meditation techniques

FAITH TRADITIONS AND MEDITATION

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FAITH TRADITIONS AND MEDITATION

What are some of these traditions that are related to faith and meditation?  Would anyone be able to learn how to use them in collaboration with their faith?    I find it fascinating and important to see how the different faiths of the word view and use meditation.  I hope that this will help clarify any misconceptions there may be.

In the teachings of the Baha’i Faith meditation, along with prayer, is one of the primary tools for spiritual development, and it mainly refers to one’s reflection on the words of God. While prayer and meditation are linked where meditation happens generally in a prayerful attitude, prayer is seen specifically as turning toward God, and meditation is seen as a communion with one’s self where one focuses on the divine.

The Baha’i teachings note that the purpose of meditation is to strengthen one’s understanding of the words of God, and to make one’s soul more susceptible to their potentially transformative power, and that both prayer and meditation are needed to bring about and to maintain a spiritual communion with God.  The founder of the religion, never specified any particular form of meditation, and thus each person is free to choose their own form.  However, he specifically did state that Baha’i’s should read a passage of the Baha’i writings twice a day, once in the morning, and once in the evening, and meditate on it. He also encouraged people to reflect on one’s actions and worth at the end of each day. The Nineteen Day Fast, a nineteen-day period of the year, during which Baha’is adhere to a sunrise-to-sunset fast, is also seen as meditative, where Baha’is must meditate and pray to reinvigorate their spiritual forces.

Buddhist meditation refers to the meditative practices associated with the religion and philosophy of Buddhism. Core meditation techniques have been preserved in ancient Buddhist texts and have proliferated and diversified through teacher-student transmissions.  Buddhists pursue meditation as part of the path toward Enlightenment and Nirvana.  The closest words for meditation in the classical languages of Buddhism are bhavana, jhana dhyana and vipassana.  There is hardly any difference between mainstream Hinduism’s Dhyana, Dharana and Samadhi with the Buddhist Dhyana, Bhavana, Samadhi, especially as both require following the precepts (nayas and niyamas.)

Buddhist meditation techniques have become increasingly popular in the wider world, with many non-Buddhists taking them up for a variety of reasons. There is considerable homogeneity across meditative practices – such as breath meditation and various recollections– that are used across Buddhist schools, as well as significant diversity. In the Theravada tradition alone, there are over fifty methods for developing mindfulness and forty for developing concentration, while in the Tibetan tradition there are thousands of visualization meditations.  Most classical and contemporary Buddhist meditation guides are school-specific.

The Buddha is said to have identified two paramount mental qualities that arise from wholesome meditative practice:  (a) “serenity” or “tranquility” which steadies, composes, unifies and concentrates the mind; and (b) “insight” which enables one to see, explore and discern “formations” (conditioned phenomena based on the five aggregates).

Through the meditative development of serenity, one is able to release obscuring hindrances; with the release of the hindrances, through the meditative development of insight that one gains liberating wisdom.

Christian Meditation is a term for form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to get in touch with and deliberately reflect upon the revelations of God. The word meditation comes from the Latin word meditari, which means to concentrate. Christian meditation is the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God.   Christian meditation contrasts with cosmic styles of eastern meditation as radically as the portrayal of God the Father in the Bible contrasts with discussions of Krishna or Brahman in Indian teachings. Unlike eastern meditations, most styles of Christian meditations do not rely on the repeated use of mantras, but are intended to stimulate thought and deepen meaning. Christian meditation aims to heighten the personal relationship based on the love of God that marks Christian communion. In Aspects of Christian Meditation, the Catholic Church warned of potential incompatibilities in mixing Christian and eastern styles of meditation.  In 2003, in A Christian reflection on the New Age, the Vatican announced that the “Church avoids any concept that is close to those of the New Age”.

Taoist or Daoist meditation has a long history, and has developed various techniques including concentration, visualization, qi cultivation, contemplation, and mindfulness meditations. Traditional Daoist meditative practices were influenced by Chinese Buddhism beginning around the 5th century, and later had influence upon Traditional Chinese medicine and the Chinese martial arts.

