There are many types of meditation, each striving to focus, calm and improve the mind, but each also has its own ultimate goal to be achieved.
In this lesson on the different types of meditation, we will discuss several of the most common that you are likely to find in teaching centers for in your area if you live in a reasonably sized town.
We will also focus on forms of meditation you can practice on your own easily. You might eventually wish to do more research online, or via books.
We will discuss each of these different types of meditation in turn:
• Counting Your Breath Method
• Guided imagery
• Transcendental Meditation (TM)
• Zen meditation
• Tibetan Buddhist meditation
VIDEO: Counting Your Breath Meditation Method
With this method, you’re just going to focus on your breath, and nothing else. By doing this, you achieve a tremendous amount of relaxation.
If you practice this long enough, you can achieve a very deep and abiding sense of inner peace. It’s fairly straightforward. There are really no “moving parts.” It’s not complicated at all.
Preparing for the “Counting Your Breath” Method
First, you need to find the right spot. Generally speaking, you should do this in an area where you’re not going to be disturbed. There should be no distractions in terms of what you can see, hear, smell, taste, touch.
It should be a place that will be only available to you for around 10-15 minutes. It doesn’t really take all that long, but you have to be in the right spot for a long enough period of time for this meditative technique to benefit you.
Second, you’re going to close your eyes. This is a technique that you cannot do with your eyes open. Remember, we’re basically going to avoid any kind of distractions. These distractions can be seen, heard, smelled, tasted and touched. No distractions. So you close your eyes, and you just focus on one thing and one thing alone.
Third, focus only on your breath. How are you going to focus on your breath? Well, you’re not going to focus on it by feeling it or hearing it. Instead, you’re going to “watch it.” In other words, you turn your “mental camera” to your breath. You imagine yourself seeing yourself breathe in and breathe out.
The key here is to feel it with your body and see it in your mind’s eye. Eventually, these two sensations will line up. So it diverts your attention from the stuff going through your mind as well as the stimuli that your body is picking up. Instead, everything is focused on your breath. Your conscious attention is focused solely on your breath.
You breathe in slowly, and you breathe out slowly. Everything is focused on the area of your body where the breath is coming in and going out. The key here is to not control your breath. The key is to not be self-conscious. Instead, you’re just paying attention to this natural flow.
When you feel that there’s a strain in your lungs, you’re doing it wrong. It means you’re being self-conscious. It means that you’re trying to force things. This should not be forced. It is actually effortless. You’re just basically turning that mental camera that you have from obsessing about all these stresses or drama happening in your life to just focusing on your breath.
That’s all it will be focused on. And if you keep this up long enough, you will become very, very relaxed. It leads to a tremendous amount of inner peace. However, let me tell you, in the beginning, it’s going to be quite difficult. You might even feel bored. You might even feel like you’re wasting your time. It’s because this is something new.
Your mind is not used to thinking this way. After all, your mind has grown accustomed to thinking about a thousand different things at once. It’s used to using up a tremendous amount of energy.
Now, you’re using very little energy and you’re focusing on only one thing. As you can imagine, that takes some getting used to. The good news is, it’s worth doing because the calm and relaxation that you get will be priceless.
Guided Imagery Meditation
Sometimes called visualization, this method of meditation encourages you to form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing. You try to use as many senses as possible, such as smells, sights, sounds, and textures, to calm the mind, and focus it. It is a good way to get into a more meditative state. Its goal is relaxation and peace. It can be done with mindfulness meditation.
This type of meditation is based on being mindful, that is, having an increased awareness of and acceptance of living in the present moment. It means paying attention to what you are doing in the present, rather than living on autopilot.
Really taste your food or focusing on washing a dish would be two examples. You will observe your thoughts as well without judging them. Its goal is to focus the mind and become more familiar with it. You can also focus on sensory input to calm and focus the mind.
In this type of meditation, you silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts and to awaken the power within. The word OM, for example, has a vibrational quality that is supposed to help increase your wisdom and connection with the cosmos.
The goal of these different types of meditation is to focus more and eliminate distractions in order to achieve deeper and deeper levels of concentration and awareness. The goal is a connection and higher wisdom, such as the wisdom of enlightenment.
Transcendental Meditation (TM)
Transcendental meditation was founded in the 1950s and is basically a form of mantra meditation. Lessons are expensive and there is no evidence of any special benefit to it compared with any other form of meditation (especially since most of them are free to learn). The Beatles and other pop stars made it popular, but popular does not always mean useful and effective. Save your money, or invest a $1,000 or so dollars on some meditation retreats, books, and classes for beginners instead.
In Zen or Zazen meditation, there two main practices. They are breathing meditation and mindfulness meditation in order to be present and aware. The goal is inner peace.
Tibetan Buddhist Meditation
Tibetan Buddhism is the purest form of different types of meditation practice of Buddhism. Because Tibet is such an isolated country that the same practices have been done continuously for centuries with little outside influence. Skilled meditators from India traveled there to teach those who wished to how to follow the path to enlightenment. The Dalai Lama is the political and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and as a monk is an accomplished meditator.
You don’t need to be a monk, however, to get great results. Once you quiet down your mind chatter, you can focus on a certain topic in order to understand it better. Guided meditations on important topics such as reincarnation, loving-kindness, and the ultimate truth, emptiness, lead to Nirvana, that is, enlightenment, the freedom from suffering. Nirvana is not a place, it is a state of mind. An enlightened being can benefit everyone because they are so kind and compassionate.
