Types of Meditation and the Benefits of Each One
Meditation has become a popular and widely accepted practice in the West. You can find meditation sessions at yoga and wellness studios, at the beginning of coworking sessions, in many retreat settings, and even in corporate wellness programming for employees. With numerous studies published on the positive effects meditation has on stress, happiness, and overall health, it’s no wonder the practice has become so popular.
Not all meditations are equally effective, however. Many types of meditation are more challenging than they are restful, and some are not conducive to a busy lifestyle. Some are not really meditation at all, but rather a soothing mental distraction from present stress.
With so many forms of meditation available with different benefits, how does one know which type to try? And… does Vedic Meditation offer different benefits than other kinds?
An understanding of the 3 forms of meditation can help to differentiate Vedic Meditation techniques from other types.
What is Meditation
The dictionary definition of meditation is, “continued or extended thought; reflection; contemplation.” Most meditation is commonly believed to be a set of mental practices that involve focusing one’s attention and calming the mind in order to achieve a state of relaxation and inner peace. Many types of meditation typically involve paying attention to a specific object, thought, or activity to promote concentration and awareness.
Meditation can be performed in various forms, including mindfulness meditation, mantra meditation, and guided meditation. It has been shown to have numerous benefits for both mental and physical health, including reducing stress, improving mood, and increasing feelings of well-being.
Vedic Meditation is Different
Though many kinds of meditation do involve continued reflection and contemplation, Vedic Meditation does not. It doesn’t fit the dictionary definition at all, since there is no intentional thinking involved.
Vedic Meditation is the action of allowing the mind to transcend, or step beyond, thinking all together.
Here are 10 distinguishing factors about Vedic Meditation that are different from most other forms:
- You cannot learn Vedic Meditation online. It can only be learned in person with a qualified instructor.
- Thinking and thoughts are allowed during a Vedic Meditation, and the presence of thoughts does not determine the quality of the meditation.
- There’s no such thing as a guided Vedic Meditation. The Vedic Meditator doesn’t listen to a track or speaker.
- Vedic Meditation is based on a 5,000+ year-old tradition, so it’s been helping people for a very long time.
- There is a worldwide community of Vedic Meditators, as well as a worldwide community of Vedic Meditation instructors who have learned in person with Thom.
- Only qualified instructors know the mantras. Qualified instructors are those who have been through 12 weeks of training with Thom. Each meditator only knows their own mantra.
- Vedic Meditation mantras cannot be found online. Once the meditator receives their mantra from their qualified instructor, they do not share it.
- Where most forms of meditation recommend 10-minute – 1-hour meditation sessions once a day, a Vedic Meditator practices for twenty minutes twice each day.
- The singular purpose of the Vedic Meditation technique is to release stress from the body.
- Vedic Meditation is designed for people with busy lives, and works for those with busy minds or ‘overthinkers’
Vedic Meditation is a practice in its own category, the category of automatic self-transcendence. It is automatic in the sense that no focus, force, or concentration is required. Instead, the meditator effortlessly allows thoughts to arise alongside the mantra.
Self-transcendence refers to the natural inward draw that occurs with the Bija mantra. This special kind of mantra is assigned in person by a qualified Vedic Meditation teacher. It is a meaningless sound that effortlessly charms the mind into a more relaxed state.
Self-transcendence occurs as the mantra naturally draws the mind inward from higher states of mental activity into lower states of mental activity. The lower states of activity mean the mind effortlessly has fewer thoughts and instead experiences a quieter, dreamlike state until the mantra brings the mind beyond thought entirely. In this place beyond thought, the mind encounters pure Being, or total silence.
This thoughtless place of silence, or self-transcendence, is not the product of concentration and cannot be achieved through focus. It is an allowing and releasing of thoughts into complete non-awareness of the self. When the mind self-transcends, it unites with Universal Consciousness and is completely satiated. This regular encounter with transcendence transforms us as it informs our consciousness how to evolve and allows our bodies to relax so deeply that they are able to release stress embedded in the cells.
The Difference Between Vedic Meditation and Other Types of Meditations
To see the differences between these characteristics versus other types of meditation practices, it’s helpful to understand what other kinds of meditation are widely practiced.
The three types of meditation are contemplative, concentration-based, and hypnotic. Each kind provides unique benefits and contrasts to Vedic Meditation.
What is contemplative meditation?
Contemplative meditation involves rumination or pondering for a period of time– from 5 minutes to endless years. A contemplative meditator might think about a passage from a holy text or a problem in their life that they’d like to solve.
The differentiating factor of contemplative meditation is that the meditator purposefully thinks about a single topic for an extended period of time, to the exclusion of all other thoughts. It is an active thinking process, so while the mind may discover insights or new relationships between ideas, the mind will not reach a state of rest.
How is Vedic Meditation different from contemplation?
Vedic Meditation is not in the category of contemplative meditation, since there is no intentional thinking about any topic in particular. Thoughts may arise in Vedic Meditation, but as the mantra comes in and out of our awareness, the thoughts also quieten and change forms.
