Top most practised meditation techniques
Which one do you practice?
Millions of people devote time to practice meditation an with a range of traditions and practices on offer, here are the most commonly practised techniques.
Lisa O'Neill investigates:
Zen is the most prominent variation of Buddhist meditations, as it is believed that Buddha first reached enlightenment while practising zen meditation. During a meditation he discovered the answer to human suffering and that true happiness doesn’t concern what we have, but who we are.
Practising zen requires a quiet and peaceful space where you sit upright in the traditional full or half lotus pose. Position your hands in the cosmic mudra pose, or hokkai-join in Japanese, with your left hand on top of the right and your palms turned upwards. Keep your eyes open, relaxed and directed about one metre in front of you, without focusing on anything in particular. With your mouth closed, breathe slowly, calmly and rhythmically through the nose with extra focus on the exhalation. Focusing on the breath will help to put you in a deep, meditative state, although it’s natural to experience thoughts, emotions and images; do not try to fight or resist them, just return back to your breathing. Stay in this posture for 15 to 30 minutes.
From The Beatles to Hugh Jackman, Clint Eastwood and even Cameron Diaz, transcendental meditation has a wide and diverse following. This style of practice stretches back thousands of years under different names (Vedic is also used), but was revitalised in the 1960s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who described it as a simple, effortless flow of the mind towards happiness. The ideal practice entails two 20-minute sessions each day – one in the morning and one in the evening. Sitting in a comfortable chair or on the floor with your legs out in front of you, close your eyes and repeat a mantra or sound (a word that comes with an attached meaning) repeatedly until it fades away and you reach a blissful silence.
Originating in Judaism, Kabbalah is an ancient wisdom thought to be around 4000 years old and guides students to live more fulfilling lives by accessing higher planes of consciousness. It was only taught to scholarly, married Jewish men but since 1969, Rav Philip Berg opened the wisdom up to everyone regardless of religion, sex or race and it has become a global road map for achieving spiritual enlightenment. Within Kabbalah, the daily meditation practice is called hitbodedut, which is less structured than other variations of meditation. Meditators sit in a quiet place but instead of silencing the mind, it’s thought to be a space to talk with God, expressing whatever is in your heart at the time, including gratitude and questions of help.
This style of meditation is also related back to the Vedic tradition thousands of years ago, using sounds, words or phrases to chant silently. When broken down, the word ‘mantra’ can be defined as man, meaning mind, and tra, meaning vehicle. So the mantra is a means of transporting the mind from activity to achieving heightened levels of awareness with minimal interruption from thoughts. Some mantra meditations use words or phrases with intentions, such as ‘I am focused’, ‘I am strong’ or Sanskrit mantras with meanings intended to connect you with your highest self. By meditating on these mantras, the meaning penetrates our subconscious and flows beyond the practice and into our daily lives.
Sufi is an integral practice of Islamic spirituality named Sufism, which is thought to be the path of love and an ancient wisdom of the heart. There are different meditation techniques used within Sufi, but one popular version is the meditation of the heart, where the mind is quietened by the emotion of love. Relaxing the body (either sitting or lying down), the first stage is to evoke feelings of love by thinking of someone we love dearly and immersing ourselves in that feeling, using it to drown out thoughts that come and go. Full concentration on the feeling of love eventually leads to a quiet mind and a higher level of consciousness. Most practices last for at least half an hour and are ideally practised early in the morning before we start our day.
A Tibetan Buddhist practice, Dzogchen (pronounced ‘zog chen’) translates to ‘great perfection’ and teaches us to experience life as though we are the centre of the universe, yet not in the ego sense but rather from the realisation of our divine and equal importance. Practised by the Dalai Lama, dzogchen meditation involves sitting in darkness and silence to avoid sensory distractions. Sit comfortably with your eyes half open (naturally gazing just ahead of you) and focus on the breath. Thoughts come, but gently let go of them until you reach a state of stillness. It’s important to realise that meditation should come as naturally as breathing, eating and sitting, and should be practised with least effort.
NEXT: Discover more ways to detox your mind through meditation.