There are countless mindfulness techniques — each rooted in a different tradition and with a unique focus — most have one thing in common: they’re aimed at cultivating two essential components, calm and clarity, with the intention to remain focused and hone a natural quality of awareness.
Eight meditation techniques that cultivate mindfulness
Here’s a breakdown of eight of the more popular mindfulness techniques. Some will sound intriguing, while others may not be your cup of tea. See which ones work best for you.
1. Focused Attention: Likely the most common form of meditation, this technique uses the breath to anchor the mind and maintain awareness. Focus your attention on the breath — specifically the rise and fall of the chest — and return to the breath whenever you get distracted or notice your mind starting to wander.
2. Body Scan: This technique, which uses meditation to connect with the body, involves scanning your body from head to toe and being aware of any discomfort, sensations, or aches that exist.
3. Noting: This is a mindfulness technique in which you “note” a particular thought or feeling when you become distracted during meditation. The practice of noting helps to create space and learn more about our habits, tendencies, and conditioning.
4. Loving Kindness: Instead of focusing on the breath, this technique involves focusing on the image of different people: people we know, people we don’t; people we like, people we don’t. We direct well-wishes and goodwill first to ourselves, and then, as a ripple effect, to others, which helps us let go of unhappy feelings we may be experiencing.
5. Skilful Compassion: This one involves focusing on a person you know or love and paying attention to the sensations arising from the heart. It’s aptly named because it’s thought to be helpful in opening our hearts and minds for the benefit of other people, which in turn fosters a feeling of happiness in our own mind.
6. Visualization: This technique uses visualization, to focus on a person or something more abstract, to hold attention. The idea here is that the familiar image will help create and maintain a relaxed focus.
7. Resting Awareness: Rather than focusing on the breath or a visualization, this technique involves letting the mind rest; thoughts may enter, but instead of distracting you and pulling you away from the present moment, they simply leave.
8. Reflection: For this technique, ask yourself a question, for example, “What are you most grateful for?” (Note that asking yourself a question using the second person — you — will discourage the intellectual mind from trying to answer it rationally.) Be aware of the feelings, not the thoughts, that arise when you focus on the question.