What is Meditation?
Mediation is an ancient tradition used across many countries from western Europe to the East. Throughout centuries mediation in one form or another has held a place in civilisation.
There are many definitions of mediation, since experiences of mediation and its effects are so subjective and can vary greatly from person to person, different origins and cultures.
There seems to be many mediation techniques and hundreds of versions on that one technique.
It may sounds that finding out “ how to mediate’ may sound like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
However ALL techniques fall into one of two categories:
Concentrative (Focused Attention)
It is practiced either by focusing attention on a single object, internal or external. This technique requires you to focus or concentrate on particular word, chant, your breathe, candle, or image to name but a few.
Open Mind (Attentive)
By paying attention to whatever is predominant in your experience in the present moment, without allowing the attention to get stuck on any particular thing. This technique leaves you open to noticing sounds, sensations, feelings and thoughts without trying to change them or get attached to them. Mindfulness mediation is an example of an attentive mediation technique.
When I teach and during my personal practice I use a combination of both as my focus moves from the “monkey mind” to awareness of the present moment and then bringing focus to a single point before entering silence, stillness, insight and the journey into a shift in consciousness.
There are thousands of meditation techniques and these can vary greatly in how they are used and the effect that they have. Below is a very brief description of some of the techniques used.
Mindfulness meditation is the practice of intentionally focusing on the present moment, accepting and non-judgmentally paying attention to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that arise. This technique is an adaptation from traditional Buddhist meditation practices, especially Vipassana, but also having strong influence from other lineages (such as the Vietnamese Zen Buddhism from Thich Nhat hanh.
Mindfulness has also been made popular by Jon Kabatt Zinn a meditation teacher engaged in bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and society.
Breath Awareness and Body Scan
Breath awareness is as simple as it sounds—you focus your attention on the inhalation and exhalation. Body scan is a process of focused attention on the physical body starting at the toes and working your way up with heightened awareness and the potential for release or relaxation of tension. The practitioner may be seated, laying down, or walking depending on the focus of practice.
These techniques are the basis of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) developed by Jon Kabatt-Zinn in 1979. They also have their roots from the Vipassana tradition.
“Vipassana” is a Pali word that means “insight” or “clear seeing”. It is a traditional Buddhist practice, dating back to 6th century BC. Vipassana-meditation, as taught in the last few decades, comes from the Theravada Buddhist tradition.
Due to the popularity of Vipassanā-meditation, the “mindfulness of breathing” has gained further popularity in the West as “mindfulness”.
The mediation trains the mind to become aware of the experiences of life without getting caught up in the trapping of unconscious thoughts, existence and action. The goals are to see the truths of the three marks of existence , impermanence unsatisfactoriness or suffering and non-self / selflessness otherwise known as insight meditation.
There has been many modernisations of Vipassana including Mindfulness mediation and (metta) loving kindness mediation. These techniques can help cultivate a mindful lifestyle with the focus on awareness, non judgment and compassion whilst having a greater understanding on our responses to everyday life situations, aiming to respond with clarity and calmness rather that react. To observe and watch with out getting washed away with the emotions of a particular situation.
There is not one type of meditation which is “Yogic Meditation”, so here it is meant the several meditation types taught in the yoga tradition. Yoga means “union”. Tradition goes as far as 1700 B.C, and has as its highest goal spiritual purification and Self-Knowledge. Classical Yoga divides the practice into rules of conduct (yamas and niyamas), physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and contemplative practices of meditation (pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi).
Vedic Mediation is the use of a mantra to focus on and eventually still the mind, the Mantra is repeated silently to yourself until it fades completely and you are left with a stillness and quietness. It is traditionally practiced twice day. Vedic Mediation has become quite popular due to the suggested simple nature of its discipline.
The Yoga tradition is the oldest meditation tradition on earth, and also the one with the widest variety of practices.
Kundalini Meditation The goal is the awakening of the “kundalini energy” which lies dormant on the base of the spine, the development of several psychic centers in the body, and, finally, enlightenment. This type of meditation involves, Mantras, chanting, breathing techniques such as “breath of fire” mudras ( hand positions) and had been reported to have dramatic changes within the body.
Creative and Movement Meditation
Some of the more known examples from the east are: Chinese calligraphy, Indian Mandalas and Yantras, Tibetan sculpturing and drawing, Zen poetry, Whirling Sufi dance, Tai Chi , dance meditation and Qui-Gong While these expressions of Meditative Art are significantly different from one another, each can bring deep expression and emotional resolution and clarity.