You are interested in meditation techniques, but have lost the overview in the abundance of the offer? We introduce you to the 6 most popular types of meditation – where they come from, how they work, how they work.
Roughly speaking, there are about 7 billion ways to meditate. Free and guided, physically passive (just sitting) and active (e.g. walking meditation), with mantras, with breath, with mindfulness – or without everything… That’s confusing.
That is why we present here 6 most popular types of meditation – where they come from, how they are performed and how they work.
The Dynamic Meditation of Osho
Dynamic meditation is an active meditation technique – a very active one.
The technique developed by Osho (formerly Bhagwan, 11.12.1931-19.01.1990) is best practiced on an empty stomach in the morning. It lasts about one hour and goes through several phases: First the patient breathes deeply and quickly (10 minutes long), then a cathartic phase follows, in which a release and discharge of accumulated feelings should take place by screaming, crying, laughing (10 minutes), followed by bouncing (when jumping up, “Huh!” is shouted, 10 minutes) and finally the signal “Stop” is stopped and paused (15 minutes). After that there will be another 15 minutes of free dance. The meditation is emotionally and physically very strenuous and is often done in the group, mostly to the music composed for it by Georg Deuter (to be found among others at Spotify).
The dynamic meditation leads to better blood circulation, other possible effects are more energy and alertness as well as a therapeutic effect through the cathatic phase. Through her therapeutic approach, she has also established herself outside the Sannyasin movement (as the followers of Oshos are called) and was also used in the field of psychotherapy, especially in the 70s.
Metta – Buddhist Meditation for Loving Goodness
In Buddhism, meditations are traditionally oriented towards a special content. With various concentrative techniques, the entire mind is focused on this content.
The historical Buddha, Siddharta Gautama, taught 40 objects of meditation. Meditation on “Metta”, for example, is very well known: (selfless) love, kindness, friendship. In the Metta Sutta, one of his teachings, Buddha describes this way of meditating in detail.
Meditation takes place sitting, with closed eyes. The meditation takes place regularly, the duration of the meditation can range from a few minutes to several hours (Buddhist monks etc.). The meditator first sends loving kindness to himself and then slowly works his way from people close to him or those he particularly values to “enemies” or people in completely foreign cultures and countries. The goal is to send Metta in full concentration to all beings in all worlds. Phrases such as “May all beings be free of enmity, sorrow and pain – may all beings be happy” support this process.
In various studies, the consequences of metta meditation have been found to be better relationships with others and a better mental and physical state.
The Transcendental Meditation of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
In 1967 Maharishi Mahesh Yogi achieved worldwide fame when he became a “spiritual advisor” to the Beatles. In 1955, however, he already formulated the basic rules of Transcendental Meditation (TM). The theprie behind it: Instead of trying to calm the mind with different techniques, you just have to make it easy for him. This is done with the help of an individual mantras perfectly suited for the meditator – which, by the way, the student should keep secret. Although the technique is easy to learn and can be practiced independently after just a few days, it can only be passed on from teacher to pupil – at least that is the view of the Maharishi World Peace Foundation. And that is quite controversial. Because who wants to learn the TM, must attend a course of the association. If he can afford it: The TM course costs 1,170 euros. In return, the foundation promises lifelong professional and financial success on its website.
If you want to know more: In the entertaining documentary “David wants to fly”, filmmaker David Sieveking follows in the footsteps of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his probably most popular fan, filmmaker David Lynch.
Zazen – Meditation in Zen Buddhism
Zen is a popular western Buddhist movement that was formed in Japan in the 12th century. Zen Buddhism distrusts dogmas, fixed structures and intellectual theories and instead favors active experience.
Zazen is a sitting meditation. The eyes are half-open or open, yet the meditator should not “actively look”. The student is encouraged to observe and perceive body and mind, but not to react to thoughts and feelings – i.e. the basic meditation technique in zazen is that of mindfulness. There are no further instructions. The meditation can last 20 minutes or several hours – in the latter case it can be interrupted by a walking meditation.
In several studies, the effects of zazen have been improved attention, reduced stress and greater emotional stability.
