Types of Meditation – An Overview of 23 Meditation Techniques

Ok, so you know that meditation has dozens of benefits, and everybody is doing it. You look for information online or on a bookstore, and see that there are a LOT of different ways of doing meditation, dozens of meditation techniques, and some conflicting information. You wonder which way is best for you.

This article will help you navigate the sea of different practices of seated meditation, briefly explaining each of them, and pointing to further resources. There are literally hundreds – if not thousands – of types of meditation, so here I will explore only the most popular ones.

You can also check my walking meditation guide, for more dynamic meditation techniques. Or, if you already have some experience with meditation, you might enjoy reading about the meditation experiments I was doing while writing this post.

 

 

At the bottom of this page you will find a button to download a FREE PDF copy of this post, for easy reference.

The advice regarding the posture of meditation is very similar among the different styles of seated practice, so I will go in to more detail about it only once, when talking about the first technique (Zen meditation).

I have strived to include a “Is it for me?” section, with general observations about each practice. Keep in mind these are tentative; they are there to give some direction, and potentially any person could feel attracted to any of these modalities.

This article does NOT tell you which is “the best” type of meditation – because there is no such thing, and I’m not here to create controversy. Also, I have here focused more on meditative practices; I may write another article on other similar practices, that are more about relaxation or contemplation.

If you are a beginner, you may also enjoy the post on meditation tips and meditation for beginners – how to build the habit.

 

 

GENERAL TYPES

 

Scientists usually classify meditation based on the way they focus attention, into two categories: Focused Attention and Open Monitoring. I’d like to propose a third: Effortless Presence.
 

Focused attention meditation

Focusing the attention on a single object during the whole meditation session. This object may be the breath, a mantra, visualization, part of the body, external object, etc. As the practitioner advances, his ability to keep the flow of attention in the chosen object gets stronger, and distractions become less common and short-lived. Both the depth and steadiness of his attention are developed.

Examples of these are: Samatha (Buddhist meditation), some forms of Zazen, Loving Kindness Meditation, Chakra Meditation, Kundalini Meditation, Sound Meditation, Mantra Meditation, Pranayama, some forms of Qigong, and many others.
 

Open monitoring meditation

Instead of focusing the attention on any one object, we keep it open, monitoring all aspects of our experience, without judgment or attachment. All perceptions, be them internal (thoughts, feelings, memory, etc.) or external (sound, smell, etc.), are recognized and seen for what they are. It is the process of non-reactive monitoring of the content of experience from moment to moment, without going into them. Examples are: Mindfulness meditation, Vipassana, as well as some types of Taoist Meditation.

 

Effortless Presence

It’s the state where the attention is not focused on anything in particular, but reposes on itself – quiet, empty, steady, and introverted. We can also call it “Choiceless Awareness” or “Pure Being”. Most of the meditation quotes you find speak of this state.

This is actually the true purpose behind all kinds of meditation, and not a meditation type in itself. All traditional techniques of meditation recognize that the object of focus, and even the process of monitoring, is just a means to train the mind, so that effortless inner silence and deeper states of consciousness can be discovered. Eventually both the object of focus and the process itself is left behind, and there is only left the true self of the practitioner, as “pure presence”.

In some techniques, this is the only focus, from the beginning. Examples are: the Self-Enquiry (“I am” meditation) of Ramana Maharishi; Dzogchen; Mahamudra; some forms of Taoist Meditation; and some advanced forms of Raja Yoga. In my point of view, this type of meditation always requires previous training to be effective, even though this is  sometimes not expressly said (only implied).

 

 

1) BUDDHIST MEDITATION

 

 

Zen Meditation (Zazen)

 

Origin & Meaning

Zazen (坐禅) means “seated Zen”, or “seated meditation”, in Japanese. It has its roots in the Chinese Zen Buddhism (Ch’an) tradition, tracing back to Indian monk Bodhidharma (6th century CE). In the West, its most popular forms comes from Dogen Zenji (1200~1253), the founder of Soto Zen movement in Japan. Similar modalities are practiced in the Rinzai school of Zen, in Japan and Korea.

 

How to do it

It is generally practiced seated on the floor over a mat and cushion, with crossed legs. Traditionally it was done in lotus or half-lotus position, but this is hardly necessary. Nowadays most practitioners sit like this:

Types of meditation - Zazen posture

Or on a chair:

Types of meditation - zazen chair
Images courtesy of Zen Mountain Monastery

The most important aspect, as you see in the pictures, is keeping the back completely straight, from the pelvis to the neck. Mouth is kept close and eyes are kept lowered, with your gaze resting on the ground about two or three feet in front of you.

As to the mind aspect of it, it’s usually practiced in two ways:

  • Focusing on breath — focus all your attention on the movement of the breath going in and out through the nose. This may be aided by counting the breath in your mind. Each time you inhale you count one number, starting with 10, and then moving backward to 9, 8, 7, etc. When you arrive in 1, you resume from 10 again. If you get distracted and lose your count, gently bring back the attention to 10 and resume from there.
  • Shikantaza (“just sitting”) — in this form the practitioner does not use any specific object of meditation; rather, practitioners remain as much as possible in the present moment, aware of and observing what passes through their minds and around them, without dwelling on anything in particular. It’s a type of Effortless Presence meditation

Learn more:

 

Is it for me?

Zazen is a very sober meditation style, and you can easily find a lot of strong communities practicing it, as well as plenty of information on the internet. There is a lot of emphasis in keeping the right posture, as an aid for concentration. It is usually practiced in Zen Buddhist centers (Sangha), with strong community support.

In many of them you will find it coupled with other elements of Buddhist practice: prostrations, a bit of ritualism, chanting, and group readings of the Buddha teachings. Some people will like this, others won’t. Personally, I practiced zazen in a Buddhist group for 3 years, and I found that those elements and a bit of formality can also help create a structure for the practice, and in themselves they are also meditative.

 

 

Vipassana Meditation

 

Origin & Meaning

 

“Vipassana” is a Pali word thaTypes of meditation - Vipassanat means “insight” or “clear seeing”. It is a traditional Buddhist practice, dating back to 6th century BC. Vipassana-meditation, as taught in the last few decades, comes from the Theravada Buddhist tradition, and was popularized by  S. N. Goenka and the Vipassana movement.

Due to the popularity of Vipassanā-meditation, the “mindfulness of breathing” has gained further popularity in the West as “mindfulness”.

 

How to do it
[There is some conflicting information on how to practice Vipassana. In general, however, most teachers emphasize  starting with mindfulness of breath in the first stages, to stabilize the mind and achieve “access concentration.” This is more like focused attention meditation. Then the practice moves on to developing “clear insight” on the bodily sensations and mental phenomena, observing them moment by moment and not clinging to any. Here goes an introduction, aimed for beginners. To know more I’d suggest following up the links provided or learning from a teacher (perhaps in a Vipassana retreat).]

Ideally, one is to sit on a cushion on the floor, cross-legged, with your spine erect; alternatively, a chair may be used, but the back should not be supported.

The first aspect is to develop concentration, through samatha practice. This is typically done through breathing awareness.

Focus all your attention, from moment to moment, on the movement of your breath. Notice the subtle sensations of the movement of the abdomen rising and falling. Alternatively, one can focus on the sensation of the air passing through the nostrils and touching the upper lips skin – though this requires a bit more practice, and is more advanced.

As you focus on the breath, you will notice that other perceptions and sensations continue to appear: sounds, feelings in the body, emotions, etc. Simply notice these phenomena as they emerge in the field of awareness, and then return to the sensation of breathing. The attention is kept in the object of concentration (the breathing), while these other thoughts or sensations are there simply as “background noise”.

The object that is the focus of the practice (for instance, the movement of the abdomen) is called the “primary object”. And a “secondary object” is anything else that arises in your field of perception – either through your five senses (sound, smell, itchiness in the body, etc.) or through the mind (thought, memory, feeling, etc.). If a secondary object hooks your attention and pulls it away, or if it causes desire or aversion to appear, you should focus on the secondary object for a moment or two, labeling it with a mental note, like “thinking”,  “memory”, “hearing”, “desiring”. This practice is often called “noting”.

A mental note identifies an object in general but not in detail. When you’re aware of a sound, for example, label it “hearing” instead of “motorcycle,” “voices” or “barking dog.” If an unpleasant sensation arises, note “pain” or “feeling” instead of “knee pain” or “my back pain.” Then return your attention to the primary meditation object. When aware of a fragrance, say the mental note “smelling” for a moment or two. You don’t have to identify the scent.

When one has thus gained “access concentration”, the attention is then turned to the object of practice, which is normally thought or bodily sensations. One observes the objects of awareness without attachment, letting thoughts and sensations arise and pass away of their own accord. Mental labeling (explained above) is often use as a way to prevent you from being carried away by thoughts, and keep you in more objectively noticing them.

As a result one develops the clear seeing that the observed phenomena is pervaded by the three “marks of existence”: impermanence (annica), insatisfactoriness (dukkha) and emptiness of self (annata). As a result, equanimity, peace and inner freedom is developed in relation to these inputs.

Learn more:

 

Is it for me?

Vipassana is an excellent meditation to help you ground yourself in your body, and understand how the processes of your mind work. It is a very popular style of meditation. You can find plenty of teachers, websites, and books about it, as well as 3~10 days retreats (donation based). The teaching of it is always free. There are no formalities or rituals attached to the practice.

If you are completely new to meditation, Vipassana or Mindfulness are probably good ways for you to start.

 

 

Mindfulness Meditation

 

Origin & Meaning

Mindfulness Meditation is an adaptation from traditional Buddhist meditation practices, especially Vipassana, but also having strong influence from other lineages (such as the Vietnamese Zen Buddhism from Thich Nhat Hanh). “Mindfulness” is the common western translation for the Buddhist term sati. Anapanasati, “mindfulness of breathing”, is part of the Buddhist practice of Vipassana or insight meditation, and other Buddhist meditational practices, such as zazen (source: Wikipedia).

One of the main influencers for Mindfulness in the West is John Kabat-Zinn. His Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR) – which he developed in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School – has been used in several hospitals and health clinic on the past decades.

 

How to do it

Mindfulness meditation is the practice of intentionally focusing on the present moment, accepting and non-judgmentally paying attention to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that arise.

For the “formal practice” time, sit on a cushion on the floor, or on a chair, with straight and unsupported back. Pay close attention to the movement of your breath. When you breath in, be aware that you are breathing in, and how it feels. When you breath out, be aware you are breathing out. Do like this for the length of your meditation practice, constantly redirecting the attention to the breath. Or you can move on to be paying attention to the sensations, thoughts and feelings that arise.

The effort is to not intentionally add anything to our present moment experience, but to be aware of what is going on, without losing ourselves in anything that arises.

Your mind will get distracted into going along with sounds, sensations, and thoughts. Whenever that happens, gently recognize that you have been distracted, and bring the attention back to the breathing, or to the objective noticing of that thought or sensation. There is a big different between being inside the thought/sensation, and simply being aware of it’s presence.

Learn to enjoy your practice. Once you are done, appreciate how different the body and mind feel.

There is also the practice of mindfulness during our daily activities: while eating, walking, and talking. For “daily life” meditation, the practice is to pay attention to what is going on in the present moment, to be aware of what is happening – and not living in “automatic mode”. If you are speaking, that means paying attention to the words you speak, how you speak them, and to listen with presence and attention. If you are walking, that means being more aware of your body movements, your feet touching the ground, the sounds you are hearing, etc.

