The 4 Types of MEDITATION

Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. Modern research is showing the powerful benefits of meditation, such as increased grey matter in the brain, a boosted immune system, and in some cases, deeper restoration than sleep.

Different cultures have developed unique and special meditations — therefore there are a variety of different ways to meditate.

In this episode of The BE ULTIMATE Podcast, Travis breaks down the many different meditations into four distinct categories: Devotional, Contemplation, Concentration, and Heart State.

Hope you enjoy this episode!

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Episode Summary:
-Scientific benefits of meditation
-Travis’ meditation journey since the age of 9
-Devotional forms of meditation
-Contemplation forms of meditation
-Concentration forms of mediation
-Heart State forms of meditation
-Inspiration from the Buddha, Little Prince, Blaise Pascal, Anne Lamott
-The Ultimate Prayer

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[The following is the full transcript of this episode of “The Be Ultimate Podcast.” Please note that this is direct from Travis speaking unscripted and unedited.]

Hey, guys. And welcome to another episode of The Be Ultimate Podcast.

This is your host, Travis Eliot, and I just got back from Toronto. I was there for the Toronto Yoga Conference which is North America’s biggest yoga festival. I was there for four days. I taught a sequencing immersion with my wife, Lauren. Taught another six-hour immersion on yin yoga. And also got to teach some master classes on detoxification, balance, and gentle yoga. And it was awesome to see old students reconnect with old friends and to meet a lot of new students. So shout out to all you that showed up in Toronto this year, and I look forward to seeing you again next year! 

This week, we are going to be talking about the Four Types of Meditation.

Whether you are brand new or you’re an advanced meditator tuning in from a cave somewhere in the Himalayan Mountains, my hope is that you’ll find this information in this podcast to be both helpful and inspiring. 

Also, every month, we release a new featured meditation here on the podcast. And really because of that, I thought that I should dedicate an episode specifically to just providing a little bit of context on this subject of meditation.

Benefits of Meditation

First, let’s jump into some of the benefits of meditation that science and technology like fMRI brain scans are really showing that meditation can help with. 

  1. Boost the immune system 
  2. Help improve memory 
  3. Lower blood pressure 
  4. Decrease stress hormones. 
  5. Restore yourself even deeper than sleep 
  6. Increase the grey matter in your brain
  7. Help to balance out both the left and the right hemispheres of the brain and to get better efficient communication happening between those two sides of the brain 
  8. Improve happiness 
  9. Improve clarity and creativity
  10. For all you vanity-inspired people out there, it’s really good for your skin and can help diminish wrinkles. So some of you probably thinking, “I’ll meditate just for that one reason to have better skin!”

I was fortunate to get introduced to meditation at a really young age. When I was nine years old, my mom introduced me to meditation. She would give me these cassette tapes, and I would pop these tapes into the stereo. And I would do these guided meditations. I would go on these journeys where I would have this experience that really took me beyond time, place, and space. 

At a young age, I was exposed there is another world beyond what we typically associate with. As I started to get a little bit older, I would go to camp, and I would be at these overnight summer camps for a week, two weeks, sometimes even three weeks, and I started teaching meditation to all the other boys in my cabin. So you can imagine, a bunch of 10 and 11 year olds sitting around and meditating. You don’t really associate that age group meditating, but somehow, I was able to talk these other boys into doing that. 

Naturally as I got older, I really stopped meditating and got into normal things like partying and girls and all that kind of stuff. And it wasn’t really until at the age of about 26 when I discovered yoga, that I rediscovered my meditation practice. And when I started doing yoga, the teacher I was studying with – his name was Govindas – he would incorporate chanting into his classes. So I did a ton of chanting and what’s called, Kirtan, where we would sing these melodic mantras back and forth, and that became my new meditation practice.

After that, I started traveling the world, teaching yoga and doing yoga retreats. And I would go to places like Thailand and Bali and India and have these incredible, mystical experiences, just phenomenal experiences where it would really feel like my body would disappear and my mind would completely quiet, and I would just feel these waves of bliss. If you can imagine, just ecstasy and love and an energy where you didn’t feel like anything was missing at all. I would have these experience that would last for hours and sometimes even days. 

