In this guide you’ll learn 31 meditation techniques (many from Buddhism and yoga). These will change your energy and boost positivity. #14 will really blow your mind. And they are all taught by a meditation master.
This is going to be one hell of a journey.
Our journey will lead us through 31 of the best meditation techniques. We’ll learn how to do meditation, which forms are best and why, and so much more.
And not only will we learn how to meditate, we will also learn the culture and history of meditation.
Take a look at the history of meditation in the image below.
The history of meditation is fascinating.
We’re going to cover all these different forms of meditation.
Now a promise:
- Even if you’ve never meditate before, by the end of this article you will know everything you will ever need to know about meditation.
My passion has always been to inspire and teach people to meditate.
From an early age I knew the importance of meditation. And I’ve seen firsthand the difference that meditating can make to our lives.
My purpose on this blog is to encourage as many people as possible to start meditating. And I’ve already taught thoughts of people.
I’ve put all my love , knowledge, and hard work into this guide to make it perfect for everyone.
New to meditation? We’ll get you started on the right foot.
Looking to advance your current knowledge of meditation and learn new meditation techniques? We’ll cover every major meditation technique that exists. We’ll look at easy meditation techniques, advanced ones, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Taoist, New Age, techniques for atheists… everything.
But for now, let’s wind it right back to the very beginning.
Starting from the very basics: What is meditation?
So that we are all on the same wave-length, let’s begin at the very beginning.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a mental exercise that trains your mind to focus on one or more elements.
A very simple practice, meditation has been used since 5000 BCE and is principally used in Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Yoga.
But (important point) it’s also a non-religious health practice.
Some people call meditation mindfulness.This, however, is ambiguous as we will see later on.
In a nutshell, meditation simply means focusing.
Read my basic explanation here for more on this. It fills in a lot of the fundamental facts and provides basic tips for beginners.
Simply put: Meditation is focus
The one universal constant between all meditation techniques is that we focus on something.
When we meditate, we focus the mind on one or more things. Easy. But also infinite. Because we can focus on anything.
HealthAndYoga.com tells us,
“Watching your breath” is meditation; listening to the birds is meditation. As long as these activities are free from any other distraction to the mind, it is effective meditation.
In other words, it’s about absolute focus.
Now here’s the deal:
Just as you can focus on lots of things, you can meditate on lots of things too.
The trick is knowing what is worth focusing / meditating on.
- meditation is focusing on one or more things.
- You could potentially meditate on anything.
- There are specific objects that are good to meditate on
Here’s the deal:
The object we meditate on makes all the difference. Because different objects create different results.
Mary Zaksch is a truly inspirational writer. On her blog GoodLifeZen she says,
“To focus in meditation means to pay soft attention to whatever you place in the centre of awareness.”
The key is to choose the right object to place in the “centre of awareness.” When we choose the right meditation objects we create positive results in the mind.
- One good thing to meditate on is your breath because this relaxes your mind and energises your body.
- Another good thing to meditate on is certain sounds (mantras) because these can change brainwave frequency.
- And yet another good thing to meditate on is love and kindness because doing so actually promotes love and kindness in your mind.
Here are my five best meditation objects.
You can see what objects Buddhists traditionally meditation on in our Samatha guide.
This is where things get more interesting:
Because there are different ways to focus, there are different ways to meditate.
Because we can focus on things in different ways, we can also meditate in different ways.
- We can focus on one single isolated thing. And we can meditate on one thing at a time. Psychologically speaking this is Focused Attention.
- We can focus on everything. And we can meditate on everything. Psychologically speaking, this is Open Awareness
- We can focus on a mental image. And we can meditate on a mental image. Psychologically speaking, this is visualisation.
Those three ways of focusing are the foundation for all meditation techniques.
So where are we?
We now know the basics. We know it’s about focus. We know we can focus in different ways, and therefore we can meditate in different ways. And we know the key to success is choosing the right objects to meditate on.
Let’s now look at our first two meditation techniques.
