Types Of Meditative Practices

Types Of Meditative Practices

As part of our introduction to meditative practices, we’ve touched quite briefly on the various types at your disposal. As we begin our journey into this book, it is imperative to understand what they encompass and how you can utilize them. You need to be mindful that your daily life still has to go on despite your chosen meditative path, and as such, you need to find something that works well for your particular lifestyle. Nevertheless, to truly take advantage of this path to centeredness, you also need to be willing to commit some form of lifestyle change. It’s not enough to want to feel happy and fulfilled without actually finding the means to implement the changes needed to see this through.

With that in mind, we will elaborate on the best times to incorporate these varying practices into your schedule and the lifestyle changes that you might need to implement towards the end of this book. As a precursor to this, let’s explore the varying meditative practices.

Mindfulness Meditation

This is quite possibly the most popular form of meditation today. Mindfulness offers the practising individual the opportunity to observe their mind and body from a non-judgmental perspective. It encourages the individual to acknowledge what they are thinking or feeling without wandering down the rabbit hole of exactly why they are thinking about something or feeling something. Simply put, it is the process of comprehensive mind-body observation.

While mindfulness as a meditative practice has been around for far longer than its time of popularity, it has gained traction over the last four decades thanks to none other than Jon Kabat-Zinn. Known as the father of mindfulness meditation, Kabat-Zinn brought the ideology to the West in the 1970s after a chance encounter at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Philip Kapleau, a Zen Buddhist teacher.

His approach to mindfulness meditation calls for the individual to slow down completely and focus only on their breathing, body, and mind, becoming ungrudgingly aware of one’s entire realm of ‘self.’

Mindfulness meditation demands attention to thoughts as they occur in our minds. Hence, as a meditator, you eliminate the possibilities of getting involved with such thoughts or judging them. 

Instead, you observe, taking note of all possible patterns.

Mindfulness meditation is a perfect blend of awareness and combination. It is usually helpful to focus on your breath or an object while observing any thoughts, feelings, or bodily sensations. This meditation is ideal for persons who have limited access to practical resources or a teacher – you can practice mindfulness meditation alone successfully!

Spiritual Meditation

Meditation is a significant part of certain Eastern religions such as Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and several other Judeo-Christian traditions. While the definition of spiritual meditation may be relative, depending on your tradition, it can be generally defined as a meditation type that includes elements of spoken, chanted, or silent prayer. When practised religiously, spiritual meditation encourages deeper connections with divinity.

Meditation in non-theistic traditions, such as Taoism and Buddhism, focuses more on self-actualization and self-awareness. Therefore, the central idea of non-theistic spiritual meditation is making humans become the best version of themselves. Whether nonsecular or secular, spiritual meditation insights are instrumental to the development of connection and benevolence qualities.

Spiritual meditation can be practised at home, in nature, or in your preferred place of worship. It is an excellent meditation type for persons seeking spiritual growth and fancy taking time to self-reflect. Sincere and authentic spiritual meditation features compassion and loving-kindness, selflessness, etc. It is an excellent means for gaining invaluable insights!

Movement Meditation

Movement meditation is a deviation from the “norms” of several other types of meditation. While body stillness is encouraged in other meditation types, movement meditation is focused on the body’s movement.

Movement meditation is a kind of mindful movement associated with tai chi, yoga, or other martial arts. Technically, committing yourself to some physical disciplines is highly beneficial. The ability to be present in your body when engaging in movement meditation allows expanding your awareness to accommodate almost anything that ensures your continued mobility, including walking the dog, gardening, playing gold, washing up, etc. Regardless of the activity, your body’s movement is the meditation object.

You can also combine movement meditation with mindful sitting meditation. This is particularly an excellent choice for persons who find it difficult to sit still for longer periods, including those who naturally concentrate better when they are in motion.

Focused Meditation

The central idea of focused meditation is concentrating fully on whatever one is doing – let’s say it is the direct opposite of multi-tasking. The exceptional concentration level of musicians, athletes, chess players, etc., is admirable. Noteworthily, the ability to focus on one task at a time is essential to succeed in life. However, the present society has forced itself down our throats, making us believe multi-tasking is the only key to completing all the tasks on our to-do lists. But technically, if examined, we aren’t multi-tasking; instead, we only do one thing at hand but with a reduced focus. The reduced focus caused by juxtaposing different activities and thoughts results in a scattered mind and a higher level of dissatisfaction. Thankfully, focused meditation is to the rescue!

Traditionally, focused meditation involves drinking one cup of tea. This way, you train yourself to stop all activities – no adding to your shopping lists, checking your phone, etc. Instead, you are concentrating your attention wholly on drinking the tea! While drinking, you might notice the tea’s aroma, a sensation of warmth, etc. It is somewhat natural – whenever your mind wanders, drink the tea to regain focus.

However, drinking tea isn’t compulsory. You can use anything you choose to use. Just that, whatever you are using, ensure your entire attention is focused on it. If it’s food, ensure you are aware of the sensation that connects with eating; if you choose exercising, ensure you are aware of the sensation that connects with exercising, and so on! Just like if you are drinking tea, you may notice your mind is wandering. Acknowledge that and return its focus to what you are doing. Regular focused meditation practices and commitment will cause your concentration ability to improve while rediscovering the joy of being present in the present!

Visualization Meditation

Also known “all-purpose style of meditation,” Visualization Meditation methods combine the practice of meditation with the technique of visualization. This type of meditation is about engaging your imagination and actively creating imagery to clear your mind and bring awareness to the present moment. It involves picturing positive images, symbols, ideas, or using affirmations and several mantras to calm your mind while your body is in a relaxed state; however, the only limit is what you can conjure up in your mind. This meditation helps ease pain, send love to people near and far, and as a performance-enhancing technique that will help you manifest your goals.

