As a meditation teacher, I’m frequently asked which type of meditation is the best or the most effective. People also want to know if meditation is possible without a religious connection or belief in God. Then there are questions as to whether busy type A personalities can slow down enough to meditate.
In order to be successful, meditation needs to be simple, comfortable, and have results that make you want to keep showing up every day. As far as the details go, whatever works for you is the right approach, and you have plenty of varieties to choose from. The key is making time every day to sit, breathe, and connect with the self.
Primordial Sound Meditation
Primordial Sound Meditation (PSM) is a silent practice that uses a mantra. The mantra you receive is the vibrational sound the universe was creating at the time and place of your birth. It’s calculated following Vedic mathematic formulas and is very personal and specific to you.
Repeating your personal mantra silently helps you to enter deeper levels of awareness by taking you away from the intellectual side of the brain. The focus is on comfort, and PSM is generally practiced sitting down. Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. David Simon founded this method. This is the method of meditation taught at the Chopra Center and by Chopra Center certified instructors all over the world.
Famous Practitioners: Deepak Chopra and Lady Gaga
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Started by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 and now offered in over 200 medical centers, hospitals, and clinics around the world, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) classes are often taught by physicians, nurses, social workers, and psychologists, as well as other health professionals, to create a partnership in care between the patient and the medical team.
This technique uses both breath awareness and body scan. Breath awareness is as simple as it sounds—you focus your attention on the inhalation and exhalation. Body scan is a process of focused attention on the physical body starting at the toes and working your way up with heightened awareness and the potential for release or relaxation of tension. The practitioner may be seated, laying down, or walking depending on the focus of practice.
Famous Practitioner: Jon Kabat-Zinn
Zen is also referred to as Zazen, which literally means “seated meditation.” It comes from Buddhism, which is more of a philosophy than a religion. You acquire insight through observing the breath and the mind, and through interaction with a teacher.
Zen emphasizes the attainment of enlightenment and the personal expression of insight in the Buddhist teachings. These Sutras (scriptures or teachings) and doctrine are taught through interaction with an accomplished teacher. Sometimes chanting is involved.
Famous Practitioners: Dalai Lama and Richard Gere
Founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Transcendental Meditation (TM), made popular by famous followers like the Beatles, uses a mantra or series of Sanskrit words to help the practitioner focus during meditation in lieu of just following breath.
The mantra given to the student will vary according to a number of different factors, including the year in which the student was born and in some cases their gender. The year in which the teacher was trained will also affect the mantra provided. The teacher will have been given a list of mantras to use and this list varies depending on which year they received their instruction. TM is a seated meditation.
Famous Practitioners: Katy Perry and Russell Brand
Meditation in the Kundalini Yoga tradition contains specific, practical tools that carefully and precisely support the mind, and guide the body through the use of breath, mantra, mudra (hand position), and focus. The range and variety of meditation techniques in the Kundalini Yoga tradition is very large.
Yogi Bhajan, the founder, passed on hundreds of meditations tailored to specific applications. There are meditations that reduce stress, work on addictions, increase vitality, and clear chakras, to name a few. Since these meditations are so specified, working with a teacher is a large part of this tradition.
Famous Practitioners: Sting and Jennifer Aniston
Research shows that spending time in mindful meditation of any type can combat anxiety, stress, and depression while heightening optimism, creativity, and vitality. Pick the style that resonates with you and give it a try. If you want some help to get started, try the free program for beginners, the 21-Day Meditation Experience.