When you look at the history of meditation, it’s no wonder that there are so many different types, practiced in different corners of the world. In the West some forms of meditation are more popular than others, and if you’re a beginner you should definitely check them to see which kind suits you best.
We’ll list some of the most popular types of meditation, in order to give you a place to start.
1. Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental meditation is probably the most popular type in the US. It was brought there in the 1960s by the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who derived it from the ancient Vedic tradition of India.
This technique involves the use of a sound or mantra that’s assigned by a certified instructor, and is practiced for 15–20 minutes twice per day with the eyes closed. According to its proponents, when people practice transcendental meditation the ordinary thinking process is “transcended” and replaced by a state of pure consciousness when s/he achieves perfect stillness, rest, stability, order, and a complete absence of mental boundaries.
This technique is also the most widely researched – over 350 studies and reports have been published published, and some of them have found that regular meditation can reduce chronic pain, anxiety, high blood pressure, cholesterol. Its proponents have postulated that a significant number of individuals (1 percent of a population) practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique has an effect on the environment – this is called “Maharishi effect”.
Unfortunately, this technique can’t be learned from a book or CD, it can only be learned through a seven-step course of instruction from a certified teacher (a four-month course, including a lifetime of free follow-up, costs $1,500 for adults).
2. Mindfulness Meditation
This type of meditation is about being aware of the sounds and activities happening around you. Your thoughts and your mind should be fluid, not really focusing on one particular thing but flowing from one thing to the next. The practitioner can focus on his breath, bodily sensations, thoughts, feelings, or sounds. Buddhists call this type of meditation “insightful or vipassana meditation”.
The thoughts are supposed to flow freely as mindfulness meditation also involves nonjudgmental observation of them, without getting attached, without reflecting on them – the practitioner should just witness them as they appear, and let them go.
The practice of mindfulness is not limited to meditation sessions – it’s often extended to daily actions, such as eating, walking, driving, or housework.
3. Guided Meditation with Visualization
All forms of meditation can be guided – it simply means that the practitioner guided through the session (through a recording or in-person) at first, and then later with decreasing need for explicit guidance. When using guided meditation with visualization or guided imagery the practitioner follows auditory guidance that elicits certain images, affirmations, states (such as peacefulness), or imagined desired experiences.
It usually begins with focusing on something simple, like breathing, in order to achieve meditative state of mind, and continues with detailed visualization of the issue that the practitioner wants to work on.
This type is often used to facilitate health and well-being (for example, to relieve pain by visualizing a part of the body being healed through imagery and breath work), but it’s also an effective tool for rehearsing successful outcomes – in surgery, athletic training or manifestation.
Guided meditation is often the first choice of those who have no experience with meditation, as achieving meditative state is largely facilitated by the guidance of the narrator.
4. Yoga Meditation
Another very popular type of meditation is the one incorporated in yoga exercise. These stretching exercises were originally designed to help the practitioners gain control of their own life force – as the spiritual energy rises from the base of the spine up through the top of the head, the practitioner is able to achieve self-realization (an expanded state of awareness).
The goal in yoga meditation is to promote control of both the body and mind. When practiced as a spiritual technique, yoga meditation allows the experienced practitioner to experience “collective consciousness” (an advanced awareness in which they can feel the spiritual energy of anyone they put their attention on).
Meditation in any form will positively influence your mind and your body, so it’s definitely better to practice any kind of meditation than not to meditate at all – you will eventually find your balance, or create your own meditation style if that’s what works best for you.
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