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While most of you know that meditation offers untold number of benefits, it’s possible that many of you are not sure of what meditation really is. Or how to meditate? Or the different types of meditation and how to approach them. All of you may find the article below useful as the author has tried to collate experts’ view on different types of meditation and how to get guidance for it. Team RetyrSmart
Understanding the types of meditation and knowing how to get started on each of them
Ahead, experts explain the common types of meditation and how to get started to cultivate your own practice.
- Mindfulness meditation
What it is: Mindfulness meditation is drawn from Buddhist contemplative traditions; it incorporates breathing sensations and teaches how to turn one’s attention back to the experience when distractions arise. It’s a method of paying attention to your present moment experiences with a curiosity, openness, and willingness to be in that specific time without judgment. “It’s both a meditative practice and a quality of attention for any given moment, no matter what you’re doing,” says Winston.
How to get started: Try free meditations from the UCLA Mindful Research Center or the free app Smiling Mind. Or start with this super-simple mindfulness exercise: Instead of rushing through your shower, pay attention to the temperature and feel of the water droplets, the smell of the soap, and the sound of the water.
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- Transcendental meditation
What it is: You’ll connect with a teacher who gives you a mantra, a word you’ll repeat over and over to concentrate your mind and go beyond (or “transcend”) your surface level of awareness. The goal is to unlock joy, creativity, and calm.
How to get started: Find a certified TM teacher for one-one-one instruction here, but you’ll have to pay a fee. Or try this exercise, which is similar to TM: Set aside 20 minutes, sit in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, take deep breaths, and focus exclusively on your mantra to settle your mind.
- Cultivation practices
What it is: There are many different types of cultivation practices, which are derived from a secularization of Buddhist traditions and focus on generating feelings of good will toward yourself and others. Typically, you’ll get into a comfortable position on a chair or cushion and focus on breath and sending affirming feelings and repeating positive phrases. The goal is to nurture states such as loving-kindness, compassion, joy, or balance, as well as a gentle attitude toward ourselves and others.
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“These practices come out of the mindfulness movement but focus on cultivating a specific positive state of heart or mind,” says Winston.
How to get started: Check out the free meditations at UCLA’s site, the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion, or the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Family Medicine.
- Guided imagery
What it is: This type of meditation typically is more goal-directed, that is, you’re focused on a specific intent such as healing, relaxation, or sleep preparation. You’ll be guided through a series of instructions with the creative use of imagery, such as visiting your favorite beach, feeling the sand under your toes, sensing the water lapping at your feet, and so on. Because of the step-by-step directions you’ll be given, it’s often one of the easiest types for beginners, says Dr. Aggarwal.
How to get started: Listen to the free meditations focused on specific goals, including physical healing from illness through the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center, relaxation through Dartmouth’s Health Service, forgiveness through Ohio State University, or preparing for sleep at MIT Medical.
What it is: Prayer is a type of communion that connects one with God or a higher power you personally understand. While many people don’t equate prayer with meditation, it’s essentially a way of focusing your attention away from the moment to center one’s heart and mind.
“People use prayer in different ways,” says Winston. “Sometimes it’s about asking for what you want, such as good health. Sometimes it’s about a deep listening, and sometimes it’s about bringing your mind to a higher power and feeling supported or giving thanks.”
How to get started: It’s performed by most religious traditions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and many others. It can be done using a faith’s established prayers, or it can be as simple as speaking directly to God about your thoughts, hopes, fears, and needs.
- Movement meditation
What it is: This type of meditation utilizes movement to help focus the mind. This may include specific forms such walking meditations, such as walking a labyrinth, yoga, or tai chi. Your attention is focused on the specific movements, usually accompanied by certain breathing techniques. This type of meditation overlaps with mindfulness.
How to get started: Try a walking meditation from Rutgers Student Health Center, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center or the University of Michigan, or search for a local yoga or tai chi class near you.
- Future visualization meditation
What it is: This technique evolves from the practice of guided imagery, but it’s about imagining your future and identifying goals for your health, relationships, home, and career.
“You look ahead and think about having a perfect day tomorrow, six months from now, and five years from now. This helps you get attuned to what you actually value versus what you say you value, as well as provides focus on what skills you’ll need to achieve these goals,” says Dr. Aggarwal.
How to get started: Check out this best-possible-self/optimism meditation through Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.
- Gratitude meditation
What it is: This practice promotes a positive mood, hope, and resilience. It can be as simple as sitting quietly, breathing deeply in and out, and thinking of all the people for whom you are grateful, but guided visualizations also may be helpful.
How to get started: Try this gratefulness meditation from Ohio State University.
- Forest bathing
What it is: In the 80s, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture created the term “forest bathing” which means to absorb the forest atmosphere. The practice encourages people to spend time connecting with nature, whether it’s walking quietly, sitting in a peaceful setting and focusing on your breathing, or gardening. In fact, an increasing amount of research has found that being in nature is good for us, including improved mental health, better sleep, and boosting feelings of connection during times of social isolation.
How to get started: Spend at least 20 minutes in nature every day. If you don’t have that much time, even a few minutes is better than nothing. Forestry England has good suggestions for how to practice forest bathing.
- Body scan meditation
What it is: Also called progressive relaxation, this type of meditation systematically guides you to focus on different parts of your body from your toes to your face. It’s designed to make you aware of your bodily sensations and to relieve tension. You can do this seated, sitting, or lying down and it is often suggested to be practiced before bed. To read the original article in full Click Here
How to get started: Try this body scan meditation from UCLA’s Greater Good in Action.