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

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

    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 October 30, 2019

    How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

    How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

    Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

    In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

    Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

    You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

    What is the Stages of Change Model?

    Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

    Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

    Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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      The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

      The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

      The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

      The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

      1. Precontemplation
      2. Contemplation
      3. Determination
      4. Action
      5. Maintenance
      6. Termination

      How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

      To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

        Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

        Stage 1: Precontemplation

        At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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        For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

        Stage 2: Contemplation

        At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

        You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

        The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

        Stage 3: Preparation

        At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

        Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

        Stage 4: Action

        When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

        Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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        Stage 5: Maintenance

        After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

        Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

        Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

        Stage 6: Termination

        Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

        However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

        How long does each stage take?

        You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

        So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

        The limitations of this model

        The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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        Require the ability to set a realistic goal

        For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

        If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

        Difficult to judge your progress

        The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

        Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

        Conclusion

        The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

        While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

        Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
        [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
        [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
        [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
        [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
        [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
        [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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