What Are the Best Types of Meditation?

Meditation is an increasingly popular practice for health and wellness, touted as a therapeutic solution for a wide range of issues—and a general way to improve your life. But while many people use the term “meditation” in a generic capacity, there are actually many different styles and techniques you can try.

Most people like to start with the help of a guided meditation app like Aura--and you can get started with Aura right now to get started. But you might also be interested in learning more about the different types of meditation that exist. 

What are the best types of meditation, and how can you figure out the right type for you?

Types of Meditation: What’s in a Name?

Before we get too far into describing different types of meditation, you should understand that the exact type of meditation you choose may not mean as much as you think. Most forms of meditation are focused on the same general principles; for example, nearly all types of meditation are designed to help you focus on the present moment, pay attention to your thoughts and feelings, and relax. Additionally, there is scientific evidence to support the benefits of nearly every type of regularly practiced meditation.

However, types of meditation may vary based on their main goals, how they’re conducted, the main techniques they rely on, and other variables. For some people, one type of meditation may be highly effective and enjoyable, while another type of meditation is loathsome. For others, almost any type of meditation can work.

It pays to be familiar with the different types of meditation that exist. This way, you can choose the best type for your needs and preferences. Plus, over time, as you gain experience and knowledge, you’ll be able to mix and match different techniques to come up with your own signature meditation style.

Guided and Unguided Meditation

Let’s start with a description of guided vs. unguided meditation. Almost any type of meditation could be delivered in an unguided or guided form. In unguided meditation, a practitioner is left to their own devices; they follow techniques on their own, often in isolation, to reap the benefits. In guided meditation, an experienced guru, teacher, or guide will walk practitioners through a series of techniques.

Guided meditation is beneficial because of its inherent structure, and its reliance on the help of a seasoned expert. It’s also ideal for newcomers, though experienced meditators can benefit from it as well. Unguided meditation is much more open-ended and flexible.

Broad Types of Meditation

Most specific forms of meditation stem from a religious or cultural tradition, and have unique hallmarks that distinguish them from others. However, most researchers broadly categorize meditation into one of two main forms:

·   Focused attention meditation. In focused attention meditation, the goal is to concentrate on one thing; this “thing” could be the pattern of your breathing, a mantra that’s repeated over and over, a specific part of your body, or even an external object, like the flickering flame of a candle. Over time, focused attention can improve your ability to concentrate and eliminate distractions.

·   Open monitoring meditation. Open monitoring meditation is, as the name suggests, more open-ended. You won’t focus your attention on any one thing; instead, you’ll observe all aspects of your personal experience with no lingering attachment or judgment. For example, you might notice a thought arise and let it go, or briefly pay attention to a smell in your environment and let it go.

Both broad forms of meditation share a similar goal: getting you to a mental state of pure being. In this state, you won’t be distracted, you won’t be plagued by thoughts or feelings, and you won’t be affected by your environment. It’s a lofty goal even for experienced meditators.

Buddhist Types of Meditation

Buddhist forms of meditation are the most popularly recognized, in part because there are so many varieties, and in part, because the Buddhist tradition stretches back so far.

These are some of the most common types of Buddhist meditation:

·   Zen meditation. Zen meditation is sometimes called “Zazen,” which just means “seated meditation” in Japanese. This form of mediation is typically seated, though historically it was done with a lotus or half-lotus position. Users focus on their breath, often with the help of counting, or simply try to exist without thinking of anything at all.

·   Mindfulness meditation. One of the most common forms of modern meditation is mindfulness meditation, wherein users try to focus only on the present moment, undistracted by thoughts, feelings, and sensations that arise. When you inevitably get distracted, you must return your attention to the present moment.

·   Loving kindness meditation. There’s also loving kindness meditation, where users attempt to focus on feelings of kindness, love, and benevolence. You can focus on loving yourself, or feeling compassion for others—including both good friends and total strangers. It’s meant to cultivate positive feelings.

·   Vipassana meditation. Vipassana meditation translates to “insight” or “clear seeing.” There are a few potential approaches here, but most practitioners start with mindfulness of breathing, then move to moment-to-moment attention. It’s more of an advanced form of meditation.

