Meditation: the different types and the secret to making it work for you

Mar 07, 2024
Savitree sitting in meditation in Patagonia

I usually get up around 4:45 in the morning, make my bed, do my bathroom ritual, sip on some hot water, and begin my morning practice of visualization, gratitudes, meditation, and prayer. I can’t think of a better way to start my day. No matter how I’m feeling upon first waking up, my morning practice puts my mind and body in a stronger, clearer, more elevated and inspired state. 

Study after study sings the praises of meditation and morning ritual, and some of the most successful athletes and business leaders wake up early to begin their day with it. There’s good reason; the title of a 2020 article that I found on, written by James Brick, alludes to the power of it: “I don’t like meditating. Here’s why I do it anyway.” It’s worth the read. 

Having taught meditation since 2006, I’ve seen lives transform through meditation. I’ve also seen them stay the same. I’m speaking predominantly to the transformative quality of one’s inner experience - their sense of purpose, fulfillment, connection, joy, and possibility. These qualities ultimately inform their sense of worth, wellness, relationships, and success. 

Those that experience transformation through meditation come to it as something they must do rather than something they should do. 


What’s the difference? 

There’s an urgency in the must, and it prompts you to jump in and make space for it without the inner negotiating. There’s resolve, priority, and heightened value.

Should is a feeling of I have to, maybe because others do it, or because you keep hearing about how good it is for you, or someone you respect suggested it. So you’re interested, but you’re not really feeling it. It feels more like another task to add to your to-do list.

Those that come to it with the should are tentative and more likely to end up saying it didn’t work for them. Musts commit, and they find gold. Mindset and behavioral expert John Assaraf says, 

If you’re committed, you will find answers. If you’re interested, you will find excuses. 


On that note, here are four tips to make meditation work for you: 

  • Turn your should into a must. Take the time to clarify and write down why you’re looking at meditation in the first place. And then write down what you’d lose if you didn’t follow through. You may not know the answer to the latter, but you can surmise it by the perceived benefits that drew you to it in the first place. Your reasons for doing it, and what you can lose from not doing it, need to be stronger than your reasons to stay the same. 

  • If you want a better life experience, value that desire enough to give meditation the energy equal to what you want to get back from it. You get what you put into it. Plan it, schedule it in your calendar as a daily ritual, and follow through. 

  • No matter what style of meditation you start with, learn to eventually meditate without the use of apps, if that’s what you currently (plan to) use. Apps are fine. Live teachers are excellent. Group meditation is powerful. Learning how to meditate on your own will give you the portability, customization, and flexibility you need to keep your practice going daily, without reliance on others, and without the distractions of an electronic device. And, you learn to access and follow your own wisdom.   

  • That said, forge a relationship with a meditation teacher or community so you have access to support when you need it. 


Different types of meditation

Guided Meditation

An external voice guides you through visualization and instruction. It can be one of the easier methods to start with because you are guided. That said, the other types of meditation are generally guided as well when you are a beginner. Some complaints I’ve heard about this method is that it can pull you out of a meditative state too early when the voice wants to move you to the next phase in its guidance. It can also be a challenge to find a voice, or a pace, that you like and feels right for you. Guided meditation can take me to places I might not have gone on my own, which can be nice. But I don’t prefer it as a regular practice because I want to be my own guide, able to go at my own pace, and to dwell in the deep, one-pointed space when I get there. 

Breath Meditation (pranayam)

I can’t imagine a meditation that doesn’t involve breath in some way. Breath holds all the magic. It determines the state of your nervous system. It shifts your physiological state and heals your body. It teaches tolerance and compassion. It helps you become more connected with yourself. It slows things down so you can better respond to them. Conscious breathing changes your world. 

Mindfulness/ Living Meditation 

This is mostly about being present and mindful of what you do. In a walking meditation, when you walk, you are aware that you are walking, and you coordinate it with your breath. When you eat, you eat to eat rather than unconsciously shoveling food in your mouth in front of your computer or while watching a movie. On the mat, there are three simple ways mindfulness can be practiced on your own. In so doing, you train yourself to be in control of your mind (rather than your mind controlling you) by intentionally choosing and practicing one of these: 

  • Sit in stillness and quiet for as long as you can. Time yourself. Gamify it if it helps by seeing if you can do it for longer than the last time you sat. 

  • Sit in stillness and follow your thoughts with unattached curiosity and without judgement. 

  • Sit in stillness, acknowledge your thoughts as they come and then release them. 

Mantra Meditation 

This is a powerful form of meditation. We are surrounded by a lot of noise. Media feeds our negative self-talk, which is why they say to limit or turn off the news and social media. Yoga mantra, or repetitive sounds with higher frequency, effectively codes over the negative self talk to one that allows you to feel whole and remember who you truly are. Using your own voice strengthens your ability to express yourself. It’s also an easier form of meditation to practice because you have something to focus on. 


Meditation is a daily practice, like brushing your teeth. It isn’t ideal to just try it when life goes awry - while you may experience some benefit, meditation is not an easy thing to do, so it takes regular practice to truly access it. 


What I practice

Breath and mantra meditation are my daily go-tos. Mindfulness meditation is something I do mostly throughout the day as I wash dishes, eat, drive, and work, though I do also bring it into my morning practice. Guided meditation is something I do from time to time to invite something new to my practice; to invite another teacher in, and usually outside of my morning practice.

Where my 20 years of practice has gotten me

I love my life. There is no way I’d be able to say that had it not been for my daily meditation practice. Yes, there are other things I had to do besides meditate, but it was my strongest resource because it delivered me. Before this practice, it didn’t matter if I built something that looked great on the outside because I was not so great on the inside. Now, my decisions are absolutely mine. They don’t always take me down the easiest path, but they always take me to the richest, most authentic one. I wake up feeling lucky. My life’s got its challenges - who’s life doesn’t? -  but my life is not hard. It used to be. I owe it to my daily discipline. Like the author Jason Brick said in his article

…when I do regularly meditate, I find my life is better. Stress is lower, my health improves. I can focus more on my work, and am less likely to say things I regret to my friends, colleagues, and loved ones. Problems seem smaller. I seem bigger.


Love, Savitree


(much like this blog post!)