Three basic types of Daoist meditation: “concentrative”, “insight”, and “visualization”.  Ding (literally means “decide; settle; stabilize”) refers to “deep concentration”, “intent contemplation”, or “perfect absorption.” Guan (lit. “watch; observe; view”) meditation seeks to merge attain unity with the Dao.  Daoist masters based it upon the Tiantai Buddhist practice of Vipassana “insight” or “wisdom” meditation. Cun (lit. “exist; be present; survive”) has a sense of “to cause to exist; to make present” in the meditation techniques popularized by the Daoist  Shangqing and Linbao Schools.   A meditator visualizes or actualizes solar and lunar essences, lights, and deities within his/her body, which supposedly results in health and longevity, even “immortality”.

Daoist meditation practices are central to Chinese martial arts (and some Japanese martial arts), especially the qi-related Neijia “internal martial arts”. Some well-known examples are Daoyin “guiding and pulling”,  Oigong “life-energy exercises”,  Neigoing “internal exercises”, Neidan “internal alchemy”, Yiquan “Standing Meditation/Intent-Fist”,  and Taijiquan “great ultimate boxing”, which is thought of as moving meditation. One common explanation contrasts “movement in stillness” referring to energetic visualization of qi circulation in Qigong and zuochan “seated meditation”, versus “stillness in movement” referring to a state of meditative calm in Taijiquan forms.

There are many schools and styles of meditation within Hinduism. Yoga is generally done to prepare one for meditation, and meditation is done to realize union of one’s self, one’s atman, with the omnipresent and non-dual Brahman.   This experience is referred to as moksha by Hindus, and is similar to the concept of Nirvana in Buddhism. The earliest clear references to meditation in Hindu literature are in the middle Upanishads and the Mahabharata, which includes the Bhagavad Gita.

 Within yoga practice there are eight limbs leading to “aloneness.” These are ethical discipline, rules, physical postures, breath control, withdrawal from the senses, one-pointedness of mind, meditation, and finally samadhi, which is often described as the realization of the identity of the Self with the omnipresent (Brahaman), and is the ultimate aim of all Hindu yogis.

Meditation has been laid stress upon by all religions. The meditative state of mind is declared by the Yogis to be the highest state in which the mind exists. When the mind is studying the external object, it gets identified with it, loses itself. To use the simile of the old Indian philosopher: the soul of man is like a piece of crystal, but it takes the colour of whatever is near it. Whatever the soul touches … it has to take its colour. That is the difficulty. That constitutes the bondage.

 Remembrance of God in Islam, which is known by the concept Dhikr is interpreted in different meditative techniques in Sufism or Islamic mysticism.  This became one of the essential elements of Sufism as it was systematized traditionally. It is juxtaposed with fikr (thinking) which leads to knowledge.   Numerous Sufi traditions place emphasis upon a meditative procedure which comes from the cognitive aspect to one of the two principal approaches to be found in the Buddhist traditions: that of the concentration technique, involving high-intensity and sharply focused introspection.   In the Oveyssi-Shahmaghsoudi Sufi order, for example, this is particularly evident, where muraqaba takes the form of tamarkoz, the latter being a Persian term that means concentration. Meditative quiescence is said to have a quality of healing, and—in contemporary terminology—enhancing creativity.

Tafakkur or tadabbur in Sufism literally means reflection upon the universe; this is considered to permit access to a form of cognitive and emotional development that can emanate only from the higher level, i.e. from God. The sensation of receiving divine inspiration awakens and liberates both heart and intellect, permitting such inner growth that the apparently mundane actually takes on the quality of the infinite. Muslim teachings embrace life as a test of one’s submission to God.

Meditation in the Sufi traditions is largely based on a spectrum of mystical exercises, varying from one lineage to another. Such techniques, particularly the more audacious, can be, and often have been down the ages, a source of controversy among scholars.

Jain meditation and spiritual practices system were referred to as salvation-path. It has three important parts called the Ratnatraya “Three Jewels”: right perception and faith, right knowledge and right conduct. Meditation in Jainism aims at realizing the self, attaining salvation; take the soul to complete freedom.  It aims to reach and to remain in the pure state of soul which is believed to be pure consciousness, beyond any attachment or aversion. The practitioner strives to be just a knower-seer (Gyata-Drashta). Jain meditation can be broadly categorized to Dharmya Dhyana and Shukla Dhyana.

