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5 Types of Meditation for Beginners

Meditation is a powerful practice that can help you to achieve a sense of calm, focus, and overall well-being. Yet, at first, diving into the world of meditation can seem overwhelming with the seemingly endless variety of techniques available. In that case, why not try a "sampler platter" of meditation techniques and see which one(s) might suit you best? Over time, you might end up with a favourite, or maybe different techniques will suit different life events/moods. It never hurts to experiment and see what works best for you and your lifestyle. Here are five varieties to get you started:

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a popular and widely-practiced technique that involves paying attention to the present moment without judgement, usually through focusing on a specific meditation object such as the breath. Beginners can start by finding a quiet space, sitting comfortably, and focusing on their breath, either at the tip of the nose, or at the belly. Simply observe the bodily sensations present at each inhale and exhale, allowing thoughts to come and go without getting hooked by them.

The key is to bring awareness back to the breath whenever the mind starts to wander, and not beat yourself up about it! Every time you notice you've drifted off into thought, see it as a moment to celebrate. After all, returning to the breath after forgetting is the practice. And the more you do it, the longer your mind will be able to stabilize on the meditation object. In this way, mindfulness meditation is an excellent way to cultivate a non-judgemental awareness of the present and develop a greater sense of clarity and focus.

Guided Meditation

Guided meditation is perfect for beginners who may find it challenging to meditate in silence. In this practice, a guide, either in-person or via audio recording, leads the meditator, perhaps in a body scan, breath meditation, or a visualization. Guided meditations can cover almost any theme you can think of, from managing anxiety, to gratitude, to self-compassion. I personally like the Insight Timer app for guided sessions (it has a lot of free content for meditators of all backgrounds and skill levels), but there's a ton of apps out there, so don't be afraid to explore and find the best fit for you!

As your practice matures, you'll likely want to begin favouring solo unguided sessions to try and hone your powers of attention and focus without over-relying on external cues. But in the beginning stages of your practice, having a guide can be very helpful in reducing excess mind-wandering, and learning how to establish your attention more solidly in the present.

Loving-Kindness Meditation (Metta)

Loving-kindness meditation, also known as Metta, is a practice that focuses on cultivating feelings of love and compassion towards oneself and others. Beginners can start by sitting comfortably and silently repeating phrases such as "May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be safe, may I be at ease." After generating a sense of warmth and goodwill towards oneself, the practice then gradually extends to others – friends, family, acquaintances, and even those with whom one may have experienced difficulties in the past.

Although extending compassion towards challenging people in your life can certainly be a tall order, when practiced gently and with an open heart, Metta meditation can be a beautiful way to foster empathy and promote a sense of connection with all beings, teaching us to see what unites us at our core instead of what divides.

Body Scan Meditation

Body scan meditation is a practice that involves systematically bringing attention to different parts of the body, and non-judgementally noticing the various sensations and feelings that are present in that region. This technique is especially beneficial for beginners who find the breath to be too subtle to focus on. It's also wonderful for grounding back into the body after a stressful day, or cultivating a relationship with your body if you find that you're often "in your head".

Start by lying down or sitting comfortably, then bring focused attention to each part of the body, starting from the toes and moving up to the head. Simply note what's present: is the body part cool, warm, achy, relaxed? Is there any tingling or buzzing? Or perhaps you don't feel much of anything going on. There's no need to have any particular type of sensation, or to try to force tightness to relax, or discomfort to go away. The practice is simply about being with what is, and tending to the body in a loving, mindful way.

Walking Meditation

Finally, walking meditation offers a dynamic and accessible form of mindfulness for those who might not feel ready to dive into a seated practice. It's also wonderful for those suffering from chronic pain, or even as a complement to a sitting practice for those who want to incorporate more mindfulness into their day-to-day routine.

The practice involves walking mindfully and intentionally, paying attention to the sensation of each step as your foot touches the ground. Meditators might find it helpful to align their in breath with their left foot touching the ground, and their out breath with their right foot touching the ground. Practice poems, or gathas, can also be used. For instance, when your left foot touches the ground, you might silently say "arrived", and on the right footfall, "home." You can change up the words to whatever you find most helpful/powerful: "calm, ease", "smiling, breathing", etc. Walking meditation is a great way to incorporate mindfulness into daily living, and to learn how to bring body and mind together in the present.

Embarking on a meditation journey can be both exciting and daunting. Experimenting with different meditation types will allow you to discover what resonates best with your own preferences and needs. Whether it's the mindfulness of the breath, guided imagery, loving-kindness, body awareness, or walking meditation, the key is to find a practice that feels comfortable and sustainable. Although subtle in the beginning, over time, you'll slowly but surely begin to experience the numerous benefits of the practice for yourself. And once you're on the path, who knows what exciting places it'll take you?


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