Today we humans live in a stressful, messed up, and hectic world. We have lots of information than our brain can process. We have also created high expectations for ourselves. When these expectations fail to meet reality, we get even more stressed and our path deviates from happiness. This sweet delightful expectation and the bitter face of reality is a never-ending cycle. It’s actually a human behavior to never be satisfied and expects more and more from life even though it may lead to failure, heartbreaks, and depression. So, to overcome this and bring peacefulness in our lives, we have relied on meditation for a long time. Today we will know about what is meditation and what are the different forms of meditation in brief.
Since people from all around the world practice meditation, they have added a blend that reflects their own traditions. So today there is various type of meditation varying according to region, religion, and ethnicity. I have enlisted and described some of the most common types of meditation practiced around the world today. I hope you will learn about them and practice them accordingly.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a practice where people use various techniques like focusing on a particular thought, object, or nothing at all to obtain peacefulness, awareness, and achieve a stable mental state. When we practice meditation regularly, we become emotionally stable. It also helps us to make proper decisions and makes us aware of all the happening around us.
Some people practice meditation just as their hobby while some use it as medicine for their mental and physical problems. This is because meditation has health benefits like anti-depression, reduce anxiety, and even blood pressure. Religious devotees of Hinduism and Buddhism practice meditation to connect to their respective gods and achieve spiritual states like Moksha and Nirvana respectively. So, either one of these states is achieved only through extreme forms of meditation.
Forms OF Meditation
Some meditations are extreme where you must isolate yourself for days, weeks, or even years. However, some are easy and you can practice them for just 10 -15 minutes each day. Similarly, some meditations force the practitioners to expose them to brutal conditions like exposing themselves to cold water and adjusting in unfavorable conditions. Here we will be looking at some of the forms of meditations practiced all around the world.
Since it would not be possible to explain all the different meditation, I have comprised a list of the most practiced ones.
Zen Meditation (Zazen)
This is the oldest meditation practice in Buddhism since it was taught was Lord Buddha himself. It was first used as “dhyan” and when it moved to China it became “Chen”. Finally, when brought to south-east Asia it became Zen.
Following this meditation is relatively easier than others and can be done by anyone. Rather than focusing on a thought, a piece of music, or a repetitive phrase, this meditation tells us to get in a proper posture. Then we must allow our breathing to settle down and finally, our mind becomes calm and peaceful.
The proper position for this meditation is to sit in a lotus position with a straight spine. You can close your eyes or open them, it doesn’t really matter. The pelvic region should be tilted a little bit forward to maintain the natural curve of the spine. Your hands must be in a cosmic mudra position with the left palm over the right and thumbs touching each other.
Using this method, Lord Buddha gained enlightenment. So, avoiding the constantly arising thoughts in your mind would be a bad idea. Instead, you must let the thoughts enter and escape your mind regularly.
This is another widely practiced meditation associated with Buddhism, dating back to the 6th century. Vipassana means to see things as they really are. This method of meditation has been passed on by teachers to students.
Vipassana meditation is all about focusing precisely on all your breath movements. You must pay attention and notice everything that happens to your body while you are breathing. While inhaling, you must pay attention to the cold sensation on your nostrils. Similarly, you should notice your abdomen rising and falling. If a noise, smell, or sensation on your skin tries to distract you then you should shift your focus to that feeling for a moment. You label this distraction with a mental note like “memory”, “thinking”, “hearing” or “desiring” and shift back your focus to breathing.
Since mastering this method takes some time, you cannot learn it via watching some video clips. Besides, learning to do this meditation is almost impossible at home because of all the distractions. Today there are Vipassana centers all over the world that provide a residential course. These courses are free and run solely on donations provided by students from all over the world.
Mindfulness meditation has been adapted from Buddhist forms of meditation like Vipassana and other lineages. This meditation teaches practitioners to be aware of the things around them and focus on their breathing. You should not use repetitive phrases and affirmatives while performing this meditation.
People practice this meditation widely because of its easy nature. Psychologists recommend this to their patients with depression and stress disorders. The regular practice of this meditation makes people feel happier, less distracted, and satisfied with their lives.
To do this you must sit in a comfortable spot with a straight and unsupported spine. Pay close attention to just your breathing and nothing else. You must know when you are breathing in and when you are exhaling. Being distracted to random thoughts is normal but regular practice reduces this distraction. After practicing this for some time you will be able to shift your focus to breathing whenever you feel distracted.
To get the best out of this meditation, you must perform it regularly. So, practicing daily for about 20-30 minutes can be really helpful to reduce stress and people with anger management issues.
