Where do I start?
There is no clear evidence on which techniques are better than others, not least because they have different aims and contexts. And there is no evidence that any of the techniques is a panacea or a cure-all, or will make you a “better person”! It is more about which one suits you best at this moment and for your aims.
Popular meditation practices that are taught in secular settings include mindfulness, concentration, and compassion or self-compassion techniques. Yoga, Tai chi, martial arts, and mindful movement techniques such as Alexander, 5Rhythms or Feldenkrais sometimes include an element of meditation. Other common practices, usually within spiritual and religious settings include but are not limited to Zen, Vipassana (or insight), Advaita Vedanta, earth connection practice, and Tibetan meditation techniques. And there are many more! It is important that you familiarise yourself with the aims and context of the techniques you are about to learn, and make sure they match your expectations. For instance, if you are seeking to feel more connected to your own body, you could try secular mindful movement techniques; or you may be interested in learning about religious or traditional practices, ideas and philosophies.
You may have your mind set on a particular meditation practice you want to try and the teacher with whom you want to learn. Keep in mind that there are many alternative meditation practices out there. If you feel that the practice you begin is not a good fit, consider trying another one.
Research offers no evidence that meditation practices are better to boost wellbeing than other practices like exercise, yoga, or even doing crossword puzzles. So, if you don’t enjoy meditation practice when you try it, or you don’t see the point in doing it, you can try other activities that can boost your wellbeing, such as sports or volunteering.
Individuals with a history of mental health issues, unexplored trauma, or certain other medical conditions may be harmed rather than helped by meditation. Meditation is not a substitute for more traditional medical care. We recommend you speak to a trusted clinician (GP, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.) first if you are planning to use meditation for medical reasons.
Which mode of delivery is best?
Common ways of learning meditation include via group sessions or series of sessions with or without a teacher, one-on-one sessions with a teacher, following instructions from a book or website, guided audio or video meditation sessions online, and attending events or retreats. It is increasingly common to find remote video-supported offers, either automated or with interaction with other people.
These ways of delivering training are very different from each other, and not necessarily equivalent – you shouldn't assume you will have same experience with an app as an in-person session. In general, because meditation training provision is an unregulated market, you should not assume that all the meditation courses and platforms out there are of similar quality.
Quality is even harder to gauge for app-based courses, and if problems arise it is harder to find support. The Division of Digital Psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (connected to Harvard University) maintains an app library that provides information about various mobile health platforms.