After that, I met a friend who taught me how to do what’s called transcendental meditation, known TM, or sometimes known as Vedic Meditation. And he had studied with the originator of TM meditation, Ramana Maharishi, in India. And this guy was a character. He’s a teamster in the entertainment business, covered with tattoos. Not the kind of guy that you would think would be a real hardcore meditator. But he so generously taught me how to do TM meditation, actually on his boat. He lived on a boat in a place called Marina del Rey. We spent days just learning this technique over and over again

Eventually, I would go on, and I learned a technique of meditation called Vipassana Meditation, and I would do these silent, 10-day retreats where you just go, and you’re silent. And you’re like a monk, and you take a vow for these 10 days not to speak and to refrain from stimulants and alcohol. And you’re meditating 10, 11, 12 hours a day. And eventually, again, you reach this certain state that’s so beyond what it is that the senses are reporting back to you. You move beyond the senses. You move into the place that the yogis call oneness, or the Christian mystics might call the Kingdom of Heaven that exists within. And I was able to experience that over and over. 

And then now, I’m actually coming to the end of a two-year mindfulness teacher training program, studying with the prolific Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach. And these teachers, especially, have been a big influence on me. And a lot of what I talk about on the podcasts really comes from what they’ve inspired me with, and me now just passing that on to you. 

I wanted to provide you a little bit of my history so that you know that I’ve been around the block with meditation and have explored these different paths. And just like anything in life, people always believe their technique is better than everybody’s technique. My religion is better than your religion. But I believe that we don’t all have to travel the same path. And I also believe that if somebody is on another path, they’re exploring a different meditation technique, or they have a different religious belief, that I still have respect for where people are at. And this podcast, I just want to lay out the four main types of meditation for you. And again, whether you’re brand new or whether you’re more experienced, I think that you’ll find this framework and looking at the four different types of meditation to be insightful.

1) Devotional Meditation

Let’s dive in to the very first type of meditation, and this is called the Devotional Meditations. Devotional Meditation includes prayer. Any time that you pray, that you pray to God, or you pray to the divine, or you pray to the source of all of creation, that is a form of meditation. You may find that prayer is your most powerful way to meditate. 

Prayer is when we talk to God. Meditation is when we listen to God. 

Prayer Meditation is us speaking or calling out to our Higher Power. And meditation, even though it’s in the same ballpark, is more of when we listen to what God or the universe or source has to say back to us.

Another type of Devotional Meditation is what’s called Bhakti. And Bhakti is a type of yoga that is actually the most popular style of yoga in all of India. For a lot of us, when we think about yoga, we think about a yoga pose. We think about down dog, or we think about somebody upside down in handstand, or we think about a yogi bended up into a pretzel-like shape.

But the reality is that Bhakti, which has nothing to do with physical yoga, is really the most practiced style of yoga in India, and Bhakti means devotion. And so in India, they often relate to their higher power, to their God and to the goddess, through music, song, poetry, dance. And all those are also different types of meditation. 

You see Bhakti infused within the Balinese culture as well. And Bali, one of my favorite places to visit. I think I’ve been there three or four times now, and everywhere you go, devotion is just a part of that culture. At every intersection, there’s an altar. There’s temples everywhere. At the front of every store that you go to, there’s there’s incense burning and there’s an offering to the divine. Bhakti, again, is woven into the fabric of these cultures where everything they do is really inspired by that heartfelt quality of devotion.

“People closest to God are newborns and the dying. People farthest from God are middle-aged people with mortgages.” 

-Balinese Saying

I love that because we get wrapped up with it, having to pay our mortgage, paying our taxes, running our errands. And we forget about God. We forget about the divine. Whereas when you’re around a newborn, they’re just emanating that divine spirit. When you’re around somebody that’s making that transition from this life to the afterlife, you can again feel that presence of something that’s timeless and eternal.

2) Contemplation Meditation

The second type of meditation is what we call Contemplation Meditation.