There exists a number of meditation techniques such as pindāstha-dhyāna, padāstha-dhyāna, rūpāstha-dhyāna, rūpātita-dhyāna, savīrya-dhyāna, etc. In padāstha dhyāna one focuses on Mantra.  A Mantra could be either a combination of core letters or words on deity or themes. There is a rich tradition of Mantra in Jainism. All Jain followers irrespective of their sect, practice mantra. Mantra chanting is an important part of daily lives of Jain monks and followers. Mantra chanting can be done either loudly or silently in mind.  Yogasana and Pranayama has been an important practice undertaken since ages. Pranayama – breathing exercises – are performed to strengthen the five Pranas or vital energy.  Yogasana and Pranayama balances the functioning of neuro-endocrine system of body and helps in achieving good physical, mental and emotional health.

Contemplation is a very old and important meditation technique. The practitioner meditates deeply on subtle facts. In agnya vichāya, one contemplates on seven facts – life and non-life, the inflow, bondage, stoppage and removal of karmas, and the final accomplishment of liberation. In apaya vichāya, one contemplates on the incorrect insights one indulges, which eventually develops right insight. In vipaka vichāya, one reflects on the eight causes or basic types of karma. In sansathan vichāya, one thinks about the vastness of the universe and the loneliness of the soul

 Kathy Kiefer

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YOGA AND MEDITATION

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YOGA AND MEDITATION

 

What is this combination about?   Will it be of assistance on a daily basis?

Yoga is a great way to work on your flexibility and strength. Just about everyone can do it, too — it’s not just for people who can touch their toes or want to meditate.

Some types of yoga are about relaxation. In others, you move more. Most types focus on learning poses, called asanas. They also usually include attention to breathing.

Yoga poses called asanas work by stretching your muscles. They can help you move better and feel less stiff or tired.  At any level of yoga, you’ll probably start to notice benefits soon

Some styles of yoga, such as ashtanga and power yoga are very physical. Practicing one of these styles will help you improve muscle tone. But even less vigorous styles of yoga, such as Iyengar

or hatha, can provide strength and endurance benefits.

Continue reading below…

Many of the poses, such as downward dog, upward dog, and the plank pose, build upper-body strength. The standing poses, especially if you hold them for several long breaths, build strength in your hamstrings, quadriceps, and abs. Poses that strengthen the lower back include upward dog and the chair pose. When done right, nearly all poses build core strength in the deep abdominal muscles.

Most standing and sitting poses develop core strength, since you need your core muscles to support and maintain each pose.  Yoga also helps your body awareness. That helps you notice more quickly if you’re slouching or slumping, so you can adjust your posture.

Yoga usually involves paying attention to your breath, which can help you relax. It may also call for specific breathing techniques.  But yoga typically isn’t aerobic, like running or cycling, unless it’s an intense type of yoga or you’re doing it in a heated room.   You may feel less stressed and more relaxed after doing some yoga.  Some yoga styles use meditation techniques that help calm the mind. Focusing on your breathing during yoga can do that, too.

Yoga has long been known to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate.  A slower heart rate can benefit people with high blood pressure or heart disease, and people who’ve had a stroke.  It has also been shown to aid in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and better immune system function.

Many wonder why it is necessary to meditate after practicing Yoga asanas /postures. One of the many benefits of practicing yoga asanas/ postures is the fact that it allows us to slip into meditation effortlessly. Meditation being one of the main aspects of Yoga, it’s essential that we sit for meditation after practicing Yoga asanas and pranayama; else it is like preparing our dinner but not eating it! In meditation one delves deep into the self. There are many kinds of meditations though they might seem different most of them are, in essence, the same.

Panchakosha Meditation – According to ancient Indian scriptures, we consist of five sheaths or koshas – body, breath, mind, intellect and finally bliss. In this meditation we are guided from the gross to the subtler aspects of our being, finally experiencing the joy and peace that’s inherent in everyone.

Hari Om Meditation – It is said that there are seven chakras/ centres of prana-flow (the flow of subtle life energy). In this meditation, we guide the prana to flow from one chakra to the other. Though very simple, the Hari Om meditation leads to a profound experience

The rest in meditation is deeper than the deepest sleep you can ever have.  When the mind becomes free from agitation, it is then calm as well as serene and at peace, meditation then happens.