Your effort in seated practice supports your daily life practice, and vice-versa. They are both equally important.
 
Learn more:

 

Is it for me?

For the general public, this is perhaps the most advisable way to get started with meditation. It is the type of meditation that is most taught at schools and hospitals, as far as I am aware. The “mindfulness movement” as practiced nowadays in society at large, is not Buddhism, but an adaptation of Buddhist practices due to their benefits in good physical and mental health and general wellbeing.

For most people, Mindfulness Meditation may be the only type of meditation they will like, especially if their focus is only the physical and mental benefits of meditation, as it is usually taught dissociated from several of the eastern concepts and philosophies that traditionally accompanied the practice. And for that it is great – it will bring many good things to your life.

If your focus is a deeper transformation and spiritual development, however, then mindfulness meditation may be just an initial step for you. From here you can then move into Vipassana, Zazen, or other types of meditation.

 

 

Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta Meditation)

 

Origin & Meaning

loving kindness meditationMetta is a Pali word that means kindness, benevolence, and good will. This practice comes from the Buddhist traditions, especially the Theravada and Tibetan lineages. “Compassion meditation” is a contemporary scientific field that demonstrates the efficacy of metta and related meditative practices.

Demonstrated benefits include: boosting one’s ability to empathize with others; development of positive emotions through compassion, including a more loving attitude towards oneself; increased self-acceptance; greater feeling of competence about one’s life; and increased feeling of purpose in life (read more in our other post).

 

How to do it

One sits down in a meditation position, with closed eyes, and generates in his mind and heart feelings of kindness and benevolence. Start by developing loving-kindness towards yourself, then progressively towards others and all beings. Usually this progression is advised:

  1. oneself
  2. a good friend
  3. a “neutral” person
  4. a difficult person
  5. all four of the above equally
  6. and then gradually the entire universe

The feeling to be developed is that of wishing happiness and well-being for all. This practice may be aided by reciting specific words or sentences that evoke the “boundless warm-hearted feeling”, visualizing the suffering of others and sending love; or by imagining the state of another being, and wishing him happiness and peace.

The more you practice this meditation, the more joy you will experience. That is the secret of Mathieu Richard’s happiness.

For one who attends properly to the liberation of the heart by benevolence, unarisen ill will does not arise and arisen ill will is abandoned.” – The Buddha

In this article, Emma Seppälä, Ph.D explores the 18 scientifically proven benefits of Loving-Kindness meditation.

Learn more:

 

Is it for me?

Are you sometimes too hard on yourself or on others? Or feel like you need to improve your relationships? Loving-kindness meditation will help you. It is beneficial both for selfless and self-centered people, and it will help increase your general level of happiness. You cannot feel loving-kindness and depression (or any other negative feeling) at the same time.

It is also often recommended, by Buddhist teachers, as an antidote to insomnia, nightmares, or anger issues.

 

 

2) HINDU MEDITATION (Vedic & Yogic)

 

 

Mantra Meditation (OM Meditation)

 

Origin & Meaning

types of meditation - mantra meditation beadsA mantra is a syllable or word, usually without any particular meaning, that is repeated for the purpose of focusing your mind. It is not an affirmation used to convince yourself of something.

Some meditation teachers insist that both the choice of word, and its correct pronunciation, is very important, due to the “vibration” associated to the sound and meaning, and that for this reason an initiation into it is essential. Others say that the mantra itself is only a tool to focus the mind, and the chosen word is completely irrelevant.

Mantras are used in Hindu traditions, Buddhist traditions (especially Tibetan and “Pure Land” Buddhism), as well as in Jainism, Sikhism and Daoism (Taoism). Some people call mantra meditation “om meditation”, but that is just one of the mantras that can be used. A more devotion oriented practice of mantras is called japa, and consists of repeating sacred sounds (name of God) with love.

 

How to do it

As most type of meditations, it is usually practiced sitting with spine erect, and eyes closed. The practitioner then repeats the mantra in his mind, silently, over and over again during the whole session.

Sometimes this practice is coupled with being aware of the breathing or coordinating with it. In other exercises, the mantra is actually whispered very lightly and softly, as an aid to concentration.

As you repeat the mantra, it creates a mental vibration that allows the mind to experience deeper levels of awareness. As you meditate, the mantra becomes increasingly abstract and indistinct, until you’re finally led into the field of pure consciousness from which the vibration arose.
Repetition of the mantra helps you disconnect from the thoughts filling your mind so that perhaps you may slip into the gap between thoughts. The mantra is a tool to support your meditation practice. Mantras can be viewed as ancient power words with subtle intentions that help us connect to spirit, the source of everything in the universe. (Deepak Chopra)

Here are some of the most well-known mantras from the Hindu & Buddhist traditions:

  • om
  • so-ham
  • om namah shivaya
  • om mani padme hum
  • rama
  • yam
  • ham

You may practice for a certain period of time, or for a set number of “repetitions” – traditionally 108 or 1008. In the latter case, beads are typically used for keeping count.

As the practice deepens, you may find that the mantra continues “by itself” like the humming of the mind. Or the mantra may even disappear, and you are left in a state of deep inner peace.
 
Learn more:

 

Is it for me?

People usually find that it is easier to focus with a mantra than with the breathing. Because a mantra is a word, and thoughts are usually perceived as words, it can be easier to keep the focus on a mantra rather than on the breathing. It is useful especially when the mind is racing with many thoughts, since it mantra meditation demands constant attention.

Meditating with a mantra can also make it simpler to  integrate your meditative state into your daily life. In whatever activity you find yourself into, it can be as simple as repeating the mantra in your mind.
  
 

Transcendental Meditation (TM)

 

Origin & Meaning

Transcendental Meditation is a specific form of Mantra Meditation introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1955 in India and the West. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Maharishi achieved fame as the guru to the Beatles, The Beach Boys and other celebrities.

It is a widely practiced form of meditation, with over 5 million practitioners worldwide, and there is a lot of scientific research, many sponsored by the organization, demonstrating the benefits of the practice. There are over 600 scientific papers, many of them peer-reviewed, and I have used part of their research when composing my benefits of meditation page. However, there are also critics of the Maharishi and his organization, and some accusation of cultish behavior and doubtful research practices.

Transcendental Meditation and The Beatles
[Image from NurseTalkSite.com]

 

How to do it

Transcendental meditation is not taught freely. The only way of learning it is to pay to learn from one of their licensed instructors. The support given seems to be good, though.

In general, however, it is known that TM involves the use of a mantra and is practiced for 15–20 minutes twice per day while sitting with one’s eyes closed. The mantra is not unique, and is given to the practitioner based on his gender and age. They are also not “meaningless sounds” – rather, they are Tantric names of Hindu deities. This probably is irrelevant for most people.

This is the official site of the movement: TM site.

There is another similar technique, called Natural Stress Relief, which was created in 2003 by a former TM Teacher, and is much cheaper to learn (47 USD instead of 960 USD), and has stripped out some mystical elements of the practice of TM, such as the initiation (puja) and yogic flying (part of TM-Siddhi). You can learn more about NSR in comparison to TM here and here.

 

Is it for me?

Personally I don’t feel comfortable advising anyone to try Transcendental Meditation anymore, especially if you are looking to go deep into meditation. To know more, check out this answer I wrote in Quora.

If you wish to try something similar, for a fraction of the cost or for free, have a look at NSR (above), or Mantra Meditation.
 
 

Yoga Meditations

 

Origin & Meaning

OM yogic meditationsThere is not one type of meditation which is “Yogic Meditation”, so here it is meant the several meditation types taught in the yoga tradition. Yoga means “union”. Tradition goes as far as 1700 B.C, and has as its highest goal spiritual purification and Self-Knowledge. Classical Yoga divides the practice into rules of conduct (yamas and niyamas), physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and contemplative practices of meditation (pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi).

 

How to do it

Here are some types of meditation practiced in Yoga. The most common and universal one is the “third eye meditation”.

  • Third Eye Meditation — focusing the attention on the “spot between the eyebrows” (called by some “the third eye” or “ajna chakra”). The attention is constantly redirected to this point, as a means to silence the mind. By time the “silent gaps” between thoughts get wider and deeper. Sometimes this is accompanied by physically “looking”, with eyes closed, towards that spot.
  • Chakra Meditation — the practitioner focuses on one of the seven chakras of the body (“centers of energy”), typically doing some visualizations and chanting a specific mantra for each chakra (lam, vam, ram, yam, ham, om). Most commonly it is done on the heart chackra, third eye, and crown chackra.
  • Gazing Meditation (Trataka) — fixing the gaze on an external object, typically a candle, image or a symbol (yantras). It is done with eyes open, and then with eyes closed, to train both the concentration and visualization powers of the mind. After closing the eyes, you should still keep the image of the object in your “mind’s eye”.
  • Kundalini Meditation — this is a very complex system of practice. The goal is the awakening of the “kundalini energy” which lies dormant on the base of the spine, the development of several psychic centers in the body, and, finally, enlightenment. There are several dangers associated with this practice, and it should not be attempted without the guidance of a qualified yogi.
  • Kriya Yoga — is a set of energization, breathing, and meditation exercises taught by Paramahamsa Yogananda. This is more suited for those who have a devotional temperament, and are seeking the spiritual aspects of meditation. To learn it, you can apply to receive the Self-Realization lessons, free of charge.
  • Sound Meditation (Nada Yoga) — focusing on sound. Starts with meditation on “external sounds”, such as calming ambient music (like Native American flute music), whereby the student focuses all his attention on just hearing, as a help to quieten and collect the mind. By time the practice evolves to hearing the “internal sounds” of the body and mind. The ultimate goal is to hear the “Ultimate Sound” (para nada), which is a sound without vibration, and that manifests as “OM”.
  • Tantra — unlike the popular view in the West, most Tantra practices have nothing to do with ritualized sex (this was practiced by a minority of lineages. Tantra is a very rich tradition, with dozens of different contemplative practices. The text Vijnanabhairava Tantra, for instance, lists 108 “meditations”, most of them more advanced (already requiring a certain degree of stillness and mind control). Here are some examples from that text:
    • Merge the mind and the senses in the interior space in the spiritual heart.
    • When one object is perceived, all other objects become empty. Concentrate on that emptiness.
    • Concentrate on the space which occurs between two thoughts.
    • Fix attention on the inside of the skull. Close eyes.
    • Meditate on the occasion of any great delight.
    • Meditate on the feeling of pain.
    • Dwell on the reality which exists between pain and pleasure.
    • Meditate on the void in one’s body extending in all directions simultaneously.
    • Concentrate on a bottomless well or as standing in a very high place.
    • Listen to the Anahata [heart chakra] sound.
    • Listen to the sound of a musical instrument as it dies away.
    • Contemplate on the universe or one’s own body as being filled with bliss.
    • Concentrate intensely on the idea that the universe is completely void.
    • Contemplate that the same consciousness exists in all bodies.
  • Pranayama — breathing regulation. It is not exactly meditation, but an excellent practice to calm the mind and prepare it for meditation. There are several different types of Pranayama, but the simplest and most commonly taught one is the 4-4-4-4. This means breathing in counting up to 4, holding for 4 seconds, breathing out for 4 seconds, and holding empty for 4 seconds. Breathe through your nose, and let the abdomen (and not the chest) be the one that moves. Go through a few cycles like this. This regulation of breathing balances the moods and pacifies the body, and can be done anywhere.

