What Kind of Meditation Works for You?
For some people, meditation can be written off as a fad — it started to become popular in mainstream media around the turn of the millennium, but has never been exclusively for ‘hippies’ and proponents of the New Age. The practice can be dated back as far as 5,000 BCE, originating in India.
There’s a wealth of scientific research linking meditation to lower blood pressure, reductions in symptoms of anxiety and depression, and even, in some cases, smoking cessation. While the practice has its ties in several different religious teachings, in the modern-day, it has become less about faith, and more about achieving a state of heightened consciousness, awareness, and inner peace.
Meditation exists in a multitude of styles and forms, each one requiring their own skills and mindsets. So which one would work best for you? Here are 7 different kinds of meditation you could use to bring some much-needed tranquillity into your life.
- Mindfulness Meditation
In the busy, fast-paced lifestyle of the modern individual, it can be difficult to set aside the time to be alone with our inner monologues, especially for sceptics or people with jam- packed schedules. But, as the old Zen saying goes: “you should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour”.
Mindfulness meditation, originating from Buddhist teachings, is the most popular form of meditation in Western society. This practice is made up of a combination of concentration and awareness. It involves sitting quietly still, focusing on our breathing and paying attention to any thoughts or feelings that might occur to us, letting them pass through our minds without judgment or scrutiny before gently bringing our focus back to our breathing.
There is some form of mindfulness involved in most kinds of meditation.
Observing and taking mental stock of the patterns and combinations of thoughts that pass through us while practicing mindfulness can help us to gain a better understanding of our inner workings — and this heightened self-awareness can act as a foundation for overcoming intolerance, impatience, and several other negative habits that may be deeply-rooted within us, inhibiting us from leading fuller, more peaceful lives.
Research has even found that practicing mindfulness can have an impact on healthier eating, sleeping, and reduced substance abuse. Mindfulness can be practised alone, or through a teacher or guided meditation app such as Headspace or Aura, and once you’ve done it enough, you may find that you’re able to practise it anywhere, whether that’s alone in your room, on your commute, or on your lunch break at work. All that’s required from you is a straightened posture and a willingness to be open and honest with yourself.
2. Spiritual Meditation
This prayer-like form of meditation has its origins in Eastern religious practices such as that of Daoism and Hinduism — though it also exists in Christianity. Similar to praying, the practice of spiritual meditation may include elements of silent, spoken, or chanted prayer intended to foster a deeper connection between its practitioner and their God, or the Universe.
This form of meditation is still used in non-theistic practices though, like Buddhism or Taoism — which focus more on developing heightened self-awareness and achieving self- actualisation. It is also common to use essential oils such as frankincense or sandalwood alongside this practice, to enhance your spiritual experience and the peace you may find through it. Spiritual meditation has been linked to improved memory and emotional strength, as well as greater levels of compassion and better immune functioning. It can be practised either at home or a place of worship and is ideal for those seeking spiritual growth and a more profound connection to their God, the universe, or to themselves.
3. Focused Meditation
Most of us nowadays are juggling a lot of responsibilities. On top of working full-time jobs, there may be children to look after, finances to sort out, and chores to do. With all of these stresses and to-dos constantly bouncing around in our heads, it’s no wonder we’re suffering from poorer emotional processes and a loss of interpersonal skills. We’re losing our ability to be present.
Focused meditation, as the name would suggest, involves intently focusing on one thing as a means of existing solely in the present moment and slowing down our racing internal dialogues. Practitioners can focus on something internal such as their breath, or bring in external sensory stimuli that may be easier to turn their attention to. You could try listening to a gong, staring at the flame of a candle, counting mala beads, or even simply drinking a
cup of tea!
The trick is to zero in on your chosen target, and focus exclusively on it and any of the senses that it may evoke — its smell, its sound, any sensory information surrounding the focal point that may occur to you. The point of this practice isn’t necessary to think about your focal point but to truly experience it, remaining as present and at the moment as you can. If any extraneous thoughts begin to creep into your head, you can just let them
pass, and lightly guide your attention back to your point of focus.
Psychological research has found a link between focused meditation and improvements in emotion regulation and impulse control, as well as reductions in symptoms of anxiety. This form of meditation could be ideal for busy individuals who are used to constantly flitting between tasks and may want to improve their focus and concentration. It can be difficult for
beginners to maintain their focus for longer than a few minutes at first — but don’t fret!
With regular practise, you’ll soon find uninterrupted focus comes to you a lot more naturally.
4. Movement Meditation
The majority of meditation practices encourage or require you to remain in one position. For the particularly fidgety, movement meditation may be a much more satisfying and an effective way of reaching inner peace.
As you might have guessed, movement meditation focuses on the body in motion and includes a wide variety of techniques. The most common form of movement meditation is yoga, an ancient Indian exercise that involves performing a series of different postures and controlled breathing techniques designed to promote calmness and flexibility.
