*This post was adapted from the book, The Type A’s Guide to Mindfulness: Meditation for Busy Minds and Busy People. Available in paperback or Kindle edition on Amazon.
The first thing most people think of when they hear about mindfulness is seated meditation—which is by far the most discussed and studied tool for mindfulness. But the point of seated meditation isn’t just to spend 5, 15, or 30 minutes of your day settling down and practicing mindfulness. The point of formal practice is to be able to bring those feelings with you as you move through your days, your relationships, your job and your community.
There are many different meditation styles and techniques, from mantra to mindfulness to sensory … and the list goes on. One of the most frequently asked questions I get is about the difference between the many styles, techniques, and programs—so I put together this overview of some popular types of seated meditation.
This is by no means meant to be a comprehensive guide to the many different forms, subdivisions, lineages, and meditations that are out there, just an overview of some of the most popular. Some of the styles I’ll discuss are more traditional, others are Western styles or meditation programs that were inspired from the more traditional teachings, some overlap, and all are beneficial.
Remember—there is no best form of meditation—the best style is the one you will actually practice with consistency. So try a few out and see what feels best for you.
Mindfulness MeditationMindfulness meditation is the umbrella term for the category of techniques used to create awareness and insight by practicing focused attention, observing, and accepting all that arises without judgment. Although the origins of mindfulness meditation come from Buddhist teachings—predominantly Vipassana meditation, but also incorporates philosophies and practices from other Buddhist traditions—the style and way it’s taught is nonsectarian and appeals to people from many different religions and cultures. Its simple nature and open philosophy has made it the most popular meditation technique in the West.
Primordial Sound MeditationPrimordial Sound Meditation, or PSM for short, is a mantra-based meditation technique rooted in the Vedic tradition of India. Deepak Chopra and David Simon revived this ancient practice at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, and created a mantra-based meditation program anyone can practice. In PSM, each individual is given a mantra based on the vibration the universe was creating at the time and location of their birth. The mantra is used as a tool to take your mind to a quieter place. During meditation, you silently repeat the mantra, which creates a vibration that helps you slip into a place below the noisy chatter of the mind, and into stillness and pure awareness.
Zen Meditation (Zazen)Zazen means “seated meditation” in Japanese. Most people know the meditation practice as simply Zen meditation, a type of Buddhist meditation where you focus your awareness on your breath and observe thoughts and experiences as they pass through the mind and environment, letting them float by. This may sound remarkably similar to Vipassanameditation, and that’s because it is similar. Although there are some differences, most would seem far more apparent to experienced meditators than those just starting out. One main practical difference is that in Zen meditation, the emphasis of the breath is at the belly, instead of the nose (as in Vipassana). Another big difference is that posture is much stricter in Zen meditation than in Vipassana, with stringent attention on a straight spine, tucked chin, and hands placed in a special position over the belly. In Zen, eyes are always instructed to be open, with a downcast gaze, and in Vipassana, there are not strict rules for the eye gaze, and beginners are encouraged to keep them closed.
The traditional loving-kindness meditation always starts with sending loving-kindness to oneself, then continues to send it in this order: to a friend or loved one, to someone who is neutral in your life, to a difficult person, and then out to the universe.
The meditation itself involves a step-by-step process of visualization and guided instructions that lead you into a deep state of conscious relaxation.
Debbie Krejci E-RYT
Yoga Teacher Training Mexico, Costa Rica, Sri Lanka
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