With so many types of meditation and mindfulness practices out there, how do I know which ones are right for me?
When I first began meditating, I didn’t know enough to ask this question. I assumed there was only one way to meditate. It’s not until I dug a little deeper for information that I realized that there are many types and it can be very confusing to know where to begin.
For the past 3 years, I have devoted a big part of my life to exploring this very question. Not from the perspective of being an expert about it, but from the perspective of trying these practices in my own life and with the people I coach as a way to experiment and play with various techniques.
Through this process, I learned some valuable lessons. The following are helpful things for you to consider and be aware of if you’re interested in starting a meditation practice:
What is the reason you’d like to learn to meditate?
Most people are motivated to learn to meditate for one of three reasons: To receive the physical and health benefits; to deal with emotional challenges like anxiety and depression; or for spiritual reasons.
Each type of meditation brings certain benefits depending on your intentions. There are some overlapping principles that apply to all meditations and then there are distinct differences.
For example, if you’d like to improve your focus and concentration there are certain meditations that will help you with that. If you’d like to become more compassionate and need to release some anger and feelings of resentment, there are some practices for that. If you feel anxious and stressed all the time, there are techniques that are best suited for that.
I personally wanted to learn to meditate to feel more peaceful, less anxious and stressed. As I began to use different techniques, I realized that I needed a number of techniques for a variety of reasons. I realized that some of my stress was being caused by some anger and resentment that I was holding on to and I used forgiveness meditations to help me with that. I was having headaches and other symptoms of stress and mantra meditations helped to settle my mind, release stress and improve my health. Mindfulness techniques have helped me become more aware of my thoughts which have enabled me to create new thought and feeling habits. These new habits mean that I’m happier, more content and confident to move forward with my best life.
What kind of a learner are you?
Different meditations resonate differently with different types of people. A large part of this is related to the type of learner you are. The model of the various learning styles is called the VAK, developed by Neil Fleming and it includes visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners. You can check out this article for a good overview of these learning styles if you’d like to find out what you are.
Learning styles are really important as they determine how we learn best and how to communicate most effectively with others. This is very important for meditation techniques as well. For example, if you are an auditory learner and are practicing a really visual meditation, this may frustrate you.
Auditory learners may gravitate to meditations that use mantras, listening to music, chanting, or meditations that have you focusing on what sounds can be heard like chimes or meditation bowls.
Visual learners may gravitate to meditations that use images, pictures, colors, and visualizations. This type of learner may become frustrated with concentration meditations because their minds want to be seeing something.
If you’re a kinesthetic learner you may enjoy walking meditations, dance meditations, Qigong or body scans. Meditations that create opportunities to become completely absorbed in the experience resonate well.
My big epiphany about these differences was when I was participating in a chakra guided meditation, which was very visual. I finished the meditation feeling frustrated because I wasn’t able to visualize things. Other people were raving about how amazing and powerful it was. If I thought that chakra meditations were the only ones out there, I likely never would have meditated again.
Do you prefer to be guided or meditate without guidance on your own?
Some people love guided meditations while others find them distracting and a barrier to the mind settling down. You can check out this article to learn more about guided as compared to self-guided meditations.
I find it interesting that in workshops that I offer, I’ll have one person say that they love to be taken on a guided journey into nature, chakras, body relaxation or any number of other experiences, while another person will say they prefer to meditate on their own in silence. One of my students recently said that she attended a session and the guided experience didn’t resonate with her so she thought maybe meditation wasn’t for her.
The key message I want you to take away from this is that there is a meditation practice for everyone and that while one may not resonate with you, there is another one that will. If you are having difficulty finding a practice that fits for you, it would be helpful to speak with a qualified meditation teacher. If your teacher isn’t able to address all of the above considerations, it would be worthwhile to seek out someone who can.
To answer the initial question which was: “What is the best type of meditation for me?” The short answer is the best meditation for you is the one that you will do, feels right and aligns with your intentions and your learning style. If you’d like to learn more about the best fit for you, you can contact me or sign up for a private session or meditation worksop.