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17 Types of Meditation (Techniques and Basics) to Practice Mindfulness

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17 Types of Meditation (Techniques and Basics) to Practice Mindfulness

Amit Ray, an Indian author who is a master of vipassana meditation techniques said this,

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”

Ray is talking about one of the main reasons you may be seeking to meditate: anxiety.

About 40 million Americans1 — or 18 percent of the population — suffer from anxiety but very few seek assistance.[1] If you do seek assistance, there’s only one mental health professional for every 1,000 people and there are many societal barriers to help.

Meditation is a proven method of self care to help you with your anxiety. Even if you don’t suffer from anxiety, meditation can help you maintain a healthy mind-state, which is essential for quality relationships, bodily health and a productive life.[2]

Meditation techniques to boost mindfulness

Here, you’ll find detailed information on meditation techniques, including the basics of each technique so you can start right away.

The purpose of this guide is to help you choose a meditation method. Through whichever meditative path you choose, your ultimate destination is a state of liberation and mindfulness.

1. Basic beginner’s meditation

This is a way to initiate yourself to the practice of meditation without engaging in any of the more difficult techniques. This will acquaint you with the emphasis on breathing, the noting of sensations and the lack of judgement.

How to do basic beginner’s meditation:

  1. Sit or lie down.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Breathe but don’t try to regulate your breathing.
  4. Let breaths come and go.
  5. Pay attention to the sensations of breathing, attend to the rise and fall of the abdomen, the chest, the shoulders and the in-and-out of air through your nostrils.
  6. When thoughts go stray, return gently to your breath.
  7. Do this for 3 minutes per day at the outset and gradually increase your time.

2. Zazen

Zazen is the Zen Buddhist practice of seated meditation. Some Zen Buddhists contend that Zazen isn’t meditation, yet other Zen practitioners believe Zazen is the meditative practice at the core of Zen.

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Zazen involves three intertwined elements that to the Zen Buddhist are a single thing: your posture while seated, your breathing and the state of mind arising from the act of sitting and breathing.  

How to do Zazen:

  1. Sit on a small pillow or folded blanket so that your rear end is slightly raised above the floor. Sit with your rear end on the front third of the pillow.
  2. Assume the posture of Zazen.[3] Depending on your flexibility, you can do any of the following:
    – Sit in the Burmese position with your legs crossed so that the backs of both feet rest flat on the floor and both knees touch the floor.
    – Sit in the half lotus position with left foot resting flat atop the right thigh. Tuck your right leg beneath left leg.
    – Sit in the full lotus position with both of your feet resting atop the opposite thigh.
    – Hold your hands just above your feet with palms towards the sky so that the backs of one hand’s fingers rest on the front of the other hands fingers, while thumb-tips touch.
    – Push your head towards sky. Release tension in shoulders and open shoulder blades.
  3. Close your mouth with teeth together and tongue touching roof of mouth
  4. Breathing through your nose, focus entirely on the rhythm of your breathing. If it helps, count each inhalation. Start at 10 and work your way down to 1, then start over (inhalation 10, inhalation 9, etc.).
  5. Remain in the posture, concentrating on posture and breathing and your state of mind will be one with your body in the moment.

3. Qigong

Qigong is “life energy cultivation.”[4] Qigong is a Chinese Taoist practice that broadly speaking, combines exercises with breathing techniques. For the meditation practice, you’re going to focus your qi, which is your vital energy.

How to do Qigong meditation:

  1. Sit comfortably and balance yourself with your spine straight and centered.
  2. Relax every part of your body.
  3. Clear your mind by concentrating on long deep breaths that expand your lower abdomen.
  4. Bring deep focus to your center, which is the approximately two inches below your belly button. Your qi is the energy that concentrates there.
  5. Even as you continue your focus, feel the force of your qi as it courses through your entire body. As your concentration remains on your center, you will feel this force throughout your body without trying to feel it.

4. Mindfulness

Mindfulness has become enormously popular in the West because you can practice it in any setting and it is a stress-reduction technique. Like all meditation practices, mindfulness focuses on mind-state and body simultaneously.

How to do mindfulness meditation:

  1. Begin by sitting comfortably and close your eyes.
  2. Focus on breathing. Inhale through your nose slowly and exhale slowly.
  3. As distracting thoughts enter your consciousness, don’t judge them and don’t hang onto them. Let each thought go but don’t focus on thought cessation; rather, focus on breathing.
  4. Treat all physical sensations and feelings in the same way you do thoughts: register them, then let them go, returning to breathing.
  5. Extend this practice to everyday activity, remaining “in the moment” of the body’s activity with each new breath.

