When you hear the word “meditation” what do you think of?
Honestly, sometimes I think language can be limiting, and meditate is one of those words that over simplifies a very diverse set of
practices. The thing that all forms of meditation have in common are that they help you live more intentionally. But besides that, meditations are quite diverse and come from a wide variety of cultures and traditions. Because of this, many people wanting to start a meditation practice open an app like Insight Timer (which I LOVE and have used for years) and immediately become
overwhelmed or even turned off by whatever form of guided meditation they tried out.
I want to break meditation options down a bit for you today so you know some of the different types of meditation available and can make an educated decision on which kind(s) of meditation are best for you at this time.
First, dispelling a myth: you don’t have to only practice one type of meditation to see the benefits.
It is true that going deep in one type of meditation has profound benefits and you can build a sense of community with other practitioners of that form of meditation. But I am also a fan of dabbling and using different types of meditation for different needs in my life.
For my primary meditation, the one I go deep in, I opted many years ago for something called insight meditation (also called vipassana). I fell in love with insight meditation and in my early 20s I started practicing with a sangha (which means community). I have continued my insight practice for a decade now, and I imagine will continue practicing for decades to come.
But sometimes, I feel a pull to do a visualization. Or a guided chakra cleansing. Or a yoga nidra. Or some mantras. I’ll get into all of
this in a minute. The point is, there are a ton of meditation traditions out there, and it can be fun to explore.
What isn’t fun is thinking meditation means only one thing, not liking it or thinking you suck at it, and giving up.
So let’s review some common forms of meditation together.
I’m going to put meditations into four main categories to keep things simple:
- Altered State
Let’s explore these 4 types in more depth!
Examples: secular mindfulness, insight, vipassana, concentration, body scan
Mindfulness is all about being fully present. You’ll find less music, less active visualization, less distraction here. It’s all about
paying attention to what is arising without judgment. This might mean following your inhales and exhales, gazing at a candle, or scanning your body. The goal is to be aware of what comes up naturally without clinging to it.
Examples: metta, tonglen, Ho’oponopono’
These meditations are very relational in nature. They involve fostering love and compassion for yourself and others. Compassion
practices often involve repeating phrases and/or using visualizations of other people you know (as well as, ultimately, people you don’t know, and the world at large).
Examples: self-hypnosis, repetitive mantras, yoga nidra, holotropic breathwork
Altered-state here doesn’t mean psychedelics. These forms of mediation are different from mindfulness because they are about going into a trance-like or other-worldly state of consciousness. People experience a sense of dissolution and even out-of-body sensations through these practices. Some people would argue mantras are a form of mindfulness, but I have found that in most cases people who practice repeating mantras on a regular basis experience something more akin to a trance state as a result.
Chakra meditation, manifestation visualization, spirit journeying
Visualization is the act of conjuring up images in your mind. This can either be guided (someone tells you what to visualize) or
self-led (you imagine things on your own terms). People use visualization to help increase confidence, gain clarity, or, for the more spiritual among us, tap into “Universal wisdom.” It’s up for grabs, depending on where you lie on the woo-woo scale, whether you are creating the images or the images are being created for you. I won’t even go there. The truth is, visualization is helpful
for both the spiritual and the secular among us.
There is a meditation for every interest and need. There is no “right” form of meditation to practice.
So if you’ve been practicing one form of meditation for a while and it doesn’t feel “right” to you, try one of these out! It’s okay to dabble and explore! But with that said, when you do land on something you like, I will encourage you to stick with it for a while and go deeper with it. All of these meditations can be very challenging at first, and the benefits are rarely seen fully right away.
I put together a helpful quiz this week to help you decide which meditation is best for you at this time. If you are feeling uncertain which meditation is best for you, this quiz will help you decide where to start!
What forms of meditation do you have experience with? What new type of meditation will you dabble in this week?