Types of Meditation
Not all Meditation techniques are created equally. It has been a long standing myth that all Meditation is meant to induce a relaxation response. This is not the case. The human mind has an incredible potential for affecting our overall well-being. It affects our mental, spiritual, and even our physical health.
Yes, some Meditation techniques are meant to induce relaxation, but many more are useful in so many other ways. If you would like to read about the Benefits of Meditation, you can do so here. There are many benefits of a regular meditation practice, but it is important to understand that different Meditation techniques are meant to create different responses in the mind. It is not a one size fits all practice, and it is important to know what is possible.
So, say you are thinking about trying meditation out for the first time, or you are branching out of your regular routine looking for more. If you look up what the types of meditation are, you are going to find many different articles with many different ideas of what constitutes as a ‘type’ of meditation. You’ll find lists of 3, 6, 7, and the catch is, all of them are types of meditation.
There are hundreds of lineages that teach thousands of meditation techniques. Lumping them into a list of ‘Type’ can be a challenging task. We do love our lists, though, so many have tried. If you would like to learn more about the definition of or the history of Meditation, read our blog, Meditation Introduction, here.
Listing every type of meditation is, actually, a near impossible task. It is such a large task that I have never even considered attempting to do it. For this article, though, I have researched many people who have attempted this feat and have come up with the following system, which really should only be adhered to as a way to understand the effect that different meditation techniques have on the Meditator, and to decide which techniques, teachers, etc. may be right for you and your Meditation goals. I have considered the following:
-Categories of Meditation
-Types of Meditation
“Classic examples of concentration or controlled focus are found in the revered traditions of Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, Qiqong, Yoga and Vedanta, though many methods involve attempts to control or direct the mind. Attention is focused on an object of meditation–such as one’s breath, an idea or image, or an emotion. Brain waves recorded during these practices are typically in the gamma frequency (20-50 Hz), seen whenever you concentrate or during “active” cognitive processing.” (Tricycle)
“These mindfulness type practices, common in Vipassana and Zazen, involve watching or actively paying attention to experiences–without judging, reacting or holding on. Open monitoring gives rise to frontal theta (4-8 Hz), an EEG pattern commonly seen during memory tasks or reflection on mental concepts.” (Tricycle)
“This category describes practices designed to go beyond their own mental activity–enabling the mind to spontaneously transcend the process of meditation itself. Whereas concentration and open monitoring require degrees of effort or directed focus to sustain the activity of meditation, this approach is effortless because there is no attempt to direct attention–no controlled cognitive processing. An example is the Transcendental Meditation technique. The EEG pattern of this category is frontal alpha coherence, associated with a distinct state of relaxed inner wakefulness.” (Tricycle)
The three types of meditation produce different results. The reason I have chosen these three categories is because the results of these three different categories of meditation can somewhat easily accommodate the many different types of meditation within them. Some types of meditation fit into more than one category, depending on what the goals and teaching methods are. These categories produce different results, though, in the Meditator.
“For example, research suggests that concentration techniques may improve focusing ability. A study on advanced Buddhist monks–some of whom had logged more 10,000 hours of meditation — found that concentrating on “loving kindness and compassion” increased those feelings and produced synchronous gamma activity in the left prefrontal cortex — indicating more powerful focus. The effect of open monitoring or non-judgmental observation is said to increase even-mindedness in daily life; studies on mindfulness-type practices indicate better pain management and reduction of “negative rumination.” For relief from stress, research suggests that an automatic self-transcending technique might serve you better than a practice that keeps the mind engaged in continuous mental effort. Because of the natural mind/body relationship, the more deeply settled the mind, the more deeply rested is the body. Studies show that the deep rest of “transcending” calms the sympathetic nervous system and restores physiological balance — lowering high blood pressure, alleviating chronic anxiety and reducing stress hormones such as cortisol.” (Tricycle)
If these are the three categories that Types of Meditation can fit into, what are the Types of Meditation?
