Meditation on the beach

What are different forms and types of meditation?

There are many forms of meditation and within these forms there are different types.
You could hardly see the wood for the trees. From zen to ohm meditation, from transcendental to vipassana.
It’s not that one is the best or most effective. Some types have been studied more than others. And one type has evolved from another.

In addition, what suits you is also personal; what works and is pleasant for one, is not really his / her thing for the other. Or you are not yet ready for a certain kind of meditation.
There are meditation types where you may experience immediate relaxation, such as with the guided meditations. And with others, it may take a while to notice the benefits.

However, if you want to benefit in the longer term and have real changes and development, you must meditate regularly and for a long period of time.

And yes, meditating can be very simple and sometimes very difficult, because you can also encounter yourself.

What meditations generally have in common:

  • Decreased feeling of stress
  • Helps you gain more insight into yourself and others
  • Increase your sense of equanimity
  • Improves your sleep
  • Improves your concentration
  • Can reduce or eliminate feelings of loneliness
  • Helps against anxiety
  • Improves breathing
  • Increase your sense of compassion
  • May reduce or prevent feelings of depression
  • Improves your memory
  • Brings the body and head back into balance 

And so the list can go on and on. In summary, it is healthy for you, makes you more aware of yourself and your environment and, to use a somewhat vague term, it helps you become a better version of yourself.

Fact: Studies show that if you meditate for just 5 minutes every day for 8 weeks, this already shows changes in the brain.

Forms of meditation

Meditation has been around for centuries. It is said that Hinduism is the oldest religion and originated around 4 to 5 thousand years ago. And within this religion people also practiced meditation.
The (yoga) sutras that also originated at that time have been arranged and compiled over time by Sri Patanjali (Indian philosopher and scholar who lived around 2 century BC) and the Raja yoga meditation was created, in which you develop physically, emotionally and mentally, with the aim of stilling your mind. Raja yoga meditation is a concentration, calmness meditation, also called Samatha.

This is most likely the basis of various types of yoga and meditations that emerged afterwards.

You could say there are 2 or 3 forms:

1. Concentration meditation or calmness meditation

In concentration meditations you focus on an object or subject. This can vary from a candle (perhaps the best known), the breath or, for example, a thought.

2. Insight meditation or Vipassana meditation.

This form of meditation originated from Siddharta Gautama (6th century BC*), who attained enlightenment and thereby became the Buddha. He attained enlightenment, also called Nirvana, through the practice of Vipassana meditation. You do not focus on one point for the purpose of stillness, but you practice awareness of all bodily and mental sensations. You are aware of these sensations, without going into it and without judgment or condemnation. You can do this form of meditation standing, walking or sitting. Many elements of vipassana can also be found in Mindfulness.

*When the first Buddha lived is not entirely certain, it is thought around 450-370 BC, but research by Professor Robin Coningham shows that this may have been as early as the 6th century BC.

3. Contemplation Meditation

However, you could also classify this form as concentration meditation. In contemplation meditation you focus your attention on a certain theme. With focused attention, you continue to focus on the theme, which can give you insight, depth and knowledge. Themes can be forgiveness or compassion, for example. Texts from the Bible are used within Christianity.

Types of meditation

Many types of meditations have arisen from the above main forms. Below you will find a small overview of possibly the most well-known:

Guided relaxation massage with body scan

With a guided body scan you follow a voice that takes you to relax every part of your body. Because you focus on the voice and your own body, it is a nice way to get more in touch with your body and to relax completely and to be less in your head.

Zen meditation

Zen meditation already existed in the time of Buddha but arrived in China in the 6th century AD. And 2 forms of it arose in Japan around 1200. Sitting still is an important part of Zen; the stillness of the body creates the stillness of the mind. If you can stop the thinking brain, you can get to know your own inner self and the causes of distractions.

Mindfulness meditation

Some people think that mindfulness is also meditation, but that is not the case. Mindfulness is a state of being, and in mindfulness training, for example, you practice focusing your attention on the present moment and having an attitude of openness and acceptance to what is happening. It is about becoming more aware of yourself, others and your surroundings. Mindfulness is about increasing your awareness and gaining more insight into yourself. And this can be done through many different exercises. Mindfulness meditation can be part of that and is therefore an activity. You practice being consciously and fully present in the here and now. You can do this meditation sitting, walking or standing, and even during everyday activities, although you will be more easily distracted. You can name sensations as pleasant or unpleasant, without going into further detail.

