Quiet Sitting: Nine Different Types of Meditation

There are many, many different types of meditation practices. When you google “types of meditation” the results can be pretty overwhelming, especially when you’re not sure what you’re looking for or what you like. This is a paired down list of popular meditation types. The most popular type of meditation in recent history is mindfulness meditation with it’s many health benefits.

Nine Meditation Types For Beginners

Mindfulness Meditation

Since mindfulness meditation is the most popular meditation practice today I’ve put it in the number one spot. You’ve probably heard of it before, but may not know what it is or how it is different from other meditation practices. Mindfulness meditation is simply paying attention to the present moment and being aware of all the sensations, thoughts, etc. that arise without judgement or attachment. Here is a cool video from Jon Kabat Zinn about how a mindfulness meditation practice lights up different parts of the brain and here is a link to get you started with a mindfulness practice.

 

2. Transcendental Meditationmeditation types beginners

Transcendental meditation doesn’t seem to be as popular today as it was in the past, but there is still a substantial community worldwide. Transcendental meditation was made popular by the Beatles who learned the technique from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Transcendental meditation (TM) has it’s roots in religion and involves mantra (sound) repetition for 15-20 minutes twice daily. Transcendental meditation teachers are required to undergo a certified training before they can teach and share the practice and students are initiated into the practice.

Much research has been done on the technique, but the research has been poorly conducted and unfortunately is of little scientific value. But honestly, any form of meditation is likely to create positive changes in your life, so why not try TM.

3. Mantra & Japa

Similar to Transcendental Meditation, mantra and japa meditation involve the repetition of a mantra, sound or divine name. This type of meditation practice is often practiced with a mala. A mala is a necklace, similar to a rosary, with 108 beads on it. The mantra is repeated 108 times either softly spoken or internally repeated. This type of ancient meditation practice is used in many different religious traditions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

homemade-mala-diy

A handmade green sandalwood meditation mala.

4. Guided Meditation: Chakras, Third Eye, Breath, Journey & More

Guided meditations are wonderful for those who need a bit more guidance and whose minds tend to wander off. Guided meditations can focus on visuals, energetics, sounds, the breath, emotional states and much more. There are many apps you can use on your phone or ipad. Choose your length of practice, the teacher, the focus and get started.

yoga-chakras

5. Trataka Meditation (also spelled tratak)

Trataka is a form of meditation where one focuses the eyes on one point. Very commonly trataka is performed while gazing at a candle flame. Eventually you may want to close the eyes. When the eyes are closed envision the candle flame in all of it’s detail. Hold this vision of the flame as long as you can and when it dissipates you may end your meditation practice. Slowly open your eyes. Don’t look directly at the flame again right after your meditation. You may need eye drops if the eyes feel dry or strained.

6. Focused Attention- Zazen, Breath, Mantra, etc.

In focused attention meditation the mind is focused on one thing; that one thing could be the breath, sensation in the body, a mantra, an object, etc. The attention is held on this one thing. As thoughts come up, and they will, the mind’s focus is guided back to it’s original point of focus.

7. Metta- Loving Kindness

Metta, or loving kindness, meditation is a practice of sending love to oneself, a good friend, a neutral person, a difficult person, all four of them equally and then eventually to the entire universe. This exercise is excellent for cultivating compassion. Here is a Loving Kindness Meditation with Jack Kornfield.

loving-kindness-meditation

Loving kindness meditation is kind of like a hug for the soul.

8. Vipassana

Vipassana often begins with awareness on the breath and then moves to a practice that includes noting external stimuli without becoming attached to the source of the stimuli. An example could be if you hear a motorcycle drive by label it “hearing”, not motorcycle or if you notice a sour taste in your mouth instead of labeling it sour note it as “taste”. Noting the sense that recognized the external stimuli. It is very common to attend vipassana retreats where one has the opportunity to delve deep into a meditation practice.

9. Yoga Nidra

I hesitate to include yoga nidra on this list because I don’t necessarily consider it a meditation practice. Yoga nidra is “yogic sleep” and it is a way to access the unconscious and subconscious mind. It is a guided practice, similar to that of a guided meditation. Yoga nidra induces a state of deep relaxation and yoga nidra has a multitude of benefits. Here are 8 Benefits of Yoga Nidra.

relaxation-meditation-yoga-nidra

Not sure where to start? Google your local community and see what’s available. You might be surprised to find local meditation groups and meditation teachers that would be more than happy to take you under their wing. Another option is to go on a yoga and meditation retreat. On retreat you’ll often go over the basics of meditation and gradually increase time throughout the week and you’ll have an opportunity to talk to others and share experiences.

Good luck on your meditation practice. Feel free to shoot me a private message if you have any questions via our contact form.