A meditator in contemplation may ponder the wonder of the galaxy with intense concentration, while a Vedic meditator may have any number of random thoughts arise: the color of Jupiter, tomorrow’s lunch meeting, or a favorite movie. For the Vedic Meditator, the mantra will arise naturally amidst the random thoughts to direct their attention effortlessly. A Vedic mantra meditation includes other thoughts, rather than excluding all but one thought, as in contemplative meditation.
The benefits of contemplation vs the benefits of the Vedic Meditation technique
The ability of the mantra to guide the mind to a thoughtless state, even for brief moments, allows the body to rest deeply. Vedic Meditators may or may not remember what thoughts came up in meditation with their mantra, while a contemplative meditator will certainly remember their topic of extended concentration. The reward for Vedic Meditation is deep rest in the mind and body, while the reward of contemplation is often a new intellectual insight.
What is concentration-based meditation?
The second form of meditation involves intense concentration. This is the style that requires a meditator to concentrate on not thinking. Many people who experience overthinking or a busy mind find this form of meditation challenging and even frustrating – like trying not to think of pink elephants… and therefore thinking only of pink elephants.
This form of meditation may have the participant concentrate on their breathing, their sensory inputs, or on a guided listening track. Over time, the mind may be able to concentrate more effectively to think about only one thing, like training a muscle. This form of meditation is basically focus training, which works well for some people and not so well for others.
How concentration and Vedic Meditation are different
Concentration is the opposite of Vedic Meditation, since Vedic Meditation is effortless and thoughts are allowed.
The Vedic Meditator does not force their mind to do anything. They have a personalized mantra that is a meaningless sound, which naturally arises in their awareness and subtly floats away when thoughts appear. The transition back and forth from the mantra to the thoughts requires no effort, and the thoughts are no measure of the ‘depth’ or effectiveness of the meditation.
The mantra spontaneously repeats and draws the mind inward, to more and more restful states. As thoughts arise, stress is released and the body is still able to relax further into rest. With concentration, however, the mind is unable to rest. Concentration and force keep the mind alert.
The benefits of each type
Though concentration may result in a better ability to focus out of intense mental training, Vedic meditation allows the mind to focus effortlessly as it feels the need to distract itself less and less.
Incessant thinking comes from an unhappy mind. A mind that is stressed will endlessly search for something to make it feel better. Concentration is like forcing the mind to stop searching for something satisfying, which is futile. Even when intense focus is established, the stress and unhappiness are still in the background.
The Vedic Meditator experiences effortless focus once their meditations have led them to experience effortless thoughtlessness. The mantra– a meaningless sound that effortlessly pulses in the background of the mind– will charm the mind to become quieter as it becomes more and more subtle through the meditation. Eventually, the mantra vanishes, and the mind is left in a state of pure consciousness, or being. This is a wholly satisfying state for the mind to experience, so the mind does not generate more thoughts to remedy its dissatisfaction.
With repetition, thoughtlessness will be more and more effortless outside of meditation as well, which means the mind can focus easily and without effort. It also means the mind can feel content, quiet, and happy without effort.
What is hypnosis meditation?
Hypnosis is a method by which one focuses on an image, a desire, a sensation, or a sensory input. There may be emotion charging this point of focus. The idea is to convince oneself of an idea that so far isn’t true, or to access the subconscious mind. Hypnosis includes visualization techniques and sometimes sounds or words repeated to affect the brain’s memory and recognition systems.
How is it different from Vedic Meditation?
Hypnosis involves controlling a person’s perceptions or controlling outcomes by bringing one idea to the mind repetitively. Since Vedic Meditation brings rest to the mind and body through complete effortlessness, it is very different from hypnosis. The meditator does not attempt to prioritize thoughts or direct their attention. Even as the mantra arises in their mind, there is no force behind it.
Hypnosis results in a trance-like state that can be called meditation, but the state can also happen while someone is doing basic tasks or speaking with their eyes open. This means it can be used therapeutically to affect the subconscious… but it also means it can be used to manipulate.
When one person is able to get another person into a hypnotic state – through a guided meditation or unsolicited conversation – the hypnotizer has persuasion power over the hypnotisee. Like any psychological bypassing tool, hypnosis can be used helpfully or it can destabilize the mind, create or worsen traumas, or bend someone’s will in a way they wouldn’t want if they knew what was happening.
Benefits of hypnosis vs Vedic Meditation
Hypnosis can bring desirable feelings up as the meditator thinks about desirable situations or images that they are wanting to manifest. It may alter the mood, but it does not offer the mind or body the kind of rest needed to release stress. This means that once the good feelings dissipate, the body and mind are still as stressed as they were before.
Even if a therapist is able to address trauma in the subconscious of a person in a hypnotized state, the psychological associations and triggers may change but the stored stress in the body will stay the same.
Hypnosis may also provide a sense of control to the meditator, as they feel they are working toward manifesting something they want. But without releasing stress from the body, the mind cannot sustain peaceful and happy feelings.
