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Types of Meditation: Which One Is Right For You?

September 4, 2008

People often assume meditation is meditation is meditation. You sit, you quiet your mind, you feel peaceful, all is well. Right? But the truth is, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of different meditation techniques, and they each have different benefits and orientations. Meditation has been around in some form for virtually all of human history, as part of many different cultural traditions – healing, divination, sports, the arts, and, of course, religion and spirituality.

So how do you know which approach is best for you? Like in most things, it takes some exploration and experimentation. One of the easiest ways to start is to clarify for yourself why you want to meditate – that is, what are you hoping to get from it? To help you get started, here is a list of some of the main benefits of meditation, with links to resources that provide more info and instruction related to each (disclaimer here: some of these links are to my own teaching site www.TheMaatInstitute.com ).

Health and Stress Management: Studies have shown that regular meditation is effective for lowering blood pressure, boosting immunity, improving sleep quality, and managing chronic pain. The leader in health-related meditation research and techniques is the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine. Their website provides both meditation instruction and published medical research on its benefits.

Psychological Therapy Complement: An increasing number of therapists incorporate some form of meditation into their therapy practice, believing that quieting the mind is an important complement to exploring the mind. Techniques vary, but the relaxation response(the same technique as from the health-based listing above) is a common one, because of its proven medical benefits. For a thorough overview of the different views on meditation within the psychological community, try this article from Buddhanet.net (jump to the Conclusion and Summary section at the end if you want to skip the mind-numbing academic detail.)

Concentration/Focus Improvement:Everyone from Olympic athletes to poker players have begun to incorporate some form of meditation into their training regimes, because it helps them detach from distractions and hone their focus. For the same reason, Zen meditation was incorporated into martial arts training centuries ago, and Zen meditation is still one of the most common forms used for this purpose (and championed by such illustrious sports figures as Phil Jackson, coach of the LA Lakers.) Although there are many Zen variations, try this overview to get started.

Intuition Development: Many occult and spiritual traditions teach that we all posses an intuitive level of knowledge within us, but that we can only tap into it when we let go of our ego-based thoughts and emotions. For this reason, meditation is a big component of most intuition-development training programs. There are thousands of such programs, so it is difficult to recommend just one, but Dr. Mona Lisa Schulz offers a grounded, modern approach in her book Awakening Intuition (here’s an excerpt.)

Creativity Development: Artists of all types use meditation to trigger their creativity and help them work through blocks. One of the most popular books to explore this is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Here’s a Q&A on this book, or try this video for an overview.

Energy Body Strengthening: Many ‘alternative’ healing traditions are based on the idea of an energy body, or that the flow of our non-physical energy (or lack of flow) influences our physical health. Acupuncture and reiki are both based on this idea, but even within Western medical traditions, there is growing awareness of the role our mind plays in our physical health and ability to heal. Here’s an intro to a very basic form of chakra meditation, a common form of energy center meditation. Another common  form of meditation used in energy healing is visualization; here’s an intro to using visualization as an aid to healing.

Spirituality: Meditation has been and is part of virtually every world religion in some form. From St. Theresa of Avila’s ‘mental prayer’ to Rabbi Issac Luria’s Kabbalah symbol visualizations, and then to better known Buddhist, Sufi and Hindu meditation techniques, mystics within every tradition have practiced meditation as a means to exploring the forces and spirit beyond themselves. If you are interested in exploring meditation as part of a specific religious tradition, try this book list for some suggestions.

However, spiritual meditation is about shifting your awareness – shifting it away from your usual thoughts and emotions and towards a larger force (whether you call that force God or something else.) In that sense, the technique is less important than your intent. It’s important to remember that the meditation technique you select is a means to an end, not an end in itself, and that the ultimate goal is to change the way you relate to the world and your mind even when you are not meditating. So feel free to explore, but don’t let yourself get too caught up in finding the ‘perfect’ technique.

Good luck in your meditation journeys!

Here’s some info on Meditation Medical Research, or, if you are interested in how meditation is incorporated into the world’s religions, try Meditation within ALL the World’s Religions. For more posts on Meditation, try the meditation page. Or, if you are interested in another main theme of this blog, motherhood, try the Spirituality and Motherhood posts.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 7, 2008 2:28 pm

    I am enjoying your blog! I meditate before I drive. I didn’t drive until I was 27 and was scared. I don’t know what kind of meditation it is, but I get in the car and the kids and I say a prayer to make us aware of conditions, other drivers and pray that they also be aware. I’ve had a few situations happen that make me swear that God is in my vehicle and protects us!

    We also have a reverence prayer before I cook and again, before we eat. Just making a couple of times a day to be aware and thankful makes a huge difference, doesn’t it?

  2. mommymystic permalink*
    September 7, 2008 7:15 pm

    Yes it really does. We change the direction and momentum of our awareness when we take a moment to stop and shift…otherwise it just goes where the world and our ego want to go…

  3. September 8, 2008 9:03 am

    This is a very interesting and informative article. I love the name of your blog too!

    best wishes,

    Richard
    http://www.lifechoicemeditation.com

  4. September 11, 2008 6:06 pm

    nice post keep it real!:)

  5. October 14, 2008 5:33 pm

    Some great information. Since becoming a Buddhist, I have found a profound benefit from mindfulness, metta and breathing meditation. It has done wonders for getting right attention and effort in my life, and my relationships with others. Meditation should be a part of every workplace to establish focus and reduce stress.

    http://www.vagabondsaga.com

  6. January 29, 2009 4:13 am

    It looks like I have a lot to learn about meditation! Great post!

  7. mommymystic permalink*
    January 29, 2009 5:23 am

    Thanks for the post and stumble…

  8. May 2, 2009 11:55 pm

    Really wonderful post; very informative and thorough. I have found that one of the main reasons that people are led away from meditation is that they do not know where to begin. Though they may be interested in meditating and even know the benefits that come from meditation, they become overwhelmed once they find out of all the different meditation techniques available and don’t understand how to choose the right technique for themselves. This is such a common obstacle that I actually have a post on this same topic on my site and a Meditation 101 area to help beginners to choose the right meditation technique for themselves.

    I will definitely continue to visit this site.

    All the best to you and yours,
    Sonia Gallagher

  9. mommymystic permalink*
    May 3, 2009 4:09 pm

    Sonia, thanks, I have found the same thing to be true. Your site looks great, I love the presentation of so many different techniques in accessible terms. Thanks for visiting and I’m glad you’ll be back!

  10. December 16, 2009 6:15 am

    Meditation is being practiced by the sages, seers and saints etc. since the dawn of the human civilization. In modern days its applicability for the well-being of the mankind is widely recognized. There are various types of meditation such as Integral Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Royal Yoga, Sahaj Yoga, Surat Shabd Yoga, Transcendental Meditation, Zen etc. Surat Shabd Yoga which is practiced by the followers of Kabir Panth and followers of the Radhasoami Faith, provides comprehensive package of meditation system i.e. mantra yoga, dhyan yoga and nad yoga. Surat Shabd Yoga has three components –I. Sumiran, repetition of holy name. This resembles mantra yoga. 2. Dhyan or contemplation of holy form resembles Dhyan yoga. 3. Bhajan, practice of listening internal sounds. This practice resembles nad yoga. It is evident from this description that practice of Surat Shabd Yoga is most ideal for spiritual evolution as well as physical and psychological well being. SURAT SHABD YOGA IS ‘3-in-1’.

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