Hello my beautiful souls!
Welcome back to the Modern Manifestation blog. Feel free to listen in to today's topic in the podcast.
Hello hello everyone and welcome back to the Modern Manifestation blog! As promised in my last meditation post, today we are jumping into the different types of meditation, what they do for us, and who they’re best suited for.
If you haven’t read my blog posts or listened to my podcast episodes on meditation before, I recommend you start there with the Benefits of Meditation (episode #92) and the post before that where I discussed Intrusive Thoughts and Meditation: Embracing Discomfort to Improve Your Life (episode #85).
Hindsight 20/20, I could have planned a better sequence for these posts so feel free to read them in whatever order works for you.
While I will discuss the different types of meditation… Remember that the best practice is the one you will follow! As you listen to the different types today, take note of which types feel the most do-able. Regardless of the long-term results you want to see, determine which type of meditation works best for you right now.
If the type of meditation that will help you reach your goals is the type you will only commit to once a month, then it’s not a very useful practice. Instead, give yourself complete freedom to find one that fits your lifestyle right now.
If guided meditations are easier than sitting in complete silence, then start off with the guided meditations! If loving-kindness meditations are harder to commit to than visualization meditations, then start with visualizations! Work to build a consistent habit first and worry about customizing your routine for maximum benefit, later.
As I’ve said before, consistency is the most important thing you can focus on. Meditations that create discomfort are likely the types you need the most, but they’re also the kind that you’re most likely to avoid at first. So, start slow and ease your way in. Once you begin to see the benefits, it will get a lot easier to keep going; to tolerate the discomfort as you go. Establish the habit first, THEN get into the types of meditation that make you uncomfortable.
Thankfully, Researchers unanimously agree that ANY type of meditation is beneficial. There is a direct positive correlation between the amount of time you meditate and the physical changes of your brain and body. In other words, the more you meditate, the healthier you become. Regardless of the type practiced! Any practice will increase the grey matter of your brain where a lot of your neurons are stored—meaning better and more efficient brain processing power!
So, whether you commit to 1 minute a day or 1 hour, whether you commit to silent meditation or guided, whether you meditate under the perfect zen conditions, or in an airport, you will benefit regardless. Accept where you’re at, what you’re capable of doing today, and begin!
Let's jump into the 5 of the most common meditation types:
1. Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation is about noticing and becoming present through awareness. We practice mindfulness when we bring our attention to the present moment by observing our breath, thoughts, bodily sensations, and emotions without judgment. This kind of meditation can also be called open-awareness meditation–where we simply become aware of our internal or external surroundings.
If you’re new to meditation, this type of practice would be a great place to start because it gives you something to focus on—instead of focusing on the absence of something (which can be challenging). You’re choosing to focus your mind instead of clear it. If you don’t have any guided meditations, you can: follow the rhythm of the rise and fall of your chest while you breathe, observe the quality of your breaths, observe the kind of thoughts that pop into your head, observe the number of thoughts that pop into your head, the sounds around you, the experience within you, the lighting quality, the smells, conduct a body scan, etc. There is no limit to what kind of awareness we bring to this practice. Simply focus your awareness on something and stick with it for the duration of your practice. The objective of this practice is to actively choose an area of focus, correcting your mind when it wanders to something else. It’s essentially practicing neutrality, so this can be a great practice for anyone who is easily stressed.
According to Scientific American, during an 8-week mindfulness meditation course, participants whose brains were scanned with an MRI showed a reduction in the size of their amygdala—the fight or flight portion of the brain. A smaller amygdala means less likelihood of having a negative reaction like stress, so this is a great sign. The MRI scans also showed that the pre-frontal cortex thickened, meaning that it was better able to function. This is also great news because the pre-frontal cortex is related to decision-making, concentration, and awareness. And last but not least… the scans also showed that the connection points between the rest of the brain and the amygdala got weaker, while the connection points between the rest of the brain and the pre-frontal cortex grew stronger. Scientists believe that the reduction in size and connectivity of the amygdala is responsible for healthier bodies since our amygdala controls our stress response and cortisol, the stress hormone, has many known negative side effects.
2. Loving-Kindness Meditation
Loving-kindness meditation, also known as compassion and Metta meditation, involves generating feelings of love, compassion, and goodwill towards oneself, loved ones, acquaintances, strangers, and even people you don’t like very much. There are many ways to do this meditation, but you can start by sending yourself unconditional love for several minutes, then to someone you love, then to someone you feel neutral about, then to someone you dislike, and finally to the world or Universe as a whole. You may also repeat positive affirmations or phrases, such as "May I be happy. May I be peaceful. May I be loved. May I be free from suffering." This practice cultivates empathy, forgiveness, and a deep sense of connection with all beings.
According to Neuroscience News, this practice also improves our memory retention and reduces our struggle with depression. Over the course of 4-weeks, scientists studied a group of 50 individuals who typically suffered from depression, and had them practice loving kindness every day for 10 minutes. At the end of the study period, those individuals reported having better memory recall and their memories were more positive. They also had better autobiographic memory which is important for self-concept, problem solving, and emotional regulation. Autobiographic memory is often impaired in people who suffer from depression. It was also found that the area of the brain responsible for emotional regulation and empathy was more responsive after engaging in a consistent loving kindness meditation since this practice increased connectivity between the amygdala (which is fight or flight) and the right dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (which is where we process empathy) and the left dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (which is where we learn and process executive functioning like better choices and goal setting).