The simpler forms of these different types of meditation are easy to master. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to get a great deal out of them. But you will be following instruction from the books written by the historical Buddha, (600 BCE) his 84,000 Sutra teachings.
The Buddha was a noble Indian prince who had loving parents, a beautiful wife and a wonderful son. He lived in a magnificent palace and was wealthy beyond imagining. But one day he saw a dead body. He realized then that no matter how powerful a prince he was, he couldn’t stop suffering, aging, sickness and death.
He decided then to seek enlightenment in order to end suffering. He meditated for 7 years under the most difficult conditions and achieved enlightenment. He then taught his methods to others, including his own son.
The story is an inspirational one whether you take it to be actual fact or not. It is important to note that Buddhists don’t worship Buddha, they try to emulate him.
There are many enlightened beings pictured in temples, such as Medicine Buddha, or the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri, but again, they are not worshipped as gods, they are role models to remind us of what we need to work on in our lives.
However, some consider these different types of meditation and the number of Buddhas and symbols used for teachings ‘idolatry’. In fact, some people are shocked to see what looks like a Star of David used in Judaism, and even worse, a swastika in Buddhist pictures and on the chests of images of Buddha.
The 6-pointed star is the symbol of the purest of the Buddhas, Vajrayogini, the ‘indestructible practitioner’. The swastika is a symbol of reincarnation and everlasting life, which is why certain political parties used it as their own symbol of power.
If you think of Buddhism and these different types of meditation as a science of the mind, however, then you won’t have to get hung up on ‘religious’ issues. There are around 20 main Tibetan meditations that can be done in rotation, to improve your meditation skills and to give you a clearer grasp of emptiness. A deep understanding of emptiness is believed to be the conduit to enlightenment, a peaceful mind of wisdom that seeks to benefit all living beings.
Spiritual Growth: the Spiritual Challenge of Modern Times
To grow spiritually in a world defined by power, money, and influence is a Herculean task. Modern conveniences such as electronic equipment, gadgets, and tools as well as entertainment through television, magazines, and the web have predisposed us to confine our attention mostly to physical needs and wants.
As a result, our concepts of self-worth and self-meaning are muddled. How can we strike a balance between the material and spiritual aspects of our lives?
To grow spiritually is to look inward
Introspection goes beyond recalling the things that happened in a day, week, or month. You need to look closely and reflect on your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and motivations. Periodically examining your experiences, the decisions you make, the relationships you have, and the things you engage in provide useful insights on your life goals, on the good traits you must sustain and the bad traits you have to discard.
Moreover, it gives you clues on how to act, react, and conduct yourself in the midst of any situation. Like any skill, introspection can be learned; all it takes is the courage and willingness to seek the truths that lie within you. Here are some pointers when you introspect: be objective, be forgiving of yourself, and focus on your areas for improvement.
To Grow Spiritually Is To Develop Your Potentials
Religion and science have differing views on matters of the human spirit. Religion views people as spiritual beings temporarily living on Earth, while science views the spirit as just one dimension of an individual. Mastery of the self is a recurring theme in both Christian (Western) and Islamic (Eastern) teachings.
The needs of the body are recognized but placed under the needs of the spirit. Beliefs, values, morality, rules, experiences, and good works provide the blueprint to ensure the growth of the spiritual being. In Psychology, realizing one’s full potential is to self-actualize.
Maslow identified several human needs: physiological, security, belongingness, esteem, cognitive, aesthetic, self-actualization, and self-transcendence. James earlier categorized these needs into three: material, emotional, and spiritual.
When you have satisfied the basic physiological and emotional needs, spiritual or existential needs come next. Achieving each need leads to the total development of the individual. Perhaps the difference between these two religions and psychology is the end of self-development: Christianity and Islam see that self-development is a means toward serving God, while psychology view that self-development is an end by itself.
To grow spiritually is to search for meaning
Religions that believe in the existence of God such as Christianism, Judaism, and Islam suppose that the purpose of human life is to serve the Creator of all things. Several theories in psychology propose that we ultimately give meaning to our lives. Whether we believe that life’s meaning is pre-determined or self-directed, to grow in spirit is to realize that we do not merely exist.
We do not know the meaning of our lives at birth, but we gain knowledge and wisdom from our interactions with people and from our actions and reactions to the situations we are in. As we discover this meaning, there are certain beliefs and values that we reject and affirm.
Our lives have a purpose. This purpose puts all our physical, emotional, and intellectual potentials into use; sustains us during trying times; and gives us something to look forward to—a goal to achieve, a destination to reach. A person without purpose or meaning is like a drifting ship at sea.
To grow spiritually is to recognize interconnections
Religions stress the concept of our relatedness to all creation, live and inanimate. Thus we call other people “brothers and sisters” even if there are no direct blood relations. Moreover, deity-centered religions such as Christianity and Islam speak of the relationship between humans and a higher being.
On the other hand, science expounds on our link to other living things through the evolution theory. This relatedness is clearly seen in the concept of ecology, the interaction between living and non-living things. In psychology, connectedness is a characteristic of self-transcendence, the highest human need according to Maslow.
Recognizing your connection to all things makes you more humble and respectful of people, animals, plants, and things in nature. It makes you appreciate everything around you. It moves you to go beyond your comfort zone and reach out to other people, and become stewards of all other things around you.
Growth is a process thus to grow in spirit is a day-to-day encounter. We win some, we lose some, but the important thing is that we learn, and from this knowledge, further spiritual growth is made possible.
Now that you are aware of several of the main forms of these different types of meditation, it’s time to get a taste of meditation yourself. Let’s start with the main elements of meditation practice for beginners in our next lesson.