Types of Meditation

Walking Meditation

Walking meditation is a wonderful complement to seated meditation, and is particularly helpful if you find it difficult to focus while sitting, or at times when you’re experiencing strong emotion. A natural outdoor location where you won’t be disturbed-such as a safe, quiet park-is ideal.

Begin the meditation by standing still with your weight distributed evenly on both legs. Let your arms and hands fall by your sides and hold your back comfortably straight, just as in seated meditation.

Close your eyes, and begin with a short breath meditation to focus your attention. Then, open your eyes and begin walking slowly.

Note your surroundings lightly, and observe the sensations that arise as your body moves; the touch of each foot to the ground, and the feeling of your clothing shifting, the brush of the air on your skin.

Gazing Meditation

Gazing meditation, or trataka in Sanskrit, is a powerful method of focusing the mind by engaging our most dominant sense-sight. In trataka, we gaze at a small object. A candle flame is the most common item, but other good choices are a single flower, a mandala or picture of significance to you, or even the rising moon.

Before you begin the meditation, place your object at least an arm’s length away and just below eye level. You may need a small table, stool or shelf to achieve this. If using a candle, close the doors and windows to prevent draughts before lighting it and sitting down.

Begin with a minute or two of breath meditation. Then, open your eyes if they are closed and gaze steadily at your meditation object. Try not to blink; keep your eyes and face as relaxed and quiet as possible.

When your eyes begin to water or become sore, close them and visualize the flame or object at your third eye, between your eyebrows. When that image begins to fade, open your eyes again and repeat the process of gazing at the object.

To protect your eyes, limit gazing meditation to no more than ten minutes, particularly if you use a candle flame, and do not practice it daily.

Eating Meditation

Eating mindfully can transform how you think about and relate to your body and to food, and can bring awareness to how you eat. First try this type of meditation with a small piece of food, such as a piece of fruit or vegetable. Then, as you become more familiar with it, try a more substantial dish or a meal. Sit at a table with your food in front of you, making sure you’re comfortable, able to relax, and won’t be disturbed.

Before you eat, take several deep breaths to center yourself. Focus on your body, your feelings, and your appetite. Next, smell the food, letting it’s aroma wash over you and noting its effect on you. Look at the food and think about what contributed to its creation and how it made its way to you-the the sun, the rain, the earth, the animals, the people involved. Pause to feel grateful for the blessing of the food.

Now, take your first bite and chew slowly and with purpose. Focus completely on the feeling of the textures and shape of the food in your mouth, and then on the intensity of the flavors and the sensations of the tastes spreading through your mouth. Chew the food thoroughly, being aware of what your tongue and your teeth are doing.

Finally, swallow the food, listening to your body’s response to the nourishment, and how it affects your hunger and appetite. If your mind wanders, work on pulling your attention back to your body and the food. Repeat until your food is finished, then take several deep breaths, enjoying the sensation of wellbeing.

Compassion Meditation

Also known as a metta or loving-kindness meditation, a compassion meditation helps you develop compassion, care, warmth, and love towards both others and yourself. Several phrases stating your intention to practice compassion are silently repeated, first directed inwards to yourself and then outwards towards a person or persons upon whom you wish to focus. Make sure you are sitting or lying somewhere that is quiet and comfortable before you start.

Close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Focusing inwards and create an image of yourself in your mind, then slowly and gently repeat to yourself, “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be free of pain and sorrow. May I be at peace.” Repeat this several times, over and over. You can choose other similar phrases if you prefer.

Next, focus on someone else. They can be a friend, a family member, a colleague-it’s up to you. Again, create an image of them in your mind, then repeat to yourself, “may you be happy. May you be well. May you be free of pain and sorrow. May you be at peace.” You can adjust the phrases to suit their circumstances and your feelings towards them if you wish. Refocus the meditation on other people in your life, finishing when it suits you.

Sound Meditation

Sound has been used as part of meditation for thousands of years. Using sound can help deepen the meditation, expand the consciousness, and focus the mind. There are many ways you can incorporate sound into a meditation; some versions use traditional instruments such as Tibetan gongs and singing bowls, didgeridoos or shamanic drums; some focus on vocal sounds and chanting, and others draw the meditator’s attention to the everyday sounds going on around them as they practice.

This type of meditation can be especially beneficial when done in a group, as the energy of the other participants can heighten and magnify the experience. However, sound is also extremely useful for the meditation in a private session or a solo meditation using recorded sounds, which can be easily found online.

Lie down and close your eyes. Take several deep breaths to center yourself before commencing the meditation. When your chosen sound starts, focus your attention on it. Feel how it reverberates through you and around you. Listen to the sound in it’s entirety., following it from it’s beginning to its end. Note any fluctuations in tone, pitch or volume, but do not attach any meaning to those changes-simply be mindfully at one with the sound as it is at each moment.

Try not to anticipate any changes or pre-empt where you think the sound might go, your focus should be completely on the present. Focus on ensuring your breathing stays constant throughout the meditation as the waves of sound wash over you, even if the tempo of the sound changes or if there are any silences or pauses.

Attachment Meditation

In this meditation, you relive your day so far. Possibly the first action of your day had to do with staying in bed for just five more minutes or the desire to get to the kitchen for breakfast. Maybe there was a disturbing thought of things that had to be done at work or a pleasant thought of having lunch with a friend.

What other thoughts and actions occurred as the day progressed? Impatience or even anger when you had to wait in the queue at the bank? Satisfaction when you drove into the last parking space before someone else? Downhearted when you realized you had to spend the day with someone you did not like? Delighted when your boss praised you in front of others?

If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll see that our day is filled with thoughts and actions that are directed at avoiding suffering in its many forms and experiencing happiness. This is a motivation common to all; the wish to experience happiness and avoid suffering.

There is, of course, no problem with possessions, wealth, a comfortable lifestyle. The real problem is in the mind, with the underlying belief that these things will make us truly happy forever.

Begin with a few minutes of breath meditation as described earlier.

As best you can, relive the day so far-from the moment you woke up to the present. Consider each action you carried out; not just the big, more significant actions but all the smaller ones as well.

Then think of a previous object of desire you obtained; a relationship or even a situation. FI at the time we knew what we know now-that they were impermanent and had no change of living up to our expectation-would we have suffered so much to obtain them? Would we have placed such importance on them? Would we have become so overwhelmed by the thought of having to have them or having to avoid them otherwise our life would be ruined?

Finish the meditation by considering ways in which you may be able to understand the impermanent nature of phenomena in your life. Appreciating them in a more rational way can prevent the extremes of attachment and desire or aversion and anger.

Consider the peace and contentment that this would create in your mind.