There are really only two basic styles of meditation.
1. Awareness meditation
2. Concentration meditation
I have provided a more detailed review of these two basic styles here.
So, since there are really only two basic styles, why does it seem like there are so many different types of meditation out there?
1. Context matters
Different traditions — say Buddhist, Hindu, Tibetan, Taoist, Kashmir Shaivite, etc. — and their varying respective regions have all devised different names for the same basic types of meditation.
2. Objects matter
The way in which someone meditate depends much less on the two different styles —concentration and awareness — and much more on the object upon which someone meditates.
Therefore, I want to outline the six basic objects of meditation.
Keep in mind that when practicing awareness meditation, you expand your attention to include all six objects at once — or as many of them as you possibly can. When practicing concentration meditation, you isolate your attention to include only one of the six basic objects.
Here are the six basic objects of meditation:
I discuss the three types of breathing here, which includes quiet breathing, deep breathing, and fast breathing. While deep breathing and fast breathing are great warmups for meditation, quiet breathing should comprise the majority of your actual meditation session.
To meditate on breath as an object of focus allow your breath to function naturally at its own pace. Observe numerous rounds of inhalation and exhalation, noticing the space between the inhalation and exhalation.
After a few moments, consider adding the technique of counting to the breathing repetitions. After one round of inhalation and exhalation, count to one. After the second round, count to two. After ten rounds, count to ten, and start again at one.
Mantra is perhaps the most popular object of focus for meditation. It’s also one of the easiest objects of focus. For that reason, I want to recommend mantra as the object of meditative focus most beginners.
A meditation mantra is a meaningless word or sound that aids concentration in meditation.
To meditate on a mantra as an object of focus repeat the mantra silently inside your head, listening to each syllable as it echoes, allowing the vibration of the mantra to fill your mind.
Repeating a mantra will gradually push you closer to a place of mental stillness.
To meditate on sensation as an object of focus allow your body to relax as completely as possible. Notice anything that affects your body. Aches, pains, and irritations. Heat or coolness. Feel your skin, your muscles, and your bones. Tune into your body, and try to maintain constant vigilance of your body.
Meditation on sensation is great for stress reduction.
Meditation on chakras is similar to meditation on sensation. The difference is that when you meditate on chakras place your attention on each of the seven chakras located in specific parts of your body, rather than any number of random parts of your body.
If you are not familiar with the seven chakras, read my article on chakras here.
To meditate on chakras as an object of focus, deliberately move your attention sequentially from one chakra to the next, starting at your root chakra and concluding at your crown.
Meditation on attitute requires that you develop your emotional capacity, that you be able to feel and relate more deeply.
A common common attitudes that you can meditate on are compassion and kindness. For a more in depth description of those two attitudes, read my article here.
To meditate on attitude as an object of focus, choose an attitude, such as compassion or kindness, and silently wish those feelings toward yourself, your family and friends, your community, and the world.
Meditation on image requires that you visualize something in your mind and maintain your attention on that image. Examples of visualized images that you could meditate on are a lotus flower, a cactus, or a person.
To meditate on an image as an object of focus, start by allowing the image to gradually appear and sharpen in your mind. First, allow the image to establish some contours. Second, allow the details of the image to work themselves out. And third, allow color to enter the image to give it greater vibrancy.