Out first techniques: Open monitoring and focused attention.
Remember I promised you 31 techniques? These are the first two.
1. OPEN MONITORING TECHNIQUES
One of the main types of meditation technique is open monitoring.
In open monitoring exercises the 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.
Here’s a question:
What was the most chilled-out moment in your entire life?
Maybe you were lying down non a beach with the sun shining on you. Or maybe you were lying down in bed after a truly satisfying day. Or perhaps it was after a perfect romantic evening.
Cast your mind back to that time and remember the feeling.
Do you remember how you felt as though you were one with the world? You were inwardly still and silent, and the whole world came to you.
That is open meditation.
Open meditation is where the mind is open to everything.
Take a look:
A definition of open awareness is: not intentionally focusing on one thing, and instead, opening the mind for the whole world to enter.
How about an example.
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.
- Sit with good posture.
- Close your eyes and do not think about anything.
- Focus on your senses.
- Let the whole world come to you.
That’s open awareness meditation.
Try Tara Brach’s Guided Session too. Tara is a leader in the guided meditation space. I highly recommend her work.
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 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 open monitoring before sitting down to write. It’s like I’m allowing the world to come to me while exercising 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.
You can boost your creative brain with these other techniques too. Try them now. You’ll find them mind-opening (literally).
But creativity is just one area of your life that will improve when you practice open awareness. There are lots of benefits of this technique.
For instance, it’s very beneficial for your health.
The number one health benefit of open awareness is that it helps us let go.
In cognitive psychology open awareness can be used to stop us obsessing over one thing, or one thought.. It does this by opening the mind to let new information flow.
If you have been struggling to let go, you will find open awareness meditation incredibly liberating. Give it a go. Let me know how you get on by leaving a comment.
2. Focused attention meditation techniques
Did you enjoy our first technique? Great. There are many more to come.
The next form of meditation we’re going to look at is focused attention.
Let’s return to what we were saying about focus.
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 forms are best surmised by the classic Zen quote “When sitting sit.”
If open monitoring is like the light-bulbs in the 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. We may focus on a mantra, a physical object, on the breath, on meditation music, on mental imagery (visualisations)… We may focus on any one single thing, and in so doing we will be performing a closed meditation. This is the most popular type of meditation technique.
There are far more focused attention activities than open monitoring activities.
Take a look:
Examples of focused attention meditation:
- Anapanasati (mindfulness of Breathing)
- Sound Meditation,
- Chakra techniques
- Tibetan Singing Bowl meditation
- Some mudras
- Loving Kindness Meditation,
- Kundalini Meditation,
- See similar techniques in my (FREE) Online Course.
This is important:
Practicing focused attention meditation is the best way to increase your concentration. And there are lots more benefits of this method, too.
The Benefits of Focused Attention Technique
Would you believe that there are over a hundred different benefits of focused attention meditation?
Some meditations boost positivity and happiness, others cultivate compassion, others can cure illnesses and so on. It’s even be proven that focused attention meditation can help with complex mental health conditions like OCD and ADHD.
Here’s what you need to know:
Different techniques help us in different ways. That’s why it is a very good idea to practice lots of different forms of meditation. The more forms you use the more benefits you will glean.
- You can read more about open monitoring and focused attention here.
3. Effortless Presence
As well as open monitoring and focused attention there is also effortless presence.
A yoga practice, effortless presence means existing without effort. In other words, 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.
In case you’re wondering, the meaning of Effortless Presence is simply that we do not force ourselves. Think of this as simply giving in to reality. You are completely giving up control and letting the universe take over.
So, we’ve covered:
- Open awareness
- Focused attention
- Effortless presence
These are the three main psychological definitions of meditation. Think of them like different kinds of cars. You can have sedan or an SUV, but there are lots of different variants within those groups. These same is true for meditation.
The three forms we have looked at are the top-level groups. But within those groups there are very many specific techniques. We’re going to cover those techniques now.
Take a deep breath.