The major difference between visualization and regular meditation is that the former is more active than the latter; you don’t just meditate; you visualize something positive.

When picturing yourself in a calm, safe environment (a serene river/stream, for instance), your brain uses your imagination to focus on such environment and tunes you in to the sight, sounds, smell, colour, and other positive feelings associated with that environment; At the same time, you let all negative thoughts and emotions wash away in the picturesque landscape. By doing this, your mind gets relaxed in a calm reflection.

Your brain does the work while your mind relaxes! The science behind this visualization is that during this meditative exercise, the tiny structure in the centre of your brain (your amygdala) responsible for the fight or flight response begins to distinguish between something happening in real-time and what is being seen during the meditation session.

Transcendental Meditation

Created and introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India in the mid-1950s, this technique is one of the most widely practised meditation techniques. It refers to a specific form of silent meditation, which involves using a silently-used sound called a mantra. This mantra is repeated for 15–20 minutes twice a day, and it is done sitting with the eyes closed.

The major difference between this meditation and other types of meditation techniques is the mantra you’re to repeat during a session. While other forms of meditation use words, phrases, or visualizations during a session, the TM, as it is often called, uses meaningless sounds as the vehicle to help the mind settle down. By focusing exclusively on your mantra, you aim to achieve a greater sense of peace, calm, and consciousness in your daily life. 

While some meditation practices encourage you to empty your mind of all thoughts, the TM encourages your thoughts to come and go, like watching the clouds float by. This strategy helps teach you to become an observer of your thoughts. As your thoughts come and go, you get to manage daily anxieties created by rapid and problematic thinking, and as a result, you feel calm, more energized, focused, and productive.

Over the years, this technique has grown to become an organization that included educational programs, health products, and even a movement. Often, people mistake it for religious activity; however, it is a non-religious method for relaxation, reducing stress, and enhancing creativity. Anyone can practice it, and it is taught by certified teachers, which attracts a fee; this fee varies by country.

Loving-Kindness Meditation

It is a popular self-care technique that can be used to cultivate our propensity for kindness. It is also the most common type of visualization; it involves bringing your mind the image of different people, both the ones you know and those you do not.

Sometimes called “metta” in Pali Language, this technique involves you silently repeating a series of mantras that will mentally send your goodwill, kindness, and warmth towards others.

For instance, if you focus your benevolence or loving energy on a person(s) you have in mind, by silently repeating these mantras, you mentally direct kindness toward not just them alone but yourself. By extending kind thoughts to others, you unconditionally focus on their happiness while learning to let go of any unhappiness you’re feeling.

It seems simple, right? But it’s not!

Unlike some meditation forms, this technique requires practice because the average American isn’t used to a high level of giving and receiving love. This meditative practice begins with selfless love towards you first, then others; unless you love and treat yourself with compassion, you cannot reflect on others. Thus, its practice is tied in with self-love, empathy, understanding, and kindness. As such, as you regularly practice this meditation, you become increasingly able to let go of past hurts, connect with people easily, love and accept yourself, among many other benefits.

Despite its “difficulty” regarding practice, it is one of the most flexible forms of meditation. It doesn’t require prior setup or arrangements; it can be practised anywhere, at any time, and at any pace. Also, there are no expectations or bindings; neither are you trying to accomplish a goal nor prove a point; it doesn’t work that way, no one is imposed with any obligation. The only thing you have to do is by focusing on the process.

With the LKM, meditation is merely a process to experience and enjoyed by anyone; for all ages, personality patterns, and personal situations.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This meditation is an anxiety-reduction and relaxation technique that American physician Edmund Jacobson first introduced in the 1930s. It is a series of exercises involving alternating tension and relaxation in all of the body’s major muscle groups.

Normally, our bodies get a tightened-up response when we’re stressed, anxious, or worried. To engage in this exercise, you systematically tense various muscles all over your body as you breathe in. You hold the tension in that particular area before you release it by breathing out. In doing this exercise, you become aware of how tense you are for keeping various muscle groups in your body; you’ll also notice the contrasting feeling of relaxation. Over time you increase awareness of when and where your body is tensed, what it feels like to have tense Vs relaxed muscles as you intentionally release that tension and bring your body to a state of relaxation and decreased stress.

The more you do it, the easier it becomes, but it will help find a progressive muscle relaxation script to follow if you try it for the first time.

These techniques are great practice for those that are hesitant or resistant to more traditional mindfulness and meditation. It’s easy, with no pressure plus, you can do it almost anywhere!

Mantra Meditation

This technique is the combination of two things: Mantra and Meditation. “Mantra,” a Sanskrit term, is a syllable/word/ phrase spoken or chanted, whispered repeatedly during meditation. This repeated word is used as a tool to help release your mind to boost awareness and improve focus and concentration.

People do mantra meditation for several reasons. It serves as a kind of mental protection against distractions or negative emotions to others, helping them cope with phobias. It can also serve as a deeper spiritual purpose, such as a mind-heart connection with a divine being, keeping you focused and receptive to the present moment’s blessings.

Positive Affirmations are often used during Mantra Meditation; thus, you can choose a phrase/word you create or discovered on your own that will benefit you, or you allow someone else to teach and guide you on how to navigate your meditation processes. Shorter affirmations work best; you can repeat them fast or slow. It can also be repeated by itself, or sometimes, to concentrate on certain feelings, breathing, or other abstract.

Whichever way you practice it, it is beneficial to calm your mind and help you remain focused!

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