5. Loving-Kindness

Also called Metta meditation, Loving-Kindness stems from Theravada Buddhism.[5] Metta is about directing specific feelings and thoughts. It’s great for anyone who suffers from depression, anger outbursts and negative thoughts.

How to do Loving-Kindness meditation:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
  2. Direct thoughts and feelings of complete well-being and unconditional love to yourself.
  3. After you’ve directed loving-kindness to yourself during enough sessions to begin feeling joy, choose a close friend or relative and direct loving-kindness to them.
  4. Direct loving-kindness to a neutral acquaintance.
  5. Direct loving-kindness to someone you don’t like.
  6. Move outward until you’re sending loving-kindness to the universe. You’ll experience joy and will be devoid of anger.

6. Chakra meditation

In Sanskrit, chakra means “wheel” or “disk”.[6] A chakra is a wheel of energy. There are seven of them and they start at the base of the spine and move up to the crown of the head. Each chakra corresponds with bundles of nerves and major organs.

Chakra meditation is about aligning and opening the chakras. Each chakra has a sound (mantra) and a color associated with it.

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Begin by learning the basics of each chakra:[7]

    How to do chakra meditation:

     

    1. Sit comfortably cross-legged on a pillow.
    2. Breathe evenly and steadily.
    3. Close your eyes and concentrate on your root chakra by envisioning a red wheel of energy. Concentrate on the bodily location of the chakra. Repeat the corresponding mantra. Picture energy flowing. Continue until you have a clear picture of the red chakra energy flowing in a wheel shape.
    4. Work your way up to the crown chakra. Give ample time to each chakra.
    5. Spend time learning more about each chakra and continue meditation and self-awareness until you can tell when an individual chakra is blocked. Then, you can meditate on individual chakras.

    7. Gazing meditation

    This yogic meditation is a externally focused.

    How to do gazing meditation:

    1. Sit comfortably with your gaze focused on a single object, such as a candle, waterfall or symbol. For as long as you’re able, don’t blink; maintain relaxation.
    2. Maintain focus until your eyes begin to feel uncomfortable and then close your eyes.
    3. Keep the afterimage of the object in your mind’s eye for several minutes, then open your eyes and start again.

    8. Third Eye meditation

    With this practice, you’ll focus exclusively on the ajna chakra, which is the third eye on your forehead between your eyebrows.

    How to do Third Eye meditation:

    1. Sitting cross-legged, direct your focus to the spot between your eyebrows.
    2. Continue redirecting focus to your third eye each time any other thought arises.
    3. After some time, your mind will experience stillness and the space between thoughts will lengthen.
    4. You can also try it with eyes closed, repeated the SHAM ajna mantra, directing your concentration to the spot between your eyebrows, and picturing the indigo wheel.

    9. Kundalini meditation

    Kundalini yoga will release the snake-like energy coiled up at the base of the spine. That energy will rise up through the spine and to the crown. This practice adheres to dieting practices, breathing exercises and specific movements.

    How to do Kundalini meditation:

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    1. Block your left nostril and inhale long and deep. On your next inhalation, block your right nostril. Repeat and let your mind clear as you concentrate on breathing.
    2. Know that Kundalini is a yoga system that takes studying and regular adherence.[8] There’s a lot to it but proponents claim that Kundalini changes your physiology, brain waves and energy levels.

    10. Nada yoga

    Nada Yoga is sound meditation, which helps it fit very well with the growing practice of music therapy.

    How to do Nada yoga meditation:

    1. Simply assume a comfortable meditative position, close your eyes and concentrate on an external sound. You could choose ambient alpha wave music, the sound of a rushing brook or any other calming, steady sound.
    2. After you’ve mastered listening to an external sound, focus on listening to your body and mind.
    3. Eventually, you’ll hear the sound that has no vibration: the sound of the universe — the OM.

    11. Self-inquiry

    This meditation questions the “I” or what it is you’re speaking of when you say “I do this.” It originates from the Sanskrit atma vichara, to investigate the self. Self-inquiry is about oneness of the body and mind.

    How to do self-inquiry meditation:

    1. Assume a comfortable meditative position.
    2. When a thought or feeling arises, ask “who is feeling that feeling?” or “who is thinking that thought?” The answer is naturally “me.”
    3. Ask yourself “who am I?” without attempting to to answer the question. This way, you direct you focus inward, redirecting to the question of the self each time something else arises.
    4. Through this focus on the self as subject, you achieve pure existence and awareness of the self in space and time.