Hindu Types of Meditation

Hindu types of meditation are also popular. These are some of the best examples:

·   Mantra meditation. Mantra meditation makes use of a “mantra,” or phrase, that’s repeated over and over. This phrase is usually the center point of your concentration, and it’s often repeated a specific number of times (such as 108 or 1008). You may be familiar with some of the common mantras here, like “om” or “om namah shivaya.”

·   Transcendental meditation. Transcendental meditation is more of an exclusive tradition, so you may find it difficult to learn. In the transcendental tradition, you’ll use a specific mantra, tailored to you, and meditate twice per day.

·   Yogic meditation types. Yogic meditation is sometimes classified as its own category, but there are multiple varieties of meditation designed to be practiced alongside Classical Yoga. For example, in “third eye” meditation, you’ll focus your attention on your third eye, or the place between your eyebrows. In chakra meditation, you’ll focus on one of the 7 traditional chakras of the body. And in gazing meditation, you’ll stare at a visual element, such as a candle flame or a piece of art, then try to keep it in your “mind’s eye” when you close your eyes.

Other Types of Meditation

These are just a few of the meditation traditions not affiliated with Hindu or Buddhist culture:

·   Christian meditation. Christian prayer, contemplative reading, and other similar exercises can be thought of as varieties of meditation. Most Christian meditation traditions focus on moral purification, or intimacy with God.

·   Taoist meditation. There are many types of meditation in the Taoist tradition. Taoism itself is typically focused on living in harmony with nature and generating inner energy. These styles of meditation attempt to quiet the inner workings of the body and mind, and find inner peace.

·   Qigong/Chi kung meditation. Qigong meditation exercises are designed to facilitate the better flow of qi, or energy, in your body. They’re heavily reliant on different breathing exercises.

·   Sufi meditation. Sufism is a form of Islamic mysticism wherein practitioners attempt to purify themselves and unify themselves with Allah, or God. Sufi meditation is more esoteric, and includes elements of gazing, breathing, and heartbeat-based focus.

Meditation Techniques

Nearly all types of meditation use some combination of the following techniques:

·   Attention. Almost all forms of meditation include attention on something, whether it’s your breath, a mantra, or an external object.

·   Posture and positioning. Many meditation styles encourage a specific posture, though the most common is sitting with your spine erect, in a relaxed position.

·   Breathing. Different breathing techniques are often used to complement and enhance meditation.

·   Body scans. Focusing on different parts of the body, or different sensations, is also meditative.

·   Visualization and imagery. Some traditions use the “mind’s eye” and other forms of visualization to guide the practice.

·   Noting thoughts and distractions. While concentrating your attention, you’ll often need to note specific thoughts, feelings, and other distractions that tempt you.

·   Compassion. Meditation sometimes encourages compassion, both for yourself and for others.

·   Reflection. Introspective and insight-driven meditation styles encourage personal reflection.

·   Music and other forms of stimulation. Some forms of meditation include music, scents, and other forms of external stimulation.

Finding the Best Type of Meditation for You

We’ve covered a lot of different types of meditation in this guide, so you might be unsure about how to find the “best” type of meditation for you.

To help:

·   Consider your goals. What are you hoping to achieve with meditation? Are you more interested in relaxing, so you can get to sleep better? Or would you rather spend time introspecting, so you can improve your self-knowledge and emotional intelligence? Answers to these and similar questions will help you choose the most appropriate techniques.

·   Talk to experts. As a newcomer, one of the best ways to start is by talking to an expert, such as a meditation guru—or even a friend who’s meditated a lot in the past. They’ll be able to answer your questions, help you understand your goals, and direct you to the meditation style that might suit you best.

·   Experiment. The best way to learn is by doing. If you’re not sure what type of meditation will be best for you, try out several different varieties. Take note of what works and what doesn’t work, and keep experimenting until you find the right approach.

Are you interested in discovering different types of meditation, and seeing the benefits for your mind and body? The Aura Meditation app can introduce you to a wide variety of different practices. Download the Aura Meditation and Sleep app for iOS or for Android today, and learn which meditation techniques suit you best!

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