Types of meditation can include the following, and many more:
Loving Kindness Meditation
Body Scan Meditation
Kundalini Yoga Meditation
Mindfulness Meditation is gaining a large following in the modern world. It can be done anywhere, while doing virtually anything. It is a practice that involves living in the present moment. The Meditator can do and engage, but while being fully focused on what is happening in the here and now without judgement or attachment to emotions or thoughts. Practicing this style, like many others, begins with sitting in a quiet, safe, comfortable spot, and then branching from there until you are able to perform this Meditation anywhere.
Transcendental Meditation is a form of Mantra Meditation. It is most often a silent form of Meditation in which the Meditator is self-reflective while repeating their chosen Mantra. We have very active minds, and our bodies and minds are attuned to focusing outward, perceiving the world through external stimuli. We hear, see, feel the outside world. Transcendental Meditation is meant to focus us inward. It promotes a state of relaxed awareness. We are trying to look inward until we are at our peaceful core. It is derived from ancient Vedic practices in India, and is often shortened to TM.
Guided Meditation is a type of Meditation during which you are led by a person, an MP3, etc. This is a huge section of Meditation, and is very popular in modern day. There are many ways that you can be led by an Instructor or recording, and oftentimes this type of Meditation can also be referred to as Visualization Meditation or Guided Imagery Meditation. There is often a focus on sensory experience, or you may be guided through a storyline. It is important to trust your teacher or source if you plan to participate in Guided Meditation. Many are focused on calming or relaxing, which is a rather safe experience. If you are experiencing something different, you may want to explore what the goal of the teacher or source is, and then evaluate whether or not that goal meshes with what your own personal goals for your Meditation practice are.
Vipassana Meditation is rooted in the idea that the Meditator’s goal is to see things as they really are. This is an ancient form of Indian Meditation, and it has been taught in India for over 2,500 years. The goal of this Meditation practice is to form a deep connection between body and mind, creating self-transformation through self-observation. This is a very deeply structured, disciplined, and often vigorous Meditation style that sincerely and deeply explores physical sensations and interconnectedness. Vipassana is typically taught during a 10 day course or retreat, full immersion style, wherein the participants follow a strict set of rules.
Loving Kindness Meditation
Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta) has the goal of projecting well wishes for others into the world. Reciting your well wishes out loud is a common occurrence during Loving Kindness Meditation. You first direct well wishes to yourself, and then moving out in increasingly larger social circles, you direct well wishes to others. Yourself first, then those closest to you, then your extended family, then your community, town, county, state, etc. This practice is also used to repair relationships. You may be instructed to send well-wishes to those who you are struggling with. Loving Kindness Meditation has many applications and is a great Meditative practice to use if your goal is to cultivate positive emotions or repair strained relationships.
Chakra Meditation has a goal of repairing and stabilizing the energy in your body. This is yet another ancient practice that comes from the Indian subcontinent. There are many, MANY different types of Chakra Meditations, some of which use visualization, movement, or sound. Chakra means wheel in Sanskrit, and these are known to be centers of spiritual power in the body. Typically, there are said to be seven Chakras, each associated with a different point in the body, and all of which are said to draw in energy to balance mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Of course, there are entire units devoted to explaining the Chakras, and this is a very basic explanation. I would recommend practicing Chakra Meditation with an experienced teacher.
There are multiple types of Movement Meditation. Yoga began as a Meditative practice that dates back to Ancient India (surprise!) Other Movement Meditations include Walking Meditation, which I usually start my Movement Meditators out with, Aikido and other Meditative Martial Arts, Tai Chi, etc. Any movement that incorporates focused control, concentration on the here and now, breath control, and similar aspects can be considered a Movement Meditation. If you are fully in the moment while running, cycling, bowling, doing the dishes, pretty much anything you can think of, you may be a Movement Meditator!