    12. Tantra

    Unlike the popular conception, Tantra is not necessarily about sex. Vijnanabhairava Tantra prescribes over 100 dharanas or “things to meditate on.”[9] Most of them are advanced meditations that already require you to be familiar with basic meditative practices.

    Here’s a Tantric meditation that stems from the Tantrika belief that the body is made of divine light.

    How to do Tantra light meditation:  

    1. Assume a comfortable meditative posture. Pay attention to your bodily sensations and breathing in a mindful state.
    2. Focus on your right foot and imagine it is golden light. Think: “My foot is golden light.”
    3. Work your way through the rest of your body, from your left foot, to your ankles, to your calves, thighs, pelvis, hips, buttocks, genitals, lower abdomen, lower spine, stomach, solar plexus, so on and so forth until you’ve reached your brain and the crown of your head. Breathe golden light into each part of your body.
    4. As you go, repeat the assertion that each part of body is golden light. At the end, think: “My whole body is light. I am light.” Breathe in golden light and breathe out golden light to the universe.

    13. Taoist Emptiness meditation

    The Chinese Taoist tradition of Emptiness Meditation emphasizes letting go of thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they arise.

    How to do Taoist Emptiness meditation:

    1. Sit in a cross-legged position, spine erect, eyes partially closed and looking at the tip of the nose.
    2. When any thought, emotion or sensation arises, don’t follow it. Let it go as easily as it came up.
    3. Sit in a place of quietness. Continue focusing on the quietness with no desire to take up thoughts, emotions or feelings.

    14. Vipassana

    Vipassana is a traditional Buddhist meditation practice from which Western practitioners derived mindfulness. Like mindfulness and other meditations, it starts with the breath.

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    How to do Vipassana meditation:

    1. Like Zazen, sit on a cushion, back erect, spine straight and legs crossed.
    2. Concentrate on breathing and the movement of breath through the nostrils; or concentrate on the rise and falling of the abdomen.
    3. As emotions, sensations, thoughts and sounds arise, let them do so without paying attention to them. Continue focusing on breathing and let other things become background noise.
    4. If a perception does capture your attention, note it and label it. For example, a barking dog is “voice.” A car’s honk is “traffic.” A thought about something sad in your life is “thinking.”
    5. After you’ve labeled something, let it go and return to your breath.

    15. Mantra Meditation

    A mantra has no meaning. It is merely a word or symbol you repeat in order to reach a meditative state. Each mantra is a vibration that puts your brain waves in tune with the rising and falling waves of the universe (light waves, sound waves, radio waves, ocean waves).

    How to do Mantra meditation:

    1. Sit in the posture of meditation.
    2. Choose a mantra. Om is the most well-known, and there are other options, such as om namah shivaya, ham, yam, and rama.
    3. In your mind, repeat the mantra. Do this for a set amount for time, say five minutes at the outset.
    4. You can coordinate the mantra with the rhythm of your breathing if you so wish or you can whisper it.
    5. Ultimately, the goal is to release all thoughts except for the internal sound of the mantra.  

    16. Guided Meditation

    Guided meditation appeals to the same need that Transcendental Meditation (TM) appeals to: the need for an instructor. However, TM requires you to spend a great deal of money on a guru while guided meditation can be as simple as downloading an app.

    How to do guided meditation:

    1. If you’re a smartphone user, look into meditation apps available for download.
    2. You can also access guided meditations on YouTube. For example, Kundalini Awakening has a Guided Kundalini Meditation
    3. Follow guided meditation instructions to a T, without judgment. Then, once you’ve mastered guided meditation, beginning meditating on your own.

    17. Body Scan meditation

    In this variation on mindfulness, you’ll note what every part of your body is doing. Berkeley University recommends you try this for 20 to 45 minutes per day, 3 to 6 days per week.[10]

    How to do Body Scan meditation:

    1. Begin by sitting, standing, or lying down and close your eyes if that helps increase calmness.
    2. Whatever surface you’re touching, note the feeling of your weight against it.
    3. Take several deep breaths through your nostrils, noting your relaxation as you exhale.
    4. Now note the sensations present in each part of the body. You can note whatever occurs to you first or begin with your feet and move upward.
    5. If there is any tension in any part of your body, release it with your exhalations.
    6. Note your entire body. Take a breath, experience total relaxation and when you’re ready, open your eyes.

    Choose what calms you

    Meditation helps release you from your tendency to brood and dwell on negative thoughts. It increases your discipline, improves your focus and observation skills, decreases anxiety and helps increase awareness of your body, thoughts and surroundings.