Yoga is a very rich tradition, with different lineages, so there are many other techniques. But the ones above are the most well-known; the others are more specific or complex.

For a start, this video is an excellent resource on how to do Yoga style meditation, and it combines breathing, body awareness, mantra, and chakra meditation.

Learn more:

 

Is it for me?

With all these types of meditation in Yoga, you are likely to find one that you like. If you are a musician, perhaps nada yoga is something that will attract you. If you are a devotional person, kriya yoga is a good option. Kundalini and Chakra meditation should only be attempted with a teacher.

Probably the simplest one to try is the “third eye meditation”, which is simple and yields results fairly quickly. For the other types you would probably need more instruction, either of a teacher or a good book (see references above). Besides, Pranayama is definitely something anyone can benefit from.

 

 

Self-Enquiry and “I Am” Meditation

 

Origin & Meaning

types of meditation - self-enquiry of Ramana MaharshiSelf-Enquiry is the English translation for the Sanskrit term atma vichara. It means to “investigate” our true nature, to find the answer to the “Who am I?” question, which culminates with the intimate knowledge of our true Self, our true being. We see references to this meditation in very old Indian texts; however, it was greatly popularized and expanded upon by the 20th-century Indian sage Ramana Maharshi (1879~1950).

The modern non-duality movement (or neo-advaita), which is greatly inspired in his teachings – as well as those of Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897~1981) and Papaji – strongly uses this technique and variations. Many contemporary teachers to employ this technique, the most famous ones being Mooji  (whom I’ve personally been with and recommend), Adyashanti, and Eckhart Tolle.

 

How to do it

This practice is very simple, but also very subtle. When explaining it, however, it may sound very abstract.

Your sense of “I” (or “ego”) is the center of your universe. It is there, in some form or another, behind all your thoughts, emotions, memories, and perceptions. Yet we are not clear about what this “I” is – about who we truly are, in essence – and confuse it with our body, our mind, our roles, our labels. It’s the biggest mystery in our lives.

With Self-Enquiry, the question “Who I am?” is asked within yourself. You must reject any verbal answers that may come, and use this question simply as a tool to fix your attention in the subjective feeling of “I” or “I am”. Become one with it, go deep into it. This will then reveal your true “I”, your real self as pure consciousness, beyond all limitation. It is not an intellectual pursuit, but a question to bring the attention to the core element of your perception and experience: the “I”. This is not your personality, but a pure, subjective, feeling of existing – without any images or concepts attached to it.
Whenever thoughts/feelings arise, you ask yourself, “To whom does this arise?” or “Who is aware of _____ (anger, fear, pain, or whatever)?” The answer will be “It’s me!”. From then you ask “Who am I?”, to bring the attention back to the subjective feeling of self, of presence. It is pure existence, objectless and choice-less awareness.

Another way of explaining this practice is to just focus the mind on your feeling of being, the non-verbal “I am” that shines inside of you. Keep it pure, without association with anything you perceive.

On all other types of meditation, the “I” (yourself) is focusing on some object, internal or external, physical or mental. In self-enquiry, the “I” is focusing on itself, the subject. It is the attention turned towards its source.
There is no special position to practice, although the general suggestions about posture and environment are helpful for beginners.

Learn more:

 

Is it for me?

This meditation is very powerful in bringing inner freedom and peace; yet, if you don’t have previous experience with meditation, you may find it very hard to follow through. As an initial aid to give you a feeling for it, I would advise following some guided meditations from Mooji, in YouTube.

 

 

3) CHINESE MEDITATION

 

 

Taoist Meditations

 

Origin & Meaning

Types of meditation - Taoist MeditationDaoism is a Chinese philosophy and religion, dating back to Lao Tzu (or Laozi). It emphasizes living in harmony with Nature, or Tao, and it’s main text is the Tao Te Ching, dating back to 6th century B.C. Later on some lineages of Taoism were also influenced by Buddhist meditation practices brought from India, especially on the 8th century C.E..

The chief characteristic of this type of meditation is the generation, transformation, and circulation of inner energy. The purpose is to quieten the body and mind, unify body and spirit, find inner peace, and harmonize with the Tao. Some styles of Taoist Meditation are specifically focused on improving health and giving longevity.

Image from InternalArtsInternational.com

 

How to do it

There are several different types of Taoist meditation, and they are sometimes classified in three: “insight”, “concentrative”, and “visualization”. Here is a brief overview:

  • Emptiness meditation — to sit quietly and empty oneself of all mental images (thoughts, feelings, and so on), to “forget about everything”, in order to experience inner quiet and emptiness. In this state, vital force and “spirit” is collected and replenished. This is similar to the Confucius discipline of “heart-mind fasting”, and it is regarded as “the natural way”. One simply allows all thoughts and sensations arise and fall by themselves, without engaging with or “following” any of them. If this is found to be too hard and “uninteresting”, the student is instructed with other types of meditation, such as visualization and Qigong
  • Breathing meditation (Zhuanqi) — to focus on the breath, or “unite mind and qi”. The instruction is “focus your vital breath until it is supremely soft”. Sometimes this is done by simply quietly observing the breath (similar to Mindfulness Meditation in Buddhism); in other traditions it is by following certain patterns of exhalation and inhalation, so that one becomes directly aware of the “dynamisms of Heaven and Earth” through ascending and descending breath (a type of Qigong, similar to Pranayama in Yoga).
  • Neiguan (“inner observation; inner vision”) — visualizing inside one’s body and mind, including the organs, “inner deities”, qi (vital force) movements, and thought processes. It’s a process of acquainting oneself with the wisdom of nature in your body. There are particular instructions for following this practice, and a good book or a teacher is required.

These meditations are done seated cross-legged on the floor, with spine erect. The eyes are kept half-closed and fixed on the point of the nose.
Master Liu Sichuan emphasises that, although not easy, ideally one should practice by “joining the breath and the mind together”; for those that find this too hard, he would recommend focusing on the lower abdomen (dantian).

Learn more:

 

Is it for me?

People that are more connected with the body and nature may like to try Taoist meditation, and enjoy learning a bit about the philosophy behind it. Or if you are into martial arts or Tai Chi, this might be of your interest. However, Taoist centers and teachers are not as easy to find as Buddhist and Yoga ones, so it might be a challenge to follow through.

 

 

Qigong (Chi kung)

 

Origin & Meaning

Qigong (also spelled chi kung, or chi gung) is a Chinese word that means “life energy cultivation”, and is a body-mind exercise for health, meditation, and martial arts training. It typically involves slow body movement, inner focus, and regulated breathing. Traditionally it was practiced and taught in secrecy in the Chinese Buddhist, Taoist and Confucianist traditions. In the 20th century, Qigong movement has incorporated and popularized Daoist meditation, and “mainly employs concentrative exercises but also favors the circulation of energy in an inner-alchemical mode” (Kohn 2008a:120).

For a deep study on Qigong history, theory, and philosophy, I recommend The Root of Chinese Qigong.

Daoist practices may also employ Qigong, but since Qigong is also applied in other Chinese philosophies, I decided to treat it as a separate subject.

 

How to do it

There are thousands of different Qigong exercises cataloged, involving over 80 different types of breathing. Some are specific to martial arts (to energize and strengthen the body); others are for health (to nourish body functions or cure diseases); and others for meditation and spiritual cultivation. Qigong can be practiced in a static position (seated or standing), or through a dynamic set of movements – which is what you typically see in YouTube videos and on DVDs. The exercises that are done as a meditation, however, are normally done sitting down, and without movement.

To understand more about Qigong and learn how to do it, I’d recommend getting a book or DVD set from Dr. Yang Jwing Ming, such as this one. But here goes an introductory overview of the practice of seated Qigong meditation:

  • Sit in a comfortable position. Make sure your body is balanced and centered.
  • Relax your whole body – muscles, nerves, and internal organs
  • Regulate your breathing, making it deep, long, and soft.
  • Calm your mind
  • Place all your attention in the “lower dantien”, which is the center of gravity of the body, two inches below the navel. This will help accumulate and root the qi (vital energy). Where your mind and intention is, there will be your qi. So, by focusing on the dantien, you are gathering energy in this natural reservoir.
  • Feel the qi circulating freely through your body.

Other famous Qigong exercises are:

  • Small Circulation (also called “microcosmic circulation”)
  • Embryonic Breathing
  • Eight Pieces of Brocade (see this book excerpt  & Wikipedia article)
  • Muscle Tendon Changing (or “Yi Jin Jing”, taught by Bodhidharma)

The first two are seated meditation, while the latter two are dynamic Qigong, integrating body stretches.

Learn more:

 

Is it for me?

Qigong meditation may be more attractive to people that like to integrate a more active body and energy work into the practice. If seated meditation is unbearable for you, and you prefer something a bit more active, try some of the more dynamic forms of Qigong. Again, there are several styles of Qigong out there, and you may need to try with different teachers or DVDs to find the one that suits you.
Some people have a taste of dynamic Qigong through the practice of Tai Chi.

4) CHRISTIAN MEDITATION

In Eastern traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Daoism) meditation is usually practiced with the purpose of transcending the mind and attaining enlightenment. On the other hand, in the Christian tradition the goal of contemplative practices is, one may say, moral purification and deeper understanding of the Bible; or a closer intimacy with God/Christ, for the more mystic stream of the tradition.

Here are some forms of Christian contemplative practice:

  • contemplative prayer — which usually involves the silent repetition of sacred words or sentences, with focus and devotion
  • contemplative reading — or simply “contemplation”, which involves thinking deeply about the teachings and events in the Bible.
  • “sitting with God” — a silent meditation, usually preceded by contemplation or reading, in which we focus all our mind, heart and soul on the presence of God

To read more about this, check out our post on Contemplative Prayer and Christian Meditation.

5) GUIDED MEDITATIONS

 

Origin & Meaning

types of meditation - guided meditationGuided Meditation is, in great part, a modern phenomenon. It is an easier way to start, and you will find guided meditations ba

sed on several of the above traditions.

The practice of meditation requires some dose of determination and will-power. In the past, people that were into meditation were more committed to it, and also had strong ideals fuelling their motivation. Their life was more simple, with less distractions.

We live in very different times now. Our life is busier. Will power is a less common personal asset. Distractions are everywhere, and meditation is often sought as a means to develop better health, enhance performance, or improve oneself.

For these reasons, guided meditation can indeed be a good way to introduce you to the practice. Once you get the hang of it, and wish to take your practice to the next level, I would urge you to try meditation unassisted by audio. It is up to you to decide when you feel like taking this step.

Guided Meditation is like cooking with a recipe. It’s a good way to start, and you can eat the food you make like this. But once you understand the main principles and flavors, you can cook your own dish. It will have a different, unique taste; it will be tailored for you, and more powerful. And then you will not want to use the recipe anymore – unless if you are trying a dish of another cuisine. 😉

[Image from BinauralBeatsMeditation.com]
How to do it

Guided meditation usually comes in the form of audio (file, podcast, CD), and sometimes audio and video. You will find that any guided meditation will fall in one of below categories (with some overlap, obviously).

