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Published on June 14, 2018

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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    Published on July 13, 2018

    Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

    Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

    What if you could discover some tools and methods that could improve your relationships? What if by gaining a little knowledge you could understand your relationship dynamics better and give them a boost up?

    By learning what secure attachment is and how to restructure your thoughts, you can become more self-aware of your relationship dynamics. After becoming more aware, you can then take a few steps to make them better than ever. That’s something that many of us could benefit from.

    When we hear the term secure attachment, our mind typically goes to a relationship. And that’s exactly what it’s about.

    In this article I’ll discuss the concept of secure attachments in more detail and how restructuring your thoughts can help you strive towards achieving better relationships.

    Relationships are a hugely important part of our lives and whatever we can do to improve them is a good thing for everyone involved.

    What is attachment theory?

    Let’s do a quick overview of what attachment theory is. This will provide a good foundation for the rest of this article.

    The esteemed psychologist John Bowlby first coined the term attachment theory in the late 60’s. Bowlby studied early childhood conditioning extensively and what he found was very interesting.

    His research showed that when a very young child has a strong attachment to a caregiver, it provides the child with a sense of security and foundation. On the other hand when there isn’t a secure attachment, the child will expend a lot more developmental energy looking for security and stability.

    The child without the secure attachment tends to become more fearful, timid and slow to explore new situations or their environment.

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    When a strong attachment is developed in a child, he or she will be inclined to be more adventurous and seek out new experiences because they feel more secure. They know that whoever is watching out for them will be there if needed.

    Bowlby’s colleague, Mary Ainsworth, took the theory further. She did extensive studies around infant-parent separations and provided a more formal framework for the differing attachment styles.

    How attachment develops

    Simply put, attachment is an emotional bond with another person. Attachment doesn’t have to go both ways, it can be one person feeling attached to another without it being reciprocated. Most of the time, it works between two people to one degree or another.

    Attachment begins at a very young age. Over the history of time, when children were able to maintain a closer proximity to a caregiver that provided for them, a strong attachment was formed.

    The initial thought was that the ability to provide food or nourishment to a child was the primary driver of a strong attachment.

    It was then discovered that the primary drivers of attachment proved to be the parent/caregivers responsiveness to the child as well as the ability to nurture that child in a variety of ways. Things such as support, care, sustenance, and protection are all components of nurturing a child.

    In essence a child forms a strong attachment when they feel that their caregiver is accessible and attentive and there if they need them; that the parent/caregiver will be there for them. If the child does not feel that the caregiver is there to help them when needed, they experience anxiety.

    Different types of attachments

    In children, 4 types of attachment styles have been identified. They are as follows:

    • Secure attachment – This is primarily marked by discomfort or distress when separated from caregivers and joy and security when the caregiver is back around the child. Even though the child initially feels agitated when the caregiver is no longer around, they feel confident they will return. The return of the parent or caregiver is met with positive emotions, the child prefers parents to strangers.
    • Ambivalent attachment – These children become very distressed when the parent or caregiver leaves. They feel they can’t rely on their caregiver for support when the need arises. Even though a child with ambivalent attachment may be agitated or confused when reunited with a parent or caregiver, they will cling to them.
    • Avoidant attachment – These kids typically avoid parents or caregivers. When they have a choice of being with the parent or not, they don’t seem to care one way or the other. Research has shown that this may be the result of neglectful caregivers.
    • Disorganized attachment – These children display a mix of disoriented behavior towards their caregiver. They may want them sometimes and other times they don’t. This is sometimes thought to be linked to inconsistent behavior from the parent or caregiver.

    What attachments mean to adults

    So the big question is how does this affect us in adulthood? Intuitively it makes sense that as a child, if we have someone who will be there when we need them, we feel secure. And on the other end of the spectrum, if we aren’t sure someone’s going to provide what we need when we need it, we may become more anxious and fearful.

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    As an adult, we tend to wind up in one of three primary attachment types based on our childhood experiences. These are secure, avoidant, and anxious. Technically, there is a fourth one, anxious-avoidant, but it is quite a bit less common. They are described as follows:

    • Secure – When you have a secure attachment, you are comfortable displaying interest and affection towards another person but you’re also fine being alone and independent. Secure types are less apt to obsess over a relationship gone sour and handle being rejected easier. Secure types also tend to be better than other types with not starting relationships with people that might not be the best partners. They cut off the relationship quicker when they see things in a potential partner they don’t like. Secure attachment people make up the majority of the attachment types.
    • Anxious – Folks who have an anxious attachment style typically need a lot of reassurance from their partners. They have a much harder time being on their own and single than the other styles and fall into bad relationships more often. The anxious style represent about 20% of the population. It’s been shown that if anxious attachment styles learn how to communicate their needs better and learn to date secure partners, they can move towards the secure attachment style.
    • Avoidant – Avoidant attachment style represents approximately 25% of the population as adults. Avoidants many times have the hardest time in a relationship because they have a difficult time finding satisfaction. In general, they are uncomfortable with close relationships and intimacy and are quite independent. They are the lone wolf type person.
    • Anxious-avoidant – The anxious-avoidant style is relatively rare. It is composed of conflicting styles – they want to be close but at the same time push people away. They do things that push the people they are closest to away. Many times there can be a higher risk of depression or other mental health issues.