Contemplation Meditation includes a form or meditation technique called Passage Meditation. And I didn’t talk about this earlier in my history of exploring meditation, but there was also a phase in my life where I used to practice Passage Meditation, which I learned from an amazing man named Eknath Easwaran, who had traveled from India over to California and was actually the first person to teach meditation in a university setting. And Eknath Easwaran taught this type of meditation where you would choose a passage from a scripture, or it could even be a poem from somebody like Rumi or Hafiz, but a passage that was spiritual. 

What you do in the Passage Meditation is you memorize it, and then you close your eyes and very silently and slowly, you repeat that passage word by word by word. And in between each word, you would leave a gap of stillness. And this was a really powerful meditation technique for me for a while because whatever passage that I would choose whether it was the Lord’s Prayer or, again, a poem from Rumi, you would really feel the essence and the spirit of what that passage was really all about.

Another form of Contemplation Meditation is what we call Intention Meditation where you reflect what is your intention. You may be at the beginning of your day, and you wake up and you close your eyes, and you go in and you ask yourself, you go through inquiry and say, “What is my deepest intention today? What is it that I wish to align with? What’s my deepest calling for this day or this moment or this event that I’m about to step into?” And these can be powerful tools to really incorporate at the beginning of a yoga practice or the beginning of really a business meaning that we can bring intention. “Why are we here? Why are we doing what we’re doing?” Because again, it’s so easy to get swept up into the noise and the stimulation and the busyness of modern day living where we don’t really take the time to ask ourselves that “why.”

Another form of Contemplation Meditation is a Vow where we meditate on a vow. And a vow is also connected to our intention. 

“Live in joy and love even among those who hate. Live in joy and health even among the afflicted. Live in joy and peace even among the troubled. Look within. Be still, free from fear and attachment and know the sweet joy of living in the way.” 

-The Buddha

As you can imagine, you start your day off with something of this caliber and so rich with intention and meaning and fulfillment. Wouldn’t that be a much better way to start your day than just looking on your phone and getting bombarded with the news and emails and scrolling through social media?! 

This is a calling to really take command of how we want to live our life, how we want to start our day and to make these vows for ourselves. Otherwise, we become a product of our environment and of our circumstance. And as we know, the news and the media and advertising and marketing, they don’t always have your best interests at heart. If you’re not careful and you’re not conscious, then you can easily get pulled away from what matters.

3) Concentration Meditation

Now our number three type of meditation is what we call Concentration Meditations. Concentration Meditations include Visualization. And you hear about these athletes, whether it’s Phil Jackson going with the Chicago Bulls or the Los Angeles Lakers, and using visualization techniques where he would imagine and visualize with the players, then making a certain basketball shot or the game going in a certain way or being in this flow where they are passing to each other. And those visualization techniques obviously worked really well for Phil Jackson and all the teams that he was connected to. And then it’s also a tool that David Beckham, one of the greatest soccer players of all time, also would visualize doing these kicks. So that’s called a form of Mental Rehearsing. Visualization is something that we can use within this realm of concentration. We can also visualize something like the Chakras, or what we call the energy centers, where we move through all those energy centers just visualizing a color or connecting to a certain energy or quality within those energy centers. And that also is a form of visualization.

Another type of Concentration Meditation is Repetition. In India, this is referred to as Japa. You can repeat a mantra. You could repeat a word. You could repeat an affirmation. It can be any type of repetition. You can repeat it silently inside. You could have prayer beads. Or in India, that’s called on a mala. And you could move the prayer beads one at a time as you repeat a mantra or a word. Or you could do what we call journaling japa where you write your word down or you write your affirmation down on a piece of paper over and over and over again. And you just keep repeating and repeating and repeating. And this is really what Transcendental Meditation and Vedic-style Meditation is all about, where they work with a sacred sound or a mantra. A mantra means to reinforce the mind. 

Other types of Focus or Concentration Meditation is all the Mindfulness Meditations as well. We can meditate on the breath. We can meditate on sensation. We can meditate on thoughts. We can meditate on feelings. We can meditate on sounds. These are all like anchors. So we focus on the anchor. We concentrate on that anchor. And in yoga, focus and concentration is called Dharana.