The benefits of meditation and yoga are manifold.   It is an essential practice for mental hygiene.  A calm mind, good concentration, clarity of perception, improvement in communication, blossoming  of skills and talents, an unshakeable inner strength, healing, being able  to connect to an inner source of energy, relaxation, rejuvenation, and good luck are all natural results of regular meditation.  In the world today, where stress catches on faster than the eye can see or the mind can perceive, meditation is no more a luxury.  It has become a necessity.  To be unconditionally happy and to have peace of mind, we need to tap into the power of meditation.

Sahaj Samadhi Meditation –   is a mantra based meditation where a sound vibration (mantra) gives you deep relaxation and also keeps you alert.  It effortlessly allows the conscious mind to settle down.  And when the mind settles down, it lets go of all tension and stress and centers itself in the present moment.    Sahaj is a Sanskrit word that means natural or effortless. Samadhi is a deep, blissful, meditative state. Sahaj Samadhi meditation is a natural, effortless system of meditation.

Whether or not we realize it, we all have experienced a meditative state in moments of deep joy, or when completely engrossed in an activity, when just for a moment the mind becomes so light and at ease. While we have such moments, we are unable to repeat them at will. This technique teaches you how, and almost right away you feel relief from stress-related problems and it helps to deeply relax the mind and rejuvenates the system.

Regular practice of the technique can totally transform the quality of one’s life, by culturing the system to maintain the peace, energy and expanded awareness throughout the day. These meditation techniques combined with yoga practices can ensure good health and a calm mind.  Meditation also allows the conscious mind to settle deeply in the self, thus giving it rest.  Then when the mind settles down, it is able to let go of all tension, thus making one healthy and focused.   An excellent example is:  When a river is calm, its reflection is clearer. When the mind is calm, there is greater clarity in the field of expression. Our powers of observation, perception and expression improve. As a result we are able to communicate effectively and clearly.

In Sanskrit, a mantra is described as, “Manana trayate iti mantra.”   Mantra is that which saves you from repetitiveness. A repetitive thought is a worry. Mantras help to free you from worries.

Both yoga and meditation are great ways to increase one total health and mental well-being.  One of the benefits of yoga meditation relaxation is that you can increase total flexibility of your body.  The positions that are held during yoga and the meditation techniques that are used help you to relax and achieve better flexibility than ever before.

When used together, the benefits of yoga meditation relaxation can also help   de-stress the body.  Many times the body is uptight and stressed out from events of the day and everything that makes it difficult.   By practicing yoga and meditation, one finds that your stress level decreases as you relax by using these methods.  Yoga positions will gently stretch your body and thus allow your muscles to relax and meditation will allow you to get away from the pressures and problems in your life.     Some of the benefits of yoga meditation relaxation are physical in nature. And by practicing these techniques the entire health of your body will improve.   By continuing to use yoga and contemplation, one finds your blood pressure is lowered, there could be needed weight loss, strength and posture improves, there is a boost to your immune system and any amount of pain dealt with daily decreases.  It just takes a few minutes a day to experience the benefits of yoga meditation.  Some other benefits of yoga meditation could include psychological benefits.  You become more self-aware and satisfied with yourself, and are less likely to develop depress or other mental disorders and your mood is usually much better.  By using yoga meditation your attention span increases and you are better able to concentrate on things in your life.

Unfortunately there are those who think that yoga and meditation are two different things, but in reality the two actually go hand in hand.   Meditation is a core part of yoga and both work together flawlessly.  The benefits of yoga mediation relaxation are numerous and by using this winning combination it can aid in making a marked difference in your life.

YOGA AND MEDITATION

What is this combination about?   Will it be of assistance on a daily basis?

Yoga is a great way to work on your flexibility and strength. Just about everyone can do it, too — it’s not just for people who can touch their toes or want to meditate.

Some types of yoga are about relaxation. In others, you move more. Most types focus on learning poses, called asanas. They also usually include attention to breathing.

Yoga poses called asanas work by stretching your muscles. They can help you move better and feel less stiff or tired.  At any level of yoga, you’ll probably start to notice benefits soon

Some styles of yoga, such as ashtanga and power yoga are very physical. Practicing one of these styles will help you improve muscle tone. But even less vigorous styles of yoga, such as Iyengar or hatha, can provide strength and endurance benefits.