    Here’s where it gets really interesting:

    Move towards secure attachment

    The good news is that it is possible to move from one style to another. Specifically, it is possible to move towards a more secure attachment style.

    Now as you might imagine, this is not an easy or a quick process. Like any type of big change where you are attempting to alter such a deeply ingrained mindset, it takes a strong will to accomplish.

    The first step is developing an awareness of your attachment style. The next step is to have the desire and drive to move your attachment style towards the more secure style.

    If someone with an anxious or avoidant style has a long term relationship with a secure type, the anxious or avoidant person can slowly get brought up more towards a secure style.

    The opposite is also true, they could bring the secure person more towards their attachment style. Therefore, you have to be conscious of your type and if you want to move more towards secure, it takes persistence.

    Therapy is an option as well. Anxious types many times need to work on their self-esteem, avoidants on their connection specifically and compassion.

    How to restructure your thoughts

    Ready for the way to do it? Here we go:

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    For the Avoidant Style

    As with any type of change on such a deep level, the first step is awareness. Realize you have an avoidant style and be aware of it as you have interactions with your partner(s).

    Try to work towards a place of mutual support and giving/taking. Try to lessen your need for complete self-reliance. Allow your partner to do some things that make you a little uncomfortable that you would normally do yourself.

    Don’t always focus on the imperfections of your partner. We all have them, remind yourself of that.

    Make yourself a list of the qualities that your partner has that you are thankful for.

    Look for a secure style partner if at all possible, they would be good for you to be with.

    If you have a tendency to end relationships before they go too far, be aware of that and let it develop further.

    Get into the habit of accepting and even instigating physical touch. Tell yourself that it’s good for you to have some intimacy. Intimacy can help you feel safe and secure.

    And over time you can realize that it’s okay to rely on other people.

    For the Anxious Style

    For the anxious style, the #1 thing to work on is learning to communicate needs better. This is a huge issue for the anxious style.

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    First and foremost if you communicate your needs more clearly, you will have less anxiety, that’s already a big win. This will also allow you to better assess if a potential partner is good for you.

    Try to bring your feelings more to the surface and most importantly, share them with your partner. Remember that secure attachments typically communicate pretty well, this is what you are working towards.

    For the Anxious-Avoidant Style

    The anxious-avoidant is a very small percentage of the attachment styles. Since this type tends to be anxious in the relationship AND more or less a loner, the key here is working hard to be very self-aware of your actions.

    Use the parts of striving towards secure attachment from the anxious tips and the avoidant restructuring of your thoughts to consciously work towards being more secure.

    When you find yourself pushing someone away, ask why. If you feel worried that your partner is going to leave you, again, ask yourself where this is coming from. Have they shown you any reason to believe this? Many times there is no real evidence. In that case, allow yourself to calm down and try not to obsess over it.

    For the Secure Style

    Since the goal is to move towards a more secure attachment style, there isn’t much needed here as you might imagine.

    Something to be aware of is being in a relationship just because it’s “okay”. Don’t stay if it’s not a good place for you and your partner. If your partner is of an anxious or avoidant attachment style, stay mindful to not start developing characteristics of those styles.

    Strive towards Secure Attachment

    As we wrap things up, you’ve probably developed a good idea of the benefits of secure attachment. If you don’t currently have a secure attachment style, here are some benefits of restructuring your thoughts more towards this style:

    • Positive self esteem and self image
    • Close and well adjusted relationships
    • Sense of security in self and the world
    • Ability to be independent as well as in relationships
    • Optimistic outlook on life and yourself
    • Strong coping skills and strategies for relationships and life
    • Trust in self and others
    • Close, intimate relationships
    • Strong determination and problem solving skills

    If you are an anxious or avoidant style or the combination of anxious-avoidant, it is possible to move towards a secure attachment style.

    It takes self-awareness, patience and a strong desire to get close to being secure but it can be done. You will find that putting the effort into it will provide you with more open, honest and satisfying relationships.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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