Vipassana – the 10-day intensive meditation according to S.N. Goenka
Vipassana meditation is an ancient Indian meditation based on the scriptures of the Buddhist Theravada tradition. Vipassana is traditionally passed from teacher to student.
Vipassana after S.N. Goenka (30.01.1924 – 29.9.2013) is taught in ten-day courses: During these ten days the participants do not leave the course area – they do not read or write, they do not drink alcohol, only speak the essentials. Most of the day is spent in meditation, interrupted by walking meditations and a short daily conversation with the teacher. The aim of the Vipassana is the elimination of all disturbing thoughts and thus the liberation from all human suffering (i.e. enlightenment). The first step is to get involved with the rules of the course, then concentrate on the breath, then focus on allowing thoughts and feelings without reigning over them. After the ten-day course, the meditator should continue meditating daily. Vipassana courses to S.N. Goenka are free of charge and are financed only by donations from participants after the course.
Besides the Vipassana tradition according to S.N.Goenka there are many other Vipassana techniques and teachers.
In the long term, Vipassana meditators are more satisfied and feel less stress.
Attention: This technique is extremely demanding and only recommended for psychologically stable people!
Meditations in Kundalini Yoga by Yogi Bhajan
Finally, we would like to introduce the meditations in Kundalini Yoga. They play a special role among the yogic meditations. As with many yogic traditions, every Kundalini yoga class includes a meditation, but usually at the end of the lesson. The peculiarity of Kundalini Yoga is that the founder, Yogi Bhajan (26.8.1929-6.10.2004), has left behind hundreds of meditation instructions – these meditations always have a clearly defined goal, such as overcoming anger or healing a broken heart. In addition, Kundalini meditations are usually performed for a clearly defined period of time – 3, 22, 11, 31, 62 minutes or 2.5 hours. Yogi Bhajan postulated that the effect of meditation increases with time: A 3-minute meditation, for example, has effects on the electromagnetic field and the circulation, whereas a 62-minute meditation is supposed to change the grey mass of the brain.
Meditations in Kundalini Yoga can be active and include rhythmic movements or breathing techniques, but can also be classical, passive sitting meditations. They always work with mantras.
Whoever practices a special daily meditation, Yogi Bhajan promised him the following: After 40 days a habit changes, after 90 days the new habit solidifies – and after 120 days you are the new habit!
Nutrition and Meditation
One hardly thinks it possible, but our food influences the meditation behaviour immensely. The following menu was developed especially for meditators to make their soul experience more profound.
Meditation is not the same every day. Sometimes you just can’t stay focused. Either one is about to fall asleep or is so distracted by a multitude of thoughts that concentration does not even come about. A solution to the problem is then quickly sought. The meals we eat throughout the day can be important reasons why it is so difficult to prepare for meditation. To what extent our food plays a role in the depth of the meditation experience should first be clarified by a short story.
Once upon a time…
Three friends lived in India. Their names were Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. All three were very close, but they were also naturally different.
Tamas tended to sleep a lot and became more and more lazy. He wasn’t working, he was lethargic and just lying around all day. However, he was always the first at the table when dinnertime was declared. It mainly fed on meat and other foods that were heavy in the stomach.
Rajas, on the other hand, was a bright fellow, but at the same time quite restless. He thought too much and did too many things at once. As far as food was concerned, he liked spicy and well seasoned dishes, but also sweets with lots of sugar.
A mixture of both was Sattva. He embodied the balance between activity and relaxation, taking great care of his diet and eating only what his body needed. These included freshly cooked vegetables and cereals, fruit and juices. Sattva stayed healthy, refreshed and powerful all day long – unlike his friend Tamas. He was also able to think light-heartedly and logically due to his conscious nutrition.
Taken together, all three are part of our lives. Tamas provides a restful sleep at night, Rajas is responsible for an active day and Sattva maintains the energy balance. For meditation it is important to pay special attention to Sattva. The greater his share, the deeper the spiritual experience.
Balancing nutrition and character
Each type of body has a unique, natural constitution consisting of vata, pitta and kapha. Knowing what proportion is particularly pronounced can help to change eating habits in order to be sustainably healthy and balanced and thus make deep meditation possible.