Welcome to The Daily Meditation’s complete guide to meditation techniques. Here you will learn all the different types of meditation.
My passion has always been to inspire people to meditate. Since an early age I knew the importance of meditation, and my purpose on this blog is to encourage as many people as possible to start meditating.
If you are new to meditation, or if you are looking to increase your understanding of meditation and learn new meditation techniques, this page is for you.
In a moment, I will take you through an in-depth guide to all the different types of meditation. But to begin with, let’s wind it right back to the very beginning.
What is meditation?
So that we are all on the same wave-length, let’s begin at the very beginning and look at what meditation is.
Meditation is a mental exercise that trains your mind to focus on one or more elements. That is a very basic explanation of meditation. And it is the universal constant between all meditation techniques.
When you meditate, you focus your mind on one or more things. Easy. But also… infinite. Because you can focus on anything.
There are as many meditation techniques as there are things to focus on. You can focus on anything, so, by definition, you could meditate on anything too.
Of course, even though you can meditate on anything, it would be a waste of time meditating on most things.
- meditation is focusing on one or more things.
- You could potentially meditate on anything.
- There are only select things that are actually worth meditating on.
What makes an object worth meditating on is the affect it has on your mind.
Certain elements and objects naturally produce certain responses in your mind, and because of this, those things are worth meditating on. For instance:
- It is worth meditating on your breath because doing do relaxes your mind and energises your body (and also does other things).
- It is worth meditating on certain sounds (mantras) because these can change brainwave frequency.
- It is worth meditating on love and kindness because doing so actually promotes love and kindness in your mind.
You may notice that these are all different types of meditation. There are breathing meditations. There are mantra meditations. There is Loving Kindness Meditation. And so on.
Different meditation techniques arise because there are different things that are worth meditating on.
Essentially, every meditation technique can be defined as something that is worth meditating on.
However, there are different ways of focusing on things.
- You can focus on one single isolated thing.
- You can focus on everything.
- You can focus on a mental image (visualisation).
Writing for GoodLifeZen, Mary Zaksch says, “To focus in meditation means to pay soft attention to whatever you place in the centre of awareness.”
Because you can focus in different ways, you can also meditate in different ways.
Psychologically speaking, the two core ways of focusing on anything are:
- Focused attention (isolating one or several things to meditate on).
- Open monitoring (focusing on everything).
And because these are, psychologically speaking, the two core styles of focusing, they are also the two core styles of meditation.
Let’s take a look at these two core types of meditation.
Open monitoring and focused attention meditations.
1. OPEN MONITORING TECHNIQUES
One of the main types of meditation techniques is open monitoring.
In open monitoring exercises your mind is “open”.
When you perform an open meditation technique you do not focus on a singular thing. You’re not focusing on the breath or on a sound. Instead, you are aware of the totality of existence. You are aware of your thoughts and feelings, physical sensations, and all the information that comes to you by way of your senses (sound, smell, taste etc.). You non-judgmentally observe the world, allowing your focus to extend to everything in your environment.
A definition of open awareness is: not intentionally focusing on one thing, but opening the mind for the world to enter freely.
When performing open awareness exercises, the mind works like the light-bulb in your ceiling, spreading light (consciousness) in all directions. In open awareness, attention is spread evenly across the environment.
For instance, one of the best open awareness activities is to simply gaze up at the sky, silence your mind, and let the day in. You should feel as though you are not intentionally focusing on anything, but rather that everything is entering your mind freely.
Open awareness benefits you in many ways
The open types of meditation are very liberating. They make you feel free. Like a butterfly arising from out of a chrysalis to take flight into the world, the mind is freed from its usual shackles of thoughts and stresses, freed to take in the fullness of existence.
I personally practice open meditation techniques early in the day. I find this is a very good way to start the day positively and mindfully. I’ll practice an open meditation before sitting down to write. It’s like I’m allowing the world to come to me while exercise and warming-up my creative mind. By spending twenty minutes opening my mind and boosting my creativity I ensure that my creative juices are flowing for the whole day.
That’s just one of the benefits of open meditation.
The number one health benefit of these techniques is that they help you to let go.
In cognitive psychology open awareness can be used to stop you obsessing over one thing, or one thought, by opening the mind to the fullness of existence.
2. Focused attention meditation techniques
The mind may be open to take in the whole world, but it may also be closed to focus on just one object. That’s why alongside open meditations we have the other type of meditation technique: focused attention meditations.
