Types of Meditation
Mediation is hard to define, but there is a common thread throughout most definitions – do you think you could guess what it is?
The origin of meditation is largely religious, particularly from East Asian and South Asian countries, including India and Tibet. There are forms of meditation within Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism and Sikhism, often involving prayer or worship. This article will focus on meditation as a spiritual practice, and you may recognise some Buddhist meditation methods. Anyone can practise meditation – it can exist within or alongside your faith or outside of faith altogether.
Read on for a summary of some traditional and new-age interpretations of meditation and learn which you may be interested in exploring. We’ll let you in on that common thread in most definitions of meditation too…
Most meditation practices focus on attention and awareness. Whether you’re turning your attention inward or outward, meditation usually has an element of training your awareness in order to reach mental clarity. The origin of the word “meditation” is derived from an Old French derision of a Latin word “meditatio” or “meditari” meaning “to think, contemplate, devise, ponder.”
Meditation is largely about taking time to be aware of your consciousness, your perceptions, your reality, your thoughts and feelings, and grounding yourself in your mind and body; it’s a chance to investigate your reality and reach clarity about your perception of reality. It can be challenging at first for many, but it has proven to be a stress-reducing habit in the long run.
In Australia, meditation is often categorised into three forms:
- Focused attention
- Open Awareness
- Loving Kindness
These categories are largely interpretations of or other names for Buddhist meditation practices.
Focused attention meditation (Samatha)
The Buddhist Samatha meditation practice involves focusing your attention on one thought or object. You may focus on a mantra, a body part, a visualisation, a sound (like a chime), beads, breathing, or, popularly a candle flame.
Focused attention meditation aims to keep your awareness on this one thing, excluding other thoughts. As you notice distractions, you try to turn your attention back toward your one focus. Eventually, one becomes better at focusing and will probably experience fewer lapses of concentration. This may improve your attention span and help reduce feelings of anxiety.
Another popular form of meditating with a mantra is transcendental meditation. Transcendental meditation is typically done for 20 minutes twice a day as you repeat a mantra. This was made popular in the 1950s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and has since been discussed as both a religious and non-religious movement.
Open Awareness meditation (Vipassana)
The Buddhist teaching of Vipassana encourages one to keep their focus open and explore thoughts and sensations as they occur, without judgement. As you experience sensations, smells, thoughts, feelings and sounds, open awareness meditation emphasises letting these wash over you as they come.
Open awareness meditation may improve your ability to problem solve or be creative, and reduce stress and anxiety. Observing the senses can help regulate your central nervous system, which can be great for mental well-being.
Loving Kindness meditation (Metta Bhavana)
Sometimes translated as “universal friendliness”, Metta Bhavana is the practice of sending warm thoughts toward all living things with no expectation of return. The practice aims to overcome fears and anxieties, leaving you with a strong, open acceptance and appreciation of all living things.
Research into Loving-kindness meditation has shown benefits of reduced self-criticism, enhanced well-being, greater resilience, improved relationships, reduced pain, improved mental health, and even slowed cellular ageing.
A guided meditation often involves the guide talking the meditator through a visualisation or mindfulness exercise. The meditator typically sits or lies in a comfortable position and allows their consciousness to follow the guide’s words. Guided meditations can be focused on a broad range of topics and you can find plenty of free options online to listen to.
Mindfuness is a well-being practice that can look a lot of different ways. The act of mindfulness involves consciously being aware of each sensation you experience and thought you have. This can help ground you and improve your mental well-being.
Mindfulness may not look like typical meditation. You can practice mindfulness while eating, doing the dishes, or exercising; any activity can be done mindfully. Try these mindfulness exercises for better sleep and calmer mornings.
World Meditation Day
May 21 each year is World Meditation Day. Why not set a goal of trying a new type of meditation on this day, or trying our meditation challenge. RESCUE Remedy® can help you maintain your inner balance, emotional composure and focus, so it can be a great meditation tool.