Meditation is a practice used for stress reduction, emotional control, develop a focused mind, improve sports performance, as well as attain spiritual goals. However, there are different types of meditation and it is important to find the right one for you and the goals you have before enrolling in classes or start a program or practice of meditation on your own. This article will help give you an overview of some of the types of meditation practices so you can make a more informed decision to reach the goals you have or make the changes you want to make.

1. Focused Attention Meditation

Focused attention meditation is rather self-explanatory. It involves focusing on a single thing and ridding the mind of all else. A component of meditation involves clearing the mind. Focused attention is simply a tool in getting there. People who have difficulty clearing their minds by focusing on nothing will find this method helpful.

One method is to sit before a candle flame in a darkened room and hold your gaze on the flame. As you notice your mind drift, bring it back to watching the flame. At first, this can be challenging as the mind is not used to this type of activity, but with persistence and practice the mind will become quieter and less distracted. Another suggestion when doing this is to label whatever your mind is doing. For instance, saying to yourself, “thinking” if the mind is doing that, or “questioning,” “analyzing,” or “worrying.” You’ll find that by putting a label on what the mind is doing will make it easier to relax the mind from doing that.

2.  Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is meditation that cultivates the practice of paying attention to the task or situation at hand. This method focuses more on keeping the mind in the moment than on clearing it. People whose minds tend to wander will find mindful meditation can change the way they think.

There are many ways of applying this type of practice. It can even be done in an active way such as slowly walking and being fully aware of each aspect of taking steps. For instance, observing your legs and feet while describing to yourself what you are doing: lifting the foot, moving the leg forward, placing the foot on the ground, etc. With practice you will find that everything you do becomes much more mindful. In other words, you will be very present with what you are attending to rather than projecting to the past or worrying about the future.

3.  Zen Meditation

Zen meditation or “zazen” really puts emphasis on sitting upright and still. In fact, the term means seated meditation. Practitioners can choose from any number of seated postures, but they must be seated to practice Zen meditation. From there, concentration is usually focused on various aspects of the breath. For instance, you can put your attention on air entering and exiting the nostrils, or you can focus on the rising and falling of the abdomen with each breath.

4. Secular Meditation

Meditation is not prayer, though prayer can be used with meditation and is sometimes considered a religious form of meditation. With secular meditation, there is no religious aspect. Prayer is not used in this form of secular meditation and individuals can practice without any spiritual expectations. A person may focus on a quality such as patience, or repeat a meaningful word such as “joyful” or “smile.”

5. Mantra Meditation

Mantra meditation differs from many other forms of meditation in that it does not involve silence or near silence. A mantra is used to direct focus and attune to the sound or meaning of a word or phrase. All religions have mantras of one form or another. A mantra can be a chant that is repeated during the meditation, or it can be done silently. In this case the mantra is repeated audibly first and then silently and  internally sometimes for prolonged periods. This is similar to focused meditation in that one can focus on the mantra while meditating. This is good for people who find that concentrating is easier with words, or their mind is easily distracted because the mantra keeps the mind occupied and focused on the words.

6. Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental meditation is a form of mantra meditation with decidedly spiritual undertones. Mantra meditation can be spiritual or related to a particular religion, but transcendental meditation is spiritual without specific religious affiliation. It is also beneficial for those who like concentrating on words or phrases. This is one of the most popular forms of meditation on the planet, and there are many who teach it.

7. Yoni Mudra

Yoni Mudra applies particular emphasis to the position of the hands during meditation. Like all meditation techniques, it is said to help relax the mind, help one focus energies, and even improve physical health. The techniques of Yoni Mudra may be applied with other techniques for a customized approach to meditation. For instance, it can be combined with mantras.

8. Breath and Navel Meditation

As the name suggests, breath and navel meditation involves focusing on the act of breathing and on the navel. Essentially, a person concentrates on the ins and outs of his or her breath while feeling the navel pull in and out with the breathing. This focus is meant to rid the mind of all other thoughts. This is a good technique for people who want to keep it simple and keep their focus purely physical. Some versions of this meditation make the breath very deliberate exhaling completely before inhaling, and other forms let the breath be natural and just follow it.

The different types of meditation can also have variations depending on the instructor. There are also many teachers who come up with their own techniques and forms of meditation and as a result there are hundreds, if not thousands, of varieties. The key points to consider are the physical expectations you are looking for, the spiritual aspects and goals you have, any expected or desired results.

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