These meditations are best surmised by the classic Zen quote “When sitting sit.” This old Zen proverb reminds us to focus on what we’re doing right at this very moment. It is a simple but important lesson that is taught through closed meditations.
If open meditations are like the light-bulbs in your ceiling, closed meditation techniques are like flashlights, a one directional source of light.
When we perform a “focused attention” activity we focus on one thing (breath, a sound, a candle etc.). We may focus on a mantra, a physical object, on breath, on meditation music, on mental imagery (visualisations)… Wemay focus on any one single thing, and in so doing we will be performing a closed meditation, the most popular type of meditation technique.
There are far more focused attention activities than open monitoring activities.
3. Focused attention examples include:
- Anapanasati (Breathing Meditation)
- Sound Meditation,
- Chakra Meditation,
- Tibetan Singing Bowl meditationn
- Some mudras
- Samatha Meditation
- Loving Kindness Meditation,
- Kundalini Meditation,
- Transcendental Meditation
Practices in focused attention train your mind to concentrate on one thing at a time (the most popular example being meditations focused on the breath). If you would like to learn more about this, take a look at our Online Meditation Course.
The Benefits of Focused Attention Techniques
Different types of focused meditations offer different benefits (you can read all about this in my guide to the 100 health benefits of meditation).
Some meditations boost positivity and happiness, others cultivate compassion, others can cure illnesses and so on.
Advanced meditators practice a wide variety of different focused attention exercises so that they can enjoy the complete assortment of benefits that meditation offers.
- You can read more about open monitoring and focused attention here.
4. Effortless Presence
As well as open monitoring and focused attention there is also effortless presence.
A yoga practice, effortless presence means existing without effort, not consciously directing your focus, just existing, as though empty but aware. This is very similar to open monitoring and offers most of the same benefits.
Meditation Techniques by cultural background and spirituality
One of the best things about studying different types of meditation is the sheer amount of culture involved.
Digging into classic texts and reading the words of masters like Lao Tzu, Thich Nhat Hanh and Osho is a real pleasure that should be enjoyed alongside studying meditation.
Dig into ancient texts and you’ll find the very heart and core of meditation. It’s in the ancient classics like the Bhagavad Gita, the Vimalakirti Sutra, and the Pali Canon, that you’ll find the roots of meditation.
Like the trunk, branches, and leaves of a great tree, meditation has grown over countless years, but its roots are still anchored in the ancient texts, among the fertile soil of ancient Eastern culture.
When you study the culture and history’s of meditation you glean an understanding of where meditation comes from and why it has developed the way it has.
Of course, this is completely optional. Personally I never stop reading because I love learning about culture and history, particularly as pertains to meditation.
When you look back at history you realise there are six cultures of meditation.
There are six key “cultures” of meditation, the first of which takes us back some 2500 years
NOTE: This list is based on different realities and spiritualities because meditation began as a religious practice. Of course, atheists can meditate too. I’ve written a separate guide to non-religious meditation for atheists. Take a look.
1: Buddhist meditations
Most of the different types of meditation techniques practiced today come from the tradition of Buddhist Meditation.
There are lots of different forms of Buddhism, including:
This image explains all the different types of Buddhism (colick for full size image)
Just as there are lots of forms of Buddhism, there are lots of forms of Buddhist meditation too.
In the classic language of Buddhism, meditation is referred to as bhāvanā and jhāna/dhyāna.
Bhāvanā can be translated to mean “Developing into existence”.
In Buddhism, enlightenment is the ultimate purpose of meditation. Enlightenment can be thought of as meaning “Release from the self”.
On his blog, Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard says,
Enlightenment is a state of perfect knowledge or wisdom, combined with infinite compassion… Enlightenment is an understanding of both the relative mode of existence (the way in which things appear to us) and the ultimate mode of existence (the true nature of these same appearances).
Buddhism has many different forms of meditation. And the ultimate goal of those meditations is to attain enlightenment.
Some of these different types of meditation techniques, such as recollections and breathing meditations, transcend all traditions of Buddhism. They are used ubiquitously. But many Buddhist types of meditation are specific to different Buddhist schools.
The Theravada tradition alone incorporates more than one hundred meditation methods, the majority of which revolve around mindfulness.
Contrastingly, the Tibetan tradition uses over a thousand different visualisation meditations.