Finally, an EEG study taken after an individual ran on a treadmill revealed that a compassion meditation practice is responsible for significant neurophysiological changes like a reduced heart rate and improved brain-heart connectivity which could have a positive impact on your immune system. Loving kindness meditation is especially great for people who suffer from depression or PTSD, want to improve their emotional intelligence, boost their immune system, would like some help with social skills, or for people who carry a lot of anger and hate around with them. So if y ou’re super pessimistic and angry at the world, this meditation is for you.
3. Mantra Meditation
Mantra Meditation is a technique where practitioners repeat a positive mantra—a specific sound, word, or phrase—in a relaxed manner with closed eyes. The mantra serves as a vehicle to settle your mind and access deeper levels of consciousness. This practice aims to promote deep relaxation, reduce stress, and increase self-awareness.
To do this type of meditation, choose a mantra and repeat it in your mind throughout your entire meditation practice. Your mantra can be “I am loved”, or “I am abundant”, or even something as simple as, “I am”, or “joy”, “love”, or reciting “Omm”, or even a syllable of your choice. You could also use your favorite affirmations as a mantra, to help with your manifestations!
Neuroscientists have found that while we practice mantra meditation, our brain produces high-power alpha waves which is responsible for feeling bliss, serenity, and expansiveness. Alpha waves may be responsible for the improved dialogue between different brain regions such as the precuneus, left parietal lobe and insula, which all impact our ability to feel at peace and connected. This meditation practice could be great for anyone who deals with high levels of stress and anxiety.
4. Guided Meditation
Guided meditations are, in my opinion, the most approachable form of meditation because someone is leading, or guiding, your thoughts. To that end, guided meditation can be any of the other types of meditation also; loving kindness, mindfulness, visualization, body scans, etc. I find this type of meditation the easiest because you don’t have to worry as much about your roaming thoughts and sitting in stillness. And, it helps you learn how to focus your mind, so you are better prepared for other types of meditation later. This is the training wheel of meditation. This type of medication is best for anyone who has tried to meditate before, but found it too difficult to do so. For a little help, download the Insight Timer app. It’s a white background with a bronze bowl on it. This has tons of free, guided meditations for you to use (not a promotion!). Guided meditation involves following the instructions and guidance of a teacher, either in person or through recordings.
Guided meditation can be particularly helpful for beginners who want to focus on their manifestation goals since you can combine your meditation practice and your visualization practice into this exercise. I couldn’t find any data on how guided meditation impacts our brains, specifically, since googling “guided medtation’s impacts on the brain” really just provides all the data on meditation as a whole, and not guided meditation specifically. To that end, I’d assume the different types of guided meditation will impact your brain in many of the same ways I’ve discussed above. To that end, I’d recommend guided meditations for anyone who is just getting started and wants some help turning off their brain. You will still reap the general meditation benefits like improved focus, memory, and increased gray matter.
5. Moving meditation
Moving meditations combine a practice of meditation with some form of movement like yoga, dancing, walking, hiking, stretching, etc. This might be a great starting place if you’re just beginning your meditation practice and aren’t sure about devoting specific time toward it yet. The difference between a normal movement and a meditative movement is that you’re not hurrying to get anywhere, and you’re not exercising per se, you’re moving for awareness.
This type of practice is especially great for those of us who have a tendency to disassociate mentally, or struggle to connect with our bodily sensations, or for those of us who struggle with the monkey mind. A movement meditation is a type of focused meditation that allows you to focus on your movements instead of your thoughts. The benefits of this type of meditation are increased feelings of relaxation, lowered blood pressure, improved heart and lung health, and any benefits that are also associated with the movement style itself (strength, flexibility, stamina, etc.). This is also a great meditation style to try if you’re feeling distracted by your surroundings or you’re feeling restless. I love this kind of meditation when I’m traveling because I can use it as an excuse to decompress when I’m experiencing sensory overload.
Ok, I know that’s a lot… the biggest takeaway here is that every kind of meditation is beneficial in some way. I’ve heard people say that they won’t use guided meditations because it's cheating, or they won’t try moving meditations because they don’t think it counts. I’m here to tell you that you have complete freedom to explore which types may work for you. And, there are so many other types of meditations that I didn’t cover that you can explore like kundalini meditations, pranayama, chakra meditations, body scans, etc., so have fun exploring. What is great for your body and mind may not be the best option for someone else, and vice versa. So, pick one or two styles that feel the most approachable, and get started! Give yourself at least 3 months to notice changes. Once you do, let me know!
The best type of meditation practice is the one you will do consistently.
I hope my last couple of posts on meditation have helped you get inspired to begin a practice if you haven’t already, or to resurrect an old practice that you’ve fallen out of the habit of doing! And remember, the benefits of meditation is in the struggle. It’s okay for your mind to wander, to accidentally fall asleep, to miss a day or a week, to become impatient, to fall off the wagon and get back on… we’re looking for progress, not perfection.
Thank you for hanging out with me today. I will catch you in the next post!
Check out this discussion in podcast form:
What Does Mindfulness Meditation Do to Your Brain?, Scientific American
Kindness Meditation Boosts Memory Recall in Depression Recovery, Neuroscience News
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