We are now going to pack our bags and go on a spiritual vacation. What am I talking about?
We’re about to travel through the cultural evolution of meditation. Excited? You should be. No one online has ever covered meditation in this much depth. We are about to have one hell of a journey.
But not only are we about to have a journey:
You are about to transform your life by learning all the best meditations.
Uncovering The Traditional Forms Of Meditation. A Journey Through Culture…
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.
Where does meditation come from?
The core of the tradition is found in the ancient texts. It’s in the ancient classics like the Bhagavad Gita, the Vimalakirti Sutra, and the Pali Canon, that you’ll find the roots of this ancient technique.
Like the trunk, branches, and leaves of a great tree, the practice of mindfulness has grown over countless years, but its roots are still anchored in the ancient texts, among the fertile soil of ancient Eastern culture.
It’s here our adventure begins.
We’re going to travel through the different cultures of meditation. And as we do we will look at the most important meditation techniques ever.
Let’s travel to Tibet and take a look at Buddhist meditation techniques.
Most of the different types of meditation techniques practiced today come from the tradition of Buddhism.
If we’re going to truly understand Buddhist methods we need a little bit of background info. We need to consider the Buddhist belief system.
You can skip ahead to Buddhist techniques by clicking this link if you are not interested in this (though I recommend reading right through).
Now, let’s take a look at how Buddhism works. Then we will fully understand Buddhist techniques.
Buddhism is divided into different forms. Some of the most important are:
This image explains all the different types of Buddhism (click for full size image)
Most Buddhist schools use 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.
Meditative training (Samadhi) is taught alongside ethical training (Sila and Panna).
Where do Buddhist ethics come from?
They’re based on 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.
Strictly speaking, if you want to train in Buddhist meditation you should train in those points above, too.
So let’s cut to the chase.
Let’s look at the most important Buddhist methods.
Interested in learning the Buddhist techniques? Read my guide to Buddhist methods.
For now, let’s look a good look at the most important forms used in Buddhism.
Just as there are lots of forms of Buddhism, there are lots of forms of Buddhist meditation too.
Some of the different types of meditation techniques are used by all Buddhists. These include recollections and breathing meditations.
Other Buddhist methods are used by specific 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.
You need to know this if you want to learn Buddhist meditation with a teacher:
- 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). So if you’re going to find a teacher, make sure they are from the right Buddhist school for you.
Introduction to Buddhist Jhana
What is the Buddhist word for meditation? Jhana / Dhyana or bhāvanā.
Bhāvanā can be translated to mean “Developing into existence”.
Why do Buddhist meditate?
Buddhists meditate in order to achieve enlightenment.
Enlightenment basically means “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).
So, pro tip:
When we look at the Buddhist methods, remember that these were originally conceived as a path to enlightenment.
Ready to learn some Buddhist meditations? Let’s get started.
Zazen (Zen) comes from the tradition of Chinese Zen Buddhism, which began in the 6th Century.
Zen 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).
In this position, we 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, where the correct posture is imperative.
- Read my full guide to Zen
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.
Let’s learn about Vipassana.
The word itself, “Vipassana”, is Pali for “clear seeing” or “insight”.
In Vipassana meditation we focus your on breathing and we extend non-judgmental awareness to the inner workings of the mind.
This process helps us to achieve great understanding of ourselves 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).
Remember when we discussed mindfulness? We said that mindfulness has three meanings. One meaning refers to a Buddhist method. Let’s take a look.
Mindfulness meditation is the single most popular technique of all.
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.
Because mindfulness has gone through such a process of evolution there is actually some confusion as to precisely what the term means today.
- There is the strict Buddhist meditation called Mindfulness, which is about mindfully observing the workings of the mind.
- There’s also the modern term mindfulness, which means living in the present moment.
- Then there’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, which was founded by luminary Jon Kabat Zinn in 1979.
These three share a similar theme though. They are all about observing the present moment.
“Mindfulness helps you go home to the present… and when you go there, happiness comes.
