Types of Meditation
There are many ways to meditate, some might be more suited to your nature than others. For example, if you are more of an emotional and heart based person you might gravitate towards loving-kindness practices or devotional practices. If you are more cerebral and philosophical you might gravitate towards practices that analyze and understand the ultimate truth or reality. If you are more action based you might do walking meditation, jogging meditation or service work with intention. If you are about simplicity or practicality then breath meditation might be good for you. If you seek freedom of expression then mind like the sky meditation, mantra meditation, or reciting OM might be a good practice. If you are an imaginative type then visualization practice would be well suited. Or if you work well with certain sounds then sound or music meditation is helpful.
Here is a list of non-spiritual as well as spiritual types of meditation you can choose. Please note that choosing only one of them to practice at any given time is conducive to development. Ultimately, all of the meditation practices compliment each other and lead to the same fundamental understanding. After having practiced a few or all of them you will see that they combine naturally in your understanding. For each one I may list previous handouts you can seek out on my website under “Meditation Documents/Handouts” to deepen your understanding of the theory behind these types of meditation. In addition I also encourage you to seek out literature on these topics since they are sometimes too dense to simply encompass in a paragraph, or contact me for a more formal introduction to these practices via the “Contact” page.
Non-Spiritual Meditation Practices:
Noticing the breath going in and out, being present to the sensation of breathing, noticing if you get distracted by your thoughts or anything else and allow them to be there, then let them go, and come back to the breath.
Noting Meditation: When you sit in meditation, use the practice of noting to bring yourself into the present moment. Noting is saying in your mind, or out loud, whatever it is that occupies your awareness in the moment. If it is the breath then say "in breath" and "out breath", if it is a thought then simply say "thinking", "thinking", if it is a sensation in the body then say " body" or "itch" or "warmth", and if it is a feeling then simply say "feeling", "sad feeling" or "pleasant feeling" for example. You can add the intention to focus on the breath, but still note anything that distracts you.
Cultivating love for ourselves and others through well-wishing, either through the intention of love itself or through saying the phrases “may I be happy, safe, peaceful, and full of joy, and may others be happy, safe, peaceful, and full of joy.”
(See the heading “Suggested Apps” on my main website) Guided meditation is when someone either through a recording or in person offers you a step by step process for meditation. A lot of them are not spiritual in nature. Sometimes it might include simple breath meditation, sometimes it might include visualization. Every meditation teacher is different and may offer different types of guided meditation. I have recorded the guided meditation that I offer in my classes and posted it on my website under “Guided Meditation Audio”. It runs for about 13 minutes and involves relaxation techniques, followed by breath meditation, followed by loving-kindness meditation. It is a good a thorough way to begin your meditation practice. Other guided meditations are available via apps on your phone like Headspace or can be found on Youtube by searching for guided meditation.
Being present to the moment, using the breath as the anchor, noticing all things that arise in the body and mind and observe them non-judgmentally, allowing yourself to be in the present moment. Notice when thoughts arise and simply allow them to come and go like passing clouds without engaging them.
Meditation on Your Happy Place:
Begin by closing your eyes and taking a couple deep breaths. Then visualize a place that you will call your happy place. It can be a place you know or a place you make up. It can be in the woods, in a field of flowers, near a mountain, on the beach, or in a celestial realm. stick with one place and make that your happy place. Now whenever you need to de-stress or have some emotional comfort you can go back to your happy place and feel relaxed and well again. This practice is a beginner practice that can be helpful for some, but ultimately it is like having training wheels. Eventually it is best to graduate from thinking of a happy place to cultivating centeredness, presence, and love within yourself on your own by remembering just the feeling of being in your happy place and reflecting on that without actually imagining it. Finally, you can cultivate peace of mind through any of the other meditations and realize a deeper place in yourself without having to think of a happy place at all.
Sky or Space Meditation: this is the practice of allowing your mind to be like the sky, as vast as space itself, to promote a vast openness of mind that counters all the stuck and in-grown ways our mind and feelings can be. It is encouraged to do this practice by looking up at the actual sky on a clear enough day by lying down on the grass or siting and looking up. We can lose our sense of self in this vastness. Also, just as the sky is open and welcomes both dark clouds and light clouds with equal acceptance and giving space to all, so too is the nature of our own mind able to be open, allowing all things to arise in it just as it comes and goes. And just as quickly as it comes, it goes, all the while the sky of our mind is always innately pure, observing from an unbiased, non-judgemental place.