    Whichever meditation technique you choose, repeated practice will move you closer to liberation, mindfulness and enlightenment.

    Featured photo credit: Twenty20 via twenty20.com

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    Reference

    [1] Regis College: Mental Health Care in the United States
    [2] Healthline: A Single Session of Meditation May Reduce Anxiety and Help Your Heart
    [3] White Wind Zen Community: Posture of Zazen
    [4] Live and Dare: Types of Meditation – an Overview of 23 Meditation Techniques
    [5] Berkeley University of California: Loving-Kindness Meditation
    [6] The Chopra Center: What Is a Chakra?
    [7] The World is All Yours: Beginner Meditation
    [8] Sri Swami Sivananda: Kundalini Yoga
    [9] Shiva Shakti: Vijnanabhairava Tantra
    [10] Berkeley University of California: Body Scan Meditation

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    Dan Matthews, CPRP

    A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

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    Last Updated on November 8, 2021

    How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

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    How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

    Do you often feel stressed for most of your day? Maybe you always feel a burden that you just can’t get rid of? Focused meditation might be your answer.

    In this article, I’ll explore what focused meditation is, how it differs in the pool of many styles of meditation, and how to implement and start this practice today. Likewise, I’ll highlight the benefits of a focused meditation practice for your overall health.

    What Is Focused Meditation?

    Meditation is the practice of becoming self-aware through breath and attention to connect the mind, body, and spirit.[1] Meditation as a whole can change the structure and function of our brain. That being said, focused meditation or a guided meditation for focus is by far the best one. Meditation for focus and concentration can come in different forms. Experienced meditators use the following:

    • Mindfulness – this meditation involves us to be focusing on your breath and observing thoughts. This allows us to focus on our feelings without becoming too absorbed in them.
    • Concentrative – a meditation that gets us to focus on a particular point; be it a word, breath, object, or a point in the space you’re meditating. This is meant for us to pay attention to that point and prevent our minds from getting distracted.
    • Moving – this meditation involves gets us to focus on slow and repetitive movements similar to yoga or tai chi. The goal is again to be focusing on your breath while relaxing your body and mind with the movements.

    Focused meditation, also known as concentrative meditation, is the practice of meditating and bringing your attention to one single object. This object can be something practical and tangible, such as a mandala painting or a candle flame. It can also be something abstract, such as a phrase (also known as mantra) or a sound (such as Om).[2][3]

    Whatever you settle your attention on becomes the focal point. None of these object examples are better than others—they are simply choices depending on what you’re looking to get out of your practice. For example, practitioners will choose candle gazing to interpret the images the flame makes in the shadows while others will choose a mantra because that particular phrase or word empowers or heals them.

    How Does It Differ From Other Meditation Styles?

    All meditation styles and practices overlap and build on each other. Their basic foundation is the same: to bring the practitioner insight and introspection.

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    There is no right or wrong way to meditate, however, the various types of meditation can enhance particular qualities. Based on your personality and needs, one type of meditation may be more useful to you than the other. The 9 types of meditation are:

    • Mindfulness meditation
    • Spiritual meditation
    • Focused meditation
    • Movement meditation
    • Mantra meditation
    • Transcendental meditation
    • Progressive relaxation
    • Loving kindness meditation
    • Visualization meditation

    Focused meditation, specifically, is the practice of focusing on one single object for the duration of the practice. How this differs from other meditation styles is that it gives the practitioner something tangible to do: focus. It’s almost like giving your mind an action to perform—listen to this sound, repeat these words, watch this flame, etc. This is also one of the reasons why this particular meditation style is great for beginners!

    One of the biggest challenges in any meditation practice is that the mind gets carried away and we lose ourselves to random thoughts. This “obstacle” is actually a style of meditation in and of itself called Vipassana.[4] However, in focused meditation, we give the mind something to do so that it’s not simply left to its own devices. This type of meditation is beneficial for beginners and for practitioners who prefer some structure and guidance to their meditations.

    The Benefits of Focused Meditation

    In this style of meditation, what you’re really doing is exercising your mental muscles. Your brain is highly affected by dedicated and concentrated meditation practice.

    Scientists have performed countless studies on focused meditation and have found that active meditators have more gray matter volume in their brain and, therefore, offsetting the cognitive decline that comes with aging. So, not only does practicing focused meditation help you learn how to focus better on certain tasks, but it also improves similar functions, such as memory. [5]

    Likewise, it helps in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, which our society is currently crippled with.[6] By settling your attention on an object, you are essentially building your ability to observe your thoughts and sensations from a place of objectivity. This allows you to detach from negative self-talk that is often the breeding ground for depression and other mental illnesses.