For the Vedic Meditator, each meditation provides deep rest to the mind and body, to the point that stress memories and triggers will naturally release their hold. Over time, the deep stress release will alter their personality and behavior to be less reactive, less anxious, and more resilient to respond to change. As the body deals with less and less residual stress, good feelings and moods will naturally arise and linger for longer. Eventually, a sense of blissful contentment and presence will be the meditator’s normal waking state.
What Makes a ‘Good Meditation’?
Many who practice contemplative, concentration, or hypnotic meditations measure the quality of their practice in the following ways:
- How long they are able to meditate
- Their ability to stop thoughts, or avoid allowing thoughts to come up
- The changes they see in their stress level or results in life
Based on the tests the Maharishi conducted with his students, he found that the body’s ability to deeply rest had diminishing returns after twenty minutes. With two twenty-minute sessions, the Maharishi found that the body was able to release the stress of the day as well as release some of the accumulated past stress from the body. That’s why Vedic Meditators don’t value long meditations more than their two daily sessions of 20 minutes.
As discussed above, Vedic Meditation allows all kinds of thoughts and discourages trying to ‘stop thought’. Training one’s focus and attention is a valuable skill, but the different types of meditation that force or control thinking do not deeply rest the body.
Many studies have come out showing that meditation in general has positive effects on physical and mental health. Any meditator who practices consistently will see some effect in their daily life, from sharper focus to a greater perception of their own thoughts and feelings. Some count their practice successful based on how quickly they can ‘manifest’ specific things into their experience.
Consistency to Create External Results
With Vedic Meditation techniques, the measure of success for the individual is the consistency of their practice. Many Vedic Meditators see immediate results in their stress levels, emotional wellbeing, sleep, and mental health, but since stress release affects everyone differently, it’s impossible to measure the success of a practice by the results one might see in a week or a month.
In fact, some people experience the stress release that Vedic Meditation causes almost like a detox process. The body is getting rid of stored stressors from the person’s entire lifetime, including major and minor traumas. As the stress leaves the body, it may feel a little unpleasant, as with a mood swing or physical discomfort.
Feeling stuck in fight-or-flight mode forces the body to ‘hold it together’, and the tension can mask physical or emotional unwellness that will not be expressed until the body feels more relaxed. That’s not to say it’s normal to have illness or discomfort arise as a new Vedic Meditator, but it can happen.
The most common experience for new Vedic Meditators is that within a week or a month, they notice deeper sleep, less reactivity, or an uplifted mood. Many who struggle with anxiety notice diminished worry and fixated thinking fairly quickly as well. All of the common benefits of Vedic Meditation are listed below.
A New Vedic Meditator May Notice the Following Results:
- A greater awareness of the behaviors and situations in life that no longer serve them
- Less reactivity to triggers or changes in expectation, and more stress resilience
- Better sleep, and at times a need for more or less sleep as the body adjusts to the stress release process
- Minor to significant changes in relationships or circumstances, as the meditator stops ‘coping’ and starts naturally feeling what they need and want more easily
- Short, mild moods of sadness or anger as stress releases
- Ultimately, the person will feel more and more like their true self as stress runs their psyche and body less and less
- Eventually, they will be able to access the blissful, thoughtless state of consciousness that arises inside meditation in their regular waking life as well.
It can take up to 8 years of daily Vedic Meditation to release all of the accumulated stress in the body… so practicing Vedic Meditation techniques is about the long game, not about short-term epiphanies. Most people have profound improvements in their wellbeing within the first 1-6 months, and those improvements continue month over month.
Vedic Meditation also has the unique capability of creating exponential results in a meditator’s life, so long as they are consistent with their twice-daily practice. Their third year will see twice as many results as their second year, and so on.
Since we know the mantra-based technique does effortlessly release stress from the body, the main measure of success for a Vedic Meditator is being consistent with their practice. The mantra will do the rest!
Practicing Multiple Types of Meditation
As you can see, contemplation, concentration, and hypnosis meditations offer very different benefits than Vedic Meditation techniques. Since Vedic Meditation creates stress release through the effortless use of the mantra, it won’t work if the meditator tries to add other techniques at the same time.
Each of these different meditation types may be practiced in addition to a Vedic Meditation practice, but not at the same time. Vedic Meditation provides deep rest that would be interrupted if any of these 3 methods were introduced into the 20-minute session.
If you have tried many forms of meditation and struggled with any of the following, Vedic Meditation may be a good fit for you:
- You struggle to ‘stop thinking’
- You aren’t able to consistently ‘manifest’ like you want
- You have trouble staying consistent with your practice
- Your practice isn’t providing noticeable results anymore
- Your practice isn’t releasing stress or bringing you closer to a waking state of bliss
- You’ve had trouble finding a meditation community to connect with along your journey
- You want to learn more about the Eastern tradition that also started yoga and Ayurveda
To talk more in-depth with an instructor about how Vedic Meditation is different, schedule an intro talk. You’ll be able to ask questions and consider whether Vedic Meditation will suit your needs.