Because different teachers have been taught at different schools, the majority of the time when you attend a Buddhist meditation class your teacher will mention that they’re a specialist of one of the many different Buddhist schools. The Dalai Lama, for instance, teaches Tibetan Buddhism, where Thich Nhat Hanh teaches Zazen (Zen).
Visit the temples of the different schools of Buddhism and you’ll hear most teachers discussing three types of training:
- Virtue (which they call “sila”),
- Meditation (Samadhi)
- Wisdom (panna).
These three types of training are the pathway towards enlightenment, and each one is essential. That’s why a Buddhist meditation plan will traditionally incorporate meditations that cultivate those three traits of Sila, Samadhi, and Panna. Meditation will be taught alongside ethics and morals.
Morals and ethics are taught mostly through what Buddhists refer to as the “Noble Eightfold Path”, which is the “way” towards enlightenment.
The eight paths are:
- Right understanding
- Right thought
- Right speech
- Right action
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right mindfulness,
- Right concentration.
When studying Buddhist types of meditation, all eight of these paths should be taken into account.
The most important types of Buddhist meditatio
Zazen comes from the tradition of Chinese Zen Buddhism, which began in the 6th Century. It is usually practiced sitting on the floor on a mat or pillow, traditionally sitting in the lotus position with the legs crossed (though if, like me, you’ve spent years running miles on concrete roads you may struggle with the position, in which case kneeling is fine). You then focus either on the breath or on the pure act of sitting, both of which cultivate mindfulness and the mentality of living in the moment with pure awareness.
The practice of Zen meditation or Zazen is at the heart of the Zen Buddhist experience. Originally called Dhyana in India, Zen meditation is a very simple yet precise method of meditation, where the correct posture is imperative.
- Read my full guide to Zen Meditation
The practice of Vipassana meditation began back in the 6th Century during the time when Mahayana Buddhism was expanding through the East from India to South East Asia. The word itself, “Vipassana”, is Pali for “clear seeing” or “insight”.
In Vipassana meditation you focus your on breathing and extend non-judgmental awareness to the inner workings of your mind. This process helps you to achieve great understanding of yourself and of the mind. Specifically, Vipassana leads to awareness of what Buddhists call “the three marks of existence”— the three characteristics shared by all sentient beings, namely impermanence (anicca), dissatisfaction (dukkha), and non-self (anattā).
- Read my full guide to Vipassana Meditation
Mindfulness meditation is the single most popular type of meditation technique. It is derived from traditional types of meditation practices and has been popularised in the West through the teachings of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and Jon Kabat Zinn (the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction).
Writing for his blog WildMind.org, Bodhipaksa says,
My definition of mindfulness is very simple: Mindfulness is the gentle effort to be continuously present with experience. Read more about Bodhipaksas intro to mindfulness here.
Because mindfulness has gone through such a process of evolution there is actually some confusion as to precisely what the term means today.
Different meditation teachers will teach mindfulness in different ways. Some will strictly state that mindfulness is mindfulness of breath only. Others will say it is mindfulness of any aspect of the present moment.
The purpose of mindfulness is expressed in the Thich Nhat Hanh quote “If we are not fully ourselves, in the present moment, we lose everything”. It is about simply focusing on the present moment experience.
Mindfulness is practiced in hospitals and other health facilities and is advocated by health professionals more than other types of meditation technique, mostly due to the research performed by Jon Kabat Zinn, who created the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
- Read my full guide to Mindfulness
8 Loving Kindness Meditation:
Loving Kindness Meditation is also called Metta, the Pali word meaning good will and benevolence. In the Tibetan and Theravada Buddhism traditions, Loving Kindness Meditation is practiced as a way of developing compassion and warm feelings, which lead you to feel much closer and more connected to other people.
Loving-Kindness meditation focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards others… Compassion, kindness and empathy are very basic emotions to us. Research shows that Loving Kindness Meditation has a tremendous amount of benefits ranging from benefitting well-being, to giving relief from illness and improving emotional intelligence:
- Read my full guide to Loving Kindness Meditation
You may be wondering if Buddhist meditation is right for you. Here’s what you need to know
In Buddhism, meditation is inseparable from philosophy. The purpose of meditation is to cultivate the right mind, which ultimately leads to enlightenment. This is why Buddhist meditation is best practiced by those who believe in and wish to follow the Buddhist belief. Though most of the techniques can also be practiced without the philosophical side, and this will still lead to great health benefits.