Love and Light,

Autumn

Varuna Mudra For Congestion

It is cold and flu season in Bali and I unfortunately picked it up. I’m nearing the end of the first week of my cold and I’ve finally started to pull out the big guns. I’ve realized that my normal routine is not quite going to cut it. In addition to ginger, echinacea, and Panadol I’ve been focusing on using neti, mudras and restorative yoga. This week I have been incorporating Varuna Mudra into my practice to clear up the congestion in my sinuses and chest.

I’m typically one to go-go-go, so I have difficulty slowing down. I’ve been practicing more yang style yoga and have gotten myself a bit out of balance, so I’m not surprised that I got the “Bali flu”. It is often when I find myself out of balance or when I stop paying attention that I get ill (which luckily isn’t very often). Usually I catch myself before I get sick and step back, slow down, and take a breather, but not this time. I love teaching restorative yoga because I know how beneficial it is, but I’ve been struggling with my own restorative practice. This week I’ve been trying to dial it back in and refocus on my own wellbeing and self-care.

Well, this article is supposed to be about mudras, so lets bring it back to Varuna Mudra.

Varuna is the Hindu god of water and the celestial ocean. Varuna is also the god that upholds the moral law.

hand mudras varuna

Practice Varuna Mudra

To practice Varuna Mudra take the pinky finger of your right hand and bring it to the pad of your right thumb. Then wrap your right thumb over the top of your little finger. Take your left hand and wrap it gently around the right hand and bring your left thumb over the top of the right thumb. Hold this mudra for 30-40 minutes.

Benefits of Varuna Mudra

Varuna mudra is used to combat congestion… physically, emotionally and psychologically. Congestion and excess mucus in the sinus, stomach and lungs is often caused by some type of irritant. I feel like it’s probably safe to say that emotional or psychological congestion can be caused by an irritant too… According to Gertrud Hirschi congestion may also be related to “overstimulated nerves, inner tensions and unrest, triggered by overstraining, being pressed by time, being aggravated or experiencing fear.” Living a perpetually stressed out life makes us more susceptible to colds and mucus congestion.

I also use jala neti when suffering from congestion as well…. once again bringing in that water element of Varuna to fight the build-up of mucus and flush it out! Fighting water with water!

According to Ayurveda mucus is also related to a build up of kapha. If you suffer from excess mucus you may want to take a look at your diet in addition to general lifestyle trends.

Affirmations for Varuna Mudra

I go with the flow. I am adaptable and easily accept change.
I let go of what no longer serves me.

90 Minute Energizing Vinyasa Yoga Playlist

Yogis I have been getting a lot of requests for this vinyasa yoga playlist, so I thought I would share it here with you. Yoga instructors feel free to use this playlist in your classes too. It has a nice peak and then drops back down and chills before savasana.

Anyone else have a favorite workout or yoga playlist? Feel free to share it below. I’m always looking for new inspiration. I love a good, fun energizing playlist, but I’m also drawn to more acoustic, folk music for my gentler yoga classes. I just love music and a good flow!

90 minute vinyasa yoga playlist

 

Discover The Hidden Cause Of Your Suffering: The Kleshas

Lets get right into it. We all suffer. We will continue to suffer and the kleshas are the root cause of our suffering. The kleshas are the obstacles to our spiritual growth and they are tendencies we all have. There are five kleshas and they are all rooted in the first klesha avidya or ignorance.

Within the context of the kleshas ignorance is not the same as being “confused” it is “not seeing clearly”. When we can end avidya the remaining kleshas also drop away; Unfortunately, avidya is the hardest klesha to overcome.

Not familiar with the kleshas? Here we’ll cover the basics of the kleshas and reflective exercises to work with the kleshas.

 

The First Klesha: Avidya (ignorance; not seeing clearly; incorrect knowledge)

klesha-avidya

Avidya is the first of the kleshas. Avidya is when we are ignorant of our true nature. Our true nature is the part of you that is always loving, peaceful and unchanging. Avidya is not knowing the way things really are. Of course, we tend to see things from our own limited perspective based on previous experiences.

Avidya shows up in many areas of our lives. It shows up in our relationships, our stories, our prejudices, our desires and fears. According to the Yoga Sutras, ” Avidya is to mistake the impermanent for the eternal, the impure for the pure, sorrow for happiness, and the not-Self for the true Self.

Reflection exercise: Ask yourself, “How does avidya show up in my life?” When have I mistaken the impermanent for the eternal, the impure for the pure, sorrow for happiness, and the not-Self for the true Self? What labels do I give myself? What do I identify with
? How do I compare myself with others? What labels do I use?