Continue reading below…

Many of the poses, such as downward dog, upward dog, and the plank pose, build upper-body strength. The standing poses, especially if you hold them for several long breaths, build strength in your hamstrings, quadriceps, and abs. Poses that strengthen the lower back include upward dog and the chair pose. When done right, nearly all poses build core strength in the deep abdominal muscles.

Most standing and sitting poses develop core strength, since you need your core muscles to support and maintain each pose.  Yoga also helps your body awareness. That helps you notice more quickly if you’re slouching or slumping, so you can adjust your posture.

Yoga usually involves paying attention to your breath, which can help you relax. It may also call for specific breathing techniques.  But yoga typically isn’t aerobic, like running or cycling, unless it’s an intense type of yoga or you’re doing it in a heated room.   You may feel less stressed and more relaxed after doing some yoga.  Some yoga styles use meditation techniques that help calm the mind. Focusing on your breathing during yoga can do that, too.

Yoga has long been known to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate.  A slower heart rate can benefit people with high blood pressure or heart disease, and people who’ve had a stroke.  It has also been shown to aid in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and better immune system function.

Many wonder why it is necessary to meditate after practicing Yoga asanas /postures. One of the many benefits of practicing yoga asanas/ postures is the fact that it allows us to slip into meditation effortlessly. Meditation being one of the main aspects of Yoga, it’s essential that we sit for meditation after practicing Yoga asanas and pranayama; else it is like preparing our dinner but not eating it! In meditation one delves deep into the self. There are many kinds of meditations though they might seem different most of them are, in essence, the same.

Panchakosha Meditation – According to ancient Indian scriptures, we consist of five sheaths or koshas – body, breath, mind, intellect and finally bliss. In this meditation we are guided from the gross to the subtler aspects of our being, finally experiencing the joy and peace that’s inherent in everyone.

Hari Om Meditation – It is said that there are seven chakras/ centres of prana-flow (the flow of subtle life energy). In this meditation, we guide the prana to flow from one chakra to the other. Though very simple, the Hari Om meditation leads to a profound experience

The rest in meditation is deeper than the deepest sleep you can ever have.  When the mind becomes free from agitation, it is then calm as well as serene and at peace, meditation then happens.

The benefits of meditation and yoga are manifold.   It is an essential practice for mental hygiene.  A calm mind, good concentration, clarity of perception, improvement in communication, blossoming  of skills and talents, an unshakeable inner strength, healing, being able  to connect to an inner source of energy, relaxation, rejuvenation, and good luck are all natural results of regular meditation.  In the world today, where stress catches on faster than the eye can see or the mind can perceive, meditation is no more a luxury.  It has become a necessity.  To be unconditionally happy and to have peace of mind, we need to tap into the power of meditation.

Sahaj Samadhi Meditation –   is a mantra based meditation where a sound vibration (mantra) gives you deep relaxation and also keeps you alert.  It effortlessly allows the conscious mind to settle down.  And when the mind settles down, it lets go of all tension and stress and centers itself in the present moment.    Sahaj is a Sanskrit word that means natural or effortless. Samadhi is a deep, blissful, meditative state. Sahaj Samadhi meditation is a natural, effortless system of meditation.

Whether or not we realize it, we all have experienced a meditative state in moments of deep joy, or when completely engrossed in an activity, when just for a moment the mind becomes so light and at ease. While we have such moments, we are unable to repeat them at will. This technique teaches you how, and almost right away you feel relief from stress-related problems and it helps to deeply relax the mind and rejuvenates the system.

Regular practice of the technique can totally transform the quality of one’s life, by culturing the system to maintain the peace, energy and expanded awareness throughout the day. These meditation techniques combined with yoga practices can ensure good health and a calm mind.  Meditation also allows the conscious mind to settle deeply in the self, thus giving it rest.  Then when the mind settles down, it is able to let go of all tension, thus making one healthy and focused.   An excellent example is:  When a river is calm, its reflection is clearer. When the mind is calm, there is greater clarity in the field of expression. Our powers of observation, perception and expression improve. As a result we are able to communicate effectively and clearly.

