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What are the different meditation techniques?

What are the different meditation techniques?

The four techniques described below - a sitting meditation, a visualisation practice, a mantra practice and a walking meditation - involve activities that you do every day, but instead of doing them unconsciously, you bring your full concentration and awareness to the simple task at hand. There is plenty of evidence to support the many benefits of meditation. This ancient Buddhist tradition involves sitting upright and following the breath, especially the way it enters and leaves the belly, and letting the mind "just be". Its aim is to foster a sense of presence and alertness.

This technique is similar to focused attention meditation, although instead of focusing on the breath to still the mind, one focuses on a mantra (which can be a syllable, a word or a phrase). The idea is that the subtle vibrations associated with the repeated mantra can encourage positive change, such as an increase in self-confidence or compassion for others, and help you enter an even deeper state of meditation. This meditation technique aims to keep the energy centres of the body's central chakras open, aligned and flowing. Blocked or unbalanced chakras can lead to uncomfortable physical and mental symptoms, but chakra meditation can help bring them all back into balance.

It is an ancient and powerful Chinese practice that involves harnessing the body's energy by allowing the energy pathways called "meridians" to be open and flowing. It is believed that sending this energy inward during meditation helps the body to heal and function; sending the energy outward can help heal another person. For the meditator, the practice offers the possibility of improving physical well-being as well as emotional health. However, there is no 'right way to meditate', which means that people can explore different types until they find one that works for them.

Most types of meditation include a form of mindfulness. Breath awareness encourages practitioners to be aware of their breathing, while progressive relaxation draws attention to areas of tension in the body. This meditation technique, which has become very popular in the West, is based on the teachings of the Buddha. Mindfulness meditation can be instrumental in helping us to understand how our mind works.

This self-knowledge serves as a basis for overcoming dissatisfaction, impatience, intolerance and many other habits that prevent us from living a fuller and happier life. To be a complete meditation technique, mindfulness combines concentration with awareness. All that is required is a disciplined meditation posture, a straight back and a willingness to be honest with oneself. The best-known focus of mindfulness meditation is breathing; unbiased observation of physical sensations is another common technique.

Whenever you find your thoughts wandering, simply observe them without judgement and bring your attention back to the breath. Mindfulness practice has been shown to reduce depression, stress and anxiety. It also fosters resilience, a timely quality that helps you cope with difficult situations without losing your peace of mind. A traditional type of focused meditation involves drinking a cup of tea.

In this case, you train yourself to stop any other activity - not checking your mobile phone, not jumping up to let the cat out, not adding anything to your shopping list - and focus your attention exclusively on drinking your cup of tea. You can notice the feeling of warmth, the aroma, the weight of the cup in your hands. Every time your mind wanders, you go back to drinking the tea. There are many different ways to meditate.

Think of the following categories of meditation techniques as a starting point for understanding the practices and the differences between some of the main options, rather than as an exhaustive list. With focused meditation, you focus on something with intention, without devoting your thoughts to it. You can focus on something visual, such as a statue; something auditory, such as a metronome or the recording of ocean waves; something constant, such as your own breathing; or a simple concept, such as unconditional compassion. Activity-oriented meditation combines meditation with activities you already enjoy or with new activities that help you focus on the present.

With this type of meditation, you engage in a repetitive activity or one where you can get into the zone and experience the flow. Again, this quiets the mind and allows your brain to shift. When practising mindfulness meditation, you observe your thoughts and emotions, but let them pass without judgement. The idea is that this technique allows you to settle into a deep state of relaxation and rest, with the goal of achieving inner peace without concentration or effort.

Vipassana meditation is an ancient form of Indian meditation that means seeing things as they really are. It was taught in India more than 2,500 years ago. The mindfulness meditation movement in the United States has its roots in this tradition. Vipassana, in this tradition, is typically taught over a 10-day course, and students are expected to follow a series of rules throughout that time, including abstaining from all intoxicants, telling lies, stealing, sexual activity and killing any species.

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There are other meditation techniques. For example, a daily meditation practice among Buddhist monks focuses directly on cultivating compassion. This involves visualising negative events and reframing them in a positive light by transforming them through compassion. There are also moving meditation techniques, such as tai chi, qigong and walking meditation.

Guided meditation exercises you can use anytime, anywhere. In guided meditation, a teacher guides you through the practice, either in person or through an app or course. This type of meditation is perfect for beginners, as the teacher's expert guidance can help you get the most out of a new experience. The main thing here is to find a teacher you like and connect with.

You can also tailor your search according to a desired outcome and try guided meditations focusing on sleep, stress relief or acceptance. Spiritual meditation is the conscious practice of believing in and connecting with something that is bigger, vaster and deeper than the individual self. In this meditation you trust that there is something bigger out there and that everything happens for a reason. A beautiful meditation can transform you into another time and place.

A simple meditation practice can also help you to let go of painful emotional burdens and negative thoughts. The techniques of the Headspace application come from both the Burmese and Tibetan Buddhist traditions, although some of the names have been changed from the original translation to make them more accessible. This meditation technique, also called Insight Meditation, involves sitting in silence, concentrating on the breath and taking note of any physical or mental sensations that arise. Walking meditation is a form of mindful movement; this technique can also be associated with yoga or tai chi and other martial arts.

In this meditation technique, an image is brought to mind that creates a particular sensation or quality. Currently, there are eight basic techniques that combine elements of insight (vipassana) and stillness (samatha) meditations in most 10 or 30-day courses. Seek out a qualified Transcendental Meditation teacher to initiate you into the mantra meditation technique. Similar to the loving-kindness meditation technique, this involves focusing on a known or loved one and paying attention to the sensations arising from the heart.

Some types, such as Kundalini, focus on using meditation techniques to strengthen and relax the nervous system. To learn the specific technique, you have to pay for the course, as the secrets are closely guarded. Although many spiritual traditions include meditation as part of their teachings and practices, the technique itself does not belong to any particular religion or faith. Note that there may be overlap with these techniques; meditation can be both concentrative and non-concentrative.