Meditation on the Meaning of Life:
In life there are many ways we experience meaning. The more meaningful our experience the more fulfilling it is. We can experience the meaning of the breeze on our face, the meaning of our work, or the meaning of our loved ones. All these experiences of meaning may fulfill us in different ways. In meditation, we also experience an engage a certain level of meaning. That is the meaning of the moment. In our day-to-day lives we may be caught in thoughts about the past or the future, but when we meditate, during breath meditation for example, we focus on the present moment. This presence to our moment allows us to deepen our relationship to meaning. This is because the meaning of the moment is not just the meaning of where you are or what you're wearing, but the meaning of life itself. This is a deeply meaningful experience that only deepens with practice. When we meditate in the moment we reflect on the heart of life itself, and therefore become wiser through our knowing it. In this meditation practice I invite you to reflect on the meaning of the moment to deepen your presence to the meaning of life.
A form of meditation that is easy to do and accessible to anyone is sound or music meditation. This is where one listens to any sound that induces a meditative state, whether it be the sounds of nature or the sounds of music, to meditate. As you listen to the sound, you get deeper and deeper into the experience of the music, thus producing a meditative state. Its important to recognize which form of sound works best for you. Some sound meditations include natural sounds like the sounds of rain, or the ocean, or the wind in the trees. Others include the sounds of traditional sound meditation and trance inducing instruments like shamanic drums, or a didgeridoo, or singing bowls. Others still are music composed specifically for the purpose of inducing a spiritual or meditative state. You could also listen to music which recites mantras, or spiritual phrases of empowerment. Some religious music can also be deeply meditative like christian choral music. All of this music can be found on the internet simply by searching for it.
Walking Meditation/Jogging Meditation:
(See “Mindful Walking and Eating”) Walking meditation can be a very blissful practice simply by walking mindfully, noticing every little movement of your body, while maintaining an intention of presence. In this way you no longer think of the future or the past, but just the act of walking. All of this can also apply to Jogging. If you add devotion and mediation on the divine this can become a spiritual practice.
Meditation on Nature:
(See “Nature”) Being in the presence of the beauty of nature, whether by the ocean or in the mountains or in the forest, we are reminded of our own deeper nature and feel more natural and at ease. Meditating in the presence of nature allows us to feel that wisdom of nature and be supported by it in our practice. We do this by sitting quietly and reflecting on the nature around us, maybe following the breath in the midst of our natural environment, and appreciating what surrounds us.
Candle Flame Meditation:
This is a good beginner practice (please make sure to be safe when dealing with fire!). Simply find a comfortable seat before a candle flame and watch it single pointedly without distraction. If you get distracted by your thoughts simply notice them and come back to the candle flame. The ever-changing nature of the flame can mesmerize us and keep our attention well. Notice that just as the candle flame is new every moment, so too is everything new every moment including yourself.
Meditation on Infinite Light and Love:
(See “Divinity for Atheists”) This is a good practice for atheists that wish to have a “spiritual” practice. It simply relies on the minds ability to visualize qualities that we do not yet posses in order to eventually possess them. You do this by visualizing an infinite source of light and love in front of you or above you or within your heart, and allow that love and light to affect you, make you become more like it. This practice is achieving some of the benefits of the belief in divinity without having to.
Spiritual Meditation Practices:
Meditation on Impermanence:
(See “Impermanence”) All things are constantly changing. And we are changing every moment physically as well as mentally. Our blood is constantly pumping, our brains are constantly firing, our cells are constantly dividing. Also our thoughts and feelings are constantly changing and our experience is always a flow of new information now and now and now. Reflecting on this allows us to let go of the stuck concepts that think that things including ourselves don't change in the moment. This allows us to let go into the flow of our reality, which is ever-new moment to moment.
