When first beginning to develop a meditation practice, it’s often difficult to decipher what you should be doing or where you should begin. Ironically, with the various styles, teachers, and meditations available online, meditation practice may cause you to start overthinking – the exact process it is meant to quell. To avoid this unnecessary confusion, read through a few of these primary types of meditation to determine which ones are appropriate for your goals.
The meaning of vipassana is to witness reality as it truly is. It is also commonly referred to as “insight meditation.” This ancient Indian technique is also commonly practiced in Buddhist traditions. The fundamental focus of vipassana is self-observation, or training the mind to observe itself objectively. Vipassana meditations may have you focus solely on breathing, or ask that you bring your attention to one body part at a time for several minutes. For this reason, vipassana is great for beginners, as it only requires the simplification of thought and attention to bodily sensations. You may also find this style useful if you often feel rushed, anxious, or overwhelmed. In these cases, vipassana is an incredibly effective practice for grounding, quieting, and centering both the body and mind. More than any other, this meditation style gently pushes you to sit with your present feelings — good or bad. This is why it’s often called “insight meditation,” as you may learn things about your thought processes that you’d never noticed.
Transcendental meditation is a newer technique, only reaching the United States in the 1960s. This meditation style uses mantras, which were originally known as specific sounds repeated to help meditators progress deeper into their practice. Today, the term “mantra” is used more loosely, often referring to statements that help bring individuals into a more positive state of mind — such as “I am capable.” This technique simply requires you to stay with your chosen mantra, not forcing focus, but rather allowing the mind to remain attentive. Some transcendental teachers claim that different mantras are suited to different individuals. This meditation style is useful for those that want to slow down their thinking and achieve a state of deep relaxation. According to the man who developed transcendental meditation, a state of deeper or “cosmic” consciousness can be regularly achieved with practice.
Loving Kindness Meditation
This unique meditation style emphasizes the use of positive feelings to induce a state of acceptance toward the self and others. One way to practice is to first aim positive energy, love, and acceptance toward the self. At first you may feel strong resistant to this practice, but that only indicates that you’ll benefit from it more. After focusing on the self, loving kindness meditation teachers recommend selecting a variety of individuals to direct positivity and acceptance toward – including individuals you love, respect, feel neutral toward, and dislike. Various techniques can be employed here, including visualization, mantras, and reflection. Just be sure to not get too entrenched in thought during this process. This style is especially beneficial for individuals who feel unworthy, are stuck in negative thought patterns, or feel out of touch with their empathetic side.
Third Eye Meditation
Based on the concept of the chakra system, this meditation style assists in strengthening access to your innate intuition. Typically, these meditations require focus to be drawn continuously to the center of the forehead, where the third eye and pineal gland reside. The pineal gland has long been a topic of controversy, with some claiming it to be the seat of higher consciousness. While the gland remains largely a mystery, research has shown that meditation activates it, which produces melatonin and deeply relaxes the nervous system. You may simply focus attention to the area of the third eye, or physically divert your eyes toward it to achieve a deeper state of calm and clarity. It may help to first practice a basic form of meditation before going directly into a third eye meditation. This will ensure you are truly relaxed, focused, and ready to delve deeper. For those who feel confused in life or lacking in clarity or direction, third eye meditations can provide a wealth of support.
Regardless of what style of meditation you choose to employ, the benefits will be plentiful. Studies have shown that meditation can reduce chronic pain, calm symptoms of mental illness such as anxiety and depression, and directly alter many activities within the brain. Try some of these techniques out for yourself, and remember to be patient as your mind learns discipline and acceptance.