On the spiritual path, you will come across a wide variety of meditation practices with different goals in mind. In this article, we take a brief look at the various types of meditation and how they work. There are roughly five main types of meditation. Although it’s common for only one of these techniques to be taught in a spiritual system, many other systems approach spirituality from different angles and combine more than one type of meditation.
This form of spiritual practice is by far the most common. It involves praying or worshipping a deity and devoting one’s works and deeds to this being. People with a traditional religious upbringing are in a way practicing this approach this to spirituality, assuming they actually pray and actively seek the divine. This is a highly valid and effective form of spirituality if the devotee is actually sincere in her efforts. People are very fond of criticizing this form of spiritual practice, and some of the criticisms can under certain circumstances be valid. However, some truly great mystics have existed in these systems and it would be wrong to simply write off the validity of this approach.
This form of meditation forms the foundation of many Buddhist and Yogic systems and is extremely effective and comes highly recommended. Mindfulness meditation is aimed at stilling the mind completely so that only pure consciousness remains. In its purest form, mindfulness meditation uses no mantras, no manipulation of energy, and no visionary phenomena. Rather, this form of meditation involves focusing on the breath or observing one’s thoughts to still the mind. I urge people to learn this type of meditation, because it’s safe, very effective, and is an extremely powerful supplement to other practices.
Chanting is the use of mantras to perform meditation. According to the Bihar School in India, mantras are slower than other techniques but work for virtually everyone. Through constant and regular practice the mind becomes absorbed in the mantra which results in spiritual states. Depending on the system, mantras can be devotional in nature, but that depends on the system. The key to proper chanting is the pronunciation of the mantra, the way the mantra is chanted, the meaning of the mantra, and regularity of practice.
A very popular approach that involves the manipulation of spiritual forces within the body. Meditation on energy points, or the movement of chi or prana within the body forms the backbone of this practice. The Taoist system of qigong and the Yogic meditations on the chakras fall under this category. The most potent form of this type of meditation is the awakening of a spiritual force in the body called kundalini, which is seen as the fastest route to spiritual enlightenment. Kundalini is, however, extremely dangerous to awaken and there are many accounts of this force inducing psychosis in the unprepared seeker
Eidetic meditation is the name I’ve given to meditations that use psychedelics, dreams, visions, and out-of-body experiences. Of all the approaches, this form of spirituality is the oldest and can be traced back to the Neanderthals, and Cro-Magnon Man. Shamanism, magic, and lucid dreaming also fall under this category. Some, but not all, Eastern systems tend to be critical of this approach because they believe that these practices are all illusions. The irony is that virtually every Eastern system can trace back its origins to this approach and is still widely practiced in many parts of the world. Eidetic meditation has deep cultural roots for many tribes and peoples and should be respected.
I encourage everyone to do research on these different approaches and find what suits them. As previously mentioned many systems combine these approaches so you don’t have to restrict yourself to just one of them. Yogic systems might use meditations on the chakras, combined with mantras to achieve the desired effect. Tibetan schools of Buddhism might use all of them, including the use of lucid dreaming to understand the nature of reality. Practice these approaches diligently and reap their rewards, but choose whatever works best for you