Types of Meditation

The Four Basic Categories

If you do an Internet search for types of meditation you’ll probably get a lot of different meditation methods and techniques listed in the search results.

However, although there may be many meditation techniques (or meditation methods), they can probably all really be boiled down to four or five basic types of meditation practice. And even these can possibly be reduced to three broad categories. And most have as their ultimate goal the experience of happiness.

Concentration forms of meditation

In this form of meditation you focus on, and concentrate on, an object of attention. This might be, for example, a visual object such as a burning candle, a statue or a picture; or it could be an auditory object (a sound).

The intention is to control your mind from wandering to other objects of attention such as the thoughts that seem to keep flowing. The goal is that your mind should ultimately settle down to a quiet state without thoughts, just consciousness with no object of attention.

Concentration like this obviously requires effort and control. There is a school of thought that says the perceived need for mind control is due to a misunderstanding about how the mind actually functions. This results in a belief that the wandering nature of one’s attention needs to be curbed.

Contemplation types of meditation

Meditating woman on floor - Courtesy: fotosearch.com

In this category of methods and techniques the mind is encouraged to explore a certain concept, often regarded as spiritual in nature - such as love - or to think about a spiritual entity, or to offer prayers, devotion or supplication.

Some methods of Christian meditation fall into this category of meditation techniques.

If one is wanting to experience deeper levels of consciousness, and to come totally into the Now, as it is popularly called, then having the mind deliberately involved in thinking would suggest that with this type of meditation such a state would not easily be reached, if it is reached at all.

Observation types of meditation

Mahatma Ghandi

Methods of meditation that would fit this category would include those that involve observing your breath, or observing your thoughts. An example would be the method known as mindfulness meditation.

Somewhat like contemplation types of meditation, observation methods involve keeping the attention focussed externally – to the rhythm of one’s breath, for example. Yet these types of meditation often involve more innocence and less control than the concentration methods.

Virtually effortless and effortless types of meditation

These meditation methods do not subscribe to the notion that the mind must be controlled in order to be stilled. They are based on the principle that the mind only wanders because it is seeking more joy, more comfort, more power, more order. And the seat of those is at the source of thought - in pure consciousness - which can be reached without effort.

Virtually effortless types of meditation

Virtually effortless meditation makes use of this natural tendency of the mind by employing techniques or approaches that make it easier for the mind to find what it is looking for – bliss, the finest value of human happiness. This is sometimes called authentic happiness, the happiness that dwells within, at the source of thought.

Meditating man with red shirt - Source: fotosearch.com

I call such methods ‘virtually effortless’ because there is often still a small degree of effort involved in introducing some kind of ‘vehicle’ for transcending the finest level of thought.

The vehicle is often a sound, referred to as a mantra, a syllable or a vowel, depending on which particular technique one is using. This sound must be ‘thought’ in a particular, ‘effortless’ manner.

This type of meditation is sometimes referred to as mantra meditation.

There is some debate as to whether one can deliberately think a particular sound and still have no effort involved. The explanation given by the experts in some of these types of meditation techniques is that, just as effortlessly as thoughts enter the mind, that is how effortlessly the mantra should be thought.

However, spontaneous thoughts come by themselves. Deliberate thoughts are thought, and this requires consciously thinking. This is why I hesitate to call these methods or techniques truly effortless, and prefer to add the word ‘virtually’.

Effortless types of meditation

In these kinds of meditation practices – and I have personal experience of only one such meditation method – there is no mantra or sound involved, and no visual object of attention either.

Meditating blonde girl - courtesy fotosearch.com

In the method I use - my own process that I call Conscious Mental Rest<span style='font-size: 50%'>©, which can be learned via this website - the process is started in a specific way and the mind is then allowed to follow its own course towards the source of thought within, pure consciousness.

Because of the specific yet effortless manner in which the session is approached - with no mantra or other 'vehicle' - the mind does not stay indefinitely at the surface level of random thoughts.

Neither does the meditator engage in the process of thinking, as one would do in contemplation. Nor does one use observation or concentration.

This type of meditation is, in my mind, a 100% natural approach, relying on the natural tendency of the mind to want more and more – more happiness, more charm, more peace, more stillness.

All that is needed is to start the innocent process and then give the mind the opportunity to follow its natural flow towards stillness.

Looking for more info on types of meditation?

Here are two useful websites I've come across. They give more perspectives and info about the different types of meditation as well as descriptions of a variety of different meditation techniques:

Meditation -- All You Need

And this one with special focus on the ladies:

Daily Meditation For Busy Women

Meditation Techniques That Unlock Happiness

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