By understanding the principles, theories and philosophies of Buddhism you can gain a much deeper understand of things than by simply meditating. If, however, you wish to use meditation as a tool for cultivating positive mental states or for alleviating specific health problems, you will be better off picking and choosing specific Buddhist techniques without actually committing to the true practice of Buddhist meditation.
Hindu Meditation Techniques
Hinduism is the world’s oldest religion and was one of the most important factors in the creation and development of meditation. Many of the different types of meditation technique come from Hinduism.
My friends and acquaintances often debate among themselves as to which religion, Hinduism or Buddhism, actually created meditation (it’s a fascinating conversation). Some argue that Buddha was born a Hindu and was familiar with Hindu practices, so therefore the practice of meditation derives from Hinduism. Others argue that meditation as we know it was not created until the beginning of Buddhism and is therefore a Buddhist practice.
Either way, there are a great many similarities between Hindu and Buddhist meditation techniques.
9. In Hinduism meditation is called Dhyana or Jhana.
If you have ever spoken to a Hindu meditation teacher you will likely have heard them discussing how to use Dhyana to cultivate oneness, to heighten awareness of body, surroundings, and senses, to obtain self knowledge, and to achieve mokṣa, which is the highest achievement, the liberation of self from the perpetual cycle of death and rebirth.
In Hinduism, meditation first appeared in the classic text the Upanishads, a collection of dialogues between Hindu sages and their students. In these texts sages discuss meditation as being “deeper concentration of the mind”. They say it leads to “great self knowledge and liberation from the illusion of Maya, the illusion of the material world”.
One of the most important of classic texts is the Bhagavad Gita, a narrative that shows a dialogue between Pandava prince Arjuna and his guide and charioteer Krishna.
In the Gita, Arjuna is faced with a duty to fight the righteous war between two opposing sides, the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Krishna advises Arjuna to “fulfill his Kshatriya (warrior) duty as a warrior and establish Dharma.” It is this dialogue that introduces the Dhyana Yoga system, the Hindu meditation system that synthesises Dharma (the Hindu order) with Bhakti (faith and worship).
Dhyana Yoga (meditation) is the seventh and penultimate limb of the Eight Limb path of Hinduism. It is preceded by Dharana and followed by Samadhi. These three (Dhyana, Dharana, and Samadhi) form the Samyama, the Hindu process through which the mind is liberated from the physical world.
In dharana meditation, we focus the mind and sight between the eyebrows. This develops concentration. While focusing on this fixed spot energy enters the mind. This energy gradually builds and the focus intensifies, leading to meditation and the state called Samadhi, a point of extreme concentration.
Unlike most other types of meditation, when practicing meditation in the Hindu tradition, the practitioner is not aware of the fact that they are meditating. They are only aware of their own existence and the object on which they are meditating. This creates a powerful sense of oneness. It is a beautiful and powerful experience in which exists nothing but the individual and the object of meditation, fused as though they are one.
There are many different types of meditation in the Hindu system. Some of the most important are:
11 . Mantra meditation:
One of the most popular types of meditation for Hindus, mantra meditations involve the recitation of specific words or sounds.
If you visit India during a religious celebration such as Krishna Janmaashtami, (the festival which celebrates the birth of Krishna) you will hear Hindus reciting mantras throughout the night, showing devotion.
Different Hindu Gods are traditionally worshiped by reciting different mantras, and mantras can also be used to create certain benefits, ranging from love to happiness to inner peace to wealth and so on.
It is believed that these mantras work via energy resonance. Because different sounds occur at different frequencies, by meditating on a mantra you can change the frequency of the energy in your body and mind, leading to various outcomes.
A mantra is a word or phrase whose recital raises the level of consciousness by bringing about greater awareness. It opens the doorway to a deeper understanding of the self and of the laws of nature.
It is worth noting that mantras do not have to be used expressly for worship or for specific ambitions. They can also be used for pure relaxation. Indeed, mantras are one of the best entry points to meditation. The act of reciting the mantra gives the mind something to focus on, which helps us to stay with the meditation as opposed to being lost in distractions.
12. Yoga Meditations:
There are a great many yogic types of meditation, which date right back to 1700 B.C.
These meditation techniques aim to create enlightenment and self knowledge, and they form just one part of a much larger discipline.
The classic yoga system involves rules of conduct (yamas and niyamas), physical postures (asanas), breathing (pranayama) and contemplation (pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi).
