As my long-time friend and colleague, neuroscientist Richie Davidson, and I worked on our book, Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Body, and Brain, we looked at thousands of scientific studies that reveal the impact of meditation. Not surprisingly, it turns out that some forms of meditation are more effective at promoting relaxation while other forms have a greater impact on relieving depression or the effects of trauma. Still others improve focus, and yet other types enhance compassion and kindness.
To find out which practice is best for you, ask yourself these three questions:
1) What benefits are you looking for?
Do you hope to relax? Focus better? Develop more equanimity? Improve your health? Consciously or not, each of us comes to a meditation practice with our own hopes or goals.
2) Which Type of Meditation Do You Practice?
Meditation comes in many forms, with mindfulness the best-known these days, but not the only one. There are other forms of mindfulness, like ‘insight’, and its common companion, loving-kindness. Then there are methods that use mantras, like TM. There are guided visualizations, and mind body practices, like yoga, to name but a few.
3) How Often?
Then there’s the question of how much you meditate. Some meditators maintain a daily practice of short sessions fit in around other life priorities. Others meditate primarily in a retreat context, diving deep during days and weeks of formal practice, or combine daily practice with occasional retreats. Some continue practicing for decades, others for a short time.