In Sanskrit, a mantra is described as, “Manana trayate iti mantra.”   Mantra is that which saves you from repetitiveness. A repetitive thought is a worry. Mantras help to free you from worries.

Both yoga and meditation are great ways to increase one total health and mental well-being.  One of the benefits of yoga meditation relaxation is that you can increase total flexibility of your body.  The positions that are held during yoga and the meditation techniques that are used help you to relax and achieve better flexibility than ever before.

When used together, the benefits of yoga meditation relaxation can also help   de-stress the body.  Many times the body is uptight and stressed out from events of the day and everything that makes it difficult.   By practicing yoga and meditation, one finds that your stress level decreases as you relax by using these methods.  Yoga positions will gently stretch your body and thus allow your muscles to relax and meditation will allow you to get away from the pressures and problems in your life.     Some of the benefits of yoga meditation relaxation are physical in nature. And by practicing these techniques the entire health of your body will improve.   By continuing to use yoga and contemplation, one finds your blood pressure is lowered, there could be needed weight loss, strength and posture improves, there is a boost to your immune system and any amount of pain dealt with daily decreases.  It just takes a few minutes a day to experience the benefits of yoga meditation.  Some other benefits of yoga meditation could include psychological benefits.  You become more self-aware and satisfied with yourself, and are less likely to develop depress or other mental disorders and your mood is usually much better.  By using yoga meditation your attention span increases and you are better able to concentrate on things in your life.

Unfortunately there are those who think that yoga and meditation are two different things, but in reality the two actually go hand in hand.   Meditation is a core part of yoga and both work together flawlessly.  The benefits of yoga mediation relaxation are numerous and by using this winning combination it can aid in making a marked difference in your life.

Kathy Kiefer

MEDITATION TYPES

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MEDITATION TYPES

Why do people meditate?  What are the benefits and types of meditation?  I am finding more and more about the different types of meditation and the influence that mediation has on our lives (both personal and spiritually). I hope that I answer or can help others understand these differences and they important role it plays.     Meditation does work.

Meditation has been widely recommended as a healthy way to manage stress by way of thought, contemplation and reflex ion.  Meditation provides many health-enhancing benefits like reducing symptoms of stress, trauma and anxiety, aids in reliving physical issues like headaches and enhancing our body’s immunity to illness.  One has to be open and receptive to it, and let go of the negative connotations you may have.  You just need to find the right one for you.   Don’t give up.

There are scores of variations of meditation, most of which range along a continuum of some combination of concentration and open awareness techniques. Defining and understanding the type of meditation being practiced represents some of the most important and challenging factors in the field of scientific meditation research. The difficulty of creating clear and consistent definitions of meditative practices is evidenced by the discrepancies found in many academic descriptions of meditation.       Traditionally, meditation has been situated within the context of a set of religious beliefs, teachings, and practices. The objective was to alter everyday consciousness to reach a state of receptiveness to the goals of the tradition. The customary meditation posture involves sitting in a cross-legged position on a cushion with an awareness of bodily position. There are variations that include lying down, standing, walking or even yoga.  Modern meditation groups may sit in chairs. Eyes can be closed or open and unfocused. It can be performed individually or in groups. Some teachers emphasize that meditation is a state of mind involving awareness and acceptance, and can be done at any time in the midst of any activity. There are countless forms of meditation, but most fall into three or four general categories: concentrative, open awareness, and guided – as well as the broadly defined practice of mindfulness.

There are many different types of meditation techniques that are practiced by people from all walks of life, while holding to the fundamental principles of reflection and quiet thought to bring about a state of rumination. The different types of meditation that are acknowledged worldwide include transcendental meditation, prayer, Zen meditation, Taoist meditation, mindfulness meditation, and Buddhist meditation. Several of these call for the body remaining completely still or to be stimulated with controlled deliberation, whereas other types will allow free movement of the body. While being aware of these different types of meditation, the end objective is to teach our busy minds to quieten, freeing our minds of stress drawing on quiet contemplation and reflection.

