Types of Meditation
Andrea Yoga | 2020
There are hundreds, probably thousands of meditation types, to give you an idea of the breadth; types of meditation which help to alleviate anxiety, may not be the best types to help combat depression or for spiritual ‘awakening’. Did you know for example, that not all meditations are necessarily completed while sitting, that you can meditate while you walk or move?
Because the field of meditation is almost as broad as the field of all possibilities, here I have explored some of the more popular ones to guide you to some different techniques to find the ones that work best for you.
Three Pillars of Meditation
To bring about ‘realisation’ that body, speech and mind are dependent on the mind itself, we must connect in with mindfulness, alertness and humility.
− What is mindfulness? Put simply, it means remembering what we have started, remembering the instructions we are practising. It is like ‘watching all the time’ or observing as an observer.
− What is alertness? Checking in on our meditation practice, tuning into the awareness whether our meditation practice is going well. Being aware like this guides our meditation from a distance.
− Humility, modesty or ‘careful’ is translated from a Tibetan word ‘bagyö’ which is the third supportive pillar. This pillar reminds us to retain a humility about how we view ourselves and our practice. A sense of maintaining good character and frame of mind.
I find I can remember the Three Pillars of Meditation and apply these ideas to daily life more easily as I recall the following quote by Chinese philosopher Lao Tsu as all three pillars are ensconced in this quote:
Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become a habit. Watch your habits; they become a character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
To optimize the benefits of meditation, cultivating a daily practice is strongly encouraged, using the technique and approach that works for you, then applying the skills to your daily life just like any other important skill you want to acquire.
If you meditate once a week, there will be some benefits – you will immediately feel calmer, more centred and focused. But momentum and continuity is key to make the real difference to your life. Even if you practice for just 5 minutes a day. A daily practice will yield the most benefits and with the right technique and approach (for you) is truly transformational.
SO WHAT APPROACHES CAN I TAKE TO MAXIMISE THE BENEFITS OF MEDITATION?
Meditation can be classified into two broad categories: Active and Passive or the idea of aiming at ‘one’ or ‘zero’ – union/emptiness.
There is no hard and fast ‘one size fits all’ in meditation. So, while most meditation techniques share commonalities and benefits, experimenting with different techniques depending on your goals is a good idea.
So if finding your way to your ‘pure being’ or ‘true self’ in effortless inner silence and deep states of consciousness appeals to you, you could consider some of the following meditation techniques…
The Buddha taught that misperceptions and delusions are caused by ignorance of the mind’s own nature. One of the tools for freeing the mind from the suffering brought about by this ignorance is insight, which transcends intellectual cognition and is known only through experiential means. Mindfulness enables us to gain insight, through being fully aware in the present moment.
An untrained mind is described as the ‘monkey mind’ which is constantly distracted by thoughts, emotions, sensations. The monkey mind constantly draws us back to the ‘surface’ and often into chain ‘reactivity’. Mindfulness facilitates the journey beneath the surface level of life experience to the truth of what is happening.
Mindfulness brings the practitioner into the full knowledge of each moment’s experience, as a witness, freeing them from the prison of unpleasant experiences, allowing the ‘noticing’ of chain reactions in the body, emotions, thoughts. Mindfulness allows the practitioner not to ‘identify’ or get drawn by these impulses and reactions.
The practitioner is aware of each experience in the body and mind and can stay with that experience whether good or bad. Recognizing and witnessing the impersonal nature of the experience can help to develop the capacity for unifying the mind, directing attention, sustaining attention, receive experiences fully, investigate the nature of experience and let the experience go whether pleasant or unpleasant.
This begins in a seated position in a quite space, practising concentration on an object, allowing the introduction of ‘noticing’ how the mind reacts to what it is experiencing. In vipassana meditation the ‘object’ per se is the breath the object through which to concentrate, collect and unify the mind.
There are many ways of following the breath, including counting, or noticing the speed. You may stay with the breath by apportioning a word to each breath, for example ‘in’ and ‘out’ or ‘rising’ and ‘falling’
Loving Kindness (Metta Bhavana)
Described often as a ‘radical act of love’ an act of ‘falling awake’, this meditation practice is used to cultivate one-pointed concentration and attention referred to as dharana, from which. The explicit focus of the practice is on compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity and their practice inclines the heart and mind towards these evoked qualities.
A formal loving-kindness practice can soften one’s relationship to overwhelming and afflictive states of mind and prevent us succumbing to negative energetic states.
This practice, allows the practitioner to see into the nature of emotions which can be grief, anger and in this seeing observation, this focusing, this knowing and embracing without judgement causes attenuation and evaporation, allowing loving-kindness itself to emerge.
WHICHEVER IS ‘BEST’ DEPENDS ON YOU AND YOUR UNIQUE NEEDS AND PERSONALITY RIGHT NOW