  • Traditional Meditations — With these types of audios, the voice of the teacher is simply there to “illustrate” or “guide” the way for your attention, in order to be in a meditative state; there is more silence than voice in it, and often no music. Examples are the ones offered by Thich Nhat Hanh and Tara Brach, which are rooted in authentic Buddhist practices. The purpose is to develop and deepen the practice itself, with all the benefits that come with it.
  • Guided Imagery — Makes use of the imagination and visualization powers of the brain, guiding you to imagine an object, entity, scenery or journey. The purpose is usually healing or relaxation.
  • Relaxation & Body Scans — Helps you achieve a deep relaxation in your whole body. It’s usually accompanied by soothing instrumental music or nature sounds. In Yoga these are called yoga nidra. The purpose is relaxation and calmness.
  • Affirmations — Usually coupled with relaxation and guided imagery, the purpose of these meditations is to imprint a message in your mind.
  • Binaural Beats — Binaural beats were originally discovered in 1839 by physicist Heinrich Wilhelm Dove. He discovered when signals of two different frequencies are presented separately, one to each ear, your brain detects the phase variation between the frequencies and tries to reconcile that difference. This is used to generate alpha waves (10 Hz), which is the brain wave associated with initial levels of meditation. There is scientific research into why and how binaural beats work.

While they all have their merits, it is the first type that most naturally evolves into individual unguided practice.

Learn more:

 

Is it for me?

If you feel traditional meditation is a bit too hard, or you are unsure where to start, then guided meditations can be the way for you to begin. Or if you are seeking some very specific experience or benefit – like improving self-esteem, working through a trauma, or just letting go of some tension in your body – you can also find some guided meditation that suits you.

 

 

WHAT NOW?

 

There you go. With all these styles available, and some many nuances in each of them, you are sure to find a practice you like. You can try some of these practices by yourself. But try also to find a teacher with whom you can connect with, as this can make a huge difference in your journey. Meet different meditation teachers and groups and see what their practice has done for them. Finding the right practice for you is important.

Once you have chosen your practice, and built the habit, the next step is to better understand the process of meditation. Also, consider implementing these 7 tips for deep meditation.

If you need help deciding which style is best for you, or how to get started with meditation, check out my 5-Week Meditation Course.

What meditation techniques have you tried

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  • Anybody here is a teacher of one of those techniques, and would like to add some information or links?

    • Mahesh Michal Borkowski

      Hi Giovanni. Great article. Thanks. At this website you can find a very unique way of practicing self-enquiry and mindfullness: http://www.headless.org
      The experiments were created by the English philosopher, Douglas Harding. There is quite a large community of ‘Seers’ that value and practice these experiments. Check it out. 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing. I have downloaded their app and will try it out.
      Do you follow this method?

    • Mahesh Michal Borkowski

      Yes. Along with Self-Enquiry. I see you cited enlightened-spirituality as the source of info for Nisargadatta. The creator of that site, Timothy Conway is a dear friend of mine. He was the one who introduced me to the experiments.

    • Yes, I know that site quite well. I like Timothy’s content, and we exchanged a few emails years ago. Now that you mention it I’ll probably get in touch with him again.

    • Mahesh Michal Borkowski

      Timothy is great. He has spent time with Annamalai Swami and Nisargadatta and stayed at Arunachala. He was friends with Douglas too. We have a Ramana Maharshi meetup here in San Diego that meets about twice a month. Timothy skype called our meeting once and everyone was really impressed. We also had a skype call with David Godman. He is wonderful at telling stories about Ramana. You are doing a great service with this site. Keep it up. 🙂

    • That’s so nice! I like David Godman’s work, and have translated one of his books (Final Talks) into Portuguese (my mother tongue).
      If one day I go to San Diego again, I’ll try to attend the Meetup. 🙂

    • Mahesh Michal Borkowski

      That is a fantastic book.
      You are most welcome anytime!
      Do you practice Self-Enquiry?

    • Yes. I practiced first Zazen, for 3 years. But since 2005 all I “practice” is Self-Enquiry. For me, it was a “quantum leap” from Zazen.

    • Mahesh Michal Borkowski

      I just remembered that i saw this article on Annamalai Swami’s facebook page. That’s funny.

    • Hahaha, I’m the creator of that page (and of the iPhone quotes apps also). ☺️

    • Hahaha, I’m the creator of that page (and the mobile apps), that’s why! 😉

      Also of the iPhone/iPad quotes apps of Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Shankaracharya, Vivekananda, Ashtavakra Gita, Ribhu Gita, Yoga Vasistha, Avadhuta Gita, and others.

    • Hi, Giovanni, I would highlight the Christian Meditation of Fr. John Main http://wccm.org and the centering prayer of Fr. Thomas Keating http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org Of course, you can fit these into your existing categories if you like.

    • Thanks for the links. Sometime this month I’ll start writing an article on Christian contemplative practices.

    • Great. There are four articles on my website (links at the bottom of each page) giving a history of Christian contemplative practice. You’re welcome to take stuff from them.

    • Cool, I’ll have a look. That is for the http://spiritualawakening.ca/ site, right?

    • Yes, at the bottom of the page are links to a 4-part history of Christian contemplative practice, with titles such as “Pray without Ceasing,” etc.

  • Rudi

    You left out the only true meditation that is not a technique of the ego: Guru Bhakti

    • Hi Rudi,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Guru Bhakti is not for everybody, especially in the West. So I reviewed mostly the meditation techniques that require no special attitude or belief to be practiced. I don’t claim to have exhausted all meditations, but only to have written about the most popular ones.

      I disagree with what you said that Guru Bhakti is the “only true meditation that is not a technique of the ego”. I understand you come from a Hindu philosophy background, so I’ll speak in your terms. Tell me, my friend, if not the ego (ahamkara), who is the disciple? Who has devotion? Who seeks a master, a Guru in a separate being? It is the individual (or ego, as you say), that practices Guru Bhakti, or any other practice. That is just how it is.

      All true meditation techniques are good. We don’t need any “best of” or “only true” techniques.

  • Amy

    Wow, this is so useful, thank you!

  • TeutonJon78

    There is also the whole Active/Western approach to meditation, ala The Silva Method as well. Perhaps different goals than the meditation types listed here, but still valid paths.

    • Can you briefly explain the method, and your experience with it?
      I have done Silva method a bit, back in the day (1999), but would be great to have your take on this.

    • Can you expand a bit on how to practice the method and the benefits it has brought into your life?

    • TeutonJon78

      The concept is more that you learn to use that meditative state to do problem solving and to better you everyday life. It doesn’t have the end result as being enlightenment. So, when are at your meditative state, you are “actively” thinking about things from that state of mind while still allowing the unconscious/other to come through. I guess you could summarize it as using mediation as a means of lifehacking. There are also other stuff, but the official description on their webpage would probably put it better.

    • Thanks for sharing. Sound’s more like a contemplation practice rather than a meditation practice. But why not? Quietness of mind also empowers people to think more deeply and clearly.
      I have tried the Silva Method in the beginning of my meditation journey (1999), and I remember it was useful for me at that time.

  • hi

    Great article!

  • Yes, I’m aware of this article, although I find it unduly biased towards TM.
    I have respect for all traditional methods of meditation, but do not sympathize with trying to position one method as superior, creating a category only for itself, for branding (“automatic self transcending”?).
    I might write more about this in the future.

  • Barry Wah Lee

    When the university Yoga Class was on, it included mantra and breathing techniques and genuine discussion . I wonder if much ypga is exercise body based now?
    I also did a class because when you are ready a teacher will appear. Also did a A Qi Gong course online! Very good . http://shuichuan.com going there will tell one about their scope.
    This article reminds me that when someone says meditation , what does it mean? Also I have noticed the comment stir crazy. This could be someone that had never done anyeditation.Also some that get bored.

    • Hi Barry,
      Sometimes people get quite passionate when discussing meditation, so I think it’s normal. The goal of this Blog is to present quality information about all traditions of meditation, and the meditation phenomena in general. People can then choose what fits them best.

      And you are right, many Yoga schools focus solely on the physical aspects of it (asanas). I would like to see more breathing work and meditation integrated into the classes.

  • caue

    Thanks!

  • caue

    I know you said in the beginning there are hundreds of meditations but i really missed some point in this great article about other types of breathing and moving meditations like the sufi dances, per exemple.

    • Hi Caue,

      This post was already 6 thousand words, so I had to contain myself and focus on the most popular modalities.

      In the future I may write another post dedicated to “dynamic” (moving) meditations like Sufi dance, moving Qigong, and others. And perhaps one post dedicated only to breathing practices.

      I did touch briefly on Pranayama, in the section on Yogic Meditations, and also a bit about Qigong as well.

  • David Fiske

    Good article. I’ve been meditating since 1962. Thank you.

  • Spiritual Warrior

    Dear Giovanni, thank you so much for your generosity and goodwill in offering such wealth of information for free. OM

    • Thank you, Spiritual Warrior. There is a lot of misinformation about meditation on the internet, and a lot of shallow information, so I’m creating here a place where people can learn and trust.

  • Jitendra Trivedi
  • Inspir3

    Thank you for reaching out to me at Inspir3.com Giovanni. You are right, more coaches are using Mindfulness and Meditation with their clients to gain excellent results. Thank you for putting together such an informative guide on how to get started!

  • Levon Terteryan

    Great article. I use Zenify mobile app to keep myself mindful. It’s a new app that trains mindfulness and self-awareness through alerts with short meditative assignments http://www.zenifyapp.com (available both for iOS and Android)

  • Robert G.

    Giovanni thank you for sending me this link to my Coach.me question. I wanted to thank you there, but was unable to find a way to do that. I know that there has been a number of medical and scientific studies of meditation. Has there been any studies that compare the different methods, to show which puts someone into a meditative state quicker, and keep them is that state longer?

    • Hi Robert,

      There has been some attempts at similar studies, but none of them comprehensive or unbiased enough, IMHO.

      Such a research would be very interesting, but also hard to accomplish. The problem is that some people might progress quicker in meditation A, and others on meditation B, and that may be solely due to temperament, previous experiences, quality of instruction, etc. Very hard to isolate all the variables.

      I’m curious to know about your photo: what made you post it here? Any metaphor I’m missing?

    • Robert G.

      Giovanni I have to apologize I thought the photo was going to post as a small photo next to my name like yours, I think it may have been too large a file. I am sorry for not responding sooner, I thought I would get an email with your response.

  • Joasia

    Great article. Although it’s difficult for me (as a beginner) to see which technique would be good for working with emotional well-being (stress, anxiety, increase of self esteem). Can you please give some tips?

    • Hi Joasia,
      Try mindfulness for stress, and Loving-Kindness for increasing self-esteem and self-love.

    • Hi Joasia,
      You can start with Mindfulness or Vipassana for stress.
      For low self-esteem, probably Loving-Kindness is the best.

  • John L. Dobbs

    Another excellent, immensely helpful article, Giovanni. Would like to do more Metta and try Vipassana, Kriya, Nada, Pranayama, I Am, and Quigong.

  • Rahul Tuladhar

    which of the above mentioned types of meditation helps with improving creativity? i’ve read that open monitoring meditation helps improve creativity. Which of the above involves open monitoring?

    • Mindfulness is open monitoring.
      Zazen can also help you with creativity.

    • Rahul Tuladhar

      Thank you Giovanni! I think I’ll start with Mindfulness and then may be move on to Zazen or Vipassana.

  • Nick Terrone

    where the heck is the link for the PDF of this post? Can’t find it.

  • Ram

    This is brilliant.. Thanks for sharing. You might find Atisha’s Tong len meditation interesting. Check it out

  • dabs

    which meditation technique a high school graduate should follow ? .