Quiet Mind:   when meditating, the thinking mind becomes quiet. You stop focusing on the stressors of your day or your life’s problems, as well as solving these problems. You just let that voice in your head be quiet, which is easier said than done. Start thinking about nothing now; if you’re not practiced at quieting your mind, it probably didn’t take long before thoughts crept in.      Being In The Now:  Instead of focusing on the past or the future, virtually all meditative practices involve focusing on right now. This involves experiencing each moment and letting it go, experiencing the next. This takes practice, as many of us live most of our lives thinking toward the future or relishing and rehashing the past. Altered States of Consciousness:    Over time, maintaining a quiet mind and focus on the present can lead to an altered level of consciousness that isn’t a sleeping state but isn’t quite your average wakeful state, either. Meditation increases brain activity in an area of the brain associated with happiness and positive thoughts and emotions, and some evidence shows that regular practice brings prolonged positive changes in these areas.

There are many, many different ways to meditate, some include: Basic Meditation Techniques:   Involves sitting in a comfortable position and just trying to quiet your mind by thinking of nothing. It’s not always easy to do this if you don’t have practice with it. But a good way to begin is to think of yourself as an ‘observer of your thoughts,’ just noticing what the narrative voice in your head says, but not engaging it. As thoughts materialize in your mind, just let them go.   Focused Meditation Techniques:   you focus on something intently, but don’t engage your thoughts about it. You can focus on something visual, like a statue; something auditory, like a metronome or tape of ocean waves; something constant, like your own breathing; or a simple concept, like ‘unconditional compassion’.  Some people find it easier to do this than to focus on nothing, but the idea is the same — staying in the present moment and circumventing the constant stream of commentary from your conscious mind, and allowing yourself to slip into an altered state of consciousness.    Activity-Oriented Meditation Techniques:   You engage in a repetitive activity, or one where you can get ‘in the zone’ and experience ‘flow.’ Again, this quiets the mind, and allows your brain to shift. Activities like gardening, creating artwork, or practicing yoga can all be effective forms of meditation.   Mindfulness Techniques: Mindfulness doesn’t really look like meditation. It simply involves staying in the present moment rather than thinking about the future or the past. (Again, this is more difficult than it seems!) Focusing on sensations you feel in your body is one way to stay ‘in the now;’ focusing on emotions and where you feel them in your body (not examining why you feel them, but just experiencing them as sensations) is another.    Spiritual Meditating: Meditation can also be a spiritual practice. (It does not have to be, and certainly isn’t specific to any one religion, but can be used as a spiritual experience.) Many people experience meditation as a form of prayer — the form where God ‘speaks,’ rather than just listening.  There are many people that experience ‘guidance’ or inner wisdom once the mind is quiet, and meditate for this purpose. You can meditate on a singular question until an answer comes (though some would say this is engaging your thinking mind too much), or meditate to clear their mind and accept whatever comes that day.

Concentrative Meditation   The objective is to cultivate a single-pointed attention on some object, such as a sound, an image, the breath, or a flame. Through the training of consistently returning to the object of focus, the mind develops the capacity to remain calm, stabilized, and grounded. Many Western meditation teachers start beginners with this practice, most commonly focusing on the breath. In some advanced practices, states of bliss may be reached. The most well-known and researched form of the concentrative type in the West is Transcendental Meditation (TM).    Transcendental meditation was introduced to the western world in 1958. It is extremely simple to learn and practice, yet it brings immense practical benefits to all areas of life. Of all the different types of meditation, this particular technique gives a unique quality of rest to the mind and body, releasing stress and tiredness in a very natural way. Transcendental Meditation is a very practical and simple form of reaching a state of rumination and suitable to all people, especially those who find it difficult to set aside time, as some techniques may require an hour plus to practice. 15-20 minutes twice daily sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. This may even be done on the bus, train, lunch hour, essentially anywhere that is safe for you to sit with eyes closed for those 15-20 minutes.

Open Awareness The objective of these forms of meditative practices is to open the mind into a panoramic awareness of whatever is happening without a specific focus. Often this awareness is compared to the spacious sky or a river with objects floating by. The capacity to be present with whatever arises is developed through this practice. The Zen sitting practice zazen, or shikantaza, is an example of this form of meditation practiced in the West.  Zen meditation is the practice of sitting in preparation of relaxing the body and mind as well as opening oneself up to discovering insight into the nature of your being. In effect this means that as you sit in the various positions prescribed, closing your mind to thought and images; you will notice after a period of time, your heart rate will begin to slow down. Breathing will become shallow, and you will pass into a meditative state. Thought will become isolated and deliberate concentration on the present moment is all you will be aware of. Any thoughts of the past and the future will be kept at bay thus focusing and reacting to what is happening in the now. There will be no rumination on the things you should have done or the things that still need to be done. This will result in a wonderful escape from the constant chatter of the subconscious mind.

