Last updated on September 22nd, 2023.
To understand Meditation it’s important to understand its purpose. So, why meditate? Meditation can be used for many things. There are health benefits to meditation such as reducing stress and anxiety through lowering your heart rate and clearing your mind of worries. There are also spiritual benefits such as creating clarity within yourself by aligning your subconscious and conscious minds together; assisting you in establishing congruence and authenticity.
Meditation can also be used to develop and grow within yourself feelings of gratitude, love, patience and even forgiveness.
Ultimately, meditation creates peace within our mind and spirit. This is produced by a strengthening of the patterns of thought in your mind; formed by the habit of slowing, focusing or observing the mind.
While there are many practices, there are 4 primary types of meditation. There are also 3 categories known as focused (concentration), open monitoring with the third being mindfulness which acts as a bridge for the previous two.
1. Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental Meditation is a form of mantra meditation which falls into the category of focused meditations. A mantra is a word, sound or utterance that acts as the focus point of Transcendental Meditation. An example of an utterance you may already be familiar with is ‘Om’. This type of meditation falls within the category of focused mediation and has become increasingly popular in recent years.
There are different purposes for the mantra in this form of mediation. Because Transcendental Meditation is a focused meditation, it allows for the practitioner to focus upon the mantra itself as an object. This in turn assists with removing the clutter of adjacent thoughts that crowd the mind bringing consciousness to the present. Also to note, this is the more broadly used mantra meditation technique but it actually stems from Vedic Meditation.
In addition, because there is a use of a mantra within Transcendental Meditation, the choice and meaning of the word can be utilized as a focal point and when entering a state of consciousness the meaning of the word can be used to influence the psychology of the practitioner. This is a technique similar to visualization.
2. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness Meditation is among the most popular mediation techniques in the west. The origins of Mindfulness Meditation come from Buddhist teachings. Mindfulness Meditation is also another form of focused meditation and it addition, it is the first stage in the practice of Zen Meditation by Zen Buddhists and practitioners.
Mindfulness Meditation begins with the practitioner focusing on either their body or on their breath as it passes through their body. By creating this focus, there is also an awareness of what is happening in the present forming. Using a body scan technique to focus on the body, starting with the toes and working their way through the body for example, the practitioner is able to create awareness of potentially stressed areas. Through that awareness they are then able to mindfully release that stress and continue through the body.
Utilizing breath as a focal point also develops the awareness and state of consciousness that Mindfulness Meditation provides. In this instance, the practitioner focuses on their breathing. By paying attention to the flow of air both in and out of the lungs, as well as the pause in between, a state of being present is developed.
In either cases, random thoughts will no doubt invade the mind of the practitioner, when this occurs, a simple technique called ‘note-ing’ can be applied, which is simply to observe the thought, lightly acknowledge it and refocus the mind on either the breath of body.
Utilizing this technique the practitioner develops a strength of focus that can be summoned for calming the mind from racing thoughts in the future. It also brings a state of consciousness allowing for the practitioner to be an observer to emotions when they should arise.
3. Zen Meditation
Zen Meditation, also known as Zazen, literally means “seated meditation.” This type of mediation falls within the category of open monitoring meditation. As mentioned earlier, Mindfulness Meditation is the first state of Zen Meditation. With that said, Zen Meditation begins with focused meditation and then maneuvers into a state of open monitoring.
The purpose of Zen Meditation is to create an awareness of self independent of judgement and thought; objective reality. There are three progressions or stages within Zen Meditation. The first is the creation of presence through Mindfulness. The second is the creation of introspection (Koan) by allowing the consciousness to emerge freely. The third state is to observe the consciousness without judgement (Shikantaza).
The stages of Zen Meditation are a learned progression. When observing the consciousness from a place of ‘non-thinking’ the practitioner becomes objectively aware of the conditioning of their subconscious mind.
The most obvious benefit of Zen Meditation is the ability to become an objective observer and consciously become aware of our true selves without judgement. Think back a time when you saw two friends arguing, both insisting on their point of view and you observed as a disinterested third party. What we do with that knowledge is up to us.
4. Movement Meditation
The most common form of Movement Meditation you are already likely aware of is yoga. While this is the most common western form (common in the West now but learned from the East) of Movement Meditation there are other varieties of Movement Meditation that stretch back (pun intended) thousands of years. One of the oldest forms of this type of meditation is QiGong. ‘Qi’, in Chinese means energy and ‘Gong’ means work. This is not only a work of the body but a work of the energy through and around the body.
Final Thoughts on the 4 Types of Meditation
As with all things, practice will improve your meditation technique which will in turn improve your well-being. It’s of benefit to you to begin with as little as 5 minutes a day. Many seasoned practitioners will meditation between 15 – 20 minutes twice a day. Consistency is also important. We wish you good health, a strong mind and a true spirit on your journey!
(If you are looking for a more religious take on meditation, you might want to look into Taoist meditation!)