Regularly practicing yoga has been associated with multiple health benefits, including improved bloo flow, bone and muscle strength, and posture, as well as reducing aches and pains, blood sugar levels, and symptoms of depression. Yoga classes are everywhere now and can be found in most health clubs, leisure centers, and hospitals. It’s worth looking up any classes
that may be local to you and getting involved — but there are just as many free resources out there to help us practise yoga in the comfort of our own homes.
For the elderly or those of us with health conditions, it is always best to speak to a doctor or relevant health professional about which style of yoga may be best suited to you. Movement meditation exists in many forms other than yoga, though, and can be practised through any type of gentle physical activity. Try being present and aware of your body while walking through nature, for example, or while gardening. Movement meditation is best suited to those of us who are more energetic, who maybe find it difficult to sit still and find peace in action.
5. Mantra Meditation
Prominent in Hindu and Buddhist teachings, mantra meditation involves using a repetitive word, sound, or phrase to aid in clearing the mind. This is where you got the idea that meditating involves chanting “ommmmm” over and over again! The idea is to feel the subtle vibrations of your mantra, helping you disconnect from any thoughts or feelings that may
occur to you while practising this form of meditation.
The most commonly used mantras are “om” and “aum”, due to the powerful vibrations they cause in the lower abdomen, but there’s no reason you can’t choose your own to align with your particular intention and purpose for meditating. After sitting and chanting your mantra without interruptions for anywhere between 5 and 30 minutes, you should find that you’re more alert and in tune with your environment, allowing you to experience deeper levels of consciousness.
Those who practise mantra meditation tend to experience reduced anger, or feelings of greater control over their anger, as well as reductions in intrusive thoughts and an improved quality of life. This form of meditation is ideal for people who find it easier to focus on speaking than breathing — or those of us less comfortable in prolonged periods of silence. Go and omm to your heart’s content!
6. Transcendental Meditation
Founded by guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, transcendental meditation (or TM) has become one of the most popular and scientifically studied forms of meditation in the modern world. This form of meditation has famously been practised and endorsed by celebrities such as Russell Brand, Jerry Seinfeld, Howard Stern, and The Beatles. Comedian and radio host Tom Papa has described the experience as a “reboot” for your nervous system, claiming it has added “another 4 hours” to his day.
Like mantra meditation, transcendental meditation involves the repetition of a word, sound, or phrase — but aims to go beyond the thinking process, bringing to us a great awareness of the unconscious mind, and with it, a profound state of rest and relaxation, allowing us to rise above (or transcend) our current state of being and fulfill our true potential. Because of this aim to achieve a deeper and more meaningful state of restful awareness relative to
other forms of meditation, TM is usually a little more difficult for beginners, who tend to use transcendental meditation centers when they’re first starting out.
The mantra you use is personal to you, and usually assigned by a guru or teacher, but there’s no reason you can’t assign one to yourself. And if the meditation centers aren’t for you, then there’s nothing stopping you from trying it by yourself — all you need to do is sit with your eyes closed, and silently chant your mantra. TM professionals recommend that you practise this form of meditation for 20 minutes at a time, twice a day — so this particular type of meditation is best-suited to those who like structure. There are no hard and fast rules for meditation though, and everyone is different, so feel free to practise in whatever way best fits you and your schedule — and when you’re ready, just sit back, close your eyes, and transcend!
7. Guided Meditation
If you’re really struggling to stay present meditating alone, or there are too many distractions at home — or you just feel like you need a much stronger dose of tranquillity then you’re currently giving yourself — there are plenty of ways to practise meditation among others, in classes, or with a guide. Most guided forms of meditation follow a similar format. Your teacher will explain to you how the mind behaves during meditation, before leading you through their particular technique. They will then suggest ways to integrate these techniques better into your daily life without 3 rd party assistance.
As previously mentioned, there are plenty of places around London or local to your area where you can meditate, and of course free apps like Headspace can guide you through the process. Of course, if you’re looking for some more hardcore Zen action, there are various meditation retreats you can take across the UK and rest of the world that will ensure you leave feeling more at peace than you did when you arrived. These places are not for people looking to spend a couple of minutes sitting quietly though as commonly, students are
expected to follow a set of strict rules throughout their stay — typically that they abstain from intoxicants, theft, and sexual activity of any kind. Maybe not a suitable honeymoon destination, but if anywhere is going to make sure you are meditating correctly and remaining properly present, it’s one of these places!
Prepared for Peace?
The best thing about meditation is that it’s entirely customisable — you can tailor your chosen technique to your needs and goals, or blend different types and test approaches to see which one fits you best. And don’t worry too much about how long it’ll take to ‘work’ — meditation is not a results-based business, fixating too much on its results can cause anxiety and undermine its whole purpose. You will find it easier and easier to find your state of inner peace the more you practise meditation — and as it becomes easier, you will find this
feeling of tranquillity may even extend outside of your sessions! Now that has to be worth giving a go.