What are the most effective and useful kinds of meditation? Here’s our list of the “must-have” methods based on 30 years of research.
There are many different types of meditation. Today you can find hundreds of other meditation methods and mobile device applications to help you meditate and fall asleep. The top ten methods are arguably a highly debated issue among seasoned practitioners. What we have is a list for those who are just starting on their journey.
The Best Meditation Techniques
What is meditation? We define it as methods that change awareness and consciousness; some open doors to altered or higher states of consciousness. These processes have several health benefits for our minds, bodies, and spirit.
We analyzed various methods and narrowed them down to the ten most useful kinds of mediation. If you want to build a robust spiritual practice, these ten methods need to be in your spiritual toolbox.
Here’s a summary of these ten must-have methods:
The Ten Most Useful Kinds of Meditation
1) Shamanic Journey
We list the Shamanic Journey first because it represents humankind’s first spiritual technology. You can find some version of this process in many parts of the world. For example, in Australia, we see the ancient method known as Aboriginal Dreamtime. We find other forms in both South and North American Indian traditions. Finally, there are methods of this process in Asia and Europe.
It has been rebranded and renamed Creative Visualization, Imaginary Landscape, and Guided Meditation to make it marketable. All of the newer forms strip the cultural context of the technique and use the mechanisms.
The process combines external sound using rhythm to control heart rate and produce a hypnotic effect. Then the imagination is engaged to create a vivid dream state.
The Shamanic Journey is one of the most useful kinds of meditation. Anyone can use this process using the beat of a drum and your imagination to guide you. Many good books outline the process and even provide a drum track. You can use guided scripts to help you get started, but we recommend you develop your way after learning the process. It’s one of the meditation techniques that provide a springboard for other inner work.
Some ancient cultures used psychotropic mixtures of plants containing hallucinogenic additives along with the Shamanic Journey. Note, the addition of these additives is not for the beginner. Peyote and Ayahuasca are common psychoactive ingredients used as part of a semi-controlled journey under the guidance of a trained Shaman. Again, we don’t recommend the use of psychotropic additives unless you are an experienced spiritual explorer.
We recommend that you have several years of solid spiritual inner work and grounding before exploring by using any of these potent additives. If you use other meditations for any mental condition, you should not use psychotropics. Solid grounding includes the use of all the other methods listed here. Above all, you need to find a qualified guide to oversee the process. You must also realize that it is difficult to control the strength of the prepared formulas, which can significantly affect the duration of the trance state.
2) Two-Step or Beginning Meditation
Does it almost sound like a dance move? In some ways, it is a dance move. It’s so simple but powerful that everyone needs it. Children as young as two or three years can do it. And it has some immediate health benefits. It is a tool to calm our hyperactive lives.
Many people overlook this process because they think it is simple; it must not be effective. However, they would be wrong. The fact is the most powerful techniques are those that are easy to learn and use.
Some people think of it as their beginning meditation script for health. What is it? You observe your body and your breath. Follow the link to get all the details. Of all the meditation techniques, this is the easiest to begin. You don’t need a teacher or a smartphone application. All you need is one minute where you can sit comfortably.
Some people call it “scan meditation” because you learn to observe what’s going on in the body instead of always thinking.
3) Mindfulness Meditation
The mindfulness meditation scrips dovetail with the two-step edition process, taking meditation to the next level. It has two components, a seated version and then a moving version.
4) Rocket Pranayama
Pranayama is a term that relates to breathing exercises. There are many useful kinds of meditation that use breath as a focal point. We believe one of these is key to developing control and strengthening the ability to breathe.
The “Rocket Pranayama” technique (not its original name) is a predatory practice you can use for any spiritual practice. It’s one of the most important meditation techniques. It teaches us how to engage an essential internal muscle group—the diaphragm. It only takes 15 seconds. The results are immediate clearing of negativity. It works because you are focusing your attention on the practice. Here’s how to do it.
Sit comfortably, place your thumb and your first or second finger on your nose. Use your finger to close one nostril, breath in and out as you simultaneously using your finger to open and close one nostril. It creates a “fluttering” of the diaphragm as you are rapidly open and closes each nostril.