Recognizing Ego-lessness or Emptiness:
(See “The Ego” as well as “Emptiness: The Ultimate Reality”. For this topic in particular I also recommend reading books by Buddhist masters like H.H. The Dalai Lama since it is the most difficult spiritual content there is.) This is the primary liberating practice of Buddhism which aims to realize that ourselves and all phenomena lack an essence that is stuck and the same over time and are separate from everything else, when in reality everything is flow that changes moment to moment and has a relative existence based on causes and conditions. This refers to our concepts that like to make things out to be stuck objects like a “car” or a “chair” or “I”, a concept that is the same concept now and now and now for something that in reality is changing even on an atomic level now and now and now. Our flow of experience is also always receiving new information now and now and now, but our concepts for the sake of economy thinks of things as being unchanging. This belief or concept of an unchanging essence of things and ourselves is called “ego”. It is a stuck-ness of the mind that needs to be transcended through wisdom. It is also the basis of all selfishness, since it is this concept of “I” that we serve whenever we have a selfish thought. This form of meditation realizes that there is no stuck essence to ourselves, no stuck independent “I”, and everything around us is the same way because everything is not independent but dependent on causes. Therefore the concept of ourselves and things being stuck, separate, unchanging, and independent is ignorance and releasing that ego concept by realizing everything is flow, relative, changing moment to moment, and dependent on causes is wisdom. Therefore everything is unstuck, ego-less, or emptiness, empty of ego.
Meditation on the Nature of the Mind or the Mind of Clear Light:
(See “The Mind of Clear Light”. For this I would also encourage reading on the teachings of Dzogchen by H .H. the Dalai Lama, Lama Surya Das, and other Buddhist masters to get an understanding of this very subtle information) In Tibetan Buddhism this is a practice for a well-developed practitioner who has already familiarized themselves with their minds through meditation for a while. This practice involves recognizing the very nature of the mind, which is called the mind of clear light. It is clear because it is cognizant or transcendent awareness and it is light because it is radiance or transcendent love. This nature of the mind is the primordially pure nature of the mind and is beyond all conceptual elaborations. One way to describe it is it is what is left when you have nothing left to hold on to.
Dream Yoga Meditation:
(See “Dreaming and the Spiritual Path”) In this meditation, inspired by the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, you use the deeper level of sensitivity and power of your dreams to cultivate spiritual awakening. You do this by first becoming lucid in your dreams, which means that you know you are dreaming while you are dreaming. There are many techniques you can find online by searching for them for how to become lucid in your dreams. Some people enjoy becoming lucid because then you can experience anything you want, the possibilities are endless. However, in dream yoga we forgo all the endless pleasures that are possible in being lucid for the sake of the deepest reflection possible: you are experiencing your own mind. Everything around you, even yourself, is a projection in your mind. So what is the nature of the dream? A projection of the mind. If we can realize that then we can reflect on the very nature of our minds which as described above is called the mind of clear light. To realize this very nature of our minds is to achieve spiritual awakening. A realization of this kind will not only affect you in your dreams, but when you wake as well, since the nature of the mind is the basis for both, and it is deeply blissful.
Meditation on OM:
(See OM chanting videos on youtube) OM is a sacred spiritual sound that is the vocal equivalent of the fundamental vibration of the universe. If the Divine could only say one word, it would be OM. And so it is, as all things vibrate with the energy of the divine, and the sacred OM is its sound. To practice this meditation first bring yourself to a centered state of mind through breath meditation. Then from the deepest place within you say "OM" out loud, elongating the word so that it sustains for as long as you can without running out of breath. Then take a moment to reflect in the silence after it, to realize the vibration of OM that exists in the stillness of your own mind and heart. Then repeat the syllable OM once more. Then stillness, each time connecting to the blissful and transcendent vibration of this word. OM is also spelled AUM, and considered to be a four part syllable: the first part is "A", the moment of creation, the second is "U" the moment of sustaining, and the third is "M" the dissolution. The fourth part is the silence from which it came and to which it goes.
Meditation on Pure Awareness:
(See “Consciousness Is All”) In this practice we recognize that the basis of all of our experiencing is our consciousness. Our consciousness is the common basis of everything we experience. Therefore, to meditate on our own pure awareness is to meditate on the most fundamental aspect of our experience. You do this by first settling yourself into the present moment through breath meditation then focus on your present moment awareness itself, that which is aware of everything. It good to notice that your awareness is with everything you are aware of, but is not merely any one thing you are aware of. Reflecting on this allow you to connect to that transcendent place from which all of your awareness arises, which is blissful and divine.