    • Depends on your temperament and interests. But if you want a suggestion to start, you can try Vipassana or Mindfulness.

  • Mark

    what is the highest form of meditation or the most advanced?

  • durga ravichandran

    after reading your article ,i thought to share some facts about kundalini meditation . one of my family friend tried kundalini yoga without a guru’s guidance and fell in coma . then finally after so much struggle with help from a professional guru he came back normal . so i would like to warn that practising kundalini as well as chakra meditation without a guru’s supervision is dangerous

    • That is correct, durga, and that is why, unlike other meditations, I wrote that, for Kundalini, “it should not be attempted without the guidance of a qualified yogi.”
      On the other hand, chakra meditation, in the form of simply focusing the attention in between the eyebrows, is safe.

  • Hi Kayla,
    Thank you for the encouraging words and loving energy!
    I liked what you are doing with your blog. Meditation challenges is something I always had in mind to start.

  • Erik

    Great blog! It made me really interested into meditation.
    I was thinking to either start Loving-Kindness or Mindfulness, but I´m not sure which one would help me more to create better relationships with friends and people in general ( atm I´m a more shy person, especially when there are a lot of people or when I don´t know them).

    • Hey Eric! Thanks for stopping by.
      In that case I think Loving-Kindness would probably be a good start. Once you start developing it strongly in your mind, people will be able to sense how friendly and caring you are, even without you speaking much.
      And then mindfulness can help you become more aware of the feelings of shyness and how they are felt in your body and mind. This tends to decrease their power over you. You may also discover what exactly is behind the shyness (often fear of rejection).

  • Great that you enjoyed!
    Let me know how your new meditations go! I’m always seeking to learn how different people experience different techniques.

  • Ming Yuan

    Can you recommend some resources of binaural Beats?

  • Sunil

    Hi, which is the best mediation for get increase the focus and discipline in life ?

  • Sunil

    Hi, which is the best meditation to increase focus and discipline in life ? ( Sorry for the typo errors in the earlier question)

  • listening binauaral beats is really help full for meditation.

    396 Hz Root Chakra – Liberating Guilt and Fear
    417 Hz Sacral Chakra – Undoing Situations and Facilitating Change
    528 Hz Solar Plexus – Transformation and Miracles (DNA Repair)
    639 Hz Heart Chakra – Connecting/Relationships
    741 Hz Throat Chakra – Awakening Intuition
    852 Hz Third Eye Chakra – Returning to Spiritual Order
    936 Hz Crown Chakra – Solfeggio Higher Frequency

    and for how many time to hear the sounds or beats

    • I experimented with binaural beats a while ago. I felt they help calm the mind and bring a state of relaxation. I am not confident they can help you really go deep in meditation, or develop the mental skills that result from meditation.

    • Thank you for the prompt reply

  • Wonderful article on meditation

  • I have never heard of focusing on the brain as a meditation practice. There is one tantric practice in the Vijnanabhairava Tantra that suggests placing the attention inside the skull – but that is something else.
    In any case, focusing on the breath is a more common technique, and probably easier for beginners too.

  • Qasim Asad

    Firstly I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation for writing such an insightful article summarising the various forms of meditation.

    My question is predicated on my experience so that is what I shall speak of first.
    Thus far I would say I’ve been meditating for over a year, however I have had to learn myself and correct my practise over time. I started with what could only be equated with “zazen”, pure focus on the sensation of breath. I noticed however that open/close eyed meditation effects the result of my meditation. With eyes open I reach a state of no thought, literally, thoughtless…which is not a positive stage to be in. However after eyes closed meditation session I seem to be more engrossed into my experience, which is a great feeling as everything is that much more enhanced in terms of experience, however i find it difficult again to generate new thoughts on a particular matter. For example I used to write a lot and as of recent have developed a desire to write again on various political matters. However when I reflect on the subject matter at hand I find it difficult to generate unique perspectives like I am able to when I am off my meditation practise.

    My question is where you or anyone else has also experienced this? Where you are not able to generate deep analytical inferences on reality because you’re, maybe, “too much” into the present moment?

    If anyone could help me please comment as I find the meditation practice, in particular (which I have tried, and want to make a regular routine) observing the stomach rising and falling with my eyes closed very beneficial to fight stress and anxiety (which I have a lot of I.e. Racing thoughts etc). However I would like to have the added benefit of being able to think deeply about a reality I focus on, which is supposed to be a by product of meditation anyway right?

    Lastly, I think because I have a very addictive personality, in the sense when I do something I pursue it incessantly, is it the case I’m meditating too much? What would be an adequate time? Or is it simply the case my meditation practise is all wrong? Am observing too hard??

    Any help would be greatly appreciated as I believe this practise could potentially, as it has in many cases, help me in my life for the better, for life.

    Sorry for the long text,

    Qasim

    • Hi Qasim,

      From your description I wouldn’t say you are practicing wrong. But let me ask: when you focus deeply in the movement of the abdomen, does that movement gets more and more clear and refined, or do you eventually “forget” about it?

      In my experience going deep in meditation has never disabled me from deeply thinking about certain matters. If anything, I feel it makes my thinking more clear, unique, and intuitive. However, right after meditation I feel uninclined to think, for a while. But I can still easily force myself to do it, if the situation calls for it.

      As to time to be devoted to practice, it really depends on you. I practice around 1.5 hours a day. I would say that as long as your practice is not negatively impacting the time needed for family and work, do it as much as you like!

      Finally, as to the question of “am I concentrating too hard”: if you are, you would feel a certain heat in your body or your brain, or some internal stress and tension. If you are not feeling these, your concentration is probably balanced. The right type of concentration is one-pointed and yet gentle.

  • SWAGGY.ANG

    i wan to earn psychic ability which one should i do

    • For that the core skill is to develop Samadhi, or perfect concentration. So any Focused Attention meditation will do for that sake.
      You need to develop the ability to keep your mind 100% focused, without distraction, on a single object for a prolonged period of that. From that on, developing psychic abilities either happens spontaneously, or with a little of directed effort.

    • SWAGGY.ANG

      Oh thank you very much

    • MindYogi

      Dzogchen.

  • SWAGGY.ANG

    Does doing third eye meditation will awake my third eye ?

    • I’m not sure what you mean by that, as the term can mean many things. However, third eye meditation is a standard Yogic method, and a very good meditation.

    • MindYogi

      That is just a illusion, just a little spicy one.

  • very interesting topics, these don’t necessarily have to awaken some “mystical third eye” they are done to awaken the frontal lobe of the brain which is the logic center of the mind.

    Thank you for this wealth of knowledge!!!

  • Michael

    There is another method, it’s called ACEM-Meditation. It comes from Norway. It’s helpful for stress relief and personal psychological issues. Technique: You become a syllable-sound (has no meaning, pre-logical), which you repeat volitional in a free mental attitude. You start with 2x30min. or one 45 min. session a day and at a retreat you can intensify the practice and get help in a guidance group. The organistaion is non-profit. I practice ACEM since 10 years with very good results. For detailed info: http://www.acem.com

  • bmuze

    Thank you for this very helpful article! I recently completed the 10-day Vipassana course and felt bad after the AT told me that as I was mixing techniques, I was not really giving Vipassana a fair trial. I didn’t realize that my yoga practice and dabblings in other techniques had influenced my habits so much since I considered this my first serious foray into pure meditation. In any case, I hope to narrow down the options and eventually find a practice that I can maintain and develop. The information here is great!

    • Yes, this is bound to happen for a while when we move from one technique to another. Hope you soon find the one that works for you, and go deep in it.
      Vipassana, as it is widely practiced in the West, is considerably different from most other meditation techniques.

  • TrillianNL

    Thank you for this really well-written and informative post!

    There is currently an offer for Pranic Healing Meditation in my area via Groupon, and I was wondering what kind of mediation that was. Unfortunately the website of the organisation is very vague and doesn’t really give any good answers. The “inventor” is called Choa Kok Sui and the main meditation style is apparently called Twin Hearts Meditation.

    Do you know anything about this type of meditation?

    • Hi Trillian,
      No, I haven’t heard of this method or this person.
      Having said that, I’m usually very skeptical about “modern” types of meditation, especially ones with brandable or fancy names.

  • JCJC777

    Giovanni superb article, thank you.

    The method I would add is silent mind (maybe close to the methods you describe as emptiness meditation) as in Silence Your Mind, Ramesh Manocha

  • Graham Whitley

    Thanks for the run down. I want to give props to Smile to your Heart Meditation aka Open Heart Meditation as it is another amazing practice which helps one become more in touch with their Heart, living from the Heart, using the Heart to make important decisions rather than the mind. A centeral component here is the universal, nondenominational Open Heart Meditation. Unlike “mindful” meditation practices, the Open Heart Meditation is purely experiential and is centered on gentle, heart-based “feeling” rather than on brain-oriented visualizations or breathing techniques. find out more http://www.openheartmeditation.org/open_heart_meditation.do

  • Tony Felscher

    Giovanni,

    First off I want to say thank you for such a great
    article. I was trying to find a way to discuss some meditation
    techniques with a friend who has never meditated before and I was able
    to send her here. I have been using mostly point focused techniques for a
    good part of my life, and have recently moved into free thought (Mindful meditation). I have been interested in using binauaral beats
    recently but I wanted to ask someone’s opinion on weather they truly
    help with focus or not. Also, can they be used with any benefit as a
    point to focus on or do they tend to work better just as background
    noise?

    • Hi Tony,

      I made some experiments with a couple of binaural beats. I find they can be helpful for beginners wishing to have an initial taste of a quieter mind. But not really for going deep in meditation.

      Eventually, you need to drop all walking sticks and be able to walk on your own, without external stimuli. But they can serve as a start.

  • awakeconbal

    Nice information i have read many new things thanks for sharing

  • MarkS

    Great article, but sad to see no mention of standing meditation, lying or walking meditation (or sexual, but that is a bit esoteric) in the daoist section. Otherwise great!

  • Sunil Singh

    Hello Giovanni,
    Its a very nice and informative website on meditation. I practice breathe awareness meditation and the developments I have achieved so far has brought me here to know more. After going through the information available
    My concern is why there are so many types when all leads to one goal (knowing ourselves). Also I need your guidance on vipassana and chakra meditation and how they are similar/different to each other.

    Thanks
    Sunil

    • Hi Sunil,
      Different groups of contemplatives developed different techniques. The diversity in temperaments and levels of development makes it needed to have different practices for different people.

      Vipassana and Chakra meditation are very different. Vipassana (which is different than concentration on the breath, Samatha) is more of a open monitoring practice, while Chakra meditation is a focused attention practice (like most of the techniques in this article). In Chakra meditation you place all your attention in the chakra (the space between the eyebrows, for example), to the exclusion of all else.

    • Sunil Singh

      Hello Giovanni,
      Thanks a lot for replying. After reading your reply I am a bit eager to know more about my meditation practice. 2-3 months back it all started with a quote I read ” Why is so much suffering in the world “.

      I read some books and started meditation counting the breathe as it was a ready tool for me to focus and in between two breathe I try to concentrate space between my eyebrows. I found lot of changes in me after I started practicing meditation and some experiences which I want to share with you and know about them:
      I sit for 30-45 minutes in the night, I do some breathing exercises to relax before I meditate. After time passes I feel like my body is swirling ( moving in circular motion). What is this and what to do as most of the time my attention is diverted to the motion. I feel pain and itching anywhere in body very frequent during my practice.

