Meditation offers time for relaxation and heightened awareness in a stressful world where our senses are often dulled. Research suggests that meditation has the potential for more than just temporary stress relief. Educators, spiritual leaders, and mental health experts have developed dozens of forms of meditation. The variety suggests there is a form of meditation to suit most people, regardless of personality or lifestyle. For someone who meditates, the practice offers a chance to improve physical wellbeing, as well as emotional health. However, there is no “right way” to meditate, meaning people can explore the different types until they find one that works for them.
Loving-kindness meditation is also known as Metta meditation. Its goal is to cultivate an attitude of love and kindness toward everything, even a person’s enemies and sources of stress. While breathing deeply, practitioners open their minds to receiving loving kindness. They then send messages of loving kindness to the world, to specific people, or to their loved ones. In most forms of this meditation, the key is to repeat the message many times, until the practitioner feels an attitude of loving kindness.
Progressive relaxation, sometimes called body scan meditation, is meditation that encourages people to scan their bodies for areas of tension. The goal is to notice tension and to allow it to release. During a progressive relaxation session, practitioners start at one end of their body, usually their feet, and work through the whole. Some forms of progressive relaxation require people to tense and then relax muscles. Others encourage a person to visualize a wave, drifting over their body to release tension.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that urges practitioners to remain aware and present in the moment. Rather than dwelling on the past or dreading the future, mindfulness encourages awareness of a person’s existing surroundings. So, rather than reflecting on the annoyance of a long wait, a practitioner will simply note the wait without judgment. Mindfulness meditation is something people can do almost anywhere. While waiting in line at the grocery store, for example, a person might calmly notice their surroundings, including the sights, sounds, and smells they experience.
Breath awareness is a type of mindful meditation that encourages mindful breathing.Practitioners breathe slowly and deeply, counting their breaths or otherwise focusing on their breaths. The goal is to focus only on breathing and to ignore other thoughts that enter the mind. As a form of mindfulness meditation, breath awareness offers many of the same benefits as mindfulness. Those include reduced anxiety, improved concentration, and greater emotional flexibility.
Kundalini yoga is a physically active form of meditation that blends movements with deep breathing and mantras. People usually learn from a teacher or do a class. However, someone can learn the poses and mantras at home. Similarly to other forms of yoga, kundalini yoga can improve physical strength and reduce pain. It may also improve mental health by reducing anxiety and depression.
Zen meditation, sometimes called Zazen is a form of meditation that can be part of Buddhist practice. Many Zen practitioners study under a teacher because this kind of meditation involves specific steps and postures. The goal is to find a comfortable position, focus on breathing, and mindfully observe one’s thoughts without judgment.Again, this form of meditation is similar to mindfulness meditation but requires more discipline and practice. People may prefer it if they are seeking both relaxation and a new spiritual path.
Transcendental Meditation is a spiritual form of meditation where practitioners remain seated and breathe slowly. The goal is to transcend or rise above the person’s current state of being. During a meditation session, practitioners focus on a mantra or a repeated word or series of words. A teacher determines the mantra based on a complex set of factors, sometimes including the year the practitioner was born, and the year the teacher was trained.