You can learn mindfulness in my free guide.
7 Loving Kindness Meditation:
Loving Kindness Meditation is also called Metta.
Metta is a Pali word meaning good will and benevolence.
In the Tibetan and Theravada Buddhism traditions, Loving Kindness Meditation is practiced in order to develop compassion and warm feelings, which leads us 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
Want to know a secret?
Loving kindness is my favorite technique. Why? Because it creates feelings of love and compassion, and it boosts your social and personal life too.
Want to try it?
- Read my full guide to Loving Kindness.
Are Buddhist meditations right for you? Here’s what you need to know
In Buddhism, Jhana (meditation) is inseparable from philosophy.
The purpose of Jhana is to cultivate the right mind, which ultimately leads to enlightenment. This is why Buddhist Jhana is best practiced by those who believe in and wish to follow the Buddhist belief.
By understanding the principles, theories and philosophies of Buddhism you can gain a much deeper understand of things than by simply meditating.
If you just want to learning the meditation techniques, that’s fine too.
Buddhist meditations are helpful tools for cultivating positive mental states and for alleviating specific health problems. So they are good to practice even if you’re not interested in fully committing to the true practice of Buddhist meditation.
So is meditation right for you?
- Yes if you want to improve your mental health.
- And doubly yes if you want to learn Buddhist philosophy at the same time.
Hindu Meditation Techniques
Let’s travel to India to take a look at the Hindu forms.
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.
Eh, it’s a pointless argument.
Either way, there are a great many similarities between Hindu and Buddhist forms. And the two can readily be used together.
Let’s take a look at the most important Hindu methods.
8.Dhyana / Jhana
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”. The sages say it leads to “great self knowledge and liberation from the illusion of Maya, the illusion of the material world”.
- Hindus believe that the gods can make a person believe in a reality that is actually an illusion (Maya).
- Meditation let’s us escape Maya.
HinduWebsite has a brilliant introduction to Jhana. Have a read.
Fascinating bit of history:
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.
One of the most important Hindu techniques is Dharana.
In dharana, 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.
YogaInternational is one of best online resources for Hindu meditation. They’ve written a brilliant guide to Samadhi. Take a read.
Here’s the important thing:
Dharana is different to other methods.
When we practice dharana we are not aware of the fact that we are meditating. We are only aware of our own existence and the object on which we are meditating. This creates a powerful sense of oneness. It is a beautiful and powerful experience in which nothing exists but the individual and the object of meditation, fused as though they are one.
10. Mantra meditation:
One of the most popular types of meditation for Hindus is mantra meditations. These 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 mantras are used to worship different Hindu Gods, and mantras can also be used to create certain benefits. Those benefits range 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, we can control the frequencies in our bodies by reciting different mantras.
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.
Mantras are one of the best entry points to meditation. The act of reciting a mantra gives the mind something to focus on, which helps us to stay with the meditation as opposed to being lost in distractions.
11. Self Enquiry:
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 dharana ) are harder to learn and are definitely not an ideal place for beginners.
Similar to Buddhism, here are two ways to go with Hindu meditations. We can:
- Learn the Hindu philosophy and dedicate to Hindu practice
- Or use specific Hindu methods for health and relaxation, such as mantras.
I hope you are enjoying our journey through culture so far.
If so, please share this article on Facebook and Twitter. Honestly, I would really appreciate that.
Now it’s time to dive deep in the meditations used in yoga.
Yoga stems from Hindusim, and there are a great many yogic types of meditation, dating back to 1700 B.C.
Yoga 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).
“Yoga is about strength of both body and mind. And the best way to train the mind is with mindfulness. “
Interested in learning yoga meditations? Here are some of the most important forms.
12. Trataka (fixing our eyes upon a particular object)
Trataka is steady gazing. It’s a meditation form that we can immediately see the benefit of.
When we are anxious or when we have monkey mind our eyes dart about, looking in all directions. So what happens when we have still eyes?
