In the West, meditation techniques have sometimes been thought of in two broad categories: focused (or concentrative) meditation and open monitoring (or mindfulness) meditation.
Direction of mental attention... A practitioner can focus intensively on one particular object (so-called concentrative meditation), on all mental events that enter the field of awareness (so-called mindfulness meditation), or both specific focal points and the field of awareness.
Focused methods include paying attention to the breath, to an idea or feeling (such as mettā (loving-kindness), to a kōan, or to a mantra (such as in transcendental meditation), and single point meditation. Open monitoring methods include mindfulness, shikantaza and other awareness states. Practices using both methods include vipassana (which uses anapanasati as a preparation), and samatha (calm-abiding). In "No thought" methods, "the practitioner is fully alert, aware, and in control of their faculties but does not experience any unwanted thought activity." This is in contrast to the common meditative approaches of being detached from, and non-judgmental of, thoughts, but not of aiming for thoughts to cease. In the meditation practice of the Sahaja yoga spiritual movement, the focus is on thoughts ceasing.Clear light yoga also aims at a state of no mental content, as does the no thought (wu nian) state taught by Huineng, and the teaching of Yaoshan Weiyan. One proposal is that transcendental meditation and possibly other techniques be grouped as an "automatic self-transcending" set of techniques. Other typologies include dividing meditation into concentrative, generative, receptive and reflective practices.
The Transcendental Meditation technique recommends practice of 20 minutes twice per day. Some techniques suggest less time, especially when starting meditation, and Richard Davidson has quoted research saying benefits can be achieved with a practice of only 8 minutes per day. Research shows improvement in meditation time with simple oral and video training. Some meditators practice for much longer, particularly when on a course or retreat. Some meditators find practice best in the hours before dawn.
Asanas and positions such as the full-lotus, half-lotus, Burmese, Seiza, and kneeling positions are popular in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, although other postures such as sitting, supine (lying), and standing are also used. Meditation is also sometimes done while walking, known as kinhin while doing a simple task mindfully, known as samu or while lying down known as savasana.
Use of prayer beads
Some religions have traditions of using prayer beads as tools in devotional meditation. Most prayer beads and Christian rosaries consist of pearls or beads linked together by a thread. The Roman Catholic rosary is a string of beads containing five sets with ten small beads. The Hindu japa mala has 108 beads (the figure 108 in itself having spiritual significance), as well as those used in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the Hare Krishna tradition, Jainism and Buddhist prayer beads. Each bead is counted once as a person recites a mantra until the person has gone all the way around the mala.misbaha has 99 beads. There is also quite a variance when it comes to materials used for beads. Beads made from seeds of rudraksha trees are considered sacred by devotees of Siva, while followers of Vishnu revere the wood that comes from the tulsi plant.
Striking the meditator
The Buddhist literature has many stories of Enlightenment being attained through disciples being struck by their masters. According to T. Griffith Foulk, the encouragement stick was an integral part of the Zen practice:
In the Rinzai monastery where I trained in the mid-1970s, according to an unspoken etiquette, monks who were sitting earnestly and well were shown respect by being hit vigorously and often; those known as laggards were ignored by the hall monitor or given little taps if they requested to be hit. Nobody asked about the 'meaning' of the stick, nobody explained, and nobody ever complained about its use.
Using a narrative
Richard Davidson has expressed the view that having a narrative can help maintenance of daily practice. For instance he himself prostrates to the teachings, and meditates "not primarily for my benefit, but for the benefit of others".