Different Types of Meditations

There are many ways to meditate. Some people meditate in formal groups, finding that they can be more disciplined when sitting with others who are practicing a formal style of meditation. Most of these groups are based on a spiritual discipline or practice specific to their group.

Buddhist Meditation

There are Buddhist temples of all types, each having a different variation of meditation practices. Some of these are Zen Buddhist groups, Chinese Buddhists, Tibetan Buddhist groups, Thai Buddhists and other smaller sects of Buddhism. There are even 12-Step Buddhist in addition to Buddhist meditation groups based on specific leaders or doctrines within Buddhism.

Individual meditation practice is also part of the Buddhist tradition. Nearly every type of meditative practice is embraced within Buddhist cultures. Some popular types are Zazen, Vipassana, Mindfulness and Metta meditations.

Hindu Meditation

The beginning of Eastern religious practice of meditation can be found in the Hindu tradition. Popular styles are Transcendental Meditation (T.M.), Om Meditation, Kriya Yoga, Pranayama Yoga and Kundalini Yoga. Both have their roots in the ancient Vedanta, traditional religious and spiritual techniques for these practices.

Most Hindu meditation styles can be found in traditional yoga classes. Many yoga classes have been westernized in the U.S. but traditional yoga practice was developed to allow practitioners to sit for long periods of time in meditation without pain. Therefore, these traditional yoga classes include periods of meditation, often led by the instructor. Yoga, itself, is a type of moving meditation, focusing on movement and breath work.

Other Religious/Spiritual Meditation

Other religious and spiritual practices have a basis in meditation. Catholicism, Judaism, Sikhism, Christianity and Islam all mention some type of meditation practice(s) in their literature and foundation. Most religious doctrine embraces the idea of gathering in a group and meditating on some type of individual level. The focus of the practice varies from tradition to tradition.

Concentration Meditation

Concentration on one’s breath, both inhalation and exhalation is one form of concentration practice. In some formal practices, a mantra may also be used and is given by a spiritual teacher or leader to each student.

Other types of concentration meditation may a light or flame, music or an echo of a gong or bell or counting beads on a rosary (also known as a mala) to create focus of attention.

The purpose of this type of meditation is to continually bring the busy mind back to the focal point. This discipline of the mind is developed over time by longer periods of focus and concentration.

Examples of concentration meditation are: some types of Zazen, Vipassana, Loving Kindness Meditation, Kundalini Meditation, Sound Meditation, Pranayama and some forms of Qigong.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation asks the meditator to simply observe thoughts that come into the mind, allowing them to drift past. There is instruction to simply accept the thought, without becoming attached to it or judging the thought, recognizing it as “just a thought.”

After even a brief time of practicing mindfulness meditation, practitioners begin to recognize thought patterns they have previously been unaware of. Insight into the practice of quickly judging thoughts, experiences and events, feelings and life as “good”, “bad”, “happy”, “sad”, etc. is another outcome of mindfulness meditation. As this practice develops, a calmer mind will occur for regular participants.

Some people practice a variety of combinations of Mindfulness and Concentration meditation.

Guided Meditation

Some early meditators find it easier to sit still with a guide. Most disciplines practice meditation, at least part of the time, in a group setting where a guide is present.

There are many types of guided meditation and some people may resonate with one more strongly than another. Some meditators will shift from one type to another. Most of the time, the guide will continually instruct participants into a state of body and mind relaxation that can be done sitting or lying down.

Some examples of guided meditation are chanting or singing, reading a specific spiritual text to the group, guided imagery, rhythmic breathing exercises, repetitive affirmations, body awareness and movement instruction and rhythmic tones or drums. Any variation of these types is possible and available for new meditators to try.

Other forms of guided meditation can be found in the groups mentioned above. Beginning meditators are often more comfortable with guides. This is done by someone leading the meditation group or even alone, with a recorded guided meditation. These are usually at least 15 minutes in length. The longer the meditation, the more likely the beginners will find ways to allow themselves to participate. Resistance to meditation is common. Persistently returning to the meditation will give the beginner the discipline they lack with sitting still, breathing deeply and listening to the guide.

Moving Meditation

Movement in slow, mindful ways is a great way to meditate if the practitioner has difficulty with remaining in a seated position or lying down for more than a few minutes.

The physical practices of yoga, tai chi, qui gong and walking meditation are examples of moving meditation. The focus is to move the body while remaining focused on the small increments of movement and the sensations produced by each movement. Physical practices are most often slow and deliberate, asking participants to be completely aware, at all times, of the breath and body movement at the same time. Movement may be limited, as in qui gong, which focuses more on breath work than physical movement.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW/ASW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 25 years, she has a CATC-IV credential. She is also a lecturer and workshop provider for meditation, mindfulness and issues arising in long-term recovery. Kelly is currently writing a book about the spiritual principles in 12-Step recovery.


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