      I am noting some kind of pressure in space between the eyebrows for the last few days, is it healthy? Sometimes I can feel it even when I am reading or watching television and not meditating.

      Please guide me to know whether my practice is in right direction and how to move forward.

      Warm Regards
      Sunil

    • As to the swirling, just make sure you keep your body moveless. If there is a sensation of swirling even so, that is ok, just let it be there.

      As to the pressure in the space between the eyebrows, that is very normal when doing chakra meditation on this spot. I see it as a good sign.

    • Sunil Singh

      Hello Giovanni,
      For the last couple of days while meditation I am feeling very intense swaying/oscillating of my body. Yesterday I was watching TV with my family and all of sudden my body started to sway though I was not meditating.
      Just wanted to know is it normal to have these swaying? Also I feel lot of pain in and around my spinal chord at various points in my back.
      Thanks and Regards
      Sunil Singh

    • Sounds like kundalini rising stuff. I’d recommend you look for advise with Kundalini specialists (not me).

    • siddharth

      you need to change to a different type of meditation.suitable type of meditation done in a proper manner would result into relaxation of the mind and the body and creation of tremendous energy within,but would not result into any sort of pain.
      ultimately the mind would be transformed into a condition of “AMAN” that is a state of “no mind”.

  • John Wong

    Giovanni, you did not mention anything about Sahaja Yoga meditation. Would you share your views on this school of technique ?

    • I have tried it once. I didn’t include it because I don’t feel it contains elements that are not found in the other techniques exposed here, and also because it’s a newer technique, not a traditional and time tested one.

  • alex

    Great websight!

  • Garima Patil

    Nice and Very Informative Post it is… I Like this Post…. Thanks for Sharing this Post with us….

    Ajna Chakra

  • dmhhr

    what category is it when meditation relates with nature for example landscape?

    • What do you mean? Can you explain the technique?

    • dmhhr

      have you heard about meditation landscape? like most japanese architects design their landscape for meditation use… the technique mostly just by applying nature’s environment, without any mantra…

    • So that is not really a meditation practice, but spending time in a meditative environment (which is also beneficial, no doubt).

    • dmhhr

      thanks a lot sir!

    • jaksic

      hello i am 18 years old and i will have to go to some univesity and i have few problems who will be easyer to solve with healthy mind and body and i see medition as one of solution to that, so can you recommed me some method ?

    • You can try focusing on the breath, or on a mantra, or on the space between the eyebrows. Check here for a general intro: http://liveanddare.com/what-is-meditation

  • rgpalma

    Hey Giovanni, what do you know about healing frequencies, like ADN repair to name one?

  • EyesOfTheLion 11

    Hey Giovanni, What is the difference between Vipassana and Mindfulness meditation?? As I understand they’re both very similar – as in Mindfulness was derived from Vipassana??

    • Yes, the modern mindfulness movement is a derivation of one of the ways of doing Vipassana.
      Nowadays, when you hear mindfulness, though, in most circles it refers to a secular approach, while “Vipassana” usually carries elements of Buddhist philosophy and goals with it.

  • Nick Mavrikis

    Great stuff, I’m suffering from OCD,depression,anxiety.I got alot of stiffness all over my body,lots of pains,structual problems,also racing thoughts and more.I was thinking of trying mindfullness meditation or third eye.Which one would you suggest?

    • Hi Nick,

      Meditation can help you manage these better, no doubt.

      As to which technique to practice, I would suggest concentrating on the breath, on a mantra, or on the third eye. Also you could try loving kindness. Any of these four would do.

      Try and see what suits you best.

  • Alexander Wortham

    What a long and informative post! Thank you!

  • Eva

    Hi,
    I’ve tried guided Kundalini yoga via Youtube and wonder why you recommend to only practise this form of yoga with a teacher? I’ve only tried one specific session with a lot of focus/excercises for the back and shoulders, so maybe there are different kinds of this type of yoga?
    Thank you for a really interesting article!

    • There are indeed different types, and many things that are called “Kundalini meditation” are not the traditional, hardcore one that I meant in this article. In most cases it should be fine.

  • Chasen Gersh

    Hello Giovanni,

    • Hi Chasen,
      For these purposes I think you will probably enjoy Vipassana and Loving-Kindness (metta).

  • Shy

    Hi Giovanni,

    Thank you for the wonderful article! However, I’m still troubled with the type of meditation which is best for me. I’ve practiced mindfulness meditation on and off for a while now, but I’m looking for something a little deeper. My personal goal with meditation is to began a spiritual journey, awaken my inner energies and develop some kind of self-realization (or inner peace/ inner consciousness). I’ve been considering Kriya Yoga, however, I’m a little hesitate because of the religious aspect (I’m agnostic). I practice Iyengar Yoga daily and am beginning to incorporate Pranayama into my practice. I plan to begin reading The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali soon also… Which meditation method would you recommend?

  • Kelley Neumann

    Hi Giovanni! Thanks so much for the article and all your research! I thought I would contribute that I learned TM 15 years ago and still love it. It’s helpful to clarify the difference between people that only learn the initial TM practice and do not keep moving forward with it, versus people that learn the advanced Sidhis/Yogic Flying, other techniques, and try the long practice in the group setting. My meditation practice has evolved and deepened so much over the years, and I know I have more to go! 🙂 Way to go and blessings with the deep practice that you have also done over the years!

    • Unfortunately I heard from some people that stayed long inside the TMO that the advanced programs are just a waste of time/money.

      I’m glad to hear it has been helpful in your case.

    • Kelley Neumann

      I guess everyone has their own experience. Yes, I LOVED the Sidhis and Yogic Flying advanced programs. I meditated for 7 hours a day, 7 days a week, for a year and a half as a part of their Invincible America program. It completely changed me and my life. So beautiful! I’m eternally grateful.

  • siddharth

    mantra meditation some corrections–
    in meditation one does not focus the mind, if you do so meditation would just be another activity of the mind. samadhi or spiritual realization can not be achieved by mental effort. reciting a mantra is not part of your thought process and it does not strain the mind, on the contrary all thoughts whether good or bad,stop entering the mind and with more and more practice (reciting the mantra silently) you gradually progress towards a mind which is having a state of nothingness or thoughtlessness.

    the continuous practice would help you in getting rid from your mind the turmoil that is created due to constant presence of conflicting ,stray and irrelevant ,necessary and unnecessary thoughts (this is indeed the sickness of mind),good or bad,without outward mental effort or suppression of the mind.

    • The idea that focusing the mind is not meditation, and that meditation is “effortless”, is not correct.

      Read more about it here: http://liveanddare.com/myths-about-meditation/#8220Meditation_is_effortless8221

    • Kent Brosveen

      Two Mahayana texts on meditation. Both are succinct and understandable. Both are acknowledged classics. In concert with each other they provide a core understanding of Mahayana
      philosophical principles and meditation methods. Given the historical age of these books it is amazing how clear and easy to understand they both are. Be careful to read the books themselves and not all the introductions and commentaries until you have your own understanding then you can read the supplemental material if you like.
      The Awakening of Faith attributed to Asvagosha Translated by: D.T. Suzuki – Dover Press
      Yoshito Hakeda – Columbia University Press
      The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation by Padma-Sambhva – W.Y. Evans-Wentz
      Oxford University Press

  • But

    Lol

  • Lasse

    Much appreciated!

  • Rohan

    I tend to think to much. When doing a work or driving or study , I still tend to think. Something is going on in my mind. Which meditation will be helpful.
    I’m doing Vipassana but I’m not able to go into alpha state like I used to go 4years earlier. It’s effect is like only 40%.

  • When I was a kid, I was introduced to guided meditation and later learned mantra meditation. Now that I am working, it’s very difficult to do it as there are a lot of mental distraction. Would it be advisable to practice before going to sleep at night?

    • Early in the morning is better. But if you cannot do that, then before sleeping also works (that’s how I started)

    • Thank you for the quick answer.I really appreciate it.

  • Zuko

    Do you happen to know where to concentrate my focus in mantra meditation
    while inhaling? My breath? I chant the mantra while exhaling. Thank you.

    • You can sync the mantra with the breathing, like at every exhalation, or you can do it independently of the breathing. What I personally found best results doing is just repeating the mantra regardless of the breath, and allowing the mantra to find its own rhythm in my mind.

    • Zuko

      Syncing mantra with breath at every exhalation is exactly what I have done. But where to focus while inhaling? I will try that independent of breath thing.

    • If you are syncing with the breath, it is usually always on exhaling.

  • Shivam Gaur

    I have attended three ten day Vipassana shivirs and I am quiet established in the technique. At this stage of life, my main motive is to increase concentration and performance of mind. Spiritual development is secondary. Does vipassana also give all the benefits Anapanasati or should I just practice Anapanasati?

    • Depends on the type of Vipassana. If it is more the body scanning or open monitoring type, it works on different parts of the brain than concentration meditation does. Anapanasati is a type of concentration meditation.

    • Shivam Gaur

      It was Goenka’s vipassana shivir. It was body scanning of the sensations

  • R

    Is there a particular meditation for Maladaptive Daydreaming ?

    • Nothing specifically comes to mind. But any concentration meditation in general should help with that.

  • Revivor

    Thank you for your article, very informative. I do not see any reference to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s “group” Art of Living. In a few days there will be a gathering with him of over 3.5 MILLION folks. You did mention this type of meditation, but not the group. Any comments?

    • Hi Revivor,

      As much as possible, I tried making this article about the different techniques, not the groups or organizations behind them.

  • Vv Vv

    Hi Giovanni, Thanks for this invaluable and extensive list you researched and posted. There is also a heart based meditation which is worth including in this list. It is called Heartfulness meditation which is practiced in more than 120 countries. This is a kind of Raja Yoga. The unique and very effective part of this meditation system is transmission and cleaning which helps the seeker to go deep in meditation.

    • Yes, I am aware of this type of meditation – and it has similarities with the type I myself practice.

      There are so many different types of meditation, and in no way I can mention all of them. But when I update this post later on I’ll add it.

  • Amit Kumar

    Hello Giovaani , thanks a lot for sharing such beatiful techniques aat one place.
    There two aspects of meditaion one is to improve attention and stress free life, another is spiritual enlivenment, i wanna know which is the technique which is more suited for the people who wanna spiritually higher

    • Hi Amit,
      Many of these in the list would suit you.
      I would personally recommend you to try focused attention meditations.

  • kaushalendra

    Pranam Giovanni ji, It’s really very enlightening article. Thanks a lot for such a great efforts. All types of meditation are best in their own way. I wanted to ask which one types of Meditation you have tried and presently persuing. I would strongly recommend you to try Heartfulness Meditation (www.heartfulness.org, http://www.sahajmarg.org) and experience its completely new and unique features of Yogic Transmission and Cleaning. Kindly include Heartfulness Meditation also in your already so well reached and researched list about types of meditation.Thank You.Kaushalendra Pratap here.

    • Next month I’m publishing a post with several “meditation experiments” that I did, and which techniques I tried.

      I’m familiar with Heartfulness meditation. It is a Raja Yoga practice, very similar to my own. You are the third person from this group to comment on this post, lol…

  • Gary R. Smith

    May I post links to this and your article on the benefits of meditation at my new Whole Human web site?

  • Yes you can. Thank you!