4) Heart State Meditation

And then lastly, the fourth category of meditation is what we call the Heart State Meditations. This includes meditating on an emotional quality, like Gratitude. And we talked about gratitude specifically in episode 10. So if you haven’t heard that yet, go back and listen to that. You can also meditate on something called Loving-Kindness, or in the mindfulness tradition, what we call Metta Meditation where you you meditate on these phrases. And you send these phrases, you send this loving-kindness energy to another person, to yourself, to the world, to all life. And these can be phrases like, “May you be healthy. May you be happy. May you live with joy.” And that’s loving kindness. It invokes an energy from the heart. 

You can meditate on Joy. And you can also meditate on something like Forgiveness. Forgiveness meditation allows us to really deal with the unfinished business of the heart, to look at the traumas that we carry, to look at guilt or shame. And we can forgive ourselves, but we can also forgive others. We don’t have to forget, but it’s very important that we learn how to forgive and we learn how to clear the toxins and the poisons out of our heart. 

“It is only within the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

-Little Prince (a book)

These meditations allow us to access a deeper dimension that, again, is beyond what the eyes can see and beyond what the senses can report. 

Meditation is an opportunity to step out of the busy river of life and to rest on the banks of stillness.

Sometimes, it can be very, very difficult to go inward. 

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” 

-Blaise Pascal

They did a fascinating study at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville where they would take people, and they would put the subjects into a laboratory room which was sparsely populated, just the chair, very simple. And they would have each participant of the study be in the room for about 15 minutes. No cell phone. No distractions. Just the person thinking and sitting quietly alone in this room. And they gave each participant the option, if they wanted, that they could push a button. If they were starting to kind of lose their mind and get restless, they could push this button and self-electrocute themselves. Not like an electrocution that would kill you, but a minor voltage of electrocution. And astonishingly, what they found out was that 25% of the women that participated in this study, they pushed the button. And then how many percentage of men do you think pushed the button? 67%! 

So guys out there, we got to improve our ability to be with ourselves. So people would rather electrocute themselves than to sit quietly with themselves. This is a problem. And again, we’re a byproduct of this world that we live in where we are addicted to constant stimulation. We don’t even know how to be with ourselves, to be alone with ourselves, without going mad.

“My mind is like a bad neighborhood. I try not to go there alone.” 

-Anne Lamott

And it can be like that when you meditate. You close your eyes. You go within, and whatever it is that you’ve been running away from, it catches up with you. 

A huge part of our growth though is moving into the unknown, moving through uncertainty, moving through difficulty. 

If we can’t be at peace with ourselves, we can’t be at peace with life.

To meditate, we find peace within ourselves so that we can find peace within all the various aspects of our life. 

Start a daily meditation practice, whether it’s one minute. One minute is fine. If that’s all you can do, start with one minute or an hour or somewhere in between, whatever it is that works for you. 

Personally, I do at least 20 minutes of meditation a day, at least. And again, you can look for meditations here on the Be Ultimate podcast. Every month, we’re releasing a new meditation. And you can repeat these meditations over and over and over again. 

We also have great meditations on our monthly streaming platform and our dimension TV. And we have a powerful, 28-day mindfulness meditation program called Meditation 101 led by myself and my wife, Lauren. Each practice is about 15 to 20 minutes. It has music to it, and it’s great for beginners or even more experienced students.

So head over to innerdimensionmedia.com. You can do a 10-day free trial, make sure that you like it. And that’s a great way to get to the habit of meditating where you’re having a program that holds you accountable. 

Stay tuned for more episodes here on the Be Ultimate podcast related to meditation, mindfulness, neuroscience. This is a big inspiration and a big passion for me.


Let’s close with the Ultimate Prayer which is kind of like the vow, the vow that we talked about. 

“May we bring strength where there is weakness. 

May we bring courage where there is fear. 

May we bring compassion where there is suffering. 

And may we bring light where there is darkness. 

May we be Ultimate!”

Transcription Services Provided by:

Produced by Jason Reim
Opening Music by Howie Hersh
Closing Music by Ryan Richko