga mantras, such as “I am,” or sat nam (“truth is my identity”) to focus your awareness and breath. If your mind wanders, try bringing the attention back to the breath and the mantra.
11. Tantric Meditation
Despite being misrepresented in the West as a sexual free-for-all, the path of tantra is actually very traditional.
Unlike in sex, where we find release at the lower levels of the energy system, tantra is about building the energies upwards, employing all the instincts of the body so that your energies spill from the uppermost part of your system.
The word “tantra” literally means a technique or a technology. Tantric meditation is an inner technology used to experience truth and bliss. We often talk about “upgrading your technology” using tantric methods.
Remember, everything is made up of vibrations, operating at different frequencies.
In tantric meditation, you turn everything around you – your body and surroundings – into systems that are more easily able to conduct and maintain high-frequency vibrations.
Yantra (form) and mantra (sound vibration) are two of the tools used in tantric meditation to make this happen.
The best way to learn this meditation technique is to immerse yourself in this experience under the guidance of a teacher.
12. Self-Enquiry Meditation
Self-inquiry is a form of meditation that can help you leave the state of constant anxiety about the particulars of who you are, what should be doing, and what lies ahead.
It offers mindfulness-based stress reduction by shifting your attention to the very fact that you exist, and allowing your focus to rest there.
This is a very natural way to recognize your own existence and move to a state of pure presence, free of thought or analysis. Ultimately, you come to experience an immensity of Being, moving beyond the trap of your identity.
It is important to remember that many modern traditions of meditation evolved over years and years, passing through different cultures and countries and taking on new characteristics.
So “Chinese meditation” could refer to a whole host of different types of meditation.
13 Taoist Meditation types of meditationWhat is it?
Taoist meditation is a very streamlined process of meditation that involves controlling your being in three ways in order to practise.
It stems from Taoism, or Daoism, a Chinese religion, and philosophy dating back to the 4th century.
Taoist meditation differs from other forms of meditation in that it is very active. Unlike other types of meditation, which instruct you to take the backseat and simply observe your mind, thoughts, and habits, Taoist meditation requires the practitioner to engage in the process.
Try it now:
The three “adjustments,” or tiao that you must start out with. Tiao means to tune, like you would a piano. With these three steps, you will start to tune your system so that it can function harmoniously.
Adjustment One (Tiao Xin): The mind must concentrate on something.
Adjustment Two (Tiao Shen): The body must become deeply relaxed.
Adjustment Three (Tiao Xi): The breath must become slow, long, thin, soft and even.
These three steps work together to bring your body-mind system into harmony. You may have experienced this before. Once you start to relax your body, your breath automatically starts to slow down. When your body is not tensed up, the mind can concentrate more easily.
14 Qigong Meditationtypes of meditation What is it?
Qigong literally means “energy work” and has played a role in ancient Chinese medicine since, well, ancient times.
Western scientists developed the term “bioelectricity” to refer to the energy of the body. In Qigong, you practice with or cultivate your life force by moving with intention, in order to move energy throughout the body.
You can practise qigong as a moving meditation in two senses of the word. In certain practices, the body is physically moving in order to stimulate and manipulate the chi, or life force energy.
In other forms of qigong meditation, only the internal energy moves, without any aid from the musculoskeletal system. Learn more here.
Many people think of guided meditation as the footwear of couture fashion.
Allow me to explain.
Unless you’re a supermodel, you probably look at most high-fashion ensembles and think “Yeah, right. Sure, she looks amazing in that faux-alligator skin jumpsuit with the polka-dotted feathers, but I could never pull that off.”
Then your eyes drift down to her killer shoes and you think “Well hey now, wait a minute…”
Something about the phrase guided meditation seems to make a daunting concept seem less scary, more accessible.
Apps such as Headspace, Calm, and Buddhify offer short, guided meditations designed to lower blood pressure, improve concentration, and introduce mindfulness into the lives of the masses.
15 Body Scan Meditation
Body scan meditations are a common form of guided meditation. They are an excellent way to start off your mindfulness journey, by helping you develop body awareness and concentration on the present moment.
You will often see body scan meditations as part of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program because they are both accessible and engaging.
A body scan meditation is basically what the name suggests: guided by an audio recording, you focus your attention on various specific parts of the body, one at a time, observing and allowing the region to relax.
Click here to try a body scan meditation.
UCLA Meditations guided meditation What is it?
The University of California, Los Angeles offers a wealth of guided meditations, online and for free through their Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC).
You can find various meditation techniques, mindfulness-based stress reduction programs, walking meditation, and yoga meditation.
The guided meditations are available in English and Spanish, in audio format and also as transcripts for the hearing-impaired. You can either stream or download them.
16 Christian Meditation types of meditation What is it?
Christian meditation can refer either to two different practices. First, it can refer to a mindfulness meditation that has been designed for Christians who want to practice meditation without participating in an alternate belief system.
Christian meditation can also denote the practice of using Scripture as the object of your concentration, in order to experience the word of God in new ways.
Famous yogi and meditation master Paramahansa Yogananda was a devout follower of Christ and wrote about meditation in 1935, after visiting the holy city of Jerusalem:
“Christ must be lived to be known. In all good actions, in every material and spiritual service, and in the manger of meditation, the immortal Cosmic Christ is born anew.”
Yogananda also said: “none can know about that Christ by reading books on theology; one must feel his presence in the bower of deep meditation.”
If you are looking for a meditation technique that doesn’t require any specific spiritual beliefs, try a Transcendental Meditation program, where you will learn a method that is practical, not spiritual.
If you are looking for a form of meditation that will complement your faith, experiment with mantra meditation the way early Christians practiced it. Try the common Christian mantra “Let go, Let God.”
17 Hindu Meditation types of meditation What is it:
Hindu meditation can refer to several styles of meditation. You have already read about the various styles of yoga meditation, which were rooted in Hinduism.
The terms Hindu meditation and Vedic mediation are often used interchangeably, to describe the same practices. This makes sense, since the Vedas were a hugely important set of Hindu texts.
Sometimes, Hindu meditation appears as an OM meditation, practised by gazing at images of gods and deities while chanting the mantra om, or aum.
Ramana Maharshi was a great Hindu yogi master, whose teachings can tell us a lot about how to practice Hindu meditation.
Once a follower asked him, “How is meditation to be practised?”
He replied, “Meditation is, truly speaking, Atmanishtha (to be fixed as the Self). But when thoughts cross the mind and an effort is made to eliminate them the effort is usually termed meditation. Atmanishtha is your real nature. Remain as you are. That is the aim.
So, whether you choose to pursue transcendental meditation techniques, a walking meditation, an OM meditation (or mantra meditation), or even an orgasmic meditation, you can be sure to experience the many benefits of meditation.
If you notice that your mind wanders during your daily meditative practices, or that you are unable to focus your attention on a single object or task, you can always return to the practice.
Meditation is a free and magnificent resource, available to you 24 hours per day.
Use it, so that the next time another driver cuts you off on the highway, you don’t lose it!
Because meditation isn’t just a portal to your spiritual self, it’s also a portal to better mental health. No matter the kind of meditation you choose to practice, you’ll be better able to keep negative thoughts and emotions at bay, to slip into a natural and deep relaxation, to develop an ongoing state of consciousness, and to let those good feelings continue to rise.
Seriously, meditation helps everyone.
After all, your meditative practice could be as simple as incorporating mindful breathing into your daily habits or diving deep into Buddhist traditions. There are so many meditation styles to choose from, each of them offering serious mental, emotional, and physical benefits. So why not give it a try?