    • Gary R. Smith

      Thank you for your response, Giovannia. I posted links, but could not post the PDFs for download as it said it would be a copyright violation. I am good with the links only, but if you can give me the PDFs without the copyright lock, I would also make them available as downloads. The links are at – http://www.wholehuman.emanatepresence.com/meditative-life.html – underneath the surveys. That page is the least text-intensive, it is an intro paragraph, surveys, and the two links for now. I have to feel it further to write more. If you care to visit, honest feedback about the site is always appreciated.

    • If people want the PDF they can click your link to my site and download it here. That’s better.

      Unfortunately at the moment I’m too busy to give you feedback.

  • Hello, let me place your article on my website in Russian, I’ll do the translation, but will point out the author and a link to your original article.

  • Amit

    hii Gio , which meditation technique u rate the highest?

  • Bodhi Walker

    Hi Giovanni,
    I enjoyed reading this website and its is very informative, however I am amazed that you have almost included all the meditations except for meditation techniques introduced by Osho. Like the very powerful Dynamic meditation, Kundalini meditation, etc. Osho has introduced so many meditations. As well you seem to be completely uninformed of his work and his comments on various religious texts as you have included none in books section of your page. Have you intently chosen to ignore Osho or that you are just not aware of his work.

    • Hi Bodhi,

      The reasons why I don’t include any Osho meditations on this page are two: (1) this is all about traditional forms of meditation; (2) this is about seated meditation, while the ones you mentioned from Osho are dynamic.

      As to why I don’t include any books from him in my books recommendation page (http://liveanddare.com/spiritual-books/)… I had my “Osho-phase” in my journey, and Osho’s books did help me a lot at point in my search.

      However, as I moved forward, I got to know of other types of material that I feel are more beneficial. I also got to know, from trusted sources, many things about Osho’s life and teachings that is not congruent to the vision and practice of spirituality I wish to promote. If you wish to know more details, you can contact me in private.

  • Gypsy

    Thank you for this article full of interesting and usefull information.
    To everybody who wish to enter into meditation world I would advise the book “Search inside yourself” od Cheng Meng Tan (sorry if misspelled). It’s written in a humrostic style, very easy and light to read but full of interesting facts about the influence of meditation on our brain and of simple instructions how to start.

  • HC

    Hi Giovanni,
    Thank you for all the great information you share on your site. Would you consider the Hawaiian healing technique of Ho’oponopono to be a form of mantra meditation? The description you provide for mantra meditation accurately fits many aspects of the practice of ho’oponopono.

    • I haven’t read much about that, but its quite possible that yes.

    • Ranjeet

      What is the role of mantra’s in meditation?

    • It’s one of the objects you can use for meditation.

    • Ranjeet

      Thanks Giovanni

  • Didianna

    I just mention Ananda Marga meditation. We have six lessons, each of them are very different. We use mantras and dance kiirtan. I just wrote one article, may be you want to see; http://beforeitsnews.com/spirit/2016/04/god-is-one-names-are-many-whom-to-follow-2501432.html

  • Andreas Krasser

    once again , fantastic post. I got a bit curious about what you wrote about guided meditation and that it usually involves music, it wasnt stated on the other ones. Does this mean when trying zazen or mindfullness meditation (which are the ones i mostly do) that its better not using music? Personally i use simple instrumental music like kasa Lord, when i am focusing on my breath. It feels like its easier to concentrate whith it. But is this something i should try to remove when i get deeper into my meditation?

  • aefwon

    Any clue about Isha yoga?

    • I don’t know that much about it, since it’s a closed (payed) system. But from what I gather, their technique is a type of yogic meditation.

    • Aaron J

      Its part of Tantra, where you worship a deity and take its form in your visualization. Even while praying and offering yourself to deity you are a deity. Mahayana Buddhism has a tantra path that talks about this.

  • fionnuala

    this is wonderful, thank you so very much, there is another meditation I do myself it is meditation with crystal stones I do a grid surrounding myself with selenite and a main generator in the center this depends on what I need to heal amethyst or carnelian to be more grounded but in general a pure crystal quartz generator. It really is very exhilarating afters. I have now subscribed to you!

  • Rajneesh Mann

    sir which meditation is best for achieving self enlightenment effectively……….

    • Aaron J

      compassion to yourself and other is the first step. If you have resources and time then follow Ashtanga yoga Path or Tantra Path.

  • Prasad

    Vihangam Yoga is the most ancient meditation technique. Where they start with teaching, If you want to control a pet you need to know where is your pet likewise if you want to control your mind, you need to know where does mind reside. Without knowing where does mind reside, it is impossible to control.

    • So where does the mind reside?
      So many traditions don’t speak of that, and yet they also lead to mind mastery. At the end of the day, mind will reside at the point of your concentration. For example, if you focus the mind on the breathing, or on a chakra, the mind will be fully there, and there alone.

    • Aaron J

      Hi, mind resides(deluded/engaged) in its objects of sense engagements (The 6 senses {seeing, smelling, touch, taste, thought, sounds} and grasps constantly at phenomena. The object of senses are eyes, nose, skin, tongue, head/speech, ears. Mind the all knowing lends its knowing nature to a sense object and through it labels everything. Mahayana Text (Golden Light Sutra Chapter 6 Talks about it in a simple manner) You can google it. [P.S most likely chapter 6] The chapter on Emptiness.

  • Really enjoyed this article, it is not often you get someone writing about all the subtleties and variations. I come at it from a Hermetic perspective which is similar to Mouni Sadhus approach. First and foremost concentration and training of attention…I write about that here: http://www.dawnoftruth.com/meditation-learn-how-to-meditate/

    Has anyone managed to raise kundalini with any of the methods mentioned?

  • Brilliant lucid article Giovanni – you really break down a very dense subject into it’s digestible components.

    My intention in meditation is always the development of focus as I consider this a theme that most of the meditations contain – bar a few of the yogic ones which seem to concentrate on awakening inner energy.

    Dare I ask – which of these do you consider the best?

    Lastly there is a mediation technique that I chanced upon in the works of Carl Jung which is not mentioned here. It is about focusing on your dreams to figure out what they mean. I found it so useful – in an artistic sense- that I wrote an article on it, which you can find here: http://www.steafanfox.com/how-to-use-carl-jungs-dream-meditation-technique/

  • Aranno Nirjhar

    Thank you Giovanni for Brilliant article . Shanty Method, its a scientific meditation system launched by a Bangladeshi meditation teacher. welcome to Shanty Method at Dhaka.

  • Larry

    This is the best article ever found regarding mediation. Really thank for this!!

  • Pradeep

    Thank you for sharing meditation things —Greeting from india 🙂

  • Venkatesh Mishra

    thanks for the awesome article

  • This list was exhaustive. I am sure initially there were only few which over a period have been modified by different countries, religions etc.Thank you for this list.

  • Mark Joel

    This is very good post ! What are the types of meditation? What are the benefits of meditation ? Modern techniques of meditation are also explained here, so this is very nice post for all of us. Thanks so much for this great blog !!

  • Nick

    Giovanni fantastic article! Very comprehensive. I have a question for you. Currently I am practicing Zazen meditation and a bit of a Vendetic mantra meditation. A friend said it is counterproductive to practice two types of meditation at the same time, what do you think of this? Is there any two types of meditation in your opinion work better together? I know some meditations on a physiological level raise cortisol and most decrease cortisol. (Stress hormone.) Do you think it would be beneficial to mix two types that work on different systems? Thanks in advance, great blog post!

    • Hi Nick,
      In general it is better to stick with one practice, so you can go deeper. Having said that, I think it’s ok to have two parallel practices for some months, while you experiment and figure out what works for you.

  • Rajiv Kapoor

    Thanks for a wonderful article. To take it further , their are certain meditations wherein initiation by a Guru or his nominated is kind of a must. Like Sahaj Marg. Few others by Guru s like Dr Pillai, Sadguru jaggi etc, Sahaj yoga etc. ( countless in India). Some of the initiation is for inner cleasing prior to meditation. What is your view on role of initiation in meditation practices with peace of mind and spiritual growth and self realisation as a goal.

    • In this website I present meditation as a non-sectarian practice, in a way that both secular-minded people and spiritual-minded people can relate to. The question of formal initiation by a guru into a technique doesn’t really fit these purposes.

      From my personal perspective, however, I believe that such initiation can make the person be able to follow the technique in a more effective way. But it’s only relevant for few people. Everyone else can benefit from meditation regardless.

  • Caroline

    Hi Giovanni, thank you for the valuable information. I’ve recently come across the negative/adverse effects of meditation, claims that meditation is suitable to mentally healthy people and that it should be practiced in moderation. What are your thoughts?

    • Hi Caroline,

      There are very little research on the negative effects of meditation. From what I’ve read, my impression is that these happen mostly if meditation is strongly coupled with certain spiritual goals, and the person doesn’t have a the proper guidance and support along the way. Or if one is trying to raise the kundalini.

      Saying that meditation should be practiced only by mentally healthy people doesn’t make sense. There is a huge amount of research showing that meditation helps with anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

      If the person is just practicing meditation up to 30min a day, it should be fine.

      However, as with everything, start slow and observe what’s happening. If you consistently experience negative side effects, then try changing the meditation technique, or talk to a meditation teacher, or a therapists that is also a practitioner.

  • inessence

    You have put together a very good post. I have been studying and practicing Christian meditation for about 40 years. From that pursuit, I would suggest that you look at St. Catherine of Sienna “The Dialogue”. In her book, she starts every prayer with a “desire” of God which you cover somewhat, but in her case, it much more of an active exercise. In my own practice, I have changed this to “virtue”. So, in my view, I see that hope (wanting) and belief (expectation) to be a fundamental of the meditative practice. I also use a number of other things, but it is the practice (lack of) of hoping and believing that is limiting the experience for many, in my opinion.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these practices, and enriching our dialog!
      In my experience, skillful “wanting” is in a way very needed for meditation to deepen.

  • iakob

    Hi Giocanni!
    Thank you very much for such a wonderful contribution!

    I would like to ask you two things:
    Can you tell me reference book or encyclopedia where meditation techniques will be discussed (like you provided)?
    Also, what do you think about 1,2,3 month programs? and which programs would you suggest?

    Thanks a lot in advance! 🙂

  • David D. Stanton

    Left out Kabbalistic/Jewish Meditation. (Been practicing Meditation since 1981 and practice a custom blend between many styles. )

    • Jewish meditation is on my list to add, once I get the time.

    • David D. Stanton

      Great to hear. Nice to see your site and fellow kindred. Fully understand about time constraints. It hits us all.

      Dave

  • Dave

    Great to see a more comprehensive meditation list along with instructions with some guidelines as to whether it favors the reader. In the interest of self help and personal development any one would present advantages with practice. Rather than wade through the meditation weeds lets organize these practices based on scientific brain research and for your reference: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810010000097 ie. focused awareness, open monitoring and automatic self transcendence.

    I’ve tried most of the above techniques and another way I organize them is as follows:
    1. Mood making : manipulating thoughts to create specific experiences or feelings ex. visualization, metta, recalling past accomplishments, etc. This has advantages beyond simply creating a transitory experience but not likely to move one very far down the spiritual path.

