If like me you thought meditation was just crossing your legs, chanting ‘Om’, and becoming zen-like in just one sitting, you’d be wrong.
I’m now – and forever will be – a student in the practice of meditation. You can always find different kinds of meditation to practice. So here are 9 different types of meditation and a little bit about how to get started.
The Meditation Anchor
All techniques use an ‘anchor’. An anchor is what you use during your meditation practice to keep your mind in the present moment.
1. Focused Meditation
Focused meditation practices using one of your senses to focus your attention. This could be focusing on the light of a candle, counting beads, the chime of bowls, or the number of breaths you take.
The goal of focused meditation is to quiet the mind by focusing on the anchor of your choice.
Focussed meditation using a candle:
Start by focussing your attention on the candle
How does the flame move?
What colors make the flame?
Can you hear the occasional crackle of the wick?
Does the wax have any scent?
You get the drift. Using the candle as the object of your focus, you keep your mind in the present moment.
2. Movement Meditation
Movement meditation is usually associated with yoga, but there are other ways you can use movement as your anchor such as walking meditation and Tai chi.
Movement meditation is about focusing your awareness on the physical sensations of the body as you move gently.
Take a deep breath before starting your walking meditation to let your mind know you’ll be starting your meditation
Start to notice the physical sensations of your feet. Where do you feel the weight of your body?
Notice each one of your steps and continue to focus on your steps
Move your focus to another part of the body such as your thighs, and notice the sensations there, see how it moves, how it feels against your clothes
The great thing about walking meditation is that it easily fits into daily life. I try to practice every morning as I walk to the station for work.
3. Mantra Meditation
While the word mantra is related to spiritualism from Buddhist and Hindu traditions, it means transporting the mind (Man = mind, Tra = vehicle or transport).
It’s a word or phrase that you use to help you find a meditative state and the anchor for focusing on the present moment.
“I am not the body…” mantra meditation:
The principle is that we are trying to teach ourselves that we are not our thoughts and emotions, we are the one’s observing them. If you don’t feel comfortable with using these spiritual meditation chants, you could replace them with something as simple as “I am breathing in. I am breathing out.”
The main goal of this form of meditation is to keep the mind focused on the words.
4. Mindfulness Meditation
This one is my jam (can I say that in a meditation blog?)
You can’t talk about mindfulness meditation practice without talking about the American Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn.
He has written countless books on mindfulness and created the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) stress reduction program used in hospitals and medical centers across the country. Okay, I’ve written too much about mindfulness (you can see I’m a fan), so what is mindfulness?
Like focus meditation, mindfulness practice begins by using an anchor such as the breath to slow the mind. You can use any mundane activity for this meditation practice, such as brushing your teeth, or anything that keeps you in the present moment.
Then when thoughts inevitably surface in your mind, just notice them without judgment and return to the anchor.
Find a comfortable position
Take a couple of deep breaths to settle the mind, and then return your breath to the natural pace
Focus on how your breathing is moving in your body, perhaps focus on the tummy and notice the rise and fall
Try to observe everything with a ‘beginner’s mind’ as if you are experiencing the sensations for the first time.
When your mind wanders, notice the thought, and gently, without judgment of the thought, come back to the breath.
What I love about mindfulness meditation is that the practice is done in almost any situation as long as you continue to pay attention to the present moment.
5. Spiritual meditation
Nearly all world religions use a form of meditation practice. Many of the meditations on this list can be considered spiritual meditation practices.
Spiritual meditation practices are as diverse as all of the world religions and beyond the scope of this post.
Spiritual meditation is for those who seek spiritual growth and a deeper connection to a higher power or spiritual force.
6. Transcendental Meditation (TM)
Transcendental Meditation® is a bit of a mystery because it can only be taught by a Maharishi Foundation instructor.
This meditation technique involves sitting with your eyes closed for a twenty-minute session twice per day.
The sessions are individually led by a qualified Maharishi instructor tailored to the intentions of the practitioner. Scientific studies have shown positive psychological results for those who undertake the practice.
7. Progressive Relaxation
Also known as body scan meditation, progressive relaxation focuses the attention on the sensations of the body. They normally start the focus at the top of the head and then work the way down the body.
As we move down the body we try to become aware of how the body feels, bringing our awareness to any areas of tension, and using the breath, letting go of any tension.
This form of meditation is popular in a guided meditation as this meditation may end up with the participants falling asleep.