Mindfulness The most popular, widely adapted, and widely researched meditation technique in the West is known as mindfulness meditation is a combination of concentration and open awareness. Mindfulness is found in many contemplative traditions, but is most often identified with the Theravadan Buddhist practice of vipassana, or “insight meditation.” The practitioner focuses on an object, such as the breath, bodily sensations, thoughts, feelings, or sounds. The focus is not as narrow as in concentrative meditation, for there is a simultaneous awareness of other phenomena. This mindfulness practice is often extended to daily actions, such as eating, walking, driving, or housework. The contemporary Western adaptation is typically removed from the rigorous contemplative training method of empirical introspection traditionally associated with Buddhism, which has as its objective the development of equanimity and clarity of perception.    Vipassana meditation was discovered and taught by Buddha thousands of years ago. The word vipassana meaning ‘to see things clearly’ was taught to people as a way of healing the body and mind, by means of cleansing both of impurities and toxins.   This type of meditation is not solely practiced by individuals with a Buddhist background; it is used by people of various cultures and backgrounds.

Imagine having complete control over your mind instead of the other way around. Buddhist meditation can give you that, if you undertake the proper discipline to do so. This type of meditation is said to bring your mind, body and soul to a natural balance. Buddha practiced the state of mindlessness through deliberation and rumination throughout his life. The idea was to diminish the mind’s need for selfishness and the craving for material matter to become a happier person. During meditation, you are in complete awareness of your physical body and every movement it makes. You are what’s more very aware of your state of mind and how it can change so rapidly in time – a minute, a day. Buddhist meditation is an extremely disciplined practice and should be done on a regular basis to benefit the mind, body and soul. If practiced correctly and consistently you will soon begin to notice very obvious changes, such as the mind slowly becoming free from fear. Your focus and concentration throughout the day, every day will become far more superior than previously. There will be no concerns or worry in your mind, no link to this physical world, no cares.

Taoist meditation is a type of meditation has several points in common with Hindu and Buddhist systems. The Taoist method is considerably less abstract, far more practical than the contemplative traditions that originated in India. The chief characteristic of this type of meditation is the generation, transformation, and circulation of inner energy. Once this stream of energy is achieved known as “deh-chee”, this can then be useful in promoting better health and longevity or whatever the meditator chooses. The Taoist meditation uses Breath and Navel meditation to teach beginners. This is the oldest method on record in China and India and works directly with the natural flow of breath in the nostrils and the expansion and contraction of the abdomen. This type of meditation is a fine way to improve focused attention and one-pointed awareness.

Guided Meditation All forms of meditation can be guided, and many are practiced with recorded or in-person guidance at first, and is also called guided imagery, the practitioner follows auditory guidance from a teacher or recording that elicits certain images, affirmations, states (such as peacefulness), or imagined desired experiences. Guided imagery is popular in the West to facilitate health and well-being and is often used to rehearse successful outcomes of procedures, such as surgery or an athletic performance.

Mindfulness meditation is a simple type of meditation teaching us to be mindful and alert of everything we do in our lives giving deliberate thought and concentration to everything we do. This will motivate a better awareness of the diverse situations and surroundings we find ourselves in resulting in a much more relaxed body and nervous system. This type of meditation trains your mind and body to meditate on the things in life that you cannot change, with a great deal of contemplation and rumination on the whole idea. It can be applied to every aspect of life, from eating to exercising, to just breathing and living. Mindfulness meditation is about being aware of the things in your life that you have control over.

Amid all the different types of meditation, there will always be confusion as with anything as to questions such as; ‘Is it safe?’, ‘How to decide which technique to practice’, ‘How much does it cost?’ Nevertheless once a decision is reached and you begin to practice the desired type of meditation suitable for you, it will become an essential part of your new daily life.  Then you wonder how you previously survived without it!

 Kathy Kiefer