The Second Klesha: Asmita (egoism; false identification)

asmita-klesha

When we forget our true nature we begin to overly identify with I, me and mine. Of course the ego isn’t all bad. Svadharma, our “self nature”, is the positive or “good” ego showing up in our being. Svadharma moves us toward connection instead of alienation. Who we are at our core is unchanging. Our ego typically causes us to see ourselves as separate from others, creates alienation and makes decisions on our behalf without consideration for others. The ego has preferences and aversions.

False identification is confusing the nature of the seer (the true Self or purusha) with the nature of the instrument of perception. Asmita is when we identify with the parts of our body and mind that change and allow these things to define us. Who we are at out core is unchanging. When we identify with the parts of us that change (like job title, age, body, etc.) we set ourselves up for disappointment and suffering. When researching for this article I came across this quote about Asmita in the Yoga Journal.

Enjoying the transitory parts of our bodies is part of the beauty and richness of life. They are an important part of who you are, but they are not all that you are.

Reflection Exercise: Reflect on a time you felt like your most authentic and true self. How did it feel? Continue to cultivate gentleness and patience with yourself as you connect deeper to your true Self.

The Third Klesha: Raga (attachment)

raga-attachment-klesha

Raga is the third of the kleshas. Raga is also one of the easier kleshas for us to “wrap our mind around”. We are inherently attached to pleasure. We have our favorite yoga poses, our favorite restaurants and favorite people. An example of Raga I heard in class the other day goes something like this: Say you have your favorite restaurant, you go there every week and you order the same thing each time. It hits the spot. It’s perfect and you couldn’t imagine ordering anything else. And then one night you go to this restaurant, you order your favorite meal and it doesn’t come out as you expect. I’m sure you can relate. What happens? How do you feel? Let down, disappointed, frustrated, maybe even angry? This is raga showing it’s ugly head.

When our ego is bruised or perhaps even inflated…. that is a strong attachment to our desires and attachment to our desires causes us pain and suffering. I read this statement on Yoganonymous, “When something brings us pleasure our brains want to repeat that experience and on some basic level we expect the things (and people) that give us a moment’s pleasure to make us happy.” We are looking for pleasure outside of ourselves and relying on our external world to fulfill this desire… unfortunately the fulfillment, the “buzz” from these external things doesn’t last. We rationalize our desires and often don’t even question them.

Raga isn’t letting go of the things we like, it is letting go of the expectations around them.

Reflection exercise: Take a moment to reflect on either your day or your week and notice where raga showed up. Perhaps even write it down. Did you rationalize it? Did it bring you pleasure or disappointment?

The Fourth Klesha: Dvesa (aversion)

aversion-klesha-yoga

Dvesa, or aversion, is the fourth klesha. When we allow ourselves to be controlled by strong desires we develop strong aversions when those desires or not fulfilled.

Let’s try another plausible real life example. You go to your normal Saturday morning yoga class with your favorite vinyasa teacher. You show up and someone else is in your spot. Grrr. You put your mat down (or *gasp* you ask them to move out of “your” spot) and begin your pre-class rituals. It’s 8:55am and you realize that your favorite teacher is nowhere to be seen. A few minutes later a sub walks in and this sub’s voice really gets under your skin. Then she puts on her music and it’s SHIT! WTF! The universe must be conspiring. Now you’re pissed. You’re not in your spot. Your favorite teacher isn’t there. And that music…OMG! You see that downhill spiral? Now you’ve got your panties in a bunch and have moved into alienation, me vs. you. You likely won’t be open enough to receive this teacher’s message/teachings.

Your ego has attached to all that is changing. You’ve developed some pretty intense attachments and aversions and now they’ve caused you pain and suffering.

Reflection Exercise: Reflect on a time when you were in a challenging situation. Perhaps a situation where you expected one thing to happen and it didn’t. How did it feel? What was your response? With what you know now… how could you have responded differently? Could you have looked at it as a gift? As an opportunity for growth.

The Fifth Klesha: Abhinivesa (fear of death)

klesha-abhinivesa-fear

Abhinivesa, or fear of death, is the fifth klesha. Abhinivesa is clinging to bodily life and once again it stems from avidya, not seeing clearly. Abhinivesa is confusing the temporal with eternal. We naturally don’t like change, especially when we don’t know what’s next. We experience pain and suffering when we realize that we lack the ability to control life. Death is a natural process and to fear it over life creates only more fear and more suffering.

How do we counteract the fear of death? We accept that everything in this material world changes. We can choose to live in a manner that is aligned with our highest values.

Reflection exercise: Ask yourself “what is truly important?What is truly worth my time and effort?” Knowing that your time and energy is limited how would you like to change your life? Would you shift your perspective or attitude? How would you live your life?