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    From a guided meditation for focus to practicing it yourself, daily meditation for focus comes with several benefits:

    • It’ll reduce stress
    • Help you to control anxiety
    • Enhance your self-awareness
    • Improve attention span
    • Helps you to focus on the present moment
    • Increase your creativity and imagination
    • And boost your patience and tolerance for things.

    How to Practice Focused Meditation

    Here are six tips to help you practice focused meditation. Based on your availability and interest, these tips may change and evolve. That’s the point: to create a structured practice that caters to your needs.

    1. Find a Comfortable Seat

    As with any meditation practice, comfort is truly key. The physical body responds to meditation practice by alerting you to whether it is comfortable and supported or stressed out and in pain. This is best observed in practitioners who tend to slouch and lose the tall, supported spine that is essential to meditation practice.

    A simple rule in meditative sitting is to ensure that your hips are higher than your knees. Therefore, choosing to sit in a chair instead of on the floor may be a smart decision or perhaps propping yourself up on a cushion. For meditation techniques overall, it does not matter how you sit. All that matters is that you are supported and comfortable sitting for some time.

    2. Choose Your Object of Focus

    Every meditation training session is going to be different because no single day is the same for any one person. Therefore, experienced meditators know that choosing an object is more about listening to what you need at this time versus following any doctrine or “rule.”

    If you’re not sure and have a hard time deciding, make focusing on your breath and pay attention to the inhale and exhale is a good option. Then, assign each inhale and exhale a number, and once you reach 10, start over. This is one of the simpler methods of keeping your mind occupied—by giving it a task. This also trains your mind, and over time and with practice, your mind will easily focus on an object without too much effort.

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    3. Set Your Desired Time or “Go With the Flow”

    If you have a structured routine and would like to stick to your schedule, by all means, set a gentle timer for how long you’d like your meditation to be. This is also your opportunity to throw out the notion that any meditation has to be a certain length of time to be correct—it does not.

    Likewise, if you have the time, you can also listen to your body and come out of your meditation when you feel it’s right to do so. This is often a beautiful practice of listening and tuning in.

    4. Relax Your Body as You Focus on Your Meditation

    Typically, when we are focusing on something, we tend to tighten our body. Observe this next time that you’re concentrating on something: your jaw will tighten and your shoulders will squeeze up towards your ears.

    As you sink into your meditation, keep this in mind and check in with your body every once in a while. Let your shoulders sink down your back and release any tension through your jaw and face. Lastly, relax your brow and let your eyes be heavy in their sockets. Then, return to your object of meditation. Observe if your meditation changes at all by relaxing your physical body.

    5. Return to Your Breath and Object When You Get Distracted

    Notice that I didn’t say “if you get distracted.” That’s because you definitely will drift off with random thoughts or get pulled away from your object of focus. In meditation, distractions are almost guaranteed. Therefore, it’s your opportunity to practice detaching yourself from feeling guilty or inadequate to continue.

    Over time and with practice, you will find it easier to stay with your object of focus. In the meantime, however, notice when you get distracted. Pause and take a big breath in and out. Check in with your physical body and relax. Once you’re ready again, return to your object of focus. Meditation is simply one long cycle of wandering and coming back to yourself.

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    6. Journal Your Experiences

    When your meditation practice has ended, another powerful practice is to jot down any experiences that you felt. There may have been insights and “downloads” that you acquired during your session that you may want to record.

    Likewise, you could write about any challenges that you faced. These are great lessons that will continue to show up for you, and it’s nice to keep a journal of them to see how they evolve and progress over time (and they will). Lastly, you can write about what works and what doesn’t, as far as picking your objects of meditation go. This way, you can learn what you most associate with and feel comfortable with.

    While these steps are simple, it’s easier said than done. Whether you’re starting out with a guided meditation for focus, loving kindness meditation, or transcendental meditation, anticipating failure the first time you try these things is healthy. Furthermore, congratulate yourself for even making slight progress like noticing and returning to the present moment and noticing the sensations you experienced.

    Final Thoughts

    If practicing meditation causes you to feel distracted and unsupported, give focused meditation a go! With the help of an object to bring your attention to, it structures your meditation time and offers guidance and support.

    Dedicating yourself to this style of meditation will help increase your memory, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote better cognitive function. Even though any style of meditation is a powerful way of taking care of your mental health, focused meditation gives your mind a tangible task with which to grow and strengthen.

    More About Focused Meditation

    Featured photo credit: Lua Valentia via unsplash.com

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    Reference

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