    2. Altered states of consciousness (ASCs) : direct or indirect manipulation of the nervous system (includes the brain) resulting in a variety of effects. Examples: runners high, dizzy from spinning, drugs, sleep, most meditation forms (focused and open monitoring (note even this form includes some focusing).
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altered_state_of_consciousness.
    Unless there are proven examples of anyone using one of the specific practices having attained enlightenment (universal bliss consciousness) then remain skeptical as to how far down the path may be the result. Yogananda has said ‘whereas the mortal man is conscious throughout his body the enlightened man is conscious throughout the universe’.

    3. Samadhi-oriented practices : allowing the mind to transcend in the direction into greater fields of joy through the four levels and the last is merging into Being or Pure consciousness. Examples include: Buddhist monk ‘ajahn brahm’ using breath to transcend, TM (MMY), Siddha Yoga by Swami Muktananda, Kriya Yoga by Yoganada, Sai Baba, etc. Note: using contemporary mystics most of which except the first is enlightened (last I checked)- proof of practice. Ramana may have been highly evolved so his practice was effective but difficult to see how his practice results in levels of samadhi?

    Bottom line: water the root to enjoy the fruit based on using the model of body – basis of which is the mind and in turn is rooted in Being or Pure consciousness. So to make the fastest progress down the path these practices will allow the entire individual to grow (just like accessing the root results in wholistic development of the tree). To get the biggest bang for your meditation minute and wholistic growth then suggest Samadhi-oriented practices. Many practices focus on developing one or a few aspects of oneself which is ok if that is all that is wanted at the time. However it is very time consuming and limited development can be expected as compared to applying the third category. For those who don’t believe in levels of the mind then I would say remember we live in a quantum mechanical universe meaning levels of reality (molecular, atomic, quarks, etc.) which includes the nervous system as part of nature. Another example being you dream at the subconscious level (different rules apply) and the unconscious level (deep sleep – void reality).

    Thanks Giovanni!
    Dave

  • Raj

    Awesome information. Thanks for sharing. I have 2 comments.

    1) I felt all major parts of the world were covered here except the islamic world. Saw in Wikipedia, they had something called ‘sufism’, may not be as sophisticated as the eastern forms though.

    2) I think there is no doubt that meditation should be part of our daily life just as any physical exercise. And I think the best age to intervene this practice should be the start of the maturity i.e. during puberty (maybe towards the end of it). Because before that period, a child’s development (both physical and mental) is natural in itself & need not be interfered with special exercise. Would you agree ?

    • Hi Raj,

      Indeed, it’s in my list to add Sufi and Jewish meditations to this post.
      I don’t see teaching meditation to kids as an interference in their natural develop. Quite the contrary, I see it as enhancing it.

  • Mark

    I have already known various types of meditation but after reading this post i have gained more knowledge for different other types of mediation that I didn’t know. We all know that mediation has many benefits. It also helps us do our work properly. Lama Surya Das says that meditation reduces stress and depression and makes our mind peaceful. It develops our concentration, clarity and memory. I think doing regular meditation definitely changes our daily life.

  • Tamy

    Great post. I really appreciate the great content that you provided in this post. I read some of the other comments and I will also love to know more about Sufism. I have tried to find out about it but not with much luck. In my personal practice I like to do different meditations. Mindfulness, Buddhist and Yoga. Thanks for creating a blog with amazing content.

  • Ankit Gohil

    Thank you for sharing different styles of meditations. I have some queries which are as follows,
    “What is ultimate goal of spiritual meditation? And does all styles reaches to that same goal? if not then…which one is best and relevant to current age?”
    I read your 57 scientific benefits of meditations. All benefits seemed like temporary relief from suffering but not permanent solution. What is use of meditation if it cannot give permanent solution. Temporary result can also be obtained by conventional medicines. Meditations has to have permanent solution.

    • There are also many permanent changes that happens as a result of serious and regular meditation practice. I can speak from experience on that one.

      If you are looking for spiritual experiences or development, you should choose a meditation technique that matches what you are looking for. Not all of them will result in the same thing – but there are many common elements.

      In general, I’d suggest you start with either breathing awareness, mantra meditation or chakra meditation.

  • Parth

    Today people take up meditation to become free from material problems, but this universe is so designed that these solutions never come. Then what is real Goal of meditation?
    Goal of Meditation is not material but spiritual which is clearly described in Vedic literature. Below I have mentioned some quotations from Vedic Scriptures mentioning highest form of meditation.

    “The meditational activities a man performs according to his own position are only so much useless labor if they do not provoke attraction for the message of the Personality of Godhead.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.8)

    “Simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord, one advances perfectly in spiritual life. This is the best process for success in life in current age of quarrel and hypocrisy.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 12.3.51)

    “In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, the only means of deliverance is the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.” (Padama Puran)

    All names of God are equally potent. Therefore, even if one is able to perform other processes, one must adopt the chanting of the holy name of God as the principal method of advancing in spiritual life. All bonafide religion emphasizes importance of chanting Holy name of God for spiritual advancement.

  • Alex Crowe

    Outstanding article! I found it while researching an article of my own, but will share yours instead. Many thanks.

  • Jody Ahlih

    I’m looking at the nature of thinking whilst walking, and some of the torment that the thinking generates in the walk. I’ve only just become aware of the nature of the torment it generates and for how many years this subtle dis-ease has been present. But I figured because there has been so many years of it, I’m rich in study material, I never asked for it, I’ve got all the riches of this torment for free. It invites it’s self even when it’s not welcome. Therefore I’m seeking a way to bring qi qong meditation into the walk to see if it eases this cycle of commentary torment, or if this is at all possible. Because it has a very strange sensation to it when I put the spot light of focus or awareness on it, but not the riveting discourse it generates for me to believe in and at the same time torment me with it. I’ve got my eye on this whole situation, process, what ever it is, and I’m going to get it. It’s gone on long enough, and it’s not going to torment me any longer.

  • Pandava Ang

    Hi , I m not an English native speaker , forgive me for bad English . I am looking for meditation that can develop supernatural power , such as clairvoyance , remote viewing and so on . Is mindfulness meditation the best choice for me ?

  • Marios Chetas

    Hi. I would like to know what type of meditation is the best to reduce anxiety and increase concentration at the same time. I’m thinking mantra or zen but i would like to have an advice from a professional. Thank you in advance!

    • Marios, any meditation of the type “focused attention” will give you those two benefits. Mantra meditation or breathing awareness meditation are good options for that purpose.

    • Marios Chetas

      Do those options apply for concentration as well? Because you know, its a different issue, focus, attention and concentration…. thank you for your respond anyway!

    • Yes. Focused-attention types of meditation, such as the ones I mention, do increase your power of concentration, and that also benefits your ability to manage anxiety and depression. Concentration meditation increases blood flow to the pre-frontral cortex (responsible for concentration and emotional regulation), and diminishes activity in the amygdala (which is related to experiences of fear and anxiety).

    • Marios Chetas

      Last question: which technique (related to those target) do you recommend for a beginner?

    • Ewald Moor

      Just try some out you are attracted to. And dont give up and stay disciplined. Will help with you anxiety a lot. You can experience much anxiety and other creepy symptoms at first but it will pass after some weeks or so. Keep that in mind. And do research whenever you feel weird about your body. It can be symptoms of spiritual awakening.

  • Christy Punnett

    Brilliant overview of the various styles of meditation practice. My question relates to the initial introduction where you discuss focused or open monitoring and then a third aspect which you gave the name of effortless presence to. To clarify you said – ‘Shikantaza (“just
    sitting”) — in this form the practitioner does not use any specific
    object of meditation; rather, practitioners remain as much as possible
    in the present moment, aware of and observing what passes through their
    minds and around them, without dwelling on anything in particular.
    It’s a type of Effortless Presence meditation.’ My questions is how can this be separated from open monitoring, what would the differences be? It seems the effortless presence you describe is a third stage of meditation, one of the goals so to speak rather than a style. It seems that in many ways these three aspects are stages of developing a deeper meditative practice. Stage one becoming more focused and attentive, stage two allowing the awareness to be more expansive and noting what the mind is drawn to and finally a deeper state of open awareness where the mind is more still and peaceful. In my practice of ‘just sitting’ it is at the 10 to 12 minute mark that the mind almost seems like it ‘drops a gear’ and my attention shifts to a state of more…. well sweetness. Any thoughts?

    • These are actually different styles of meditation, thought they may have some common states down the track.

      Zazen is described different by different teachers. I have found that, depending on the teacher, Zazen/Shikantaza can be classified as a focus attention, open monitoring, or effortless awareness practice.

      But some techniques (like in Dzogchen) are effortless awareness from the beginning. They are usually reserved for people that have already done years of training in the other types of meditation, though.

      In effortless awareness, you just drop everything and pay attention to nothing. In open monitoring, you pay attention to whatever is present in your consciousness, moment after moment.

  • Art Marr

    Presented below is a brief argument that the problem with meditation research is not that is not asking enough questions, but the right questions.

    ———————————
    What Mindfulness Research Neglects

    Mindfulness is defined as non-judgmental or choice-less awareness. Choices in turn may be divided into non-perseverative choices (what to have for breakfast, what route to take to go home, or choices with no dilemmas) and perseverative choices (worries, distractions, and rumination, or mental dilemmas wherein every alternative is bad). All meditative procedures, including mindfulness, avoid both.

    The consistent avoidance of perseverative choice alone represents resting protocols, wherein the neuro-muscular activity is sharply reduced. In other words, when we want to be relaxed we isolate ourselves from distractive and worrisome events and thoughts. These states in turn correlate with increased levels of endogenous opioids or ‘endorphins’ in the brain. The benefits of this are manifest, as the sustained increase of endogenous opioids down regulates opioid receptors, and thus inhibits the salience or reward value of other substances (food, alcohol, drugs) that otherwise increase opioid levels, and therefore reduces cravings, as well as mitigating our sensitivity to pain. Profound relaxation also inhibits muscular tension and its concomitant discomfort. In this way, relaxation causes pleasure, enhances self-control, counteracts and inhibits stress, reduces pain, and provides for a feeling of satisfaction and equanimity that is the hallmark of the so-called meditative state.

    It may be deduced therefore that meditative states are primarily resting states, and that meditative procedures over-prescribe the cognitive operations that may be altered to provide its salutary benefits (that is, you just need to avoid perseverative choices, not all choices), and that meditation as a concept must be redefined.

    Finally, the objective measurement of neuro-muscular activity and its neuro-chemical correlates (long established in the academic literature on resting states) is in general ignored by the academic literature on mindfulness, which is primarily based upon self-reports and neurological measures (fMRI) that cannot account for these facts. The problem with mindfulness research is therefore not theoretical, but empirical, and until it clearly accounts for all relevant observables for brain and body, the concept will never be fully explained.

    More of this argument, including references, below including a link to the first study (published this year) that has discovered the presence of opioid activity due to mindfulness practice, as well as the 1988 Holmes paper which provided the most extensive argument to date that meditation was rest.

    http://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(16)30302-3/abstract

    https://www.scribd.com/doc/284056765/The-Book-of-Rest-The-Odd-Psychology-of-Doing-Nothing

    https://www.scribd.com/document/291558160/Holmes-Meditation-and-Rest-The-American-Psychologist

    • Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Art.

      It’s also worth noting that the traditional definition of mindfulnes (i.e. from the Buddhist tradition) has more to do with paying attention to / remembering, rather than simply choiceless awareness.

      Also, most types of meditation, in both Buddhist and Hindu traditions, is of the concentration type. In these practices, even though there is a component of restfulness, there is also a strong component of cognitive control, meta cognition, and effort in regulating attention.