Tradition goes as far as 1700 B.C, and has as its highest goal spiritual purification and Self-Knowledge. Classical Yoga divides the practice into rules of conduct (yamas and niyamas), physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and contemplative practices of meditation (pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi).
Some of the most important Yogic types of meditation include Trataka (fixing upon a particular object) Kundalini (a complex system about activating kundalini energy), Kriya (which creates energy), Nada (meditating on sound), Tantra (which has little to do with sex and more to do with contemplation) and Pranayama (breathing).
The Sanskrit term Atma Vichara refers to a type of meditation known in the west as Self Enquiry. This meditation is used to gain understanding of our true nature and to discover the true self. If you’ve ever asked “Who am I?” then this is one type of meditation you should definitely consider.
Self Enquiry began thousands of years ago and is mentioned in Hindu classic texts. But it became more popular when it was advocated by an Indian sage called Ramana Maharishi. Eckhart Tolle then taught millions the art of Self Enquiry in his book The Power Of Now, which led this technique to become quite common in the West.
Are Hindu Meditations Right For Me?
Hindu meditations are one part of a very rich tradition and culture. If you are going to learn Hindu meditation correctly, you should learn it alongside that culture.
While some Hindu meditations (mantras, for instance), can be learnt quite quickly and easily, others (like Kundalini Yoga meditations) are harder to learn and are definitely not an ideal place for beginners.
Chinese culture offers a slightly different view of meditation, which comes in the forms of Taoist meditation and QiGong.
Daoism / Taoism was started by Lao Tzulov in the 5th Century BC. It advocates living in harmony with the world, with nature, and with the Tao—the “path” that is mentioned in many Chinese philosophies and religions.
In the 6th Century Lao Tzu wrote the classic the Tao Te Ching, in which he gave the first description of Taoist types of meditation, though this definition would later evolve, in the 8th Century, when Daoism came under the influence of Buddhism.
Daoist types of meditation focus on the creation and circulation of energy, Qi, which promotes health, harmony, and unity of body, mind and spirit.
In Chinese culture, Qi is the principle energy that gives life. Most Chinese spiritualities and exercise involve the creation and circulation of Qi.
In the West, Taoist meditation is practiced mostly as a tool for better health and to improve longevity.
The most important Daoist meditations
14. Emptiness meditation.
In emptiness meditation the practitioner sits silently and empties the mind of thoughts. This state of emptiness creates tranquility, allowing the body and mind to repair themselves and to restore Qi.
15. Zhuangi (Breathing meditation)
Daoists call breathing meditations “Zhuangi” and believe that this type of meditation unifies the mind and qi.
In the Tao Te Ching, the sacred Taoist text, Lao Tzu instructs the practitioner to practice Zhuangi by “focusing on vital breath until it is supremely soft.” Further instruction is given on a relic that was found bearing the following instructions:
To circulate the Vital Breath:
Breathe deeply, then it will collect.
When it is collected, it will expand.
When it expands, it will descend.
When it descends, it will become stable.
When it is stable, it will be regular.
When it is regular, it will sprout.
When it sprouts, it will grow.
When it grows, it will recede.
When it recedes, it will become heavenly.
The dynamism of Heaven is revealed in the ascending;
The dynamism of Earth is revealed in the descending.
Follow this and you will live; oppose it and you will die.
16 . Inner observation
In this type of meditation the practitioner visualises the inside of their body and mind, including their organs, “inner deities”, thoughts, and qi. This inner visualising is said to develop the knowledge and understanding of one’s own nature.
A highly popular exercise in China, the word QiGong can be translated from Chinese to mean “life energy cultivation”. As with most Chinese meditation techniques, QiGong is about creating and circulating Qi around the body and mind.
QiGong originates from Chinese Buddhism and Taoism, where it is taught as part of spiritual and religious practice. In the West it is currently growing in popularity Many health organisations advocate practicing QiGong for the alleviation of arthritis and other health complications. Many spas and gyms run basic QiGong classes that teach a part of the overall QiGong system.
The full QiGong system that is taught in the East is a complex system involving more than 80 types of breathing and literally thousands of different exercises. Each exercise and technique offers different spiritual and health benefits and all have a specific reason for being. That said, you certainly don’t need to know the precise details of all the moves just to get started. You can readily pick up a QiGong DVD and enjoy a tremendously relaxing routine. And so are these relaxing meditation techniques. Take a look.
Read my complete guide to Taoist techniques.
Is Chinese Meditation Right For Me?
