Common Types of Meditation and How To Start Practicing Them – Bloom Mindfulness

Common Types of Meditation and How To Start Practicing Them

common types of meditation and how you can start practicing them, mantra meditation, transcendental meditation, loving kindness meditation, metta meditation, body scan meditation, mindfulness meditation, zen meditation


In this post, you will find different types of commonly practiced meditation. You will get an understanding of the differences between each type, how they are performed, their benefits and what may draw someone that particular meditation practice. There are numerous types of meditations out there - from simple to regimented, ancient to modern. Whether you’ve meditated for years and are looking to mix things up or you’re completely new to the practice and want to get a grasp of what’s available, this post is for you.

Disclaimer: The types of meditations listed below are what I have personal experience practicing and have defined, not by technical definitions, but based on my experience. I have been meditating for about six years and have practiced a variety of meditations. The most important thing to keep in mind regarding your practice is finding what works for you!

Meditation and mindfulness are all about non-judgment, and that includes for yourself. If you’re worried about doing it wrong, you’re over-thinking already. Everyone can meditate. I recommend letting go of thinking you’re doing it wrong, and instead, congratulating yourself for showing up and giving yourself time to get centered.

The benefits of meditation come from making time for yourself and listening to what your body and mind are telling you. Plus some actual science you can find referenced in this study on meditations reducing stress and another study showing the how mindfulness practices can increase the grey matter of your brain (this is a good thing). Or if you’re not one to read full scientific manuscripts, here’s a great article outlining the benefits of meditation. So, let’s get started and see if we can find a type of meditation that works best for you!


TYPE

HOW TO PRACTICE

BENEFITS

 BEST FOR

Loving Kindness Meditation

Full details here

 More love

Dealing with a toxic relationship

Transcendental Meditation

Pick a mantra & repeat

-Simple

-Manifesting

Manifesting more

Body Scan Meditation

Bring awareness to parts of the body

-Release tension

-Fall asleep easier

-Mind-body connection

-Help falling asleep

Mindfulness Meditation

Use a trigger

Anytime, anywhere

Extending your practice

Zen Meditation

Specific posture and process

Structured

Deepening your practice dramatically


LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION 

The entire premise of a loving kindness meditation is to show compassion to yourself, those who challenge you and to all beings. Basically, love everyone unconditionally.

This can prove to be challenging as life can throw us some pretty difficult relationships. I was first introduced to loving kindness meditations while reading Thich Nhat Hanh. Like many things, it surfaced at a time in my life when I really needed it. I had a toxic, energy-draining person in my life who I couldn’t get off my mind. I was focused on all the negative things about this person when instead I should have been showing love and empathy. If that seems unimaginable, this is exactly when a loving kindness meditation can help.

WHO IT’S FOR:

If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about someone, if you have anger towards someone who had wronged you, or if you need to show more patience with someone who seems to be exceptionally irritating, then a loving kindness meditation may be for you. Of course, if none of the above apply and you just want to send more love into the world, good on you! Read on!

HOW TO PRACTICE:

In short, you create a few positive wishes and then send them off to yourself, a neutral person, a person you have difficulty with and finally, all people. I outlined the full loving kindness meditation practice steps in another post. It also links to a guided loving kindness meditation in case that’s more your style.


TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION 

Transcendental Meditation (or TM) gained popularity in the 1950s and since then remains insanely popular as one of the most practiced types of meditation worldwide. Its uses mantras that are repeated silently in your head with your eyes closed and is practiced for 15-20 minutes, twice a day. There are technically certain mantras that should be followed and you should be taught by a certified TM teacher to learn the authentic TM technique. If that sounds like something you’re interested in, I recommend checking out the official Transcendental Meditation site as a resource.

I, personally, am not likely to spend the money (nearly $1000) to take the official TM courses. Many people rave about the practice, how it’s different than simply repeating a mantra and that you don't know how it’s different until you are trained by a certified teacher. And I’m open to all of that being true. But I still don’t quite understand the price tag that excludes many people from participating. If you have taken the courses, I’d love to hear if you thought it was of value, different from regular mantra practice and why you think the price is so high. Please send me an email, DM or comment on this post!

Until then, I will go on appreciating the foundation of TM - mantra. It’s pretty simple to remember a mantra and repeat it for a given period of time. I find I am more consistent in my practice when I identify with a mantra. This has really helped with intention setting and manifesting. As I said, this is not technically TM, but it works and anyone could start practicing it today.

WHO IT’S FOR:

If you’re looking for an effortless (but somewhat pricey) way to go inward in a self-guided practice, Transcendental Meditation may be for you. Or if you’re hoping to start manifesting things in your life more, a mantra practice could help to make those dreams come to fruition.

HOW TO PRACTICE:

To get the technical education, you will have to pay for a course guided by a certified TM teacher. Or, if a simple repeated mantra practice may be enough for you, check out our mantra guide to help you build the best mantra for you.


BODY SCAN MEDITATION

I was thinking this could also be called “Fall Asleep Faster” Meditation because it’s so relaxing it can put you to sleep. A body scan meditation is often practiced while lying down. You slowly bring your awareness to each part of your body (head to toe) and focus on the sensations of that area while simultaneously releasing any tension. You can do this with a guide or on your own.

I love doing a quick body scan before bed to calm my mind and get my body ready for sleep. Many people do the same, and there are tons of awesome apps you can use for this. I personally like Insight Timer the best because the amount of free content it offers is beyond compare. 

