Stress, anxiety, insecurities: so many of us deal with these small but significant mental stressors on a regular basis, and finding your inner peace while the turmoil and noise of the world rages against you can feel impossible.
But with meditation, your inner peace is just a few minutes every day away.
While meditation can be as simple as sitting down and clearing your mind, performing this daily isn’t always so easy.
That’s why we’ve collected 18 of the best meditation techniques for both beginner and advanced meditation students alike, so you can find ways to ensure you meditate regularly no matter where you are or what you may be doing:
Best Techniques for Beginners
1) Mindfulness Meditations
Mindfulness meditation practices are simple, and are what most people think about when they think of meditation – they’re about focusing on being present, not letting thoughts and ideas distract you from your current present-ness.
There are many ways you can do mindfulness meditations, but the main purpose of your meditation should be centering yourself in the here and now.
This is best for individuals who might be feeling stressed by the future or burdened by the past, and need to reconnect with the reality of the present moment.
Guided imagery, body scan meditation, and mindful breathing are all types of mindfulness meditations.
2) Breathing Meditations
Breathing meditations and exercises are excellent at sharpening the mind and giving clarity to your thoughts.
Scientific studies have found multiple links between neurological health and meditations that focus on breathing.
While we might normally breathe all the time, the quality of our breathing isn’t always as good as it could be, so taking time out of your day to breathe properly can work wonders for your health.
One popular breathing meditation is Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 Breathing Technique, which involves the following steps:
1) Let all your breath out and begin with empty lungs
2) Breathe for 4 seconds through the nose
3) Hold the breath in for 7 seconds
4) Exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds
5) Repeat the step 2-4 cycle for 3-5 times
3) Mindful Walking Meditations
Also known as kinkin, walking meditation is a meditative practice originally derived from Zen Buddhism, in which individuals hold their hands in a position known as shashu – holding both hands behind the back, with one hand held in a fist within the other – as they walk around the room.
Individuals must also breathe after every step, and it helps to walk in complete silence to feel and observe the entire room as you walk around it.
For individuals who may not enjoy the stillness of most meditative practices, mindful walking meditations are a great way to meditate while keeping oneself in an active state.
4) Focus Meditations
Focus meditative techniques are those which involve focusing on a particular item and truly examining it.
This item can be anything – a flower, a building, a bag – and the purpose of the technique is to stretch and make use of your senses that you may not usually do in everyday life.
You want to think about the object as thoroughly as you can. Imagine its texture, think of its exact color, trace every line and curve.
Immerse yourself in the visuality of the object, and zero in on it until nothing else exists in your line of sight.
When done regularly, this meditative practice can add significant strength to your sense of focus and ability to observe.
5) Mantra Meditation
The mantra meditation technique is self-explanatory: using mantras to gain meditative clarity.
A mantra is a phrase or a word which you repeat to yourself, either silently in your head or chanted aloud.
You may already be using mantras in your day-to-day life without knowing it; short chants and “small truths” which we say to ourselves are a common part of life.
To successfully utilize mantras as a meditative instrument, it’s recommended to repeat a mantra to yourself several times per day, several times a day.
The important part of this technique is choosing the mantra that best suits you.
This should be a line that you truly believe in, something you feel you can reach or act on. Without this self-believe, the mantra is powerless.
6) Progressive Muscle Relaxation Meditation
Largely regarded as one of the classic forms of meditation, Progressive Muscle Relaxation meditation revolves around the practice of tightening and releasing or loosening various muscles across the body.
The purpose of this practice is to stretch and feel the different parts of the body, particularly areas you wouldn’t normally consider.
The most common way of performing Progressive Muscle Relaxation Meditation is by starting from one end of the body and working your way to the other end; starting from the bottom of the feet to the head, or starting from the top of the head to the feet.
Each squeeze and release of the muscle should be done slowly and carefully, minding how every movement feels.
(To dive further into meditation techniques to help you be more mindful, check out Hack Spirit’s eBook: The No-Nonsense Guide to Using Buddhism for a Better Life. In this Book, I will walk you through your first meditation, and give you some straightforward but powerful exercises to help you be more mindful every day. Together, we’re going to work to strengthen your relationships, increase your emotional resilience, and systematically train your mind. Check it out here).
Advanced Meditation Techniques
7) Zen Meditation
Also known as Zazen, Zen meditation is as old as Buddhism, and there are many ways that Zen meditation can be practiced.
While Zen meditation can be done alone, Zen practitioners usually practice this technique with a teacher, as it involves specific postures and steps throughout an organized routine.
Zazen focuses on combining a focus on breathing, comfortable posture, and mindfulness. There are a number of positions you can choose for Zazen.
