There are many different types of meditation that are widely practiced today. Most meditations have ancient origins coming from eastern traditions. Meditation connects the mind and body. This is a basic feature of meditation. We bring harmony to our minds and bodies.
Most meditation practices haven’t changed much over time. But science is starting to blend new knowledge with ancient wisdom. For example, bio-feedback now can show us what our magnetic field looks like and which parts of our brains light up during meditation. This is useful and powerful feedback.
We want to do meditation practices that will be useful in our day-to-day lives. We should use meditation to empower us during the day. And we also can use meditation for sleep.
Fortunately, any type of meditation you do will be helpful in one way or another. But different types of meditation have different effects on our minds and bodies so it’s good to know what to look for when deciding on a practice.
Mindful meditation is also called Mindfulness, and also Vipassana from the tradition of Buddhism. This is one of the most popular types of meditation. It’s about being present to everything, like your thoughts, feelings, and breath, while staying detached from all of it. Think of it as practicing awareness.
This practice also comes from Buddhist tradition. It has to do with loving acceptance starting with ourselves. The practice is made for overcoming feelings of self-doubt and negativity. According to Buddhist practice there are four types of people to develop loving-kindness towards:
- A teacher or other respected individual
- Someone you care a lot about like a family member or a good friend.
- An acquaintance.
- Somebody that you find difficult to get along with.
So you start by meditating on someone easy to send loving kindness to and then work outwards from there. This is a practice where you might send out waves of peace to someone you care about and you might also breathe in their essence or struggle. It helps to develop compassion and is a good antidote to anger.
The Many Types of Meditation
Also known as Prayer of the Heart or Centering Prayer this practice has to do with learning to pray unceasingly. To do this one must put their prayers on the heart.
Centering Prayer is a type of silent prayer which readies one to obtain the gift of contemplative prayer, where one can experience the presence of God within.
Zazen Meditation (or ZEN) is the meditation of The Buddha. It’s called seated meditation. You might also say just sit. This is a minimalist type of meditation, with basic instruction in sitting posture and the breath. This was originally developed for use in a monastic setting. It is a powerful meditation producing many benefits when done correctly with the proper respect for the practice.
Heart Focused Meditation
In practicing meditation, the heart has a greater role than the head. Many try meditation to quiet their minds but heart meditation works by awakening the heart. The mind doesn’t get quiet so much as the thoughts you have become more conscious and inspired.
The heart referred to here is not just the physical organ but also a sensitivity within us that is enhanced through meditation. Directing our breath through the heart with visualization of an energetic heart will create this sensitivity and awareness in the heart.
Heart Rhythm Meditation
Heart Rhythm meditation is another ancient meditation practice that has origins in Christianity as well as Buddhism and Sufism. HRM works by creating a rhythm between your heartbeat and your breath. For example, 8 beats inhale, 8 beats exhale. It’s simple to learn.
By listening to your heartbeat, you strengthen your heart. And by harmonizing your breath and heartbeat, you create a powerful rhythm in your body that strengthens your heart by creating entrainment in your heart rate variability.
In TM you gain peace by transcending the physical body. In Heart Rhythm Meditation you gain peace by going deep into your own heart. This is helpful in calming the mind (like other practices) and also in becoming more comfortable in one’s body.
This meditation practice originates from Vedanta, which is a tradition in Hinduism. You are given a mantra or sacred word by a teacher and that mantra is then repeated silently during meditation. The focus is on rising above the impermanent life. More advanced practices focus more on the breath and how this changes one’s state of being.
TM, as it’s also known, was introduced to the west by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1960s. The music group the Beatles went to India to study TM and helped popularize this form of meditation in the west. It is taught in a standardized 7 step course over 4 days by a certified teacher. It is practiced 15-20 minutes twice a day.
Here’s an interesting video about TM by Deepak Chopra:
This practice also comes from Hinduism. Kundalini refers to a rising stream of energy that exists in human beings. In the practice one becomes aware of the rising energy and moves the energy in the body up through the 7 energy centers called Chakras.
Qi gong Meditation
Qi gong is a Taoist practice which uses breath to move energy through the organs and Chakras. The energy circulated is called qi or chi.
These types of meditation create a very limited awareness of self (like in Hypnosis). You may have little control of your experience and your memory of the experience may be limited. Sometimes these practices involve music, shallow and rapid breathing (producing an intoxicating effect) or a form of hypnotic suggestion. Care and responsibility should be taken when doing trance practices.
Upward vs Downward Meditation
Another way the types of meditation differ is to say upward versus downward meditation. Upward meditation seeks to lift consciousness out of the body. Downward meditation seeks to pull the energy of the universe into the body.
Silva Mind Control
Silva Mind Control is another popular practice which uses meditation. The idea is to develop your higher brain functions, and involves the application of visualization meditation, positive thinking and self hypnosis. It expands your awareness and improves concentration like all other meditation techniques.
The practice of yoga involves postures (asanas) and specific breathing exercises. Yoga uses different types of meditation during the poses or more typically, after the poses. The yoga asanas are designed to release the flow of energy (prana) in the body while strengthening the muscles and creating flexibility.
Yoga is concerned with the total organism which includes body, mind and spirit. The practice of the asanas tends to be a little more difficult then they look. These asanas can be mastered with tremendous benefits if consistent steady practice is used.
Practices to help kids manage stress, improve learning and strengthen relationships.
Special note: Meditation is the key to unlocking your inner greatness, discovering and manifesting the incredible potential within each one of us.
But the techniques used in meditation are powerful. Though most people may try meditation with no ill effects, if practiced without qualified guidance, things can go wrong.
Read this publication from the University of the Heart about the Kundalini Syndrome . It has some great insights into the different types of meditation and important things to look for.
Learn more about the Heart Chakra and how to use the healing energies of the heart.
For a broader perspective on different types of meditation as well as crystal healing and massage, see Sunshine of the Soul.