There are many types of meditation. Some emphasize the breath; others focus on thoughts. Some rely on mantras while others use guided imagery. But there are some key similarities that link all forms of meditation together. The simplest definition of meditation is focused awareness. The practice of meditation has been around for thousands of years and comes in many flavors. Some forms of meditation are religious, others more secular. Some involve just sitting quietly, while others involve movement or chanting. In this article, you’ll discover some of the most popular kinds of meditation, so you can find out what type is right for you.
Transcendental Meditation (TM)
Transcendental mediation is one of the most popular forms of meditation, with around 10 million people practicing it today. It was brought to the United States in 1959 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The goal of transcendental meditation is to elevate thought to achieve higher awareness.
Transcendental Meditation, or TM, is a specific kind of mantra meditation in which you repeat a mantra (a special word or sound) silently in conjunction with breath awareness until your mind achieves a state of inner calmness and expanded awareness called “transcendental consciousness”.
Studies show transcendental meditation can lower blood pressure and heart rate, decrease anxiety, reduce insomnia, and even help with weight loss by encouraging more mindful food choices. It also promotes creativity, intelligence, and a sense of inner peace and calmness.
Mindfulness meditation is a practice that brings attention to the present moment by shifting focus to a specific object or on breathing and body sensations. It’s an exercise in non-judgmental awareness, a way to see thoughts and feelings without getting tangled up in them. The object of focus and concentration can be an image, word, sound, stone, or even breathing itself. In mindfulness meditation, you don’t focus on the past or future — only on the present.
Unlike transcendental meditation where you try to transcend or achieve a higher state of awareness, mindfulness meditation keeps the focus on the present. By concentrating only on your breathing, for example, you can clear your mind of distractions and return to your daily tasks without worry or fear.
Mindfulness meditation is an ancient form of Buddhist practice that people have used to promote health and well-being for centuries. Mindfulness, in this context, means shifting focus to the present moment, without judgment. The benefits of meditation are numerous: it reduces stress, increases positive emotions, and supports a healthy immune system.
Vipassana meditation is popular with Buddhist monks attempting to reach enlightenment. Vipassana means “to see things as they really are.” The idea is if you practice this form of meditation daily, then you can gain a higher understanding about yourself, your life, and how you fit into the world.
Vipassana meditation is about experiencing reality for what it is by separating yourself from thoughts and sensations that cloud reality. Practitioners strive to observe their thoughts without identifying with them. Instead, they observe and become aware of their own thought process as though they are watching a movie from a distance.
Vipassana (which means to see clearly) is a process of self-purification by self-observation. Vipassana helps develop mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom, and relieves stress by fostering the peace of mind that comes from living in the present moment and acting with awareness.
Loving-kindness meditation focuses on wishing happiness, joy, and love to other beings. The main purpose of loving-kindness meditation is to cultivate compassion, appreciation, and affection for all living creatures. You can do this practice by reciting a loving-kindness phrase, such as “May all beings be happy”. It can also be helpful to visualize yourself surrounded by light or love and to wish light or love to others, in particular those you want to forgive or heal.
Heartfulness meditation focuses on the heart center (also referred to as the heart chakra). Some people find it easier to connect with their feelings if they focus on the heart during meditation. During this type of meditation, you can use a mantra, such as “May I be happy”.
Getting Started with Meditation
Whatever type of meditation you choose, be patient. Meditation isn’t easy — at least not at first. You must learn to quiet your mind, which is constantly thinking about the past or future, worrying about the present, etc. But with practice, you learn how to observe these thoughts without judging them and then let go of them when they’re no longer useful to you. This helps you become more aware and accepting of yourself. In turn, this helps you accept others for who they are too.
Health Benefits of Meditation
Meditation reduces over-activation of the nervous system. Some studies even show that regular meditation improves energy and stamina. One study found that meditation led to a reduction in heart attacks, deaths, and strokes as well as a drop in blood pressure over a 5 year period. Studies also show meditation increases heart rate variability, a marker of a healthy heart. Plus, meditation is a natural treatment for stress and anxiety. It’s a healthy practice for mental and physical health.
The Bottom Line
When people say meditation, they could be referring to any one of these types. If you’re confused as to which is right for you, you can find in-depth tutorials online that will teach you the basics. You may discover you prefer one form over the other, but all meditation can help you quiet your mind. For many, it’s a stress reliever and a way to expand their mental or physical growth.
“Meditation: In Depth | NCCIH.” .nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation-in-depth.
Sharma H. Meditation: Process and effects. Ayu. 2015 Jul-Sep;36(3):233-7. doi: 10.4103/0974-8520.182756. PMID: 27313408; PMCID: PMC4895748.
“Heartfulness: Meditation | Relaxation | Yoga | Spirituality.” 20 Jan. 2022, heartfulness.org/en/.
Léonard A, Clément S, Kuo CD, Manto M. Changes in Heart Rate Variability During Heartfulness Meditation: A Power Spectral Analysis Including the Residual Spectrum. Front Cardiovasc Med. 2019 May 14;6:62. doi: 10.3389/fcvm.2019.00062. PMID: 31139634; PMCID: PMC6527777.