Mantra Meditation (OM Meditation)
Originally in Hinduism and Buddhism, mantra means a repetitive word, sound, phrase, or affirmative that aids in increasing concentration. Using a mantra while meditating decreases the possibilities of being distracted. Unlike Vipassana and other meditation, this one allows you to concentrate on something less abstract. Relying on mantra has both physical and spiritual advantages. Hindu and Buddhist practitioners use mantras like OM and OM MANI PADME HUM respectively. Some of the most popular mantras are so-ham, om Namah Shivaya, Rama, yam, and ham.
Like other meditation, you must first sit in a comfortable spot. Your back must be straight and unsupported with your eyes shut. Then repeat the mantra inside your head over and over again. Sometimes practitioners are also told to have control over their breath. You can also whisper the mantra very quietly instead of using it in your mind. Usually, the mantras like om and om mani Padme hum are repeated 108 or 1008 times. So, people use beads to keep count of the mantra.
This meditation is for you, if you want absolute peace of mind and want to clear your head with the constantly racing thoughts. Since it is relatively easier to keep attention on a word rather than breathing, people choose this meditation over others.
If you are not a spiritual person then the use of affirmatives can be best. Try affirmatives like “I am patient”, “I am content at this moment”, “My heart will guide me”, “My treasures lie within”.
Generally, people get bored when they even hear about meditation. Some people don’t like the thought of sitting in a place for a long time with no physical movement. They can’t simply stand it. When these people hear the word Yoga, they think of the complex stretches and posture exercise but yoga is much more than that. This is certainly the oldest form of meditation and also has the widest varieties of practices.
Yoga divides the practice of meditation into a code of conduct, posture exercise, breathing control, and complex meditation. Yoga is for balancing chakras (energy points), maintaining physical posture, regulating the breath, etc. The Asanas like Tadasana, Vrikshasana, Adho Mukho Svanasana, etc are some of the popular yoga positions. Practicing Pranayama daily can help you calm your mind and prepares you for meditation.
The basic way of performing a Pranayama is the 4-4-4-4 rule. Inhale for four seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for four seconds, and hold for four seconds. There are a million ways of practicing yoga and I cannot discuss the benefits in a single section.
Transcendental Meditation (TM)
Introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1955 in India, this is a special type of mantra meditation. Professionals teach and instruct the practitioners about this meditation for jaw-dropping prices that might get up to $950. In the late 1960s, Yogi gained great fame as gurus to famous personalities like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, David Banner, etc. Since the course is highly expensive, everyone might not be able to learn or do it ever in their life.
Like mantra meditation, TM also uses a mantra in the form of a phrase or a word. This mantra varies from gender and age. Practitioners perform this meditation for 20 minutes twice a day. The $950 course lasts for 5 to six days. This course is impossible to learn at home by yourself. So, you must contact a guru near you and pay for the whole course.
Now, regarding the price and all, I would not recommend this meditation to anyone. This is because if the calmness of mind and happiness of the soul can be gained for free then there is no point in paying such a huge amount. And also, there are several accusations of cultish behavior for the guru and his organization.
Benefits Of Practicing Meditation
Although all of these forms of meditation differ slightly from one another, their sole purpose is to benefit our body, mind, and soul. Some of the scientifically proven and most noted benefits of meditation are:
- Meditation helps to reduce your daily life stress that is caused by financial, social, mental, and physical problems.
- Meditation helps to control anxiety disorders like phobia, social anxiety, panic attacks, nervousness, etc.
- Deep and complex meditations help to gain supreme knowledge about the past, present, and future.
- Meditation increases your attention span. So, if you can’t stare at your books for a long time, you should probably meditate.
- People who practice meditation their entire life, prevent themselves from age-related memory loss like Alzheimer’s disease.
- Alcoholics and drug addicts practice meditation to reduce or remove their addiction.
- Doctors recommend their patients having insomnia to practice meditation because it improves the quantity and quality of the sleep you are getting.
- Practicing meditations that focus on breath regulations like Vipassana and Zen can help in reduced blood pressure.
- You can perform some of the meditations anywhere at any time. So, you can prepare yourself for a big presentation or public speech to reduce stage fright.
Which Meditation Do I Recommend?
All of the above-mentioned meditations are the top methods in the world. Since Vipassana is free to learn and is a healthy residential course, I personally recommend this. Even I have tried Vipassana meditation through a 10 days course which proved to be really beneficial regarding my social anxiety disorders. I also felt increased concentration and focus while studying or learning new things.
I have recommended Vipassana to almost all of my friends and relatives. Most of them have also benefitted from this practice.
All in all, meditation is the primary source of happiness in this materialistic world. It is important to know what type of meditation is best for you before you start practicing one. You should know what meditation you can fit in your schedule. I recommend you choose any of the above meditations as they are the root of all the other kinds of meditation that ever existed. So, I suggest you go through the article one more time very clearly and do some more research if needed. I hope you start considering meditation as an integral part of your life and it helps you with your problems.