10 Types of Meditation – And Who They Might Be Good For
Meditation practice helps you stay strong in the face of negativity and uncertainty. It keeps you calm, rational and grounded under stressful conditions, and improves quality of life in the good times too.
Here are 10 different types of meditation to try out now!
If you’ve felt keen to start meditating but uncertain where to begin, look no further than the guide below—we’ve surveyed (and practiced!) major forms of meditation in order to share our recommendations on what might work for whom.
This straightforward, secular technique has come to the forefront for busy Americans who need a way to slow down and re-inhabit the present moment. It has been successfully introduced to schools, corporations and the military. Free of dogma or mysticism, mindfulness simply involves paying attention to the present reality without judging it. For example, you can watch a single leaf on a tree, listen to sounds in your environment, focus on sensations in your body, or observe thoughts and emotions as they arise and pass through the mind. The purpose is to develop calm, conscious awareness through every situation. Mindfulness is a good choice for people who need a versatile, no-nonsense technique that can be integrated into virtually every activity of life. Check out this list of mindfulness meditation courses.
Using the breath as an aid to meditation—whether by deliberately controlling it or simply observing its natural flow—is a universal practice that features within many broader traditions. Yoga and martial arts incorporate breath manipulation into their movements and seated meditations, while Hindu and Buddhist styles utilize the breath to achieve samadhi, a deep one-pointed concentration. Part of its importance is that the breath is a notable link between the conscious and unconscious, being the only body function that is both autonomic and intentionally controllable. Breathwork is advisable for everyone, from beginners who need something easily accessible to tame stress and tension, to meditation adepts striving for the most radiant heights of human consciousness. Experiment with these five types of breath meditation from various world traditions.
A traditional component of the Buddhist path, loving-kindness has gained new audiences thanks to teachers who present it in a nonsectarian format relevant to everyone. It’s a softly transformative meditation technique with the power to soothe away negative emotions like anger, guilt, resentment, stress and self-loathing while increasing joy, patience, empathy, resilience and emotional intelligence. Loving-kindness is practiced both towards yourself and others until you become filled with a profound inner love that naturally radiates out to all beings. It’s especially good for those who have experienced trauma, people in trying situations, or anyone struggling with anger or the tendency to beat themselves up. Use these instructions for loving-kindness toward yourself, or follow this guided meditation that takes you through the traditional progression from yourself to loved ones, then strangers and even enemies.
Like all forms of yoga, Kundalini includes postures, breathwork and meditation, but the spiritual side is emphasized here more than the physical. Derived from ancient Vedic India, Kundalini means “coiled snake.” Practitioners channel energy up their spinal column through various chakras to the top of the head, with the goal of actualizing their highest self by attaining union with atman, a kind of universal cosmic consciousness or soul. But the practice also promotes more expansive awareness, grounding and positivity in daily life. Kundalini might be a good fit if you seek an active form of meditation and the guidance of a teacher. Here is a good article on the history and modern relevance of Kundalini.
Chinese medicine, martial arts and Daoist philosophy all form the roots of qigong, alternately spelled chi kung or chi gong. It is considered a mind-body-spirit practice that coordinates breath, movements and meditation in thousands of specific exercises and breathing techniques. While variously focusing on health, martial skill or spiritual development, all qigong exercises rely on cultivating and balancing chi—the life-force or natural electrical energy found in living beings. Qigong might be for you if you need a gentle, therapeutic form of movement to go with meditation. Check out this easy 7-minute routine to invigorate your chi.
Essentially a form of mindfulness, walking meditation grounds you with a feeling of calm presence and even reverence as you perform this normally automatic activity. Rather than thinking about dinner plans or to-do lists as you power from point A to B, slow down and focus on each individual phase of movement as your feet lift, rise and return to the earth. Strive to be aware of various sensations in the body, including the breath, and perhaps even contemplate spiritual feelings like gratitude, compassion and joy. This practice is perfect for someone who needs movement with their meditation but doesn’t necessarily feel like joining a class or following a set routine. Try these simple instructions and learn more about the spirituality of walking meditation.
This well-known school of Buddhism traces its lineage back to Bodhidharma, an Indian monk reputed have taught martial arts and meditation to the Shaolin monks of ancient China. After flourishing throughout China, Japan and Korea, Zen eventually came to the West in the 1950s where it gained a sort of hip, minimalist appeal. Zen meditation typically either focuses on the breath, or on simply “sitting”—being present with whatever is. Its aim is to reach personal Buddha-hood by awakening to ultimate truth right within one’s ordinary life. Thanks to its slightly ceremonial style of sitting and abundant neighborhood groups around the country, Zen may be great for those seeking structure and the support of a community. Take a more in-depth look at Zen history and practice, including a recommended reading list.
Discovered and taught by the Buddha, Vipassana, or insight meditation, is a profound practice aimed at total purification of the mind. The word Vipassana literally means “to see things as they really are,” and the technique involves careful observation of one’s own physical and mental structure to determine its true nature, which in turn leads to wisdom regarding the nature of existence itself. While the highest goal is Enlightenment, practitioners of Vipassana report many practical benefits in their everyday lives owing to the diminishment of mental impurities (anger, fear, sorrow, greed, worry etc.) and increase of wholesome mind-states (love, joy, empathy, equanimity etc.) This technique is particularly suitable for those looking to work deeply and commit to a comprehensive lifelong path. You can sit a free 10-day residential Vipassana retreat at hundreds of locations around the world, or just listen to this podcast to see what it’s all about.
Repeating a certain word or phrase—aka mantra—as an aid to inducing special mind-states is common to many traditions, including Hinduism, Sufism and Christian mysticism. Mantras are often chosen for their esoteric meaning so that the person reciting them can contemplate spiritual concepts and perhaps attain communion with the divine. A famous example is Om, that mysterious syllable thought to convey psychic and protective powers when chanted. But essentially the purpose of a mantra is to help the mind achieve one-pointed concentration by giving it something to fix on rather than wandering. Mantra meditation may be helpful to those who desire a formal, seated meditation practice but have gotten restless or frustrated with intrusive thoughts. Here are some of the scientific findings about the benefits of mantra meditation.
Whether imagining yourself sun-bathing under a rainbow by a waterfall, or envisioning all the abundance you hope to manifest, there’s no limit to guided visualizations. They may be employed for relaxation, healing, stress-relief, goal-achievement or creative inspiration. But generally, they will be designed to increase positive feelings and relieve negative ones. Finding the right guided visualization might be a good tactic for someone who just wants a few light benefits of meditation without having to work too hard at it. Check out this eclectic review of the best guided visualizations on YouTube.
Meditation is something we go into more detail about over at our Ultimate Well-Being program (UWB), check it out today!