When we focus our eyes on one thing we develop concentration. And that is the purpose of trataka.
Trataka is usually practiced focusing on a candle. A popular alternative is to write OM on a piece of paper, put it a few feet in front of you and focus on this.
Either way, the science is simple:
Still eyes = Still mind.
13. Chakra Meditation: The seven chakras are energy points in the body through which prana passes.
Each of the seven chakras is associated with different mental strengths. For instance, the sacral chakrais connected with the basic emotions. Meditating on this chakra created emotional balance.
Interested in learning about the chakras?
Read my guide to awakening the chakras.
Definitely check out Chakra.info’s guide to the chakras as well.
14. Third Eye Meditation:
The third eye is the source of insight and intuition. Activating the third eye opens up parts of the mind that are often dormant.
Want to know your true potential? Then you need to open your third eye.
The best way of doing this is using third eye meditation. In this technique we focus on the ajna chakra, which is the chakra between the eyebrows.
When we focus on the ajna chakra we open the third eye and quiet the mind.
15. Kundalini Meditation:
You remember when I promised you some advanced forms of meditation? Well this is definitely one of them.
The purpose of kundalini methods is to awaken the kundalini energy dormant at the base of the spine. This leads to the psychic centres of the bods and ultimately leads to enlightenment.
Enlightenment? Sounds familiar. That’s because Buddhists also meditate to achieve enlightenment.
This a dangerous meditation technique. I really wouldn’t want any of my readers to practice this without guidance. Please find a teacher if you want to try the Kundalini forms.
16. Kriya Yoga:
Kriya Yoga is a group of meditations and breathing exercises taught by Paramahamsa Yogananda.
You can take free lessons in the self realisation techniques of Kriya over on Yogananda. Take a look.
17. Nada Yoga
Nada Yoga are meditations focused on sound.
In the early stages of Nada Yoga we focus on external sounds like ambient music. The practice hear is to just listen in a meditative way.
Advanced Nada Yoga has us listening to the internal sounds of the body and mind.
But here’s the big deal:
When we practice Nada Yoga we are training the mind to hear para nada, the “Ultimate Sound”, which manifests as OM.
Tantra? You mean the sexual practice?
Tantra actually has a lot less to do with sex than pop culture seems to think.
Tanta is a very rich tradition full of lots of different practices for mind, body and soul.
To give you an idea. One of the main tantric texts is the Vijnanabhairava Tantra. That one text contains 108 meditation alone.
Lots of them are advanced meditations not suitable for beginners.
Here are some examples of tantric meditation:
- Meditating on great pleasure (I think this is what Sting was doing…)
- Focus on the space between thoughts.
- Merge the mind with the spiritual heart.
- Meditate on pain (Buddhist’s actually do this too).
Notice how these tantra techniques are quite poetic? They’re advance methods of meditation not suitable for beginners.
You can learn about tantra meditation on ProjectMeditation.org.
Pranayama and meditation are actually different things. The best way to think about pranayama is that it is a gateway toward the meditative state.
Because pranayama does not technically belong in this list, I won’t go into detail here.
Anyway, Yoga Point has a great free guide. Take a look.
Daoism / Taoism was started by Lao Tzu in the 5th Century BC.
The Taoist code advocates living in harmony with the world, with nature, and with the Tao—the “path”.
In the 6th Century, Lao Tzu wrote the classic 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.
Here’s the most important thing:
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.
Most Westerners practice Daoist meditations methods for longevity and health.
Let’s zero-in on the most important Daoist meditations.
20. Emptiness meditation.
In emptiness meditation the practitioner sits silently and empties the mind of thoughts.
You remember when we discussed Effortless Presence at the beginning of this article? Emptiness is similar.
Emptiness meditation. creates a state of tranquility, allowing the body and mind to repair themselves and to restore Qi.
21. Zhuangi (Breathing meditation)
Daoists call breathing meditations “Zhuangi”. And they use Zhuangi to unify mind and body with qi.
