Meditation has been practiced for centuries around the world. It’s only of recent that it has become popular in the United States and far west though. With our stress ridden society, people are starting look to meditation as means to change. Scientists are still finding new and exciting benefits of this long practiced art.
Some of the proposed benefits of practicing meditation:
- Improved mental health by fighting depression, anxiety, and stress
- Improved emotional intelligence
- Improved memory, concentration, and patience
- Helps fight addiction
- Better situational awareness
- Reduces negativity and improves your mood
- Increased intelligence
- Helps people sleep better
- Changes the structure of the brain which could fight neurological damage and neurodegenerative diseases
- Great for improving learning students
All of these possible benefits make meditation a great tool for those looking to improve their mental and emotional health, along with the physiological benefits it offers.
There are many different types of meditation, each with different practices. It's important to know which one will best meet your needs.
Types of Meditation
Mindfulness Meditation- the most popular form of meditation in the West. It comes from Buddhist teachings. Practitioners pay careful attention to their breathing and thoughts. When your mind begins to wonder, you go back to focusing on your breath.
You can sit in the light or dark for this type of yoga. It’s the most easily learned and doesn't require a teacher to practice. When beginning, it’s best to meditate for 5-10 minutes.
Transcendental Meditation- this is the most popular type of meditation around the world. It’s also the most studied. This meditation is very structured. Users focus on certain words called mantras. They sit in a quiet place and focus on chanting their mantras and breathing.
Practitioners do this for 15-20 minutes a day, twice a day.This type of meditation requires you to get a teacher to learn. It was made popular by the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He taught the Beatles Transcendental Meditation in the 1950s. Many celebrities practice this type of yoga due to its supposed effectiveness.
Vipassana Meditation- this type of ancient meditation also came from Buddhism and India over 2500 years ago. It’s different from most other types of meditation. This type of meditation is about insight. The user focuses on examining his own internal existence. It’s a direct and intentional focus on our own awareness. It must typically be studied to learned and practiced.
Meta Meditation (Loving Kindness)- In this type of meditation, the practitioner sits quietly breathing before wishing kindness and peace upon themselves and then for others. You begin with breathing techniques and then hold an image of yourself in your mind before repeating the chant “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.”
Once you’ve done this for a while, you do the same thing for people you care about with the chant “May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.” You continue this practice for people that are neutral, people you dislike, and finally for all people.
Chakra Meditation- This type of mediation addresses the seven chakras or centers of energy in your body. Each chakra controls different areas of the body and has its own color associated with it. For this type of meditation, you would sit quietly with your legs folded and your arms hanging effortlessly.
You would focus on each chakra for several minutes until you have a positive energy flow from it. You would do this for at least a half an hour.
Zen or Dhyana Meditation- this type of meditation is practiced in Yoga. It is the seventh limb in the eight limbs of yoga. It’s meant to be more than just another type of meditation. It's supposed to give users a deeper awareness of one’s self. It’s a unique meditation practice where none of the five senses are involved. Practitioners repeat a mantra over and over, such as OM.
Body Scan Meditation- In this type of meditation, a practitioner would lay down and focus all of his or her attention on their body and the sensations in it. It takes some time to get this type of meditation down. You are supposed to focus on every inch of your body.
Guided Meditation- Guided meditation is where you have an instructor leading you through meditation. You can do this as part of a group or alone with an app, mp3s, or video. Guided meditation typically focuses on breathing and clearing the mind. It’s typically not spiritual meditation. This is a good place to start for people looking to add meditation to their lives.
Secular vs Spiritual meditation
Secular meditation is more concerned with a calming or emptying of the mind, your inner thoughts, and is used for it’s mental and physical benefits. You focus on your thoughts and breathing. Spiritual meditation is the connection of the mind to something greater than one's self through meditation. Spiritual meditation takes a lot of time and patience with the ultimate goal of spiritual realization.
What are mantras?
Mantras are words, syllables, or sounds repeated over and over during meditation.They are meant to keep you focused and help you avoid any distractions. They are normally used in secular meditation.
How do you sit?
When doing meditation, it is best to sit in a position that makes you comfortable.You can sit in a chair, against a wall, on a pillow, or even lay down. Many people believe you should sit in the Lotus position. The lotus position has several variations, which can be difficult for people to get into when just starting. The quarter lotus is probably the easiest position for people to begin with.
Ultimately, you should sit in a position where you can relax. You should pay special attention to your posture. You shouldn’t slouch. Make sure you are upright. You should make sure you are symmetrical. The sides of your body should be mirror images of each other.
What kind of lighting is best for meditation?
The lighting of the room can have a substantial influence on your meditation. You should normally avoid brightly lit rooms. A dim room lit by a candle or candles has been shown to help people relax. If you don’t want to use candles, natural lighting is also a good choice.
Which one is best for you?
This is purely an individual decision. It really depends on what you want to achieve. If you want better mental and physical health, almost any type of meditation could be beneficial. It might be a good idea to try some meditation apps or guided meditation in a group setting.
Guided meditation is probably the best option for beginner. Headspace, Calm, and Mindfulness all are great apps to start with learning meditation. You can try them for free, whereas if you’re going to have to pay to learn Transcendental Meditation or Vipassana Meditation.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article and you have the utmost success in your meditation.