Meditation is an integral aspect of Yoga, some would even say that it is THE point of Yoga. We want to encourage a Yogic lifestyle for Our Tribe and hope to inspire your daily practices. The idea behind Meditation is that it is a method that connects the mind, the body and the spirit. Its purpose is to help increase both concentration and awareness, so that you can live more fully in the present moment; leading to greater equanimity and wellness.
Similar to the rapid expansion in number of types and styles of Yoga class offerings, there are an astounding number of different types of Meditation now available. Last blog, we took a look at Monkey Mind and a couple of simple Meditation techniques for you try. Today, we are looking at a few different types of Meditation in greater detail.
Types of Meditation You Can Try Today
If you read our Introduction To Meditation and Mindfulness blog, you might remember that there are essentially two main types of Meditation, Focused Meditation (Concentrative Meditation) and Mindful Meditation (Open-Monitoring Meditation). All the other types of Meditation fall into these two categories, Focused or Mindful, with some mixing the two.
Mindfulness (Open-Monitoring) Meditation
This type of Meditation is when you allow thoughts to come and go, with no judgement or attachment. You are not engaging your mind or thoughts. You are openly monitoring the thoughts, without trying to control them. It is not trying to clear your mind or trying to have no thoughts. It is not trying to do anything. You are simply observing your mind, and with time and practice you will find that uninvited thoughts will lessen or cease to arise.
The Zen Monk Shunryu Suzuki has put it this way: "Leave your front and back door open. Let thoughts come and go. Just don't serve them tea."
Many people starting on their meditation journey will find Open-Monitoring Meditation to be quite difficult, as it is a more passive type of Meditation. For those people, we suggest Focused Meditations and Moving Meditations.
Focused (Concentrative) Meditations
Focused or Concentrative types of meditation are where you focus your mind on a thought, a candle flame, an image, a mantra, or something in particular. This is a more active form of Meditation because you can lessen the distractions by focusing on something specific. Many people find this style more suited to their practice if they have "monkey mind." Monkey mind is a term for when your mind jumps around from one thought to another, when you are trying to Meditate (Check out our previous blog in this series to learn about Monkey Mind and how to overcome it).
- Mantra Meditation
Utilizing a Mantra is the process of silently chanting a sound or phrase over and over again to pacify the monkey. It gives your mind something to focus on. It helps by training the mind to pay attention to the rhythmic pattern of a specific phrase. Some people will choose a Sanskrit phrase such as "Om Mani Padme Hum." Others may choose a sentence relative to their own circumstances, such as "I accept everything and everyone just as they are. I am content."
Some people will set a timer for 20 minutes of Mantras. Other Mantra Meditation includes use of a Mala (a necklace with 108 beads) to keep themselves on track, moving one bead for each time the phrase is completed. Originally, mala beads were used for a special style of meditation called Japa, which means, “to recite."
- Guided Meditation
Guided Meditation is exactly what it sounds like, it is when you are guided in thought by someone's voice. It can be like listening to a story and going on a journey. This allows your mind to focus on the journey and let go of all the other thoughts. This often includes an element of visualization. You can find free recordings of Guided Meditations on our Community Page (click on Jen's or Gypsy's offerings).
- Yoga Nidra is sometimes called "Sleeping Meditation" or "Yogic Sleep." It is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, typically induced by a guided meditation. It is currently being studied in the West as a way to help veterans and those in the military cope with PTSD.
- Body Scanning and Progressive Relaxation Meditation are often done together and are a type of Guided Meditation. In this method, the Meditator is guided to scan their body, part by part, directing their awareness to each section of their body. You might start at the toes, then the calves, up the leg, to the hips, low back, abdomen, chest, arms, shoulders, neck and each part of your face. You are often instructed to flex each of the muscles one at a time, followed by letting the muscle go limp, before progressing to the next body part. You will find that a much deeper level of relaxation will be achieved through this method.
- Visualization Meditation
Visualization Meditation is a method where you focus on an image you are seeing in your mind's eye. Some people will stare at a yantra or candle flame, then close their eyes and continue to visualize the image.
Or one can create an image in their mind and hold it. This could be anything, perhaps a flower. You hold this image and focus on it intently. You can also go deeper into the image you are visualizing by creating more detail. For example, if the Meditator has a flower in their mind, they could then focus on more subtle aspects of the flower by zooming in on the petals, the color, texture, etc. This is all done within the mind, without an actual flower present.
This active type of Meditation can become passive by dissolving the image at the end of your Meditation and letting your mind flow freely.
Visualization Meditations are also often used in Performance Psychology and applied to things like sports, live music performances and business. An example of this would be when a basketball player visualizes themselves shooting the ball and making the basket. This is where your Meditation can become manifestation.
- Walking/Moving Meditation
Traditionally, most forms of Meditation are done while seated, often emphasizing an erect spine and upright posture with head over shoulders. However, some types of Meditation are done while moving. Walking Meditation is a very common form of Movement Meditation, as are Qigong and Tai Chi. Whereas Qigong and Tai Chi involve knowledge or an instructor, Walking Meditation can be accomplished by anyone, anytime, anywhere, for free.
Walking Meditation can be performed in a more formal way, by pacing back and forth in a Meditation Hall, while others prefer to go on walks outside, sometimes in a labyrinth. Either way, you walk in a slow, conscious manner, with a heightened level of awareness. This is a state where you would never step on a bug by accident. You are aware of each step you take, fully concentrating on the movement of the body including pace, gait, gravity, and so on.
Walking Meditations have origins in Buddhism and are frequently part of a mindfulness practice. The technique has many possible benefits and may help you feel more grounded, balanced, and serene. It also helps you develop a different awareness of your surroundings, body, and thoughts. Walking Meditation is truly mindfulness in action.
The practice has become so popular that labyrinths are now commonly found at hospitals, churches and schools across the United States.
Meditation is continually growing in popularity and has numerous reported benefits. This practice has the potential to improve your life, your relationships, your job performance, and your overall level of happiness and wellness. The degree of consciousness and growth you can achieve is unlimited. This is Meditation's real power; helping build and foster the ability to be aware and ultimately, create your best life and be the person you want to be!
One major hurdle of Meditating is what has come to be known as Monkey Mind. In this fast paced, technological, overly stimulated age we are living in, many people have lost their ability to be present and focused. Taming the mind through a Meditation Practice is essential to a yogic lifestyle.