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What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a practice that involves using a variety of mindfulness techniques to create or achieve a calming mental state and physical well-being. Meditation uses a blend of mental focus, awareness, pointed observation, and breathing exercises to give you a stable mindset, helping you process your emotions and thoughts so that you can live a more fulfilling, present life. According to scientific research, regular meditation can have a therapeutic effect on your mental health and wellness while helping with stress reduction. There are many forms of meditation, including guided, Kundalini, mindfulness, Transcendental, and zen, all of which use their own unique techniques to help meditators obtain a calming mental state.
10 Types of Meditation
Here is a breakdown of the 10 most common types of meditation:
- Breath awareness: Breath awareness is a meditative practice that focuses on breathing, using deep inhalation and exhalation to push out any intrusive or banal thoughts. This meditation style aims to prevent the mind from wandering, allowing you to clear your thoughts and establish emotional stability during your session.
- Guided: Guided meditation refers to an instructor-led meditation session, performed live during a meditation course or via pre-recorded audio, which you can listen to online or using a meditation app on your phone. The guider speaks in a soothing voice, guiding the listener through their meditation. They may instruct the meditator to do a body scan (mentally visiting the various parts of your body), hold their breaths for a certain number of seconds, or form specific visualizations in their minds.
- Kundalini: Part of the popular yoga practice, Kundalini meditation uses a combination of deep breathing, mantras, and hand movements, and mantra meditation to wake and distribute dormant energy in the body.
- Loving-kindness: Loving-kindness meditation, or Metta meditation, centers compassion, directing the meditator to feel love and kindness towards everyone in their lives, even those they consider their enemies. The meditation’s goal is to cultivate feelings of love and kindness that can erase the negative thoughts and feelings that cause stress.
- Mindfulness: Mindful meditation is a form of meditation that focuses on staying in the present moment and being completely aware of your body and the surrounding environment. This form of meditation can entail a quick check of your current public surroundings or a deep, quiet observation of your room at home. The goal of mindfulness meditation is to achieve a relaxed state of awareness without judging your thoughts, body, or environment.
- Progressive: Progressive relaxation, or body scan meditation, focuses on scanning the body for areas of stress or tension. In this meditation technique, users focus on body awareness, starting at one end, slowly combing their way through, and releasing each point of physical stress as they identify them.
- Transcendental: Transcendental meditation, created by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, uses the repetition of a silent mantra to help rise above oneself. This meditation practice introduces bubbles of thought into the mind gradually, causing a state of de-stress and relaxation.
- Vipassanā: With links to early Buddhism, vipassanā meditation uses concentration and awareness to help push out mental impurities and strip away the illusions that muddy the way we see the world. Liberation and self-transformation are the primary goals of vipassanā, commonly practiced by Buddhists in parts of Southeast Asia. In Buddhism, vipassanā (also spelled vipaśyanā) is a term that means “insight” or “without seeing.”
- Walking: Walking meditation involves the user switching between walking and long periods of sitting meditation (also known as zazen). The practitioner takes a few steps for a certain amount of time, hyper-focusing on the body’s movements and its physical sensations with every step.
- Zen: Zen meditation is a Buddhist tradition that allows the meditator insight into how their mind works. This meditation style is a common spiritual practice in Buddhism that uses pointed observation to help the meditator process and address core issues, providing clarity and increasing compassion.
5 Meditation Tips for Beginners
Effective meditation takes practice. Here are a few tips you can utilize to ensure you get the most out of your sessions:
- Select a quiet place. Select a distraction-free zone to put yourself in the best position to clear your mind and find your inner peace during your session. Your meditation location should be quiet and soothing, with a comfortable amount of light and temperature.
- Find a comfortable position. When selecting a sitting position for a meditation session, comfort is key. You can sit with your legs crossed on the floor or in a comfortable position on a couch or chair, with your feet flat on the ground, and a straight (but not rigid) spine. Ensure that your seated position allows you to breathe comfortably and not one you have to think about consciously, which can disrupt your meditation.
- Set a schedule. Creating a meditation schedule can be useful if your goal is to build consistency. While you can meditate at any time of day, some people find it more beneficial to meditate early in the morning to prepare themselves to handle everyday life stresses. However, if you’re unable to commit to a morning routine, try to meditate at the same time every day to create consistency in your mindfulness practices.
- Avoid expectations or judgment. Enter your meditation without expectations, and try not to judge yourself too harshly if you’re unable to have a relaxing meditation session in your first few attempts. It may take multiple tries before you begin feeling comfortable with meditating. The practice is not a quick cure for mental distress—it requires patience, consistency, and practice, which can present challenges for beginners.
- Check in with yourself. Take note of how you feel after every meditation session, even if you think it went well, to reflect on your progress. Pay attention to how both your brain and body feel. Consider keeping a journal to log your thoughts and feelings, or track your progress.
Want to Learn Even More About Cultivating a Mindfulness Practice?
Find something comfortable to sit or lie on, grab a MasterClass Annual Membership, and dial into the present moment with Jon Kabat-Zinn, the father of the Western mindfulness movement. From formal meditation exercises to examinations of the science behind mindfulness, Jon will prepare you for the most important practice of them all: life itself.