In the Tao Te Ching, the sacred Taoist text, Lao Tzu instructs us 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.
22 . 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 QiGong 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 techniques. Take a look.
Read my complete guide to Taoist techniques.
Is Taoist Meditation Right For Me?
Taoist types of meditations are often fantastic practices that are excellent for people who believe in living in harmony with nature.
They’re also great if you’re interested in improving you health.
Some Daoist meditation techniques are quite difficult (QiGong should be learnt with instruction, for instance). Other techniques, like Emptiness meditation, are perfectly suitable for newcomers.
Christians meditations have a different purpose to Hindus, Buddhist, Jainists and Daoist techniques.
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
24. Meditative prayer
Meditatitve prayer is a type of meditation that Christians use for contemplation.
When praying in this way, we repeat the words of a prayer in a similar fashion to fashion to repeating a mantra (though, arguably, without the energy resonances that mantras produce).
To do this, choose your favorite prayer and recite it like a mantra, meditating on both the meaning and sound of the words.
25. 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.
If you’re a Christian, definitely use meditation. The bible is loaded full of references to different meditative techniques. These offer a way of increasing your connection to God.
Want to learn more? Read my guide to Biblical Practices For Christians.
Guided meditation can be seen in the Buddhist and Chinese traditions. For instance, Neiguan is a Chinese form in which we visualise the inside of the body.
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. READ MORE
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 (of varying 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.
When you do a guided meditation you’re not really training your mind. So while guided techniques are fantastic for relaxation, they are not as effective as traditional technique when it comes to actually training the mind.
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.
Guided meditations and visualisations are still beneficial.
- 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).
Let’s look at the most important types of guided meditations.
Types of Guided Meditation
27. Body scans
Body scans are one of the most important types of guided meditation.
Body scans are a good way to become mindful of your body. This is one type of visualisation 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.
Affirmations 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.
Affirmations are very popular in the self improvement niche.
29. Binaural Beats
In 1839, physicist Heinrich Wilhelm Dove created Binaural Beats.
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.”
So if you’re looking for an alternative way to meditate, binaural beats are a good choice.
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.
Here’s the problem
It’s important to know that if you start with guided meditations, the time will come 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.
You can learn about Osho on Osho.com.
Let’s cover the most immportant parts.
Throughout the 1960s Osho toured India giving inspiring but often controversial public speeches on everything from politics to spirituality.
Osho 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”).
Let’s take a look.
Dynamic Meditation techniques
30. 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).
So what’s so good about dynamic meditation?
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. This helps us to discard mental “noise”.
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.”
Want to learn more?
- Read my complete guide to Dance pratices.
Dynamic meditation can be lumped together with similar techniques that incorporate movements.
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.
These forms should be learnt with the help of a professional instructor.
Meditation For Atheists
It is worth bearing in mind that although meditation stems from religious practice, that’s thousands of years ago.
Today, meditative techniques are practiced by people of all religions, as well as agnostics and atheists, all around the world.
Look at these techniques for atheists. They’ll prove that meditation does not need to be religious.
In fact, one of the best things about meditation is that it applies to so many people from all different walks of life.
If you’re still not certain whether meditation is religious, you should read Positive PsychologyProgram’s articles on this history of mindfulness. They tell us,
“Mindfulness is a tradition which has a rich history steeped in religious and, more recently, secular institutions. The fact that it has found so many devotees among both the religious and the secular in both the East and the West shows the universality of its teachings. Anyone looking to start practicing mindfulness can choose their preferred starting point, whether it be Hindu scripture which is thousands of years old or Westernized teachings which are merely decades old, if that.” You can read the full article here.
So, bear in mind that while mindfulness is historically tied to spiritualities and religious, it can also be used as a non-religous practice.
We’ve looked at 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 practice. It will ensure you start off on the right foot.
And the next time you meditate, why not try our free timer?
Or perhaps you are interested in creating a room to practice in If so, take a look at that link for an awesome guide.
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.
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