Chinese types of meditations are often fantastic practices that are excellent for people who believe in living in harmony with nature and who are interested in using meditation as a way to improve their health. Some Chinese meditation techniques are quite difficult (QiGong should be learnt with instruction, for instance), but other techniques, like Emptiness meditation, are perfectly suitable for newcomers.
4) CHRISTIAN MEDITATION
Christians use meditation for a different purpose to Hindus, Buddhist, Jainists and Daoists.
In the East meditation is about purifying the mind, transcending the self, and achieving enlightenment and oneness.
The largest Western religion, Christianity, does things a little differently, albeit with somewhat similar results.
Christians practice different types of meditation techniques primarily as a way to be closer to God and to understand the bible better. One of the most popular meditation exercises for Christians is to take a passage of the bible and to meditate on it contemplatively. This is calming and can certainly have many positive results like developing depth of character and positive traits.
Christian meditation is rooted in the Bible. In fact, the Bible commands us to meditate. In Joshua 1:8, God says to meditate on His word day and night so we will obey it. The psalmist says “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). Actually, the Bible mentions meditate or meditation 20 times.
The most popular Christian meditations
18. Meditative prayer
Meditatitve prayer is a type of meditation that Christians use for contemplation. Here the individual repeats the words of a prayer in a similar fashion to fashion to repeating a mantra (though, arguably, without the energy resonances that mantras produce).
Meditating to God
Meditating to God is another popular type of meditation for Christians. In this exercise the individual opens their heart to God and asks to be made one with God (which is similar to the Buddhist technique of Bhakti).
Is Christian Meditation Right For Me
Christian meditation is really meditation that has been adapted for integration into the Christian faith. As such the only real reason to practice is if you already are a Christian.
Read my guide to Biblical Meditation For Christians.
19. GUIDED MEDITATIONS
Guided meditation can be seen in the Buddhist and Chinese traditions with techniques like Neiguan, in which you visualise the inside of your body. But guided meditations have really taken off and achieved stratospheric heights of popularity in the West since the rise of the New Age movements and self help / personal development.
The Guided Meditation Site tells us,
Guided meditation is simply “meditation with the help of a guide”. It’s one of the easiest ways to enter into a state of deep relaxation and inner stillness, and it’s one of the most powerful ways to eliminate stress and bring about positive personal changes.
Guided meditations are now one of the absolute most popular types of meditation. Simply hit up Youtube and you’ll find thousands of free guided meditations (though I have to say they vary greatly in quality).
Part of the reason why visualisations have become so popular in the West is because they are so easy. What could be easier than lying back, closing your eyes and listening to someone reading a relaxing meditation script?
But the ironic thing is that the very fact that guided meditations are easy makes them less effective than most other meditation techniques. There’s no focusing of the mind, there’s no discipline, there’s no effort…
The mind is like a muscle. To grow strong it needs to be exercised. Guided meditation can relax the mind, but it is not truly “exercise”, so it won’t make the mind much stronger.
That’s not to say that there aren’t certain benefits of visualisations.
Professional athletes use visualisations in their training to prepare themselves. Stressed businessmen use visualisations to relax their minds after a hard day’s work. I personally have used visualisation to quit smoking years ago and also when preparing for stage shows. And I’ve given visualisations to many people who either wanted to be taught to think of something in a different light or to prepare for something they were stressed about (exams, for instance).
Many of those meditation sessions involved Guided Imagery, a very popular type of meditation in which the individual is guided through a journey or story that creates some sort of positive emotion.
Types of Guided Meditation
20. Body scans
Body scans are one of the most important types of guided meditation. Body scans arer a good way to become mindful of your body. This is one type of visualisation meditation that I personally do advocate. The technique involves passing your focus around your body. This heightens the mind body connection and is a great way to get back in touch with your body. If, for instance, you’re trying to find the motivation and energy to get back into exercising, body scan meditation can help to inject energy into your body, naturally motivating you to use your body more.
Another popular type of guided meditation is Affirmations. These involve reciting a positive message in your mind while seeing a certain image. I once taught an affirmation to a lady who was dealing with an alcoholic husband. She was fighting to preserve her inner peace (well, her “sanity”, as she called it). I taught her to use the affirmation “Calming, letting go” while visualising stress dripping off of her body like beads of water. This simple technique gave her a way to essentially teach her own mind to let go of the stress, helping her to relax.