The most common positions include:
– Seiza position: Resting on your knees and upturned feet, using the heels of your feet as a cushion for your buttocks. Some also use a seiza bench to keep the weight off the heels.
– Full lotus position: The most stable seiza position, the full lotus involves crossing the legs in a seated position, and placing the feet above the opposite thighs and folding the hands over the lap.
– Half lotus position: For those who might have difficulty with the full lotus, the half lotus is an easier alternative in which just one foot is placed over the opposite thigh rather than both.
– Burmese position: In a seated position, the legs are crossed and the feet rest on the floor, with the knees also pointed down to the floor. This can be difficult for those who might not be very flexible.
– Chair position: Sitting in a chair can still be considered a Zazen position. Keep the feet flat on the ground and the spine straight and vertical.
In all positions, the hands must always be folded in the position known as the cosmic mudra, in which both hands are palm up and the weaker hand rests in the dominant hand, allowing the knuckles of the two hands to overlap.
8) Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental meditation combines breathing and mantras, and can be done by anyone with enough time.
The purpose of this kind of meditation is to “transcend” beyond your current state, which is why this meditation is often associated with spiritual benefits.
Transcendental meditation involves the following steps:
1) Before you begin, ensure that you have at least 20 minutes of freedom and peace to yourself with no interruptions
2) Find a comfortable chair or place to sit
3) Close your eyes, then start with a few deep breaths. This will force the body to relax
4) Think of your chosen mantra. Whenever the mind starts to wander, use this mantra as your North Star; allow it to guide you back to a place of complete meditative restfulness
5) Stay in this position for your set time (at least 20 minutes). Use your mantra whenever your mind begins to feel distractions
6) After your set time, slowly move your extremities to bring your mind back to your body; wiggle your toes and fingers, and let yourself ease back into the world
7) Open your eyes. Sit for a few more minutes before you start moving again
This is a contemporary or modern version of traditional transcendental meditation, in which individuals are allowed to hold and focus on a mantra of their own choosing.
Traditionally, transcendental meditation focused around mantras chosen by a teacher, in which the mantra is based off a number of factors including the individual’s year of birth.
9) Metta Meditation
Metta meditation is also known as loving-kindness meditation, in which the goal of the practice is to learn how to express an attitude of absolute kindness and love to all parts of life, even those that bring your stress and pain.
To perform this type of meditation, you simply have to begin with you preferred meditative posture.
Clear your mind and find complete relaxation, and focus on your breathing as well as feeling the various muscles in your body.
When you find yourself in the meditative state, you then focus your mind on the concept of opening itself to receiving kindness and love from the universe and the world.
Try to feel it all around you, and let your spirit be moved by it.
Once you begin to feel that connection, then push it back outward from within – let your own kindness and love connect with the rest of the world, embracing everyone, no matter what they might mean to you.
10) Kundalini Yoga Meditation
Kundalini yoga is a combined form of meditation and yoga, in which the physical component of meditation is just as important as the mental and spiritual component.
Kundalini yoga can take a lifetime to practice, and is better thought of as a school of meditation practices by its own right.
This blend of physical and spiritual practices incorporates meditation, dynamic breathing techniques, movement, and mantra chanting, specifically on ideas like sat nam, which is a Gurmukhi phrase which means “Truth is my essence” or “I am truth”.
To get the full experience of kundalini yoga, it is best to begin in a class with a teacher. While you may be able to practice kundalini yoga on your own, it is important to remember that having a guide is always more educational and enriching, especially for those who may be trying it out for the first time.
Best Guided Meditation or Visualization Techniques
There are many types of guided meditation techniques out there, and for obvious reason: this type of meditation is great for both beginner and advanced meditation individuals alike, as it can be done alone, with a helper, and through a variety of techniques.
Essentially, guided meditation involves visualizations and imagery to help people connect with their inner selves.
This can be helpful for individuals who might find it difficult to achieve the meditative mindset, because it gives their minds visual goals to think about rather than just silence or mantras.
Guided meditations are often used for healing from personal development issues, and they are often compared to hypnotherapy sessions with a number of benefits and uses.
This type of meditation is great for people who struggle with their own silence but need to find ways to achieve meditative inner peace.
Here are some common guided meditation or visualization techniques you can try:
11) Wooded Trail
Imagine that you are walking through some kind of forest area or a wooded trail. Imagine everything that you might be seeing, smelling, hearing, and feeling along with you.
Try to smell the scent of trees and bushes around you; taste the air and remember how that might taste in such a natural environment.
With every step, listen to the crunch of leaves and undergrowth beneath you, and feel your feet breaking twigs and avoiding bugs and other small animals on the ground.
