Six Basic Meditation Techniques
By Steve Gillman
If you count every little variation in how people choose to
meditate, there are perhaps an unlimited number of ways. Most,
however, can be put into one of about a dozen or so classifications.
Here, for example, are six of those basic meditation techniques
and some notes on the advantages of each one.
Emptying Your Mind
Encouraging or developing awareness without an object is the
goal with this type of meditation practice. The goal is to empty
your mind of all thoughts, generally by sitting still and letting
the mind go silent of its own accord. Some people consider this
to be one of the most difficult of the various ways to meditate.
To start with, its often done in a "full lotus"
or cross-legged position, which is tough enough. In addition
there is the challenge of quieting of the mind. Any particular
effort toward this just seems to cause more thoughts and feelings
to arise. As a result many meditators find that it is easier
to start with one of the other techniques first. But this simple
and, perhaps, most difficult form of meditating does calm you
and allows for a clearer mind -- even when done imperfectly.
Watching Your Breath
Pay attention to your breath for a few minutes and you have
the essence of this method. Relax in whatever position is comfortable,
close your eyes, and pay attention to each breath coming and
going. Breathing through your nose is best, because it gets your
diaphragm involved and so brings oxygen deeper into your lungs.
Your mind will wander, but just re-focus your attention on the
air going in and out of your nose whenever that happens. This
is done for several minutes or longer. This is a quick way to
reduce stress and better prepare yourself for focusing on the
tasks of the day.
Using a Mantra
You might be more able to keep your mind from wandering if
you concentrate on something. A mantra can help with this. They
are often chosen for you by an experienced master in some traditions.
If you are working on this by yourself use any word or phrase
or sound that helps you focus and feels right. Repeat the mantra
aloud or in your head as you sit anf meditate. This type of practice
is easier to maintain for some, because of the repetitious nature.
Buddhists vipassana or insight meditation is the origin of
modern mindfulness practices. You might call this the art of
becoming deeply aware of what is here in this moment. You can
start with a simple breath-watching meditation, but then youll
focus on whats happening in and around you at this very
moment. Youll become aware of all the thoughts and feelings
that are taking your energy, and then move your attention from
the thoughts going through your mind to the feelings in your
body. Eventually you expand that awareness out to the sounds
and sights around you (open your eyes at some point. There should
be no judging or analyzing, just observation. This is a good
way to feel more at peace in your body and life.
Meditating on an Idea
The point here is to contemplate an idea or scene, but there
are many subtle variations. For example, in some practices people
meditate on impermanence. To do this you focus on the impermanent
nature of all things, starting with your thoughts and feelings;
noting how they come and go as you watch them. The "meditation
on the corpse," a Buddhist tradition, has you think about
a body in the ground as it is fed on by worms and rots away.
The idea or mental imagery focused on is meant to guide you to
an understanding that your rationalizing mind might not have
(in the case of the corpse meditation you are helped to understand
A basic walking meditation can be done outside or simply as
a back and forth pacing inside. Pay attention to the movement
of your legs and your breathing. Of course your mind will wander,
especially when you are new to the practice. Just keep bringing
attention back to the process of walking and your inhaling and
exhaling. Outside there can be distractions, so find a quiet
place. It should also be on level ground, so you will not need
to focus on stepping over or around things. Go back and forth
over a stretch that is thirty to forty feet long. You can also
try a variation using a brain wave entrainment MP3, which is
Other meditations include meditating on loving-kindness (really
a type of idea meditation, but with repeated phrases)
and object meditation (watching a flame or flower). The various
techniques each have their own effects and advantages, and you
may find that at different times and for different purposes you
want to use several different types.