22. Binaural Beats
In 1839, physicist Heinrich Wilhelm Dove created Binaural Beats, yet another type of guided meditation technique. Dove learnt that when two different frequencies of sound are put into each ear the brain detects phrase variation. This leads the brain to try and reconcile the difference between the frequencies. By using the right phase variation it is possible to lead the brain to produce alpha brainwaves (10 Hz), the waves used in most meditation techniques.
Be Brain Fit has an excellent introduction to Binauaural Beats. They tell us, “The use of binaural beats sound technology is an easy shortcut to achieve a meditative state of consciousness.”
Are guided meditations right for me?
If you find meditation difficult at first then guided meditations can be an excellent entry point.
Guided meditations are fabulous when you get home from a hard days work and simply want to chill out. Put your feet up on the couch, close your eyes, and let your guide lead you to relaxation. But it’s important to know that if you start with guided meditations, the time will come (and quite soon) when you need to move on to meditation techniques that require more effort. To build those mental muscles, you need exercise. Guided meditations are like taking a casual stroll, compared to the full workout that is a disciplined meditation regime.
Movement Meditation / Dynamic Meditation
One of the most influential proponents of meditation in the twentieth century was Chandra Mohan Jain, better known as Osho, an Indian mystic, guru, and spiritual teacher.
Throughout the 1960s Osho toured India giving inspiring but often controversial public speeches on everything from politics to spirituality. He then moved to Bombay in the 1970s, where he became a spiritual teacher and gave exegeses on his interpretations of religions and philosophies. His controversial perspectives and magnetic charisma led Osho to gain notoriety in the West in the 1970s, and it was then that his teachings on meditations were translated into English.
Among Osho’s teachings was the term “Dynamic meditation” (or “Movement Meditation”).
23. Dynamic Meditation
Dynamic Meditation is a form of movement meditation that was at first a very specific technique taught by Osho. It has subsequently been amalgamated with other forms of movement meditation.
Today, the term dynamic meditation is generally used to refer to any type of meditation that involves physical activity (often dance).
When Osho created dynamic meditation he did it as a means to make meditation more applicable to modern lifestyles. It was Osho’s belief that it is near impossible for the average modern person to enter a truly meditative state, mostly because they have too much mental noise, stress, and thoughts, which they need to discard before beginning meditation. So Osho created dynamic meditation, which incorporates dramatic movement that is designed to release tension and inhibition, allowing the individual to discard mental “noise”.
The most important types of dynamic meditation / movement meditation
Traditional dynamic meditation
The traditional dynamic meditation is a profoundly liberating experience. It is a movement meditation that cal also include vocals. The overall idea is to completely let yourself go in the movements.
One of Osho’s most popular dynamic meditation techniques is Nataraj, a dance meditation.
“Nataraj is the energy of dance. This is dance as a total meditation, where all inner division disappears and a subtle, relaxed awareness remains,” says the official Osho website. “Forget the dancer, the center of the ego; become the dance. That is the meditation. Dance so deeply that you forget completely that ‘you’ are dancing and begin to feel that you are the dance. The division must disappear; then it becomes a meditation.”
- Read my complete guide to Dance Meditation
Dynamic meditation can be lumped together with similar techniques that incorporate movements.
In dojos throughout Japan, for instance, you can find citizens practicing the following types of meditation:
25. Katsugen undō. This is a a Seitai exercise that helps you to let go of conscious control of the body. When you do this you enter a state in which the body can heal itself.
26. Zifagong Zifagong is a practice very similar to QGong. It is popular in China.
Are dynamic meditations for me?
Dynamic meditations / movement meditations offer a different experience to traditional meditations. It’s hard to find many research papers documenting the effects of dynamic meditation, so much of what we know is speculative. But most practitioners say that movement meditations are energising and create a tremendous sense of liberation.
Dynamic meditations are, of course, much more active than other meditation techniques, so they are not as easy to perform. They should ideally be taught with professional instruction too, because accidents can happen. But performed correctly, dynamic meditations offer a unique experience that is extremely freeing.
We’ve looked at meditation techniques used all around the world. And we’ve seen what different meditation techniques can be used for.
What should you do next? Why not get started with my guide to the basics of meditation. It will ensure you start off on the right foot. And the next time you meditate, why not try our free meditation timer? And for the full Zen experience, why not convert part of your home into a meditation room? I’ve written a complete guide to creating a meditation room to get you started.
So, which types of meditation have you tried? What do you think are the most effective types of meditations? I would love to hear your opinion in a comment below. Thank you.