“In Eastern thought or in the course of therapy, meditation is the process of focusing inward on yourself to quiet the body and the mind. In psychology we call an over-active mind, a mind that has repetitive racing thoughts; in Eastern thought, it is called a monkey brain. There are many forms of meditation to slow down the racing monkey mind.” – Albina Tamalonis, PsyD.
When you think about the word meditation, what comes to your mind? Your brain most likely conjured up an image of a man in an orange robe chanting the word “Om”. While this may be the typical way that we perceive meditation to be, the truth is is that there is much more to it. There are a variety of different practices that one could pursue based on what they’re looking for to achieve by meditating. For those of you who are seeking certain benefits from meditation, here is a list of several popular types of meditation methods.
- Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation is the best meditation method for those first being introduced to the practice. Unlike most other meditation practices, mindfulness meditation has very few rules and expectations but still provides many of the benefits that you will get from other practices. To begin practicing mindfulness meditation, simply sit on the floor or in a chair and maintain a straight back. Pay attention to your breathing and let that be the only thing that you focus on and let the rest of the world slip away. This type of exercise is called mindfulness meditation because it keeps you grounded in the present and teaches you how to live in the moment.
Nancy Frumer-Styron, PsyD. defines mindfulness meditation as “a discipline of mind training.” She says, “A good contemporary definition taken from Mindfulness and Psychotherapy by members of The Insititute for Meditation and Psychotherapy is “awareness of present experience with acceptance.”
- Metta Meditation
Metta meditation is a type of meditation that teaches the practitioner how to be kind to themselves, to others, and to the world around them. Similar to the meditation method mentioned above, begin this exercise by sitting either on the floor or in a chair. Begin to breathe and, as you breathe, repeat phrases that will help you develop kindness in your heart. For example, you could say something along the lines of I am and will continue to be completely accepting of myself or I will no longer be rude or cause harm to the people around me. The goal of this meditation is to reinforce the idea that you will become the accepting, compassionate person that you long to be.
- Mantra Meditation
Mantra meditation, which is aptly named because it needs a mantra, requires practitioners to repeat a word or a phrase in order to maintain focus while meditating. You could choose to either repeat the word in your mind during the course of meditation or you could softly say it under your breath. Some popular ancient mantras include “Rama”, “Gaur-Ang-Ga” and “Om”. If you do not connect with any ancient mantras, you could create your own mantra for use in meditation instead.
Vanessa Powlowski, PsyD. works with people who have anxiety and who have eating disorders. “There’s a lot of negative self-talk, people getting stuck in judgment and playing the same thing over and over again [in their minds,” she says, “so I have them use mantras as a way of interrupting those negative experiences and instead give them something positive to focus on: “I’m going to love myself no matter what today”; “I deserve to be loved no matter what happens”; “Nothing can stop me today—I can only stop myself.”
- Trataka Meditation
Trataka meditation, also known as gazing meditation, helps to build both your concentration as well as your ability to visualize things within your mind. You begin Trataka meditation by staring at an object, which could be anything of your choosing. However, most practitioners of Trataka meditation use a candle for their chosen object. Once you’ve studied the object and its movement well enough, if it has any, close your eyes and visualize that object in your mind. This type of meditation will be difficult at first but will become easier over time.
- Nada Yoga
Nada Yoga is a meditation method that focuses on sounds rather than the breath. To begin practicing this method, start by putting on relaxing music that will help you to achieve a meditative state. Sit down on either the floor or the chair and give your full attention to the music, letting your thoughts and other distracting stimuli slip your mind. The goal of this method is to help you hear the sounds of the body, of the mind, and of the universe.