I find meditation – metaphorically speaking – to be less a technique that punctuates our days, yet more similar to maintaining a full tank of gas in our vehicle. According to Dr. Joe Dispenza, meditation helps us build and access “uncommon abilities” or become “supernatural.”
10 of the Most Common Meditation Techniques
The purpose of meditation is to relax the mind and the body; it is not a complicated process, but there are some simple steps you can focus on and follow to get started. If meditation has been challenging, perhaps you have been trying too hard.
There are many techniques you can use to get started. Meditation is the opposite of what most of us engage in throughout the day, so it can be challenging to learn how to turn off your mind if this is something you are not used to doing.
Ten of the most common meditation techniques include:
- Breathing Meditations
- Mindfulness Meditations
- Focus Meditations
- Movement Meditation or Walking Meditation
- Mantra Meditations
- Buddhist Meditations, such as Loving Kindness
- Christian Meditation or Spiritual Meditation
- Guided Meditations
- Transcendental Meditations
- Progressive Relaxation Meditations
This is not a comprehensive list but simply a list of the most common types of techniques. Not all of the methods are meant for everyone. For example, you might find the Transcendental Meditation practice too complicated and be drawn to a more straightforward approach like walking meditation.
These practices require different skills and mindsets, so only you will know what is right for you.
What Techniques are Ideal for Beginners?
There are several techniques suitable for beginners. A few of these include (Bertone 2019):
- Breathing Meditations
- Mindfulness Meditations
- Focus Meditations
- Walking Meditations
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation Meditations
1. Breathing Meditations
According to Science Daily, meditation and breathing exercises can make the mind sharper. New research reveals a link between breath-focused meditation and attention and brain health (Trinity College Dublin, 2018).
A simple breath-focused meditation has several cognitive benefits, from an increased ability to focus, less of a wandering mind, improved arousal levels, more positive emotions, less emotional reactivity, and many other benefits.
The mindfulness of breathing practice involves using the breath as an object of focus. It’s a great technique that anyone can do.
Breathing practices allow you to focus on the moment and the breath because each moment you spend focusing on something positive is one less moment you spend focusing on something negative.
Many people breathe shallower during times of stress, so learning how to breathe deeply can help you feel more peaceful and calm throughout the day.
Breathing deeply is also a great way to shift your focus when feeling anxious. The 4-7-8 breathing technique is great for learning because it acts like your body’s natural tranquilizer.
Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 Breathing Technique (Fletcher, 2019).
Begin by emptying your lungs.
- Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds.
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
- Exhale firmly through your mouth, pursing the lips, for 8 seconds
- You may repeat this breathing cycle up to 4 times.
This type of simple technique rejuvenates the nervous system. If it makes you feel a little dizzy, don’t do any more than 3-4 breaths at first. This kind of breathing acts as a natural tranquilizer.
Practicing simple breathing can completely shift your focus and state of mind.
Mindfulness meditation is about being present in the here and now and not getting distracted by thoughts about the past or stressing about the future.
According to the Mayo Clinic (2020), mindfulness is a type of meditation where you focus on being intensely aware of what you are sensing or feeling moment by moment without judging or trying to interpret.
Practicing mindfulness might include mindful breathing, guided imagery, or even a body scan meditation where you tune into your body.
Mindfulness means doing something with 100% of your attention and focus, so you could also practice mindfulness while washing the dishes or taking a shower.
In regular mindfulness meditation, you might take the time to breathe deeply or even scan your body, working your way up from your toes to the top of your head.
Essentially, anything you do with all of your focus and attention could be considered a form of mindfulness.
3. Focus Meditations
Focus meditation involves focusing on an object like a flower or a candle and examining it to the fullest extent.
You can select anything that stimulates your senses. For example, if you chose a yellow rose, you could sit and stare at it and imagine yourself touching it and feeling its velvety texture. You could also pay attention to any lines or creases in the rose or immerse yourself in yellow.
A focus meditation is about zeroing in on the details of something so much that you don’t see anything else.
You can start by choosing an item of focus, like a candle, and sit comfortably in front of it. As you breathe in and out, notice how the flame flickers or is made of several colors. Please focus on the smells and the sounds, and experience what it’s like to immerse yourself in the candle.
This kind of practice helps you deepen your focus while you hold your attention. You might be surprised at how effective a meditation like this can be.
4. Mindful Walking Meditations
Walking meditation is derived from Zen Buddhism, also known as kinhin, in which practitioners walk around the room while holding their hands in Shashi: holding one hand closed in a fist behind the back and the other hand closed within the fist.
During the walking meditation, steps are taken after each full breath. The beginning of kinhin is announced by the ringing of a bell twice.
Walking meditation has many modern variations, which can be rewarding and relaxing. The idea behind a walking meditation is to walk in silence as you observe everything happening around you.
For example, you could notice the leaves on the trees if you are outside, feel the sun’s warmth, or pay attention to the sound your feet make as they hit the pavement or surface.
Walking meditation can heal people with trouble sitting still for regular meditation practice.
The positive psychology blog has a lovely mindful walking article for those who want to explore this more.
5. Progressive Muscle Relaxation Meditation
Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a classic meditation type that involves tightening and loosening various muscles up and down the body.
You could do progressive muscle relaxation by squeezing and releasing the body’s large muscles, either starting at the top of the head or the bottom of the feet. The colored link takes you to a guided audio PMR exercise I created. Find it about halfway down the page.
This type of meditation can be very soothing and relaxing, especially before bedtime, and it’s a simple practice that even children can do.