Following on from our introduction to meditation, The Gaggler explores the different kinds of meditation practices to try as you progress on your mindfulness journey. There are many different types of meditation, which allows you to experiment with a variety of practices and find the one that’s right for you. And when you do, you’re more likely to stick with it and make your chosen meditative practice a life-long habit. To get you started, we’ve identified six types of meditation to set you on your way.
1. Breath Watching
Breath awareness is the observation of the flow of your breathing and is a popular method to try as a beginner. The value of this particular approach to meditation is in the way all reasoning is excluded and your active, even restless, mind is put to rest. Your thoughts are stilled and your mind reaches a single point of “oneness”.
Can meditating be as simple as paying attention to your breath for a few minutes? You bet! All you need to do is relax in a seated position or lay down on a mat – whatever works best for you. Close your eyes and start to pay attention to your breathing – in and out, and again. Breathing through your nose gets your diaphragm involved and gets oxygen all the way to the bottom of your lungs. Your movement should be natural and comfortable as you breathe. If your mind wanders, just refocus your attention on the air going in and out of your nose. Do this for several minutes, or longer as you get used to it.
You can also click here to explore the 4-7-8 breathing method which can be a next-level variation as you become more comfortable with the basic meditation breathing technique, and would like to try something more challenging.
2. Empty Mind Meditation
What is an empty mind? It is a mind that is aware, peaceful, intuitive, free, creative, relaxed and energized. Some pretty powerful qualities, right? But how do you achieve all this? To empty your mind, you need to release thoughts that are taking up precious space there, and not serving you. Once you process what’s in your mind, you are in a better position to gain perspective, clarity and act from a more informed place.
Meditating can create a kind of ‘awareness without object’. This is an emptying of all thoughts from your mind. The technique involves sitting still, often in a ‘full lotus’ or cross-legged position, and letting your mind go silent on its own. It will resist in the beginning – thoughts will come and go, you may find yourself tempted to keep looking at the time or lose focus on your breathing. It can be difficult, particularly since any effort seems to just cause more business in the mind, but with time your mind will settle to a point where your thoughts clear away and you are left with an ‘empty mind’.
3. Guided Meditation
In guided meditation, your practice is shaped by another person’s voice. The mind tends to wander – it happens to all of us, and you may find it easier to focus and relax your mind when you know someone else is involved in your practice. This meditation is also known as guided imagery or visualization meditation.
This meditation is typically led by a guide or teacher, hence ‘guided’. It can be either in a live setting or recorded, the latter of which allows you to practice in the comfort of your home or workplace, streaming the recording from your mobile phone or computer. These digital versions of guided meditation come in very handy if you are always on the go.
Guided meditation practise involves using as many of your senses as possible including smell, sound and touch to form mental images or situations in your mind to evoke calmness and relaxation. Especially useful for beginners, guided meditation takes the guesswork out of the actual mechanics of the practice, as you will always have someone to talk you through the motions, imagery and sensory aspects of the practice.
4. Mindfulness Meditation
A practice Buddhists call vipassana (the literal translation is ‘special seeing’) or insight meditation. In this type of meditation, you are working towards seeing things as they really are. Based on one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation, it was rediscovered by Gautama Buddha more than 2,500 years ago and is believed to be a universal remedy for ills and impurities.
Mindfulness is the art of becoming deeply aware of what is here, right now. You focus on what’s happening in and around you at this very moment and become aware of all the thoughts and feelings that are using your energy from each moment to the next. In so doing, you are self-transforming through self-observation. You can start by watching your breath, and then move your attention to the thoughts going through your mind, the feelings in your body, and even the sounds and sights around you. The key is to watch without judging or analyzing.
5. Simple Mantra Meditation
Many people find it easier to keep their mind from wandering if they concentrate on something specific. A mantra can help. This is a word or phrase you repeat as you sit in meditation, and is chosen for you by an experienced master in some traditions. If you are working on this alone, you can use any word or phrase that works for you and can choose to either repeat it aloud or in your head as you meditate. Simple and popular mantras include “OM” or “Hare Krishna” or “I am that I am”. It’s helpful to try a few different mantras during your meditation practice and see which mantra resonates best with you. There’s a mantra out there for everybody.
6. Walking Meditation
This meditation gets your whole body involved. It can be done outside or simply as a back and forth pacing in a room or walking in a circle. Often, it is done in between seated meditation practices. Walking meditation involves deliberately thinking and breaking down each step in the act of walking. Since this is a more active form of meditation, it has several health benefits, including boosting blood flow and circulation, improving digestion, and adding to your daily exercise routine.
When performing walking meditation, pay attention to each minute movement of your legs, your breath and your overall body as you walk, and to the feeling of your feet contacting the ground. When your mind wanders, just keep bringing it back to the process of walking and breathing. Meditating outside in this way can be difficult because of the distractions. If you do it outside, find a quiet place with level ground to practice on.