Meditation on the Observer:
(See “Who Is the Observer?”) This meditation invites you to reflect on one simple question: who is the observer? At first glance this is a simple thing to answer, but as you start to delve into this question more deeply you start to realize it is much deeper a question than it seems. We are not merely what we observe since we are also observing it. Our thoughts, our feelings, our sense of who we are, all of these things are observed phenomena. Who then is the observer if it is not who I think I am? Practice this meditation to find out how far you can go. Eventually this practice leads you to realize transcendent awareness since the observer transcends everything observed, and therefore your identity is no longer the little ego you think you are but it is beyond all observed concepts and ideas.
Meditation on Non-Duality or Unity Consciousness:
(Please see "Subject and Object", "Conceptual Versus Non-Conceptual") Our conceptual thinking mind grasps at what makes things intellectually distinct and therefore projects absolute separation between objects. This is so it can know the difference and the boundaries well between two different objects. This, however, has a drastically negative side-effect, since we identify with our concepts of ourselves, causing us to believe we are separate from everything else. This sense of being separate form everything else is called the ego, the basis of all selfishness and therefore suffering in our lives. In meditation practice we can actively remove the ego by locating it in ourselves, this sense of a separate "I", and letting it go and therefore dis-identifying with it. When we do that we also let go of our sense of separation with everything. This will bring about an experience of non-dual or unity consciousness that feels like you are one with the boundless universe. It is called non-dual because the duality of subject and object, of self and other, of "I" and the universe dissolves.
In this practice you choose a spiritual image to visualize, whether its a Buddha, or Jesus, or God being like the sun, or anything that signifies your understanding of the divine and allow yourself to be affected by what you visualize by feeling their blessings in your mind and heart. You can also visualize infinite love, light, and/or awareness. The spiritual power of what you visualize will extend its qualities into your own mind and heart by harmonizing with it and subsuming its nature.
Meditation on the Divine:
The Divine, be it God, or Jesus, or The Universe, or Allah, or the Buddha, is the reality of all things that is in all things and supports all things and is within our hearts. To meditate on the divine is to feel the radiance of transcendent love within us that resonates within all things around us. We practice this by allowing ourselves to settle and become present through breath meditation then allow for the stillness and silence within us to reveal the whisper of the divine presence which radiates limitless meaning and love.
Mantras are phrases of spiritual power and significance that are repeated in order to cultivate the significance and spiritual power of the phrase. There are mantras in almost every spiritual tradition known to man. Try using mantras in your meditation practice to cultivate their spiritual qualities. Here are some examples of mantras from different traditions:
The Lords Prayer:
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.
The Mantra of Compassion:
Om Mani Padme Hum
( Meaning: The jewel is in the heart of the lotus)
Mantra of Krishna:
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Ram, Hare Ram, Ram Ram, Hare Hare
God is great mantra:
Allahu Akbar Ya Salaam
Mantra upon waking:
Modeh anee lefanecha melech chai vekayam, she-he-chezarta bee nishmatee b’chemla, raba emunatecha.
(I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.)
Try any of these mantras or phrases of spiritual power in your meditation by repeating them over and over again. By doing so you attune your mind with the power that they invoke and therefore deepen your spiritual practice. You can also find more mantras by searching for them online, or make up your own mantra that has deep spiritual significance for you like repeating the word "love" or "peace" or "truth", or a combination of words like these like "love is the true peace".
Meditation on the Wonder of Life:
(See “Wonder”) Life is by its very nature free of all explanations, since it is an infinite universe that is therefore beyond our concepts. Since we could never conceptually grasp the infinite universe, we could never conceptually grasp its explanation. Therefore existence is an absolute mystery free of all explanations. Since it has no explanation and is a mystery but we still have meaningful experiences, it is therefore a wonder. The universe is an infinite wonder without explanation whatsoever. The experience of life being simultaneously an infinite mystery and meaningful is wondrous, like a miracle, and therefore we can meditate on this infinite wonder to feel the deep bliss that arises from understanding the wonder of life. The wonder is divine, and reveals the divine nature of all things. It is the vastness of the ordinary.
Meditation on the Mind Like the Sky:
This practice involves meditating on the literal sky or on the limitlessness that is like the sky and feeling that your mind is itself limitless. Every concept and every thought or feeling we have is limited and ultimately obscures the ultimate nature of the mind. If we meditate on our mind being limitless like the sky, we can let all the things within our mind go like passing clouds and begin to feel our limitless nature. From this practice we not only feel that our mind is limitless, but that everything is radiating in all directions from the depths of our mind and heart, and from the heart of all things, allowing for our deeper nature to express itself.