Mantra meditation

A well-known mantra is ‘aum’ or ‘ohm’, but it can also be other sounds or prayers, such as ‘Om mani padme hum’ from Tibetan Buddhism. During the meditation you keep repeating the mantra. The repetition of sounds activates harmonizing brain waves, which help you to concentrate and calm your mind. In addition, the vibration of the sound you make ensures relaxation and tranquility in your body. You do this meditation mainly sitting, but you can also walk. You can also use a prayer beads (a mala) during this meditation to keep track of the number of mantras.

Transcendental Meditation

The Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi made this meditation known in the fifties and became especially popular in the sixties. It is a concentration meditation in which you meditate on a mantra for 20 minutes twice a day. This mantra is personal and given by a qualified teacher. You therefore do not share your mantra with others, but it has been specially selected for you. The difference with mantra meditation is that you do not use the mantra as a focus, but as a “vehicle on which your attention gently rests”. This would allow your mind to settle into increasingly subtle levels of thinking, and eventually the mantra itself is transcended and you settle into stillness.

Visualization meditation

This meditation can be done in 2 ways. There are many forms in which someone takes you into a story and invites you to visualize things. Often a structure is made in which you would eventually come into contact with your subconscious and which can then provide answers to questions. Another form of visualization is that you make an image in your head of a situation that you want to achieve, for example. It could help you achieve these goals or dreams sooner because your brain has already had the experience that you are already there.

Singing bowl meditation

A guided singing bowl meditation is often given live in groups and uses different types of bowls or even other instruments such as a gong. But you can also listen to audios, although live music can be more powerful. There are many types of singing bowls, from small to large and you have hand hammered, machine and crystal bowls. The bowl is played with a stick and vibrations are created. These vibrations have an effect on the body because it consists of approximately 65% water and provide balance and relaxation.

Which form and type suits me?

To choose a form and type, you can first read a bit (more) about it to see what appeals to you and what suits you best at the moment. And yes, then it really is just a matter of trying and doing!
It may be an idea that if you choose between concentration meditation or vipassana, to do that form for a certain time, to really feel and notice if it suits you and what effect it has on you.
These two forms can be combined very well with certain types of meditation, such as singing bowls and body scan.
Perhaps it is not so much about which form you choose and how you meditate, but more importantly that you meditate.

Does meditation always relax you?

It is very possible that you experience feelings of restlessness during a meditation. Or sadness, anger, joy, lust, or whatever. This does not mean at all that you are not meditating ‘properly’. You learn to observe what is going on at that moment, without having to do anything with it or judging it.

Are there any risks when you meditate?

It is very possible that you experience feelings of restlessness during a meditation. Or sadness, anger, joy, lust, or whatever. This does not mean at all that you are not meditating ‘properly’. You learn to observe what is going on at that moment, without having to do anything with it or judging it.

Online, apps or going to a teacher?

Which form of guidance suits you best? That is of course also very personal.
There are many guided meditations, online, in apps, both free and paid.
A guided meditation can be very nice, because you can focus on the voice or sound. In silent meditation, the challenge is often not to be constantly distracted.
I personally think the voice is very important here, some voices I just don’t like very much, and with all those apps it takes a while to find what you like.
I also think the disadvantage of an app is that you can postpone your meditation more easily; the app is always there. I can easily think, oh tomorrow or the day after tomorrow I can do it too. And before you know it, a week has passed.

When I started Vipassana meditation myself, it worked best for me to go to a center for a course, on a certain day and time. With a teacher who explained, guided the meditation and who you could ask questions.
A training was a good motivation for me to really go every week and not to postpone practice.
After this training there was a regular walk-in meditation evening where you could go.

Retreats are also a great way to deepen your practice or as motivation to pick up your practice (again).

And hurray for the digital age! Online meditation guidance: you can do it from home, or wherever you are, but you still have someone in front of you. There is also the motivation of a certain day and time. Some teachers have recordings of the meditation and these are still available for a few hours or days. Personally, I like ‘live’ classes, but a recording that is limited available can sometimes be the big stick.

Currently I provide private meditation lessons, often in combination with yoga. A meditation orientation course of a few weeks is planned for autumn 2023.

Hi, my name is Jolinda, and I work as a holistic health practitioner.  I provide yoga and meditation classes and massage and Reiki treatments,  mindfulness training and happiness coaching,. 
With my blogs I hope to inspire you to make positive changes into your life. For more ideas and tips check out my page Jolindas inspiration.  Free trainings and videos you can find at free downloads and videos
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