You will likely notice an overall sense of calm from this practice. Additionally, body scan meditations can help you to become more aware of the mind-body connection. Physical manifestations of emotions become more apparent when you hold space for them in this practice. So, be mindful of these areas and see what this could be showing about your emotional state. It’s common for people to become emotional during this very physical practice (because the two are so connected!). 

WHO IT’S FOR:

If you’re someone who needs help falling asleep, a body scan meditation may be the natural remedy. It can also be a game-changer for anyone who has reoccurring pain.

HOW TO PRACTICE:

Lay down and bring your awareness to every inch of your body in succession from head to toes. When you’re focusing on each area, be sure to breathe into it, relax your muscles and note any physical or emotional pain the practice brings up. This is a great guided body scan meditation.


MINDFULNESS MEDITATION

The central focus of any mindfulness meditation practice is the breath. Sounds simple, but it’s much easier said than done since we tend to have so many thoughts running through our heads. Mindfulness meditations are commonly practiced in a seated position with eyes open or closed. Then you turn your attention to your breath.

One of my favorite parts about mindfulness is that it has taught me that all of life is a meditation, not just the moments spent on my zafu. In order to ensure I'm reminded of this throughout the day, I use everyday things as a trigger to bring me back to the present moment and my breath. When I see a bird flying I pause, take a big breath and get centered. I also like to practice this as I enter a car. I really recommend setting a couple everyday triggers to help you remember that mindfulness is a practice you can take with you anywhere, anytime.

WHO IT’S FOR:

Mindfulness meditations are for anyone. They’re simple and universal. And can be completed anywhere.

HOW TO PRACTICE:

Focus on your breath. Notice it going in and out. This can be done in a number of ways. For example, thinking “in breath” while inhaling and “out breath” while exhaling. By counting up to 10 with in breaths as the odd numbers and out breaths as the even numbers (i.e. 1 in, 2 out, 3 in, 4 out, and so on). It’s important to always return to your breath. If you notice yourself thinking, just think “thinking” and return back to the breath. We all lose focus and get lost in our thoughts, don’t give yourself a hard time here!


ZEN MEDITATION 

Zen meditation is an ancient form of Zen Buddhism. It is particular in its positioning and preparation, and simple in its practice. To begin, one sits on a zafu in lotus or half lotus, hands in Cosmic Mudra, eyes open and gaze forward a few feet down and in front of you. Then, you simply sit and let thoughts pass.

If mindful breathing were a strict teacher, then Zen Meditation would be the even stricter principal. There is specific prep work that goes into getting properly seated and ready to meditate. For the full details, see below.

Zen Meditation (or Zazen) has a special place in my heart because it’s the type of meditation that introduced me to the benefits of using a zafu during meditation (my back is forever grateful). When I practice Zazen, time passes effortlessly. It’s amazing how simply sitting, with no goal, mantra or focus in mind time can go by quickly. But it does. Skeptical? Give it a try! It’s been working for centuries.

WHO IT’S FOR:

Zen Meditation is great for anyone who wants to connect with a classic, traditional way of meditating. I personally have experienced the most growth in my meditations when practicing Zazen.

HOW TO PRACTICE:

Prepare a zafu or cushion in an area without distractions in a not-bright, not-dark room. Sit in lotus or half lotus potion (a chair is acceptable if flexibility is not your strong suit). Straighten your back and neck. Take a few deep breaths. Lean left and right a few times to balance your body. Bow with hands in prayer position. Sit up with hands in Cosmic Mudra (left hand on top of the right palm, thumbs touch to form oval). Begin. It’s recommended to practice for 30 minutes or less as a beginner.

Let your thoughts pass. Do not judge them or try to get rid of them. Just be aware and allow them to pass. Get centered by noticing your position or breath and your mind will eventually calm down until you have fewer and fewer thoughts.  

When you end, bring your hands to prayer and bow to close out the practice.



TIPS FOR MAKING MEDITATION A DAILY PRACTICE

Now that you know about common types of meditations out there, below are some tips for making meditation a daily practice of yours. 

1. CREATE A SPACE

This can be a dedicated room, corner of a room or cushion. The important thing is that it reminds you to meditate when you see it. Go to this space every time you meditate. At least while you’re still trying to make meditation a habit.

2. START SMALL

Try five minutes a day for a week. After you’re comfortable with five minutes, keep adding five minutes each week until you hit a number that works for you and your schedule. And maybe that number will always be five minutes. Do what works for you. Any type of consistent meditation practice will bring you noticeable benefits.

3. USE A TRIGGER

This works wonders for starting new habits. Try to attach the new habit of meditation to an existing habit you already do every morning (or evening, whenever you plan to meditate). If you immediately get up and wash your face, make meditation what you do every time after you wash your face. You will likely find it's much easier to create a habit by using this method.

4. USE AN APP

If you’re uncomfortable with even the thought of sitting for 5 minutes with nothing to do, then get an app like Insight Timer and have a pro guide you. Once you get more and more comfortable with the practice, you will be able to rely on your own ability to stay focused. Until then, there’s no shame in needing a guide!

5. TAKE IT EASY

If you’re new to meditation, you may feel like you’re doing it wrong because you keep thinking. This is 100% normal. Be kind to yourself and keep going. It will get easier and eventually you will have moments in your practice when you’re not thinking. It just takes time, consistency and some compassion for yourself!

Now go out and enjoy your meditation practice!





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