Once you learn how to flutter the diaphragm to create rapid breathing, you then progress to doing it without your hand as an aid. But, again, you are pumping oxygen to the brain and distracting the active mind, and the aftereffect is immediate, both energic and peaceful.
5) Holotropic Breathing
Holotropic Breathing is the next step up in breathing exercises from the “rocket pranayama technique. It is not for the beginning spiritual explorer. This exercise produces an altered state that can bring up emotions and even hallucinations. It is an inner work tool used to help with emotional healing and personal growth. The process involves taking long deep breaths, inhaling, and exhaling very slowly while seated or laying down.
After several minutes of practice, it causes hyperventilation which induces a trance-like state. This type of exercise is intense both physically and mentally. If you have any health or mental condition, you should consult your physician before attempting. For example, if you have cardiovascular issues, you should avoid this type of exercise.
Someone qualified to assist and supervise this process is critical. Don’t practice alone unless you are familiar with the process. Emotional reactions are often extreme. Your coach or partner should be communicating throughout the process to avoid any adverse outcomes. It’s possible to lose consciousness or thrash around and harm yourself. So, make sure you have a coach.
6) Silent or Chanting Mantra or Sutras
Indian tradition uses these formulas in various ways, depending on the goal. Groups of 108 are a common practice. Using them throughout the day is also a good practice. Find one that resonates with your need, then chant it aloud or silently as you go through your daily tasks.
Using mantras and sutras is an excellent way to help break the chain of negative habitual thought patterns.
7) Moving Meditation
Moving meditation is a movement that expands awareness to observe both internal and external aspects. Pretty cool. We’ve already alluded to one of the moving meditation techniques, moving mindfulness. There are many kinds of moving meditation, from dancing to Tai Chi and everything in between. You can learn to create your moving meditation by combining some of the other spiritual technologies.
8) Alternating Stillness and Motion
Alternating between silence and activity helps to focus the power of both the analytical and intuitive mind. It involves alternating activities of concentration, self-discipline, and observation with the creative and intuitive side.
Balance and symmetry are essential aspects of our lives. When we are balanced, we make better decisions. We get the most out of life no matter the situation. We’ve already mentioned the key to this—alternating silence and activity.
The modern doesn’t support this kind of thinking. Instead, it wants us constantly to be engaging our analytical thinking to get work done. But, even in our busy lives, there are ways to incorporate the power of silence that helps us engage our intuition.
Everyone has a mix that works best. Here’s the best practice for this exercise:
Start with one analytical process that interests you, say, Comparative Analysis (a structured form of comparative religious study), the Enneagram Profile, or one or more observational skills exercises. Use the analytical mind for 30 to 45 minutes, then shift gears.
Next, engage the intuitive side through Japa or Transcendental Meditation, Holotropic breathing, or some form of moving meditation. Use the intuitive mind for 30 to 45 minutes.
Last, rest and normalize. Engage in some form of leisurely self-care. You should feel great. You’ve completed a “well-rounded” spiritual practice that will solidify your learning.
9) Japa or Transcendental Meditation
This “Cadillac” meditation technique from the East opens our consciousness to awareness of the 4th state. Japa and Transcendental Meditaiton (TM) are the same technique. TM is more readily available, although it can be expensive. Both versions enable you to transcend thought and reach what Maharishi Mehish Yoga calls bliss consciousness.
Bliss consciousness or pure consciousness is a state with unique physiological characteristics that differentiate from our default states of waking, sleeping, and dreaming. It is the building block for the use of other more advanced forms like the Siddhis.
10) The Siddhis
The term Siddhis means extraordinary powers. A Siddha is a person who practices the use of the Sutras, which are the basis of the technique. One must be grounded in the 4th state to use these Sutras. So, it requires at least one year of practicing Japa or TM to use these formulas correctly.
We hope this list is helpful. Many of our newer travelers use it as a benchmark of tools to add to their spiritual toolbelt. Some experienced spiritual explorers use it to round out their list of meditation techniques. If this article resonates, there are more on our blog. To find out more about our organization, see our FAQ page.
Are you interested in spiritual exploration? Check out the blended learning process at the core of our teaching process. We offer this curriculum through our individually tailored virtual learning academy and our traditional face-to-face sessions. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey (1). Our learning options include both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions. Please consider donating and supporting our mission.
(1) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia