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Basics of meditation

Updated: Apr 29, 2019

The word meditation is a very broad term that incorporates many things. It can be overwhelming and confusing to beginners. To help give you a better understanding of meditation and its many forms, I’ll start with the basics.

Main Categories

There are three main categories of meditation – Focused Attention meditation, Open Monitoring (Mindfulness) meditation, and Automatic Self-Transcending (Transcendental) meditation.

Focused attention meditation involves focusing on something - your breath, an idea, a picture, maybe an emotion or even a mantra. Your very basic beginner guided meditation will typically be a focused attention meditation and you should expect to hear something like, “now focus on” or “direct your attention towards *blank*”.

Open monitoring meditation involves mindfulness. It encourages being present and observing/paying attention to experiences but without judgement, reactions, or attachment. You might hear something that sounds like “watch your thoughts, letting them come and go,” that would be open monitoring meditation.

Automatic self-transcending meditation is quite different than the other two in the sense that it requires no effort, you’re not directing your attention anywhere. You go beyond your own mental activity and reach a state of transcendence. This type of meditation is harder to do and is typically done with the help of a professional.


There are many different ways to do focused attention meditations and open monitoring meditations. Here are a few types of meditations that fall under each category

Focused meditation:

Chakra meditation

Basic meditation

Body scan

Gazing meditation

Mantra meditation

Loving-kindness meditation

Open monitoring meditation (mindfulness):

Practicing gratitude

Mindful breathing

Being present

Being in and watching nature


*Go to "Guided Meditations" at the home page for guided meditations on a majority of these meditations*


Giovanni. “23 Types of Meditation - Find The Best Techniques For You.” Live and Dare, 16 Apr. 2019,

Matthews, Dan. “17 Types of Meditation (Techniques and Basics) to Practice Mindfulness.” Lifehack, Lifehack, 8 June 2018,

Travis, Nita. “Three Categories of Meditation - Dr. Fred Travis.” YouTube, YouTube, 23 Mar. 2019,

Ball, Jeanne. “How Meditation Techniques Compare -- Zen, Mindfulness, Transcendental Meditation and More.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 7 Dec. 2017,

Tricycle. “Researchers Point to Three Major Categories of Meditation.” Tricycle, 5 Jan. 2016,


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