There are many types of meditation, each striving to focus, calm and improve the mind, but each also has its own ultimate goal to be achieved.
In this lesson on the different types of meditation, we will discuss several of the most common that you are likely to find teaching centers for in your area if you live in a reasonably sized town.
We will also focus on forms of meditation you can practice on your own easily. You might eventually which to do more research online, or via books once you become a more skilled meditator.
• Guided imagery
• Transcendental Meditation (TM)
• Zen meditation
• Tibetan Buddhist meditation
We will discuss each of these different types of meditation in turn
Guided Imagery Meditation
Sometimes called visualization, this method of meditation encourages you to form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing. You try to use as many senses as possible, such as smells, sights, sounds, and textures, to calm the mind, and focus it. It is a good way to get into a more meditative state. Its goal is relaxation and peace. It can be done with mindfulness meditation.
This type of meditation is based on being mindful, that is, having an increased awareness of and acceptance of living in the present moment. It means paying attention to what you are doing in the present, rather than living on autopilot.
Really taste your food or focusing on washing a dish would be two examples. You will observe your thoughts as well without judging them. Its goal is to focus the mind and become more familiar with it. You can also focus on sensory input to calm and focus the mind.
In this type of meditation, you silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts and to awaken the power within. The word OM, for example, has a vibrational quality that is supposed to help increase your wisdom and connection with the cosmos.
The goal of these different types of meditation is to focus more and eliminate distractions in order to achieve deeper and deeper levels of concentration and awareness. The goal is a connection and higher wisdom, such as the wisdom of enlightenment.
Transcendental Meditation (TM)
Transcendental meditation was founded in the 1950s and is basically a form of mantra meditation. Lessons are expensive and there is no evidence of any special benefit to it compared with any other form of meditation (especially since most of them are free to learn). The Beatles and other pop stars made it popular, but popular does not always mean useful and effective. Save your money, or invest a $1,000 or so dollars on some meditation retreats, books, and classes for beginners instead.
In Zen or Zazen meditation, there two main practices. They are breathing meditation and mindfulness meditation in order to be present and aware. The goal is inner peace.
Tibetan Buddhist Meditation
Tibetan Buddhism is the purest form of different types of meditation practice of Buddhism. Because Tibet is such an isolated country that the same practices have been done continuously for centuries with little outside influence. Skilled meditators from India traveled there to teach those who wished to how to follow the path to enlightenment. The Dalai Lama is the political and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and as a monk is an accomplished meditator.
You don’t need to be a monk, however, to get great results. Once you quiet down your mind chatter, you can focus on a certain topic in order to understand it better. Guided meditations on important topics such as reincarnation, loving-kindness, and the ultimate truth, emptiness, lead to Nirvana, that is, enlightenment, the freedom from suffering. Nirvana is not a place, it is a state of mind. An enlightened being can benefit everyone because they are so kind and compassionate.
The simpler forms of these different types of meditation are easy to master. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to get a great deal out of them. But you will be following instruction from the books written by the historical Buddha, (600 BCE) his 84,000 Sutra teachings.
The Buddha was a noble Indian prince who had loving parents, a beautiful wife and wonderful son. He lived in a magnificent palace and was wealthy beyond imagining. But one day he saw a dead body. He realized then that no matter how powerful a prince he was, he couldn’t stop suffering, aging, sickness and death.
He decided then to seek enlightenment in order to end suffering. He meditated for 7 years under the most difficult conditions and achieved enlightenment. He then taught his methods to others, including his own son.
The story is an inspirational one whether you take it to be actual fact or not. It is important to note that Buddhists don’t worship Buddha, they try to emulate him.
There are many enlightened beings pictured in temples, such as Medicine Buddha, or the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri, but again, they are not worshipped as gods, they are role models to remind us of what we need to work on in our lives.
However, some consider these different types of meditation and the number of Buddhas and symbols used for teachings ‘idolatry’. In fact, some people are shocked to see what looks like a Star of David (as in the image above, used in Judaism) and even worse, a swastika in Buddhist pictures and on the chests of images of Buddha.
The 6-pointed star is the symbol of the purest of the Buddhas, Vajrayogini, the ‘indestructible practitioner’. The swastika is a symbol of reincarnation and everlasting life, which is why certain political parties used it as their own symbol of power.
If you think of Buddhism and these different types of meditation as a science of the mind, however, then you won’t have to get hung up on ‘religious’ issues. There are around 20 main Tibetan meditations that can be done in rotation, to improve your meditation skills and to give you a clearer grasp of emptiness. A deep understanding of emptiness is believed to be the conduit to enlightenment, a peaceful mind of wisdom that seeks to benefit all living beings.
Now that you are aware of several of the main forms of these different types of meditation, it’s time to get a taste of meditation yourself. Let’s start with the main elements of a meditation practice for beginners in our next lesson.