Imagine the sun breaking through the branches, and the sound of birds tweeting in the air.
Eventually you might find an open area with a camp and a log; sit on the log and immerse yourself in the area. Think about what you feel.
12) Clean Room
When we feel that our lives have become too cluttered and too disorganized, it can sometimes feel like the road back to cleanliness and stability might be impossible, but it’s not.
All it takes is remembering what orderliness feels like, and you can achieve that by visualizing a clean room.
Imagine yourself sitting in a clean, peaceful, restful environment. Nothing is on the floor; items are on shelves, in drawers, on tables and desks.
Clothes are in the cabinet and there’s a hot cup of coffee on a table.
Bedsheets are nice and tidy on the bed, and nothing makes you feel itchy or dirty by touching it. How do you feel? Happy? Rested? Clean?
If you feel a little overwhelmed by anxiety and stress, you can refer to the campfire visualization to help ease that stress away.
What makes the campfire visualization different from others is that the experience of a campfire can be very subjective – we might not all have the same idea or memory of what this might be, and it allows you to connect with yourself at a more personal level.
Imagine the warmth and light of a campfire. It may be night or day, and you may be alone or with close friends and family in a camp in the middle of the woods.
Try to see the flames licking the air above the fire, the orange light bouncing around the camp, hitting the tents, backpacks, pots and pans.
You may be roasting hotdogs or marshmallows over the fire, and you may be feeling the tingle of the flame’s warmth on your exposed arms.
14) Beach Walking
Walking along the beach – simple, classic, and easy. Who doesn’t love the sound of waves lapping along the shore?
You choose the time of day – is it the sunset or the sunrise, with the sun casting an orange glow across the horizon and the darkness of night just hovering in the distance, or is it in the middle of the day, with the sun at its zenith and the cool ocean waves licking your feet with its warm touch?
Reach down and feel the wet sand; let it fall through your fingers, with some bits clinging to palms.
Listen to the seagulls chirping in the sky and the waves crashing all around you. And look ahead of you – miles and miles of endless shore ahead and behind, and all you can do is keep walking.
Meditation Techniques to Use During Everyday Activities
15) Quick Body Scan
You can perform a quick body scan whenever you feel like it, and it can give you that extra boost of healing and restoration throughout the day.
Simply step back from whatever you might be doing – physically or mentally – and become aware of your body.
Breathe deeply, and imagine a warm light coming in with that breath, soothing and filling your body.
Imagine all the corners that light travels to throughout your body, and feel every inch of your body as you fill yourself with that light.
Scan up and down, left to right, and look for any stress existing within you. Then release.
16) Chore Meditation
Doing chores, like washing the dishes or mopping the floor? These don’t have to be wasted minutes; allow yourself to grow and meditate with them.
Feel every movement. Feel the strokes and motions of your body and meditate as you perform these repetitive tasks.
The goal isn’t to think about nothing; the goal is to think about exactly what you might be doing, why you are doing it, where you are, and overall, how present you may be.
Allow yourself to experience the chore like never before, and become more aware of your surroundings instead of letting the activity become another empty part of your day.
17) Shower Meditation
Showering can be extremely relaxing: it’s one of the few activities in our day (sometimes the only one) that really asks us to feel the body and perform movements we wouldn’t normally do.
That’s what makes showering one of the best places for impromptu meditation sessions, which many of us already do without really realizing it.
Immerse yourself in the showering experience.
Smell the soap, feel the water, and let the tension and stress that you may be feeling wash away with whatever else you are scrubbing off your body. Release yourself to the water droplets striking your body and enjoy.
18) Mindful Eating Meditation
Eating is an important part of life: we need food to stay alive, but we also don’t eat just anything; we eat food that we enjoy, that makes us feel good, that we want to eat again.
We also need to regulate our eating, making sure we don’t eat too much or we might gain unwanted weight. Eating is the perfect experience in which to incorporate meditation.
Take every bite of your meal mindfully. Never just swallow or inhale food quickly, allowing the food to disappear inside of you before your mind and body even have the chance to properly register it.
Taste every bite, focus on the texture, and simply enjoy the smell of your food. Enjoy the experience and appreciate what you may be eating, and you will find yourself eating significantly less.
Meditation Techniques: Practicing Meditation for Anyone, Anywhere
Meditation is something we should all seek to incorporate in our lives, and with so many different ways to set your mind in the meditative mindset, there is no excuse for neglecting regular meditation in your life.
For many people, the hardest part of meditation is the first step. So make that first step, and do everything you need to do to force meditation into your life as a regular habit.
Before you know it, you will be willingly practicing meditative techniques without even thinking about it. Begin your journey to consistent meditation and all the healing and transformative benefits it brings today.