Listening to someone can keep your awareness of the body until it’s ended. Because these types of meditation involve deep relaxation, it’s commonly used in meditations to wind down before bed.
Guided sleep meditation:
Why not try my popular sleep meditation which uses a body scan to help you gently fall asleep?
8. Loving-kindness Meditation
Also known as Metta meditation, this meditation involves cultivating kindness and affection to yourself for yourself, and others.
This way of meditation may sound a little wu-wu, but I can personally say – it’s actually pretty impressive.
First, if you are very self-critical, probably because you are a perfectionist, you spend most of your day criticizing yourself. This practice employs acknowledging yourself, being kind, and showing yourself love and compassion.
The next phase is sending love to those that you like.
It gets interesting when you try loving-kindness with people who you don’t like (perhaps even an ex that you hate). Trust me when I say, practicing loving kindness meditation with someone who you hate, is the most liberating way to meditate.
Guided meditations can really help when you first start as it doesn’t initially feel natural to project kindness to yourself.
As we do with other meditations, start with a few deep breaths to settle the mind.
This technique is similar to Mantra as we use words, but instead of our awareness being fully on the word, our meditation needs to be on how we feel.
Try to say the words and believe the word you are saying.
Examples of what you might say:
I deserve to be happy
I am where I need to be right now
I do my best each day and that is all I can ask of myself
My true self is what others like about me
I love my body and appreciate all that it does for me
Now try this for someone you like or love
Now try this with someone you dislike (or hate).
9. Visualization meditation
Last on the list is Visualization meditation. Often confused with just “Visualization” which is similar to what athletes use to visualize achieving a win, “visualization meditation” is creating a mental image to elicit a required emotion. This type of meditation is effective when you need to reduce stress.
The practice involves creating a mental image that suits our intended emotions. This doesn’t have to be relaxing, this can also be motivating and exciting, it all depends on the mood we are going for.
Leaves on the stream
Leaves on a stream is a popular visualization used in acceptance commitment therapy (ACT) to help deal with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.
Start by finding a comfortable position – I find lying down best for this practice (and if you really want the deluxe version, try this in a bath filled with salts.
Set the intention of trying to just observe your thoughts
Imagine that you are sitting by a stream – over the stream hang the branches of an ancient tree.
You are sitting under the tree, bring your awareness to any sounds, to how the surface below you feels.
As you sit you notice leaves slowly floating to the ground.
As you sit, when you notice a thought rise in your mind, imagine seeing that in your hand.
Hold the thought there for a moment, then close your hand, and when you reopen your hand, imagine that thought has turned into a leaf.
Now place that leaf in the stream, and let it float away.
If you would like to listen to a guided version, you can find my video here.
Which Type of Meditation Is the Best?
Different tools for different jobs
The different types of meditation each have their benefits. it all really depends on your intention.
If you want to feel relaxed, Progressive relaxation works well.
If you feel restless and find it difficult to settle your mind, Movement and Mantra meditations work well
If you want to get closer to a higher power and more spiritual, then Spiritual meditation works best.
If you want an easily accessible meditation most do work, but mindfulness meditation can be included throughout the day.
And if you want to feel closer to others (or get over your ex) Loving-kindness meditation works best.
It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet
Something important to note is that all these forms of meditation are interchangeable. You don’t have to choose one and only one.
I do suggest that you try to commit to a single type at first, just so you can get into a routine, and then as and when, select one of the others.
I personally subscribe to the mindfulness meditation practice, however, I will use some of the other meditations as and when my mental health and emotional health require them.
That’s not all folks
The word meditation is an umbrella term. As you can see, under that word there are different types of meditation. But what you should know is that under each of these types, there are further specialized types.
It can sometimes be overwhelming to hear about all the different types. The community is very passionate about which one is the best and which one doesn’t work. So remember how I defined meditation at the start of this post:
Meditation, in its most basic form, is the ancient practice of focusing your awareness on the PRESENT MOMENT.
As long as you remain in the present – whichever method you use works.
With so many benefits of meditation, it can be confusing to navigate the different types. So start with one, and see if it is something you can practice and improve on. Mindfulness meditation has been medically reviewed so is usually a good place to start.
I hope this post gave you a better understanding of the different types of meditation. After reading this, what is the next version you will try?
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be construed as professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms of any mental health condition, we strongly advise consulting with a qualified healthcare professional.