Mindfulness has gained a ton of attention in recent years. Analytical meditation is not the same. It takes a different approach. Mindfulness is about focusing your attention. Analytical Meditation is highly focused on reasoning. During Analytical Meditation, the Meditator uses reasoning to discover how the mind works, to gain experiential realizations. It has been compared to cognitive behavioral therapy in that both are digging at the same experiential moment. You are attempting to see patterns, break patterns, reform patterns as a result of experiencing how your own mind works. The Meditator is encouraged to evaluate their own thoughts. What are the reasons you believe something to be true? How does feeling or thinking this way benefit you or others? How does feeling or thinking this way harm you or others?
The Dalai Lama said in 2017, "While in the midst of anger, your tendency is to perceive the person who harmed you as 100% bad. But deeper analysis will make you realize that every human being is composed of both positive and negative characteristics, and you can try to get a more realistic view of the person, thereby diluting the anger harboured against the person." He practices Analytical Meditation, of course, and is perhaps the most adept at it in the world. Although practiced Meditators may be able to practice Analytical Meditation on their own, it is beneficial to seek out a Meditation Teacher who knows the practice.
Body Scan Meditation
The purpose of Body Scan Meditation is to tune in to your body. You are invited to feel your body and really pay attention to what it is telling you. This is a type of Mindfulness Meditation in which the focus is your own body. It helps you create the mind-body connection, and is a great way to start your Mindfulness journey. Here is a sample Meditation and some words on body scan, and how it may seem the first time you try it! https://www.mindful.org/beginners-body-scan-meditation/
Zen Meditation dates back to the Chinese Tang Dynasty. This is a type of Buddhist Meditation, and like many other Buddhist practices, Zen inquires about the nature of the mind. The word itself is derived from the Chinese word, Ch’an, which can be loosely translated as ‘concentration’ or ‘meditation’. It is most commonly known for the goal of inquiring about questions that seem to not be answer-able. Practice and intuition are trusted over logic, and this practice is very useful in conquering deeply rooted fears and other issues. This is yet another fairly basic explanation of a complicated Meditation Tradition, so if you are interested in Zen Meditation, I would suggest doing further research and it may be worth it to seek out a Meditation Instructor.
Kundalini Yoga Meditation
Yoga Journal defines Kundalini Yoga Meditation as, “An uplifting blend of spiritual and physical practices, Kundalini Yoga incorporates movement, dynamic breathing techniques, meditation, and the chanting of mantras, such as Sat Nam, meaning "truth is my identity. The goal is to build physical vitality and increase consciousness.”
Here is a link to try it out! There are 3 different Kundalini Yoga Meditations here. https://www.yogajournal.com/meditation/3-kundalini-yoga-meditations-release-anxiety
Each of these Meditation types has many different techniques within them. These types are also not boxed into staying in their one container, and there are many more than just these 15 examples. For instance, Movement Meditation can include aspects of Body Scan Meditation and Focused Meditation. Focused Meditation can definitely include Analytical Meditation and Breath Awareness Meditation. These are just examples of how difficult it is to nail down a specific categorization process of Meditation. This is why having a Meditation Instructor or Teacher can be very beneficial in your practice and for your growth as a Meditator.
Choosing a Meditation style does not have to be a daunting task, especially with an experienced Instructor. Come into Meditation Instruction with an open mind and a goal. What do you want to get out of your sessions? How would you like to see your practice grow?
At Healing Solutions Inc, our Meditation Instructor, Brooke Rice, has specialized training in many of the above Meditation Types. During Individual Meditation Instruction sessions, given online, you will have access to a program that is tailored specifically for your needs. You may have a goal to cultivate positivity and joy in your life. You may want to work on impulse control and regulating harmful emotions. You may need to work with depression, anxiety, or stress management. Please see our blog on the Benefits of